Is aquaponic farming truly viable on a commercial scale?

Discussion in 'General Chat' started by crsublette, Feb 9, 2014.

  1. crsublette

    crsublette coyotes call me Charles

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    Anyways... Thought I would share... In a way, aqua-ponics is a "garden pond" or watergardening to a quite high degree.

    With the proper precautions, a basic and quite small goldfish pond can very efficiently irrigate, in an open system where the water is filtered and returned to the pond, and feed a vegetable garden when the proper aqua-ponic techniques are implemented and a greenhouse is not required. Greenhouses are only used to extend the growing season and to ensure biological security. There are other devices and techniques that can be used to ensure biological security so that there is no concern of biological contamination of edible food.

    For those that have been following Earthan Group's website, it is only offline temporarily. Mr. Van Der Werf has been maintaining it and operating it personally and so, due to this current project, he has not had much time at all dedicated to maintaining and improving the website. Since he will be on-site trying to secure this project until it obtains a cash flow, whether a success to one degree or another, which could take some time, he has not spent much time at all on the website. However, he is hoping, in some time, the website and his quite informative articles and videos and sage wisdom will be online once again.



    What happened to Earthan Group? As some have followed my posts, there has been references to the Earthan Group website. No need to fret. It is only offline temporarily and, in some time, it will return. In the mean while, this is what Earthan Group has been up to...

    Check out Mr. Van Der Werf's progess on his facebook page. It is quite thrilling and ground breaking, that is to anyone interested in such a thing. Whether this project is a success or failure, the data collected from it will be opening new doors and make a mark in history for this industry.

    Earthan Group Pty Ltd - Sharjah, United Arab Emirates


    For those unaware... Aqua-ponic farming is the collision of aquaculture farming and hydroponic farming. Aquaculture farming involves the breeding, growing, and selling of edible fish livestock and other seafood in a controlled facility. Hydroponic farming involves growing vegetables, fruit, and other crops without a soil medium, with highly concentrated nutrient supplements, minimal water usage, and tremendous yield per square foot of area. Aqua-ponics is the collision of these two farms where primarily the nitrogen component, along with other nutrients, of growing produce is obtained from the growth of fish and the proper recycling of waste.

    Standalone aquaculture farming has been and is quite commercially viable.

    Standalone hydroponic farming has been and is quite commercially viable.

    Aqua-ponic farming has been struggling to be commercially viable due to the additional equipment involved in preserving the fish waste so to be composted, that is mineralized, and other equipment involved in recycling the fish's liquid excretion into proper plant soluble nutrients. Also, there has to be a degree of separation between the aquaculture operations and the vegetable/fruit operations and, yet, still have a degree of assimilation between the two. All of this adds significant capital and overhead costs.

    Currently, many aqua-ponic farmers require the involvement of additional income, through selling consultations or training or some other products and government assistance and subsidized labor, to help their financials break even. The successes in aqua-ponics have been quite rare, quite small, and only been limited to small niche markets.

    Mr. Van Der Werf is attempting to make aqua-ponics viable on its own merits at the core of operations, like any other conventional commercial farmer, that is without the need for supplemental income nor government grants nor subsidized labor.



    P.S. : As with every aquatic industry it seems, there are the shysters out there and I strongly encourage not buying these crazy expensive aquaponic startup kits since they are not necessary at all.



    Anyways.... There ya go... Hope it is interesting to someone. :)
     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2014
    crsublette, Feb 9, 2014
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  2. crsublette

    Catfishnut

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    Crsubltette,

    I have been following Paul van der Werf's Earthan Group site for quite a while now. I am definitely a fan of the information they provide and I guarantee that we will all have to follow this agricultural enterprise in the future to sustain human life here on our planet earth.

    I hate to be a conspricay theory advocate, but I know that the planet Mars is devoid of an atmosphere because it does not have a magnetic field protecting it. The Lack of this magnetic field has allowed the solar radiation to virtually " blow" the atmosphere away from that planet. This could possibly happen to our planet Earth.

    There are conspiracy theories regarding our planet's magnetic field switching from north to south or simply reversing the poles.

