Aquaponic Gardening

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Hi all,

 

lets help each other to improve system's and and grow larger...

what system should i start with?

commircial setup layout?

how can upgrade?

 

here are some designs that i made when i just started aquaponics:

lets post our ideas and layout :)

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for building backyard scale media based aquaponics systems, you will fine most of your useful information here or on Backyard Aquaponics Forum and a few other online resources.  As for commercial scale media based aquaponics systems, well there haven't been any in operation long enough to really get enough information for an outsider to write a book and so far I don't think any of the media based operators have taken the time to write a book so the best you will get might be to follow Outbackozzie's commercial system thread over on BYAP.

I got a chuckle when I saw this thread, not because it is not full of good ideas, but because the nature of some people; like myself for instance.  Just last night I was IM ing another Aquaponics guys and we agreed that first you make detailed plans, then you review your plans and then and only then do you build it. And when it is all done then you step back and look at all of the things you wish you had done differently.  

LOL, So this is an old thread!

Since my last post on this thread, I went nuts and bought a farm!

Last summer I moved to that farm and started building the aquaponics systems there.

Even though I had many years of experience already doing backyard aquaponics and I have learned lots of little bits from people trying to do commercial aquaponics.  There are things I am now doing differently than anyone else I know of doing aquaponics.

One of the first things I realized about the use of media beds in aquaponics where one intends to sell the produce is that a 4' wide bed is a terrible waste of space, time and resources for growing anything but seedlings.  If you grow larger plants in a 4' wide media bed, you can't reach them all, inspect them all, spray them all or harvest them all.  And my 4' wide beds had walkways on both sides so I can at least access the beds from all sides but when growing large plants I can't reach any of the plants in the middle without going through the plants on the edge!  All of my 4' wide media beds are being converted over to seedling starting beds (remove part of the media so I can place seedling trays in them to get bottom water, it is easy to spray/inspect and tend a 4' wide bed of seed trays.) New media beds for growing large plants are being built only 1' wide and long so I can walk along the rows to tend, train, prune, harvest, inspect, spray etc.

So far the raft beds have only been profitable for me with Lettuce.  Celery grew well in them but took a long time and damaged the rafts.  I'm still testing chives and basil.

Yep, it was definitely an old thread, but it I found it too amusing not to pass it on.  I am glad I did since you piped in about your experiences.  I too came to that conclusion before I built my starter system.  I built mine with 2' wide beds but I have access from both sides.  I started this little system as pilot for a much larger system.  You see, I already have a farm.  Sort of a lot of farm.  I am currently planting rice and soy beans, alternating each year from one to the other.  However with the current costs of farming it is getting really difficult to make any serious money.  Back in the 80's everyone was making money, even farmers with little skill.  But today, you have to have your game on and with the increase in farming costs and not so much in the price of product it makes it tough.  So I thought I would start a little system to measure the potential of going commercial with it.  I too have some things no one else seems to be using and one of them is external auto siphons.  They a much improvement over those things embedded in the middle of the growing plants.  Plus you never have to dig around if you want to adjust them or do any maintenance on them and they are far less finicky that the traditional in bed ones.  For the life of me, I do not understand why anyone would want to do it that way.  I just figured this out before I built the first bed and it has been that way ever since.  I am thinking something on the scale of several acres both covered and uncovered but that remains a thought not a plan yet.  I think that Nate's vertical towers offer a lot of promise and you can get a lot of product in a small amount of space as well as not have to move as much water.  However, his own work in that area will be the proof we need.  So far it seems to be going well for him.  I live in Texas but the farm in located in Louisiana and both offer a long period of growth.  Green houses are not really required mostly shade houses to keep from burning up the plants.  It would nice to have crops in the dead of winter, but right now I am thinking that is a pretty big expense for maybe 2 or 3 months of the year.   From first frost to no frost is probably not much longer than that.  For the less than the cost of one John Deere combine I could everything I needed including a truck. I will have to investigate the potential of marketing.  The rice and soy bean markets are already established, so I will see if I have an avenue to move the vegetables through an established marketing resource.  I have no intention to going to farmers markets and the like.  Much to do and little time to do it.

