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Aquaponic Greenhouse Build – Got Rock?

As with all builds, there comes a stage of which you question why you decided to do something a bit.. extreme 😉

In this case, the questionable decision of adding 10 tons of 1 inch rock to setup the base of your greenhouse. This was how I spent my Saturday. Thankfully my good friend came over to lend me a hand and we made good progress. All in all, it took us about 6 hours to move all 10 tons, or about 1.6ish tons per hour.. and boy were we both beat by the end of it.

I’ve had the opportunity to move that much rock before.. but that was roughly 12 years ago.. and as in all things.. the mind is willing, but the flesh.. well its a bit dated 😉

I am grateful that the path between the dump site and the end goal of where it needed to end up, was for the most part level and maybe only 20-30 yards. We took time alternating between wheeling the barrel back and forth, as any more than 2-3 times in continuous succession and we had a tendency to get sloppy or almost tip the load.

At the start of the job I had been worried that I didn’t order enough rock, but by the time we had got through half the pile it was obvious that I had figured out the proper amount for the job.. whew! Even had enough to run a good portion around our chicken/coop run (see previous post).

My recommendations for those thinking of proceeding with such a job.. if you’re gonna order that much rock, you most definitely want 3 or more people to help even out the workload. It can be done with less, but at that point satisfying one’s pride can come at a cost. The more friends you can drag into it.. the better!

The next step of the build will now be to add the end frames, then the grow beds/nft raft trough and finally the greenhouse film, door and fan ventilation. After that I will need to proceed with getting the shed/tank installed and then work on running the plumbing.

Still a ways off from completion, but progress has been great.. and steady. As long as I maintain momentum, I’m probably looking at around May/June to get started on cycling up the system.

I’ll keep you appraised 🙂

Growing Protein Sources..

When I used to think of gardens, it was in the traditional sense.. fruits and veggies. More and more though I’m coming to a conclusion that I need to also focus on the other half of growing food… proteins.

I’ve never been a fan of humanely killing animals for general consumption. This came after visiting a slaughter house in Greeley, Colorado when I was attending college. When you see it at that scale and the sheer mechanics of it all, it will definitely change your view of how you get the chow on your table. Like most, its much easier to just buy a package of pre-processed meat to serve because of the disconnect one has with ones food nowadays. But now that I’m making a more dramatic leap into cultivating my own foods, it becomes much more apparent that I need to add proteins into the mix and attempt to do so as humanely as possible.

Eggs are our first jump. As no fertilization takes place, our eggs are in essence a simple source of protein that can be repetitively cultivated and not have any negative side effects towards the animals themselves. Our chickens are not for meat consumption, purely for egg laying. The next steps will be to harvest things like fish (on ice), Crayfish, Quinoa, Spirulina, Soy, milk products such as cheese and whey. Other protein bearing foods like nuts and beans can be cultivated as well.

I won’t say I’ll be totally cured of the need for beef. I readily admit that on occasion I’ll head out for a steak every now and again. But hopefully no where near as much as I once used to.

Truth be told, it’ll get much easier as time goes on. We’ve all seen the grocery bills climb in recent years and that trend, like gas prices, is not likely to go back down to more reasonable prices ever again.

Commercial Aquaponics – A Fine Line Between Being Environmentally Friendly and Factory Farm..

I’ve spoken before about how adding sophistication to one’s growing setup can be a recipe for more things that can go wrong. But lets say you do it right.. lets say you keep your balances checked and within a reasonable median of safety, then what? Well you might become exceptional at making an ultra-efficient growing setup. You might also be coming to a crossroads..

The one factor in any aquaponics setup that should be foremost in your mind is that you have living breathing animals that rely on your care. If you are aiming to produce huge numbers of fish, the means by which you achieve that goal can easily go from being a system that provides harmony with the fish, to something more like what you’d see in a factory farm. Granted the fish will be harvested in the end, so the idea would be, “What does it matter if the fish are happy or not?” Well, in the end, that bit is up to the grower. I’m personally of the belief that if you’re going to grow something, whether plant or animal, that you provide an environment that is the best it can be for them.

I’d like to provide this video of a commercial AP setup that is right on that bleeding edge. They are currently able to achieve 1lb of fish per 1 gallon of water through the use of high protein fish feed (which most likely is derived from fish-meal, i.e other fish) but also through the application of liquid oxygen being applied to the system.  Its a spectacular setup.. a good deal of thought did go into this design. But if you look closely at the tanks you can see the density of fish is at a point of being nearly inhumane. At that density it becomes questionable as to whether the setup is environmentally sound or is primarily for profit at the expense of the fish.

I’ll leave it to your own judgement, but I just want to leave you with a final thought..
Just because a technique(s) impressive and it can be done, some Common Sense should come into play telling you that its pushing the boundaries of what should be sustainable, only to become what is artificially inflated and more for greed then striking a good balance with the natural world around you (or the one you help to create).