    That is not going to happen. That is a bunch of malarky. However, the magnetic poles DO move. They have been moving X number of degrees per year for as long as mankind has been aware of the magnetic field encompassing the earth.

    It does not matter if the poles "flip" from north to south and south to north. But, it is extremely important that we do not lose this magnetic field entirely. If the earth were to lose this magnetic field, the solar wind would simply blow our atmosphere away and strip it away out to space, just as it did to the atmosphere of Mars. Mars once had a magnetic protection field, but it was a small planet and its core cooled rapidly and that allowed the planet to be unprotected and the solar wind and radiation stripped the planet of its atmosphere.

    i sincerely do not believe that such an occurence will happen here on Earth, at least not within our lifetime and definitely not for many millions of years. Maybe even bilions of years.

    However, we have learned through science and research of other planets here in our own solar sytem that this scenario can occur. Our little blue planet could be wiped out eventually, taking all of us humans out of the picture just as quick as a camera flash.

    But, guess what... We are going to learn how to adapt and overcome the environment that we live in and we will survive as a species somehow.

    Gordy
     
    Catfishnut, Feb 9, 2014
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  3. crsublette

    Catfishnut

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    The first post was just to set the stage. Now we can discuss how to survive if our atmosphere becomes intolerable.

    Gordy
     
    Catfishnut, Feb 9, 2014
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  4. crsublette

    crsublette coyotes call me Charles

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    :banghead: Gordy, oh man, I think, instead of turning left at the first intersection, you turned right at the squirrelly shaped tree, taking a nose dive into a lake on Mars that has no atmosphere.:confused:

    Never trust those GPS gadgets. ;)

    But... I feel ya man, I think I get it... :whistle: (y)
     
    crsublette, Feb 9, 2014
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  5. crsublette

    Catfishnut

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    Charles,

    LOL yep, went off on a tangent there for the moment. I was trying or attempting to drive towards this sort of story...

    A pair of Londoners have taken up farming in the city—about 100 feet underground. Their business, supported by TV chef Michel Roux Jr., uses a former air raid shelter from World War II as a place to grow vegetables and herbs.
    The project, called Growing Underground[​IMG], spreads across about 2.5 acres under the London Underground, the Telegraph[​IMG] reports. The plants are grown under LED lights using hydroponics, which provides nutrients in water, Mashable[​IMG] explains.
    The company's goal is eco-friendliness: Growing Underground's website says it has "zero effect on the environment." The underground system uses 70% less water than a typical farm, the company says, noting that it doesn't use pesticides—since "there are no pests living this far underground." The carbon-neutral operation is right in the city, so products can go from farm to your plate within eight hours, the firm notes.
    And the food is available year-round. Growing Underground is currently aiming to raise some $490,000 for its effort via CrowdCube,

    Hence, I am contemplating how to grow vegetables and raise fish and other food sources underground in the event of a catastrophy.

    With the information and knowledge from EarthanGroup and other folks like this, we could forge new methods to survive here on earth if mother nature really got out of hand. Supervolcanoes, asteroid or comet impact. Loss of our magnetic field, a volcanic winter, ice age and glaciation? Massive flooding.. Etc.

    Like I stated, I don't like to be a conspiracy nut, but just what would we do if it happened overnight? Would we be prepared to survive?

    Gordy
     
    Catfishnut, Feb 10, 2014
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  6. crsublette

    Dave 54

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    Any of you guys read the book The Hab theory ??? it's fictional but it indictes that every 7,500 years or so th Earths crust slips causing mass destruction on a global level with only one area of the earth on its tilt access surviving the destruction .
    A brilliant concept try digging a copy out

    Dave
     
    Dave 54, Feb 10, 2014
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  7. crsublette

    sissy sissy

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    in the future they are going to have to figure something out as the population explodes .We don't have enough food now but they keep having babies .Last time hubby was in the emergency room there was a girl in there 24 years old with 7 kids and pregnant again .Welfare momma .The kids were wild and causing nothing but head aches for the hospital staff .I would not have had the patience the staff had .I was glad I was not out in the waiting room for long .But sure did hear lots of people complaining in the back .2 am and she is there because she has an upset stomach .That's what free health care pays for in the U.S..If this keeps up where will we get food from that can be grown fast and at higher yields and extends the growing season
     
    sissy, Feb 10, 2014
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  8. crsublette

    crsublette coyotes call me Charles

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    Aphids is a terrible insect and can be easily transported on clothes or shoes so to be transferred to even underground gardens. Aphids is one of the major pests that plague these type of farmers.