I agree the 4' Wide beds do not work well for large plants even when you have access from both sides. 

I once worked on some electrical in a large greenhouse and noticed that the tomato plants were grown one deep with access from both sides.  They were grown dutch bucket style and the buckets were staggered with one on one side of drain and the next one on the other side of the drain line that ran down the middle.  The tomato plants were spaced about 18" on center down the drain line.  the hole setup was about 32' wide.

hear is a link of what there setup looked like.   http://www.cropking.com/vinecrop

this set up is hydro.  I like aquaponics better.  I think if you had good filtration after the fish tanks you could run a system like this.  

Or you could grow a tomato tree like this. 

Photobucket

Tradewind,

    There are others out there using external siphons it just isn't as common and you still have to have a gravel guard in the bed where the drain pipe connects since otherwise roots will eventually clog the pipe and you won't have access to clean it out so it isn't like an external siphon gains you more space IN the bed.

I don't use many siphons anymore since most of my media is on timed flood and drain using automated valves feeding indexing valves.

I will warn that extensive outdoor Zipgrow tower installs are going to need careful temperature regulation.  Zipgrow towers are essentially modified NFT and as such they have most of the same temperature issues that NFT does.  When NFT is used extensively in hydroponics in NON climate controlled situations, it may require extra aeration and even chilling of the nutrient solution.  In Aquaponics NFT can actually cause the temperature of the fish system to swing too wide for the comfort of the fish if you don't do something to regulate it.  In Nates situation he is in a greenhouse with heating or doing controlled environment agriculture.  Outside in Louisiana,  It might be challenging to keep the temperature stable enough to run acres of Zipgrow and still keep fish in the fish farm facility happily eating.  I would recommend starting it off as a smaller scale operation to test your market for delivering towers to high end heath food stores anyway.  Say 50 towers plus some raft and media beds along with 4 300-500 gallon fish tanks for quarterly stocking. 

I had a set up with raft beds plus about 100 towers and a 1000 gallon fish tank with an additional in ground 300 gallon fish tank.  When we got to the hot dry part of spring, the temperature in that system was swinging too drastically between day and night and my fish didn't want to eat.  I wound up stripping out half the towers, adding another 1000 gallons of in ground tank and putting up 40% aluminet but then we got to the summer season and the night time temperatures were not dropping as much and it was more humid and sometimes raining in the afternoon so the temperature swings were back to what I considered reasonable.  Anyway the towers or NFT will heat up faster than any other growing method in the morning and they will chill down faster than any other growing method on a chilly clear evening.  And it isn't like you can stop the water flow to them all day on hot days since that would just kill the plants and bio-filter in them.

For summertime growing, so far the towers seem best for basil for selling cut basil tips.

In winter I was growing some nice lettuce in them but I've found my lettuce sells best out of the rafts as living lettuce so I'm trying to figure out what else to grow in the towers for winter.  Nasturtiums did pretty good last year.

As for the tomato tree there at epcot.  Heck sure you could  do that as a media bed sort of thing, wouldn't require extra filtration even.  The PVC curved plant sculpture however, that would require really good filtration and those plants are only left in there a very limited time since it is only 2" pvc.

I want to do an overhead trellis like that to grow Lufa vines next summer.  I'll make it higher up so that the lufa hanging down from the trellis won't be bopping people on the head as they try to walk through.  I figure if I make the trellis high enough that the truck can drive under then I can stand in the back of the truck to pick the lufa and we can drive over to a processing area to peal and clean them.

Wow!

