Aquaponic Gardening

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I'm throwing this out there for discussion, spawned by a recent blog, but something on my mind since first being interested in AP.  NO PUMPS. Can it happen, and how?

Why? Well, 'cause if we didn't need pumps or electricity we probably wouldn't use them, and AP might truly join the ranks as a sustainable food production method, and applicable to feeding the poor, saving the world, yada yada...and at the heart of it all, I'm cheap and lazy. I find personal victory in reaching the end goal faster, smarter, easier, cheaper than "how it normally done".

The only thing that comes to mind is a wicking bed of some sort. And I need to consult my book of wild ideas before I open my mouth.

Now I won't be a stickler about including some pumps using waste energy, or some low-tech mechanics, or human power, but try to avoid solar PV and windmill electricity (not that they are not excellent, but they are being done and discussed elsewhere).

link to blog: http://community.theaquaponicsource.com/profiles/blogs/a-no-pump-sy...

Pics, sketches, links, etc are always nice. Happy brainstorming.

Jon

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He's so awesome.
Jason Finn said:

Yeah I would have to say my cut off point for a realistic amount of man-powered time spent per day would be about an hour a day or less or it just wouldn't be worth it for the pay off. 

I would just turn to Geoff Lawton's "food forest" technique instead and shut down my AP. I love that guy haha.


Love it.  Thanks for sharing!


Bob Campbell said:

I think a super simple picture or diagram would help a lot. Is this a technique that has a well-known name? The only problem with this technique is that it doesn't stay completely off the grid because it needs electricity for the air pump but it does cut the cost of electricity dramatically so it is another place to start.


Michael Silberstein said:

well this is an interesting topic.. Yes you can do aquaponics without a "tipical" pump. Just by using airasion you can move enough water to make it work.  

I know there are people here that have pumpless fishtanks. ones where there is a tube to the bottom of the tank with an air stone in it."this what moves the water. Using the same process taking a tank putting 2 holes in the side. One at the bottom. this is return. and one just above water lvl. About one inch big each. the bottom hole is the return from the grow bed. on the inside put a 45 or a 90 to keep your tanks water moving. the out side goes to the bottom of the grow bed. the top hole on the inside has a 90 and a section of tubing to the bottom of the fish tank. on the outside with a slight downward flow to the top of the grow bed. This completes your plumbing. in the uptube of the outlet.( the tube on the inside of the fish tank that goes up to the top hole) place an air stone inside it. the way it works is as the air goes up the tube it forces water out the top. this water flows downward to the grow bed then back to the tank via the return line.

I hope that did not confuse you

This would be using airlift pumping.  Still using an electric pump, just not an electric water pump.  You can't lift water as high efficiently using an airlift so is most appropriate for the constant flood sort of set up you describe.  Keep in mind if using an airlift as your only pumping, you have to make sure you still get enough circulation/aeration/filtration for the amount of fish stocked so there are limits to the stocking one can manage using only a small air pump.

There have been oodles of discussions about airlift pumping.  I don't want to get into it here.  It can be effective but I wouldn't necessarily say that it can pump as much water for the same electricity as a water pump, there are a lot of parameters you need to get right to have a really efficient airlift pump and when I hear some one get all excited that they can manage to move 300 gallons an hour with an airlift pump using an air pump that uses 50 watts I shrug and say I have an electric water pump that can move almost 1000 gph for 50 watts or I can find a water pump that will move only 300 gallons per hour for less than 35 watts.

Anyway, there are a few possible benefits of airlift pumping that can be mentioned.  One, you can have a single big air blower that sends out air lines to several separate systems and you can use the air to move water around those separate systems without mixing the water and without needing to run separate electrical circuits out to those systems (though you still have to run the air plumbing out to them.)  Another major benefit to airlift pumping is if your media is very abrasive cinder you may have experienced too much wear on your electric water pumps, in cases like these, an airlift has a major advantage in that there are no moving parts in contact with the water being pumped and therefor less wear from what is in the water.  Airlift pumps also won't burn up if they get clogged or run dry since the airlift can't lift the water very well if the water level drops too low, they simply quit pumping the water and they just sit there and ineffectively bubble in the pipe.  It isn't that they can't get clogged, it just won't melt them down if they do.  You do still have to maintain the air pump.  Diaphrams need to be replaced every 6 months to a year and air filters cleaned etc.

Michael Silberstein said:

well this is an interesting topic.. Yes you can do aquaponics without a "tipical" pump. Just by using airasion you can move enough water to make it work.  

I know there are people here that have pumpless fishtanks. ones where there is a tube to the bottom of the tank with an air stone in it."this what moves the water. Using the same process taking a tank putting 2 holes in the side. One at the bottom. this is return. and one just above water lvl. About one inch big each. the bottom hole is the return from the grow bed. on the inside put a 45 or a 90 to keep your tanks water moving. the out side goes to the bottom of the grow bed. the top hole on the inside has a 90 and a section of tubing to the bottom of the fish tank. on the outside with a slight downward flow to the top of the grow bed. This completes your plumbing. in the uptube of the outlet.( the tube on the inside of the fish tank that goes up to the top hole) place an air stone inside it. the way it works is as the air goes up the tube it forces water out the top. this water flows downward to the grow bed then back to the tank via the return line.

I hope that did not confuse you

So I'm a smidge later here than I intended to be (somehow I had to go through the application verification process twice) but here I am.

Lets say I wanted to go with the dual-sump (one on top of the chain and one at the bottom) method that was discussed earlier in this thread. Yes I know electricity is easier and more convenient, but for personal reasons I genuinely try to avoid the use of electricity wherever possible in my day to day life.

Would it be conceivable to set up a system wherein one had either a bicycle-powered Spiral Pump or a Shadoof (I haven't yet determined which would take less time to make the transfer, although the pump seems able to far more completely empty the bottom sump, except in the case where the entire bottom sump was contained in the Shadoof bag, which does seem like an interesting idea, albeit likely impractical....) was used to top off the top reservoir once every 8 hours?

I was also thinking of daisy-chaining grow beds to fish tanks to grow beds to make the most out of the system, probably shooting for roughly a 4-6 inch change in elevation with each step down the ladder.

Obviously this method requires more physical labor and more investment of time, but it really appeals to me and I was wondering if I could get some feedback, especially since this thread had some really interesting discussion on the topic.

Sorry for the double-post, but I've run out of edit time and just realized that the way I phrased my previous post implied I was only open to using a pedal pump in the form of the spiral siphon, which is not actually the case. If a different kind of pedal pump would be more efficient (but of comparable or lesser difficulty to make) then that would naturally be preferable.

Ok, I know it is sometimes frowned upon to just like to another thread on another site but really, This has been discussed before over on BYAP back in 2008 and I don't have the time to go back and read it all there to type it all out here.

Pumpless continous flow-system

Cyara's dream CHIFT PIST system

Now Cyara's system was one I remember we were talking about a huge header tank that might be kept topped up by mechanical water lifting windmill when there was enough wind and then use human or electric power to top it up regularly when there wasn't enough wind.  We even talked about possible ways to use the river to turn a paddle wheel that could perhaps operate a spiral pump or something.  The biggest limiting factors were the minimal flow rate out of a header tank to be able to make the flow last a given time  or the fact that you would need really huge header and