    Actually, we are using less farmland today to produce the food we need then we did a few decades ago due to improved crop varieties. Now, this old farmland is being used up mainly for renewable energy, whether it is windmills or ethanol.

    As mentioned in the initial post, this type of farming is nothing new. It has been around for a while. Actually, in certain areas of the US of A, much of the vegetables and fish you buy in the grocery store are from either a hydroponic farm or an aquaculture farm.

    Currently, there are aquaculture farms that, primarily make business from their fish sales, but also, instead of expensive water recycling, try to recycle a portion of their waste water into a small scale vegetable farm. However, on the other side, hydroponics rely on system sterilization and high concentrated nutrient supplements and, as far as I am aware, have not tried to incorporating fish since it is quite expensive to feed fish, even with vegetables.

    Even at today's standard, farming practices do still waste water. Even in my area, where it is all about precision farming with technology and makes sure "nothing goes to waste", the manner in which crops are irrigated is still quite wasteful.

    I am interested in these other farming practices due to the significant water conservation. There are even techniques from these industries that have been created to be applied to the average Joe backyard vegetable gardener.

    I think the trend of hydroponic and aqua-ponic vegetable/fruit farming will continue due to: 1) improving water conservation; 2) heirloom plant species yield quite low compared to their GMO counterparts; 3) growing protest against incredibly high yielding GMO food; 4) growing nutrient deficiencies of commercial farm food due to being an outdoor farm involving crops that are harvested too early; 5) crop eaten at the time of harvest, such as herbs, have much more potent flavors due to how the herb's flavor essence (whatever it is called, can't remember the technical term) dissipates over time while in packaging.

    In Australia, there are incredibly strict on their import restrictions on GMO food and incredible restrictions on the farming of GMO food. These restrictions go far beyond than what is here in the US of A. So, coincidentally, there is a big growth industry in Australia for hydroponic, aquaculture, and aquaponic farming.

    As Mr. Van Der Werf just updated on FB, here is another organization where he helped to build a commercial system, Commercial Aquaponics Austrialia, and the video is quite interesting.


    Unfortuantely, most aqua-ponic farmers specialize primarily in leafy green vegetable produce, that is the vegetables that do not bear fruit. This is due to the fact that fruit bearing vegetables have increased overhead maintenance due to pollination and other maintenance. There are self-pollinating fruit bearing vegetables, such as beans and peas and the vegetables in the nightshade botanical family or more specifically called "Solanaceae". There are even fruit bearing vegetables that do not require pollination at all, such as "parthenocarpic" typed vegetable plants. Although, there are still many fruit bearing vegetables that require intense and constant active pollination such as from bees to improve the rate at which fruit is set on the plant. However, the leafy green vegetables are just easier to harvest, lower maintenance, decent enough market value, and easier to package.

    Be sure to look at the Commercial Aquaponics Austrialia video since it shows how the assembly line is implemented so to conduct harvesting on a commercial scale.


    Here are some hydroponic farms, but I found the videos interesting.






    And here are the Japanese ( i think ) who are trying to fully robotize the farm since they try to robotize everything over there.

     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2014
    crsublette, Feb 11, 2014
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  9. crsublette

    sissy sissy

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    my father was a organic farmer back in the 60's .I guess that is why I love all my veggies .The reason being if you look back to the housing boom look at how many acres and acres of farmland were snapped up by builders .Plus young people saw fast money and did not have to work for it ,so they sold farm land off .Seems there is less and less money going to the farmers for there crops .There are some younger people getting more interested in growing there own food and trying to do it with out all the extras .I spray my plants with dish detergent and water .But also we get invaded by lady bugs ,not just a few but lots of them .
     
    sissy, Feb 11, 2014
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  10. crsublette

    crsublette coyotes call me Charles

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    For anyone that is curious...