You certainly did give me a lot of valuable info.  Fact is your advice is far beyond where my thinking has even gone.  I am still tinkering around with my little pilot project.  That big commercial system is so far down the road, I can't even visualize it at this time.  What I am more concerned about at this time is determining how much of a market I might have.  I do not want to have to travel too great a distance to be able to move enough product to make it worth my while.  I am not sure where to start looking.  I would like to be able to run all the products through a distributor so that my involvement would end with bulk delivery of the harvest or staged harvest however it has to be.  But at this point I haven't started the search because I am not sure that this is something that I want to do at my stage in life.  I know that it may be a good addition to my other agricultural efforts  but I am not getting any younger and it may be fool hardy of me to strike out on yet another venture.  My wife thinks I need to hang up my guns, but you know the best part of new ventures is the start up.  I generally get someone else to run it after it is going because I really have little interest in that part.  I am more interested in day trading and I spend a good bit of each morning doing that.

About the siphons.  I really do not see the problems you listed and access to my siphons are easy from the outside.  Fact is, I can remove them and anything that might plug them from the outside.  I have not used a gravel guard and I haven't experienced any problems with roots getting in the drain.  Maybe it is because of the way I layered my media.  The bottom half is lava rock and the top half is expanded clay pebbles.  I don't know why, but they seem to be trouble free.

I think that tomato tree is great.  I do not believe I have ever seen anything like that.  Does it have a specific name  or is that something someone has crafted with the horticultural expertise?


TCLynx said:

Tradewind,

    There are others out there using external siphons it just isn't as common and you still have to have a gravel guard in the bed where the drain pipe connects since otherwise roots will eventually clog the pipe and you won't have access to clean it out so it isn't like an external siphon gains you more space IN the bed.

I don't use many siphons anymore since most of my media is on timed flood and drain using automated valves feeding indexing valves.

I will warn that extensive outdoor Zipgrow tower installs are going to need careful temperature regulation.  Zipgrow towers are essentially modified NFT and as such they have most of the same temperature issues that NFT does.  When NFT is used extensively in hydroponics in NON climate controlled situations, it may require extra aeration and even chilling of the nutrient solution.  In Aquaponics NFT can actually cause the temperature of the fish system to swing too wide for the comfort of the fish if you don't do something to regulate it.  In Nates situation he is in a greenhouse with heating or doing controlled environment agriculture.  Outside in Louisiana,  It might be challenging to keep the temperature stable enough to run acres of Zipgrow and still keep fish in the fish farm facility happily eating.  I would recommend starting it off as a smaller scale operation to test your market for delivering towers to high end heath food stores anyway.  Say 50 towers plus some raft and media beds along with 4 300-500 gallon fish tanks for quarterly stocking. 

I had a set up with raft beds plus about 100 towers and a 1000 gallon fish tank with an additional in ground 300 gallon fish tank.  When we got to the hot dry part of spring, the temperature in that system was swinging too drastically between day and night and my fish didn't want to eat.  I wound up stripping out half the towers, adding another 1000 gallons of in ground tank and putting up 40% aluminet but then we got to the summer season and the night time temperatures were not dropping as much and it was more humid and sometimes raining in the afternoon so the temperature swings were back to what I considered reasonable.  Anyway the towers or NFT will heat up faster than any other growing method in the morning and they will chill down faster than any other growing method on a chilly clear evening.  And it isn't like you can stop the water flow to them all day on hot days since that would just kill the plants and bio-filter in them.

For summertime growing, so far the towers seem best for basil for selling cut basil tips.

In winter I was growing some nice lettuce in them but I've found my lettuce sells best out of the rafts as living lettuce so I'm trying to figure out what else to grow in the towers for winter.  Nasturtiums did pretty good last year.

As for the tomato tree there at epcot.  Heck sure you could  do that as a media bed sort of thing, wouldn't require extra filtration even.  The PVC curved plant sculpture however, that would require really good filtration and those plants are only left in there a very limited time since it is only 2" pvc.

I want to do an overhead trellis like that to grow Lufa vines next summer.  I'll make it higher up so that the lufa hanging down from the trellis won't be bopping people on the head as they try to walk through.  I figure if I make the trellis high enough that the truck can drive under then I can stand in the back of the truck to pick the lufa and we can drive over to a processing area to peal and clean them.

