Its been a long road to get to this point.
Just over five months.. of planning, saving, building, redesigning, saving, building, sweating bullets and then saving and building again.
As with all projects, this will always be a work in progress, but at this very moment in time I’ve been able to cross that threshold of wanting to build an Aquaponics system to actually having a full fledged system up and running with all the elements that make a system whole.
Hoop House build.. check..
Fish Tank build and installation.. check..
Grow Bed build.. check..
Plumbing and Pump install.. check..
Adding in Water and Cycling Start Up.. check..
AND finally.. FISH!!!.. uber check!!!
I purchased 40 Talapia Fry to start up my system up with (20 per growbed). These little guys measure about an inch in length and I was able to find a local breeder to purchase them from. Transport was pretty simple. Used a 5 gallon kitty litter bucket that had an air stone and a cap full of Hydrogen Peroxide to make the 1 hour trip. All arrived safe and sound. Did a last minute check on the water (Ph still a bit high, but will be working to bring that down to around 6.8 to 7.0 in the next few days).
We introduced the fry into the system at night as we picked them up mid-afternoon. I had placed the bucket into the water to equalize the tank/bucket water temperature for a couple of hours. All Fry made it in with no floaters to speak of. So we thank our lucky stars for that little miracle!
Added in a splash of food for the night and left them to explore their new surroundings. Will be checking in on them over the next few days and see how well they have taken to their new home.
Well, the opportunity to finally get down to the fun part of building the greenhouse, i.e… actually building the greenhouse has come! No bushes to dig out, no irrigation to dig around for, no screening out river rocks. Just fun old, “Break out the power tools and grunt like Tim the Toolman Taylor building!!!” Arrrrghhh arrrgh aaahhhh!!! 🙂
Originally my thought was to just start adding in a few images as the build progressed, but by the end of the day I had realized that I had been quite the camera bug.. and so putting together just a few still frames wasn’t going to do this build the justice it deserved. After all, you plan a project for months, you need to give it the full blogging treatment. So, I decided to dust off what little knowledge I have about video editing and put together a nice little clip of the days progress… and yes, this all occurred in just one day! (The magic of the hoop house build.) All together about 8 hours of work.
After completing the first days work, I’d have to say the hardest part of the initial build was the 2x4x6 foundation. I was wanting that to be as level as I could get it, but realized that the ground was in no way level for my needs. I pre-drilled holes for each of the pieces on my back porch which I knew to be level, then moved them into the yard for assembly (the greenhouse’s dimensions are 12×40). I used scrap blocks to add support to the low lying areas. Followed that up with the sledgehammering of the 3 foot re-bar pieces (drove those half way into the ground.. my right hand is dead by the way from swinging an 8 pound sledgehammer).
As for the easiest part, that would be the assembling and installation of the PVC supports. Got a nice little 45 degree joint to mount the two 10 foot sections together, slid one end over the re-bar on one side, then bent and slid it over on the opposing side. That part took all of 20 minutes to complete the entire hoop!
Next weekend I will be receiving a large order of rock that will be applied to the foundation. The plan was to do that anyway and I thought it better to work with the rock in order to achieve a level base rather than trying to dig up the surrounding dirt and raking that around. But as I said.. next weekend.. right now the old bod is ridiculously sore, so I’m going to be giving it a breather before I put it back to work!
Enjoy the video!!! 🙂
Efficiency should be your number 1 goal when putting together a system of growing, whether that is for growing fruits/veggies or livestock. The more complications you add into that system, the more there will be chances for it to go wrong.
Most Urban Farming methods rely on systems that can take advantage of small spaces simply because that is the hand people are dealt. Usually somewhere indoors, maybe a patio or if lucky a small yard. So when I went researching for a means to create such a system for my own urban dwelling, the choices got narrowed down real quick. I had looked at wicking beds, hydroponics, traditional dirt farming, raised planter boxes, pot gardens, etc. Ultimately though one technique came through with the most bang for the real estate buck.. Aquaponics. Essentially the creation of a small ecosystem utilizing plants, fish and bacteria colonies that works in a closed loop.
The beauty of this system comes from its many benefits. .
It’s scale-able: You can put a system together with 1 goldfish in a 1 gallon bowl, 1 pump and a small planter bed to grow your greens.. all the way to a commercial based setup that can feed thousands.
Water usage: A system that can provide soluble nutrients to your plants while utilizing less than 1/10th of the water needed for traditional soil based farming of the same grow area.
No Weeding: As mentioned in #3, weed killer is not required because few, if any, weeds will show up in an AP system. The ones that do slip through, you simply grab, pull gently, and the entire plant, along with its roots are removed never to regenerate again.
Stop growing horizontal: Vertical tower growing is becoming more popular by the day.. by taking advantage of vertical empty space, you can take a just a few square feet and expand your grow space by a factor of six or more (depending on ceiling height).
Eliminate bending: Don’t know about you, but constantly having to haunch over to tend to a garden was fine when I was a kid.. as I got older though, the bod just didn’t have the same flexibility or spring in my step. AP offers you the ability to set the height of your grow beds, thereby eliminating much of the need to bend over.
Growing time is reduced: You can essentially grow the same foods you do now in traditional dirt farming in 1/3 to 1/2 the time. A constant supply of nutrients, water and oxygen is supplied to the roots of your plants in an AP setup. This helps the plant improve both in size, nutrient density and how quickly it can be harvested.
There are many more benefits to this type of system. All together you’re maybe looking at 2 to 3 moving parts.. the main pump, the air-stones pump and maybe a backup pump. The rest of the system relies on gravity and what are known as auto-siphons that help the water fill and drain from a grow bed (these have no moving parts but rely on air to create an open/closed drain). There are many different styles and types of Aquaponics that can be referenced for your own setup, should you decide that’s a direction you want to go.
But again, the decision of what type of growing style you go with is a personal choice. I’m simply describing something that has many benefits for the small space dweller.
Its not a perfect system, there are a few drawbacks like not being able to grow many root based vegetables. But the community supporting it is vast and growing everyday. New ideas and development may one day solve some of those drawbacks.