    As far as I am aware, Mr. Paul Van Der Werf is a certified engineer and consultant in the aquaculture industry and has become actively involved in the aqua-ponic industry on the commercial scale. As far as I am aware, on his free time, he consults (for a price i think) for individuals wanting to try to start a small business or just a large backyard operation through Skype (last i recall) and other communication mediums and he also writes articles for his website and personally manages the Earth Group website for hobbyists website and a youtube channel, which both are offline at the moment as explained why in my first post.


    Here is a funny video about Aphids and why they are a major problem, sometimes a plague for these farmers. Mr. Murray Hallam, that is the old fellla in this video, is an interesting fella that also shares some good information, but, as with any of these sort of things, ya need to keep a skeptical open mind. He is also one of those fellas that sell the start up kits, which I think he specializes in fiberglass, but, even with his prices, the start up kits are incredibly expensive and can be much cheaper when building your own system that last as long as our ponds. Mr. Murray Hallam's website is Practical Aquaponics, where his store also sells some interesting items and I think Mr. Hallam has a distributor here in the US of A. I think this fella also has a youtube channel.





    Also, if anyone is curious, one quick tip , when there is a heavy aphid infestation, then this can possibly mean there is a potassium deficiency in plants. Dr. Nate Storey, the young fella with the beard and always sporting the plaid clothes, is a very interesting fella and is on a mission to teach people on how to properly market and how to properly run a system. He and his team do not hold back either with the quite valuable information they share. Their YouTube channel is available and each video in it is invaluable in that they tell how to properly dose nutrients, manage pest, etc, along with their special vertical food blog, and their organization is Bright AgroTech. Also, they have a store where you can buy various materials and even the fiber media that they use in their grow beds.

    At 2:10, in the video, is where he references how Potassium improves plant's pest and disease resistance capabilities. His other videos about potassium, iron, water management, greenhouse management (if you have one), and on how to diagnose and manage and proper treat (without overdosing) the system. By far, Dr. Nate Story's videos have been the most educational to me about extremely important systematic issues. Personally, I have enjoyed his videos far more than many others.




    As with all hobbies, there are many DIY hobby forums involved in aqua-ponics. They are quite easy to find from the Google. I just feel awkward listing them here since I have always enjoyed the folk here at the gardenpondforum and these folk were the first ones that really got me "not so scared" when I first started the pond hobby, which initially began as a little water feature.


    Welp, there y'all have it... Hope it is interesting to someone. :)
     
    crsublette, Feb 11, 2014
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  11. crsublette

    crsublette coyotes call me Charles

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    As koi and goldfish pond hobbyists are all well aware, the nitrification conversion rates are large when involving wet/dry biological filters, whether trickle (slow flow) build or shower (high flow) build.

    As a simple goldfish pond guy, Bright Agrotech's vertical grow bed concept is an awesome wet/dry trickle biological filter for our ponds. You can likely DIY your own, but they use quite durable material, much like our pond liners, which should last a couple decades, and also you can purchase the fiber media from Bright Agrotech's store.



    Also, take notice as to how the bed is constructed. Due to this construction, the wind will have very little opportunity to blow dirt and other trash in the media. This would also reduce the air temperature volatility concerns that exist around wet/dry biological filters.

    On the vertical food blog, look into the Green Walls, this is an excellent example of how to incorporate your plants along with the highly efficient wet/dry trickle biological filter setup. Just keep in mind of the weight considerations when building these.


    Personally, I have always been a huge fan of wet/dry biological filtration for ponds, and, honestly, due to how the aforementioned product incorporates plants incredibly well, where as other wet/dry biological filtration does not, I am totally jazzed about it.

    This would be an excellent biological filter also for anyone in tight places, such as apartments.

    I think creativity is the only limitation.
     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2014
    crsublette, Feb 11, 2014
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  12. crsublette

    Catfishnut

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    Charles,

    A couple of points you mentioned in post #8 caught my attention as they were on my mind, too.