How many years have you been running beds with external siphons and drains without any gravel guard?  What kind/size plants are in the beds?

I don't think I've ever had beds with just things like lettuce manage to clog a drain but things like corn, tomato, sweet potato, Banana, mint, tarragon and Lufa can become quite clogged with roots.

As to the tomato tree, Uh, I don't really know the details.

Tradewind said:

Wow!

You certainly did give me a lot of valuable info.  Fact is your advice is far beyond where my thinking has even gone.  I am still tinkering around with my little pilot project.  That big commercial system is so far down the road, I can't even visualize it at this time.  What I am more concerned about at this time is determining how much of a market I might have.  I do not want to have to travel too great a distance to be able to move enough product to make it worth my while.  I am not sure where to start looking.  I would like to be able to run all the products through a distributor so that my involvement would end with bulk delivery of the harvest or staged harvest however it has to be.  But at this point I haven't started the search because I am not sure that this is something that I want to do at my stage in life.  I know that it may be a good addition to my other agricultural efforts  but I am not getting any younger and it may be fool hardy of me to strike out on yet another venture.  My wife thinks I need to hang up my guns, but you know the best part of new ventures is the start up.  I generally get someone else to run it after it is going because I really have little interest in that part.  I am more interested in day trading and I spend a good bit of each morning doing that.

About the siphons.  I really do not see the problems you listed and access to my siphons are easy from the outside.  Fact is, I can remove them and anything that might plug them from the outside.  I have not used a gravel guard and I haven't experienced any problems with roots getting in the drain.  Maybe it is because of the way I layered my media.  The bottom half is lava rock and the top half is expanded clay pebbles.  I don't know why, but they seem to be trouble free.

I think that tomato tree is great.  I do not believe I have ever seen anything like that.  Does it have a specific name  or is that something someone has crafted with the horticultural expertise?

My aquaponics raft tank system is quite simple and works very well.  I believe I could run an almost infinite amount of feee of raft tanks via the  60 watt mag drive pump I use as most of the system's water moves via gravity.

It consists of a circular fish tank with a center drain and pipe and external standpipe for the removal of settleable solids. Above the center drain (shower drain) in the fish tank is a membrane diffuser which causes the solids to move toward the center of the tank via the rising air in the center. Twice a day I pull a gate valve in the drain pipe and water is forcefully ejected to the external stand pipe and then drained off for use in a nearby raised garden.

A clarifier tank (55 gallon blue drum) that siphons off suspended solids sits next to the fish tank and also acts as a mineralization tank. Water is fed to the bottom of this tank via a continuous gravity fed siphon which is nothing more than 2 inch PVC pipe and two elbows. A small 60 watt ( 11 gpm)  mag drive pump that sits on top of the tank in the water and pulls water from the bottom of the drum through packed garden mesh where the settleable solids get trapped.  The mesh is easily cleaned every four or five days.

Via this mag drive pump water is pumped (the only pump in the entire system) to the bottom of another 55 gallon drum which is filled with plastic media and water and has another membrane diffuser on the bottom. The air from the membrane diffuser keeps the plastic media tumbling which is where biofiltration takes place other than the raft tank.

The water from this biofilter overflows and dumps into one end of a raft tank which is divided down the center. The water goes to the end, crosses over and comes back to the same end of the raft tank on the other side of the divider. The it flows out a pipe via gravity back to the fish tank.

Wish I had a drawing like the Mohammed but I'm challenged on creating good graphics. I could post pictures if anyone is interested.

Mohammed,

Can you tell me what program you used to create your graphics? I've been looking for something like that so I can share my systems.