    One being the aphids and (from the story I quoted regarding the "Growing Underground" project in London) -there being no pests underground. I wondered how they could state that there were no "pests" underground emphatically. Certainly I can understand no locusts or grasshoppers, etc. But pests like the aphids, and what about strains of mold? How could they predict that in the future, over the long term, that such pests or others would not become just as much of a problem.

    And what of plants requiring pollination? No bees underground! Going to have to pollinate with manual labor. There is an added expense.

    Of course, you wouldn't have to worry about hail storms, tornadoes, damaging straight-line winds, freezes or extreme droughts. Which brings up another subject, what about the strength of the plants to support the fruit that they bear, or even to support the weight of their own tissue. Many plants, such as tomatoes, require some variable winds to force the stems to become structurally hardy. Are they going to be required to install oscillating fans throughout the complex? There's another expense.

    The last point, regarding GMO's. The people who protest against GMO's may not realize this but all corn is a GMO. It's been genetically modified for many hundreds of years, maybe longer than that. If it wasn't GMO, they'd be eating bird seed harvested from a short ground plant looking like prairie grass. If they eat any beef, pork or poultry, do they realize that it is all GMO? If they are so against GMO's, are they going to give up their pet cat or dog? They're all GMO's too. Or do you suppose they simply think that GMO means it was genetically mutated by a mad scientist in a laboratory with gene splicing and nuclear radiation?

    Yes, those protesters are going to have to get used to GMO's. It has been the history of agriculture since man began an agrarian lifestyle. They probably didn't realize they were already consuming them.

    Obviously, we here all seem to understand the "big picture". And that is to conserve water, land and other resources, use less chemicals and grow much more food at the same time. It would be extremely interesting to be able to look into the future and see what becomes, say 1,000 years down the road. Maybe even only 200 or 300 years.

    Gordy
     
    Catfishnut, Feb 11, 2014
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  13. crsublette

    Catfishnut

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    That video on the Zip-Grow towers was very good! That idea and design makes a great deal of sense.

    Gordy
     
    Catfishnut, Feb 11, 2014
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  14. crsublette

    crsublette coyotes call me Charles

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    Earthan Group is alive... alive!!

    Welp, Mr. Van Der Werf has finished the bulk of construction on the UAE aquaponic project so this has given him more free time, but there is still much more he has to accomplish on the pilot project. I hope everyone has been following his progress on facebook since the pictures and videos have been quite interesting.

    His website is simply just a blog that is chalk full of quite interesting articles. All the articles have not been uploaded to the new website design, but the most recent articles are available to be viewed. These articles simply pertain to the hobby backyard aqua-ponic-ist.

    The unique aspect of Earthan Group's backyard aquaponic setups is that they taking the techniques from the recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) industry and combines it with a modern open system wicking bed system. When the system is properly constructed, that is a RAS + vegetable wicking bed, then the contingency planning options are available, that is in case something goes wrong then you will not lose your fish nor vegetable garden.

    The RAS portion involves the mechanism a typical pond has including a biological filter and a particulate mechanical filter. The open system wicking bed portion involves a properly formulate recipe of loose soils and amendments along with an "underground" (below the soil) water resevoir that freely moves through the bottom of the wicking bed and into the fish tank much like an underground water spring.

    The RAS's additional filtration allows the operator full control over the water parameters while maintaining a composting process so to utilize the fish waste as fertilizer and allows the operator to run the fish tank system separately from the vegetable grow bed system if an emergency arises. Also, the system is setup so that two low head pumps are involved so that one operates the aquaculture (fish) side and the other operates the hydroponic (vegetable garden) side. This allows the operator to also use hydroponic nutrients in emergency situations where the RAS needs to be disconnected from the vegetable garden. The wicking bed portion of the vegetable garden allows the soil to remain moist, that is not saturated, so there is proper plant root oxygenation and also the soil provides a nutritional boost of trace minerals to the plants.