Well your question may be the answer.  That being the kind of plants I grow.  Of those you listed only one is in my grow beds and that is tomato.  But then it is the dwarf variety because my grow beds are already about waist high and I don't want big tall plants.  I do grow lettuce, kale, spinach in what I call a DWC, I guess that is what it would be classifed as.  Basically a 4" drain pipe with  2" holes cut to hold my net pots.  Other plants in the grow bed are cucumber, peppers, basil, oregano, cauliflower and broccoli.  Some of those I have not grown before as I just recently developed a fondness for cauliflower, it is a new plant for me. Since I do not eat carbos the others are pretty much not going to be grown in the future.

 I remember once when my neighbor had a banana tree just on the other side of the fence.  On my side of the fence was a pool pack with a gas fired heater.  That banana plant actually got into the gas line.  I had to dig it up to repair the leak it caused.  Amazing!  So I pretty much figure that banana plant could get into anything it wanted to with or without a gravel guard.  But you are probably correct in concluding it might prevent some of the other plants from invading the outlet; thus far I haven't been so unfortunate, but anything can happen.

TCLynx said:

How many years have you been running beds with external siphons and drains without any gravel guard?  What kind/size plants are in the beds?

I don't think I've ever had beds with just things like lettuce manage to clog a drain but things like corn, tomato, sweet potato, Banana, mint, tarragon and Lufa can become quite clogged with roots.

As to the tomato tree, Uh, I don't really know the details.

Tradewind said:

Wow!

You certainly did give me a lot of valuable info.  Fact is your advice is far beyond where my thinking has even gone.  I am still tinkering around with my little pilot project.  That big commercial system is so far down the road, I can't even visualize it at this time.  What I am more concerned about at this time is determining how much of a market I might have.  I do not want to have to travel too great a distance to be able to move enough product to make it worth my while.  I am not sure where to start looking.  I would like to be able to run all the products through a distributor so that my involvement would end with bulk delivery of the harvest or staged harvest however it has to be.  But at this point I haven't started the search because I am not sure that this is something that I want to do at my stage in life.  I know that it may be a good addition to my other agricultural efforts  but I am not getting any younger and it may be fool hardy of me to strike out on yet another venture.  My wife thinks I need to hang up my guns, but you know the best part of new ventures is the start up.  I generally get someone else to run it after it is going because I really have little interest in that part.  I am more interested in day trading and I spend a good bit of each morning doing that.

About the siphons.  I really do not see the problems you listed and access to my siphons are easy from the outside.  Fact is, I can remove them and anything that might plug them from the outside.  I have not used a gravel guard and I haven't experienced any problems with roots getting in the drain.  Maybe it is because of the way I layered my media.  The bottom half is lava rock and the top half is expanded clay pebbles.  I don't know why, but they seem to be trouble free.

I think that tomato tree is great.  I do not believe I have ever seen anything like that.  Does it have a specific name  or is that something someone has crafted with the horticultural expertise?

A gravel guard doesn't prevent plants from sending roots down a drain, the gravel guard simply allows you access to the drain  within the grow bed so you may clean out the roots that get there.  If there is no access for you within the bed, the roots can clog up whatever is keeping the gravel out of your drain pipe and cause a bed to overflow or grow right through the gravel guard and totally clog up a pipe even.

I remember once noticing that one of my beds didn't seem to drain very well so I pulled the stand pipe out (this broke the roots that had grown through the holes in the stand pipe and next thing I knew there was a 36" long by 1 1/2" diameter plug of roots floating in my fish tank.  Every so often when the plants in the grow beds are big, I'll walk along and just pull up the stand pipes momentarily and check them to clean out excessive roots and then I might need to bring a net over to scoop the mass of roots out of the fish tank or sump tank (whichever the beds drain into for that system.)

I have even experienced Basil totally filling the 4" pipe with roots to the point that the water will overflow out the net pot holes.  Plants can grow some amazing root masses so always give yourself some means to access drains for cleaning when it is needed.  It really sucks to have to pull out plants and dig up the gravel if a media bed is overflowing due to a blocked drain that doesn't have a means to access it.

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