    Welp, here ya go... Earthan Group Pty Ltd - Harvesting for our future
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2014
    crsublette, Mar 15, 2014
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  15. crsublette

    crsublette coyotes call me Charles

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    The typical expensive retail aquaponic kits cut corners by simply relying on the vegetable grow beds for particulate and biological filtration. For very small systems with a low fish density, that is around 1 goldfish per 100 gallons or 1 koi per 400 gallons), then these systems do work. However, if the fish density gets much higher, then the waste accumulation in the vegetable grow beds become too much and creates a toxic root zone environment that pollutes the plant's production. The vegetable grow beds used in these system are typically a "ebb & flow" system.

    An "ebb & flow" system is simply a grow bed constructed to be a tub. Then this tub is filled with medium like a porous rock material, that is like pea gravel or hydroton or hydrocorn or lava rock or whatever, so the water can quick enter to fill the tub and then allowed to quickly drain the tub of water. The emptying process allows oxygen to enter the root zone so that the roots are properly oxygenated. Then, the tub is filled with water and, once the water reaches the top, then the tub is emptied. This coordination is accomplished with a constant flow of water and a bell siphon. For multiple grow beds, then sequencing valves and specialized water bridges are constructed to manage the constant flow of water.

    Here is an excellent video on the mechanics of a bell siphon.


    The coordination is accomplished by the constant flow of water and the time it takes for the bell siphon to drain the tub. In other words, the flow of water is water so that it takes 20 minutes to fill the tub and, once the water reaches the top, then this triggers the bell siphon that can drain the tub in around 5 minutes, that is depending on the number and size of bell siphons.

    Here is an excellent video to visually explain the "ebb & flow" process.


    The extremely important part of constructing these is to ensure the water in the "ebb & flow" system never reaches the surface of the grow bed so to keep the plant's crown dry and to prevent the growth of algae on top of the grow bed. If the plant's crown stays too moist, then significant plant diseases start to be created. In other words, only allow the water to go up to the 1"~2" inch depth below the grow bed's surface.
     
    crsublette, Mar 15, 2014
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  16. crsublette

    crsublette coyotes call me Charles

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    One of our own local gardenpondforum'ers, MitchM's Aquaponic build, has been in progress with this type of "ebb & flow" system.
     
    crsublette, Mar 15, 2014
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  17. crsublette

    MitchM

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    Great stuff Charles, thanks.:)

    The growth in my system really slowed down this past winter, even with the additional light I supplied.
    I'm sure it was due to the lower temperatures. For me to run my aquaponics system year round would be impractical, (the costs to run it warm enough along with the lighting would probably add $1000/month in utilities in my situation) so I am going to see how much I can get out of maybe an 8 month growing season.

    There is a lot of water evaporation that comes from the system, so anyone in a colder climate also has to deal with excess humidity issues.


    .
     
    MitchM, Mar 15, 2014
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    JohnHuff Friends call me Dr. Sir John Huff

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    I've always heard that the (ancient) Chinese did a form of this when growing rice. Rice is grown in a flooded paddy field. They release small carp into the field where they grow by feeding on insects and stuff, meanwhile fertilizing the rice with their poop. When the rice is ready to be harvested, they empty the water, pick up the rice and the carp. This is the best system that I've ever heard of.
     
    JohnHuff, Mar 15, 2014
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  19. crsublette

    crsublette coyotes call me Charles

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    Also, root crops and top heavy crops and even some pepper crops tend to not do as well in "ebb & flow" systems as described above when compared to wicking grow beds. As to the reason for this, I could not find this. This is what I have gathered from other's experiences of trying to grow such crops in the "ebb & flow" systems.


    Now, Earthan Group's specializes in wicking beds and I am a big fan of wicking beds due to how wicking beds are: 1) self regulating; 2) the grower is not restricted on the types of crops to grow; 3) the grow medium is chalk full of nutrients and trace minerals; 4) the water is insulated and protected; 5) weeding might be required.

    1) Self Regulating. When using a proper soil recipe that does not compact, then the soil recipe only pulls enough water out of the water reservoir, while never saturating the soil, through the wicking process. Now, if the soil recipes is not correct such as having a tendency to compact, then the wicking process will actually allow the soil to become too saturated. The more the soil becomes saturated then the less oxygen is available to the plant's roots. Only a soil recipe that allows the root zone to be "moist" is the goal. So, do not use amendments in the soil recipe that is designed to retain water, such as clay or other water retention materials, since these type of amendments would keep the root zone far too saturated. This is the only reason why a bell siphon would be used in a wicking bed, that is where the bell siphon fills/drains only the water reservoir. If you think a bell siphon needs to be used in a wicking bed, then you are using a bad soil recipe. The wicking process will provide more than enough water to sustain the plant. As the plant's roots absorb the water, then the wicking process instantly replenishes that absorbed water.

    To better explain the wicking process, then here is a PDF, wicking bed - a new technology for adapting to water saving gardening.

    Here is an excellent article of Earthan Group's plumbing of an open system wicking bed.

    Mr. Van Der Werf had some excellent videos, but, during the transition to the new website, they are not availalbe yet and I hope they do become available. In the meanwhile, here is an article that shows some pictures and explains how Earthan Group builds their wicking beds, Earthan Beds - How they go together.

    Here is a video by Mr. Murry Hallam to help visualize an example of a wicking bed construction, which he is using a bell siphon. There are many approaches and Mr. Hallam uses vermiculite and bricks for the water resevoir, then a layer of quite porous shade cloth, then a mixture of mulch and potting soil. Personally, I think he went too heavy on the mulch portion of the soil recipe.



    Here is a video that shows the moisture of a properly wicking bed. Now, this wicking is on a closed system, that is the water never exits the water resevoir never recirculates and this is why a float valve works well for this type of wicking bed system. Also, the video shows the proper portion of mulch involved in the soil recipe, which is not much.



    To help reduce moisture evaporation due to an outdoor wicking bed and it being windy and hot outside, then all is needed is a good 4 inches or so of mulch on top of this wicking bed.


    2) the grower is not restricted on the types of crops to grow. Top heavy crops do better in a wicking bed, since it is easier for the plant's roots to anchor the plant. Root crops do better in wicking bed since there is less stress on the tubular to grow in soil versus pea gravel or lava rock or hydroton. Also, there are other fruiting crops, such as peppers and beans that simply do better in a soil wicking bed due to the silica and other trace minerals present in a wicking bed. Now, these other crops will perform in other type of grow beds, but I have not yet seen them perform as good in those other techniques when compared to being grown in a soil wicking bed.


    3) the grow medium is chalk full of nutrients and trace minerals. Trace minerals, also referred to as micronutrients, is the toughest type of nutrient to accumulate in aquaponic systems since there is only very small portions of micronutrients in fish feed and thus in fish waste. So, as an aquaponic system matures, then so does the volume of micronutrients. Micronutrients is the major reasion why most aquaponic system do not perform major water changes. Major water changes significantally dilutes the micronutrients, which take a much longer time to accumulate in the water. A simple fix to this is to use an open system wicking system with a proper soil recipe.

    Also, the silica present in soil recipes helps to improve the plant's disease resistance and has other benefits that are not available in hydroponic systems unless it is added in a special fertilizer formulation.


    4) the water is insulated and protected. Since the wicking bed soil layer is around 7~11 inches deep, then this protects the water from being polluted due to foliar sprays on the plant that could be harmful to fish or due to pesticide granulars spread on top of the wicking bed that could be harmful to fish. Now, if these grow beds are outside, then there is the potential for rain to cause the residual to drain into the water reservoir. Also, since the water resevoir is below 7~11 inches of soil, then this keeps the water quite cool during the hot summer or insulated during the winter.


    5) weeding might be required. As the system is outdoors and with a soil grow bed, then there is a definite possibility of some weeding might be required dependent on the depth of mulch used on top of the grow bed. A classical past time that can actually be enjoyed with wicking beds.


    Be sure there are multiple overflow drain valves at various heights. If this is an outdoor system, then be sure there are multiple overflow drain valves that are an inch or so above the water reservoir and then add another level of overflow drain valves above a few inches higher and then another set at the surface level. This is to ensure the wicking beds do not remain saturated. Wicking beds can quickly become saturated after just a small rain. So, be sure this excess water is allowed to properly drain as fast as possible.



    Going to write a quick narrative on how the wicking process operates, that is a cliff notes version of the above PDF.
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2014
    crsublette, Mar 15, 2014
    #19
  20. crsublette

    crsublette coyotes call me Charles

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    Here is a quick technical narrative as to why and how wicking occurs...

    Wicking grow beds operate through the process of capillary actions, also called "wicking". Wicking is made possible due to the fact that everything has an electromagnetic bond. Water is composed of a positively charge hydrogen ion (called a cation, H+) and a negatively charged hydroxide ion (called an anion, OH-). These cations and anions allow water to have a tensile strength to form droplets. Even though water molecules have a high electromagnetic bond to each other, water molecules will be attracted to other particles and this attraction, driven by this electromagnetic bond between the water and material, creates the capillary, or wicking, action. The particles's surface area and electromagnetic bond determines the volume attracted to the particle; thus, the higher surface area equals more water being attracted. When the particle's surface area attracts the maximum volume of water, then this is called the particle's "Field Capacity". Saturation occurs when water volume increases beyond the particle's field capacity. Since all particle's have an inherit electromagnetic bond, then there will always be some water still left on the particle; this least amount of water held bonded to the particle is called the "Wilt point". Only some extremely drought tolerant plant roots can break this electromagnetic bond to extract the water at this wilt point, but most plant roots can not remove anymore water off of the particle once reaching the particle's wilt point. So, when subtracting the particle's wilt point from the particle's field capacity, this gives you "available water" to be used to transport onto other particles or plant roots.

    Ok, to critically apply this, a quick example of a wicking grow bed that is 2 cubic foot with a depth of 28 inches.

    1) A typical wicking grow bed has multiples layers, some more than others, but, for this example, lets say there are 3 layers.

    2) Layer #1 at the bottom is 8 inches deep and only composed of just small 1" river rock. Not many pieces of river rock will be needed to fill this space and so this means the field capacity is quite low; this means saturation is quickly achieved allowing a tremendous amount of water to flow freely for drainage or to be transported to the next layer.

    3) Layer #2 will be 8 inches deep with 1/8" small pea gravel. Since much more pea gravel can fit into this layer, then the surface area is much higher thus meaning the attraction is higher to satisfy the pea gravel's field capacity. The increase attraction pulls the "available water" from layer #1 until the pea gravel's field capacity is reached. Remember, the difference between the particle's field capacity and wilt point determines water available. So, once the pea gravel's field capacity is reached, this means there is still water available to be transported to the next layer.

    4) Layer #3 will be 12 inches deep of a soil mix. Since many, many more soil particles can fit in this layer, this creates a much higer surface area to attract the "available water" away from the pea gravel until the pea gravel's wilt point is reached. You will know the soil's field capacity is reached when the soil on top of the layer feels moist, but saturation point is never reached. Saturation is only obtained whenever the water volume is increased above the particle's field capacity.

    At this point, if water was sprinkled on top of the soil, then the saturation point will be reached quickly causing the water to fill the space voids between the particles, pushing oxygen out of the soil, and quickly causing water to stand on the top. This is why the soil mixture needs to be composed of a sandy, sandy loam, that can not be prone to compaction. A clay soil mix should not be used since it has a higher field capacity thus it takes longer for the water to drain and taking longer for oxygen to enter the soil. When compared to a clay mix, a sandy loam soil mix has a lower field capacity allowing the water to drain better and allows oxygen to enter the soil whenever the water reservoir is drained or allowing excess water to be drained faster out of a drain outlet if the soil is drenched on the surface.


    Be sure there are multiple overflow drain valves at various heights. Remember, at the overflow drain locations, water will only exit the drain whenever field capacity is breached to reach the saturation point.



    Welp, time for dinner. I will return later to talk about the various other system designs and growing techniques and will talk about a helpful association that show the various methods of greenhouse construction and how to control the climate within the greenhouse.
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2014
    crsublette, Mar 15, 2014
    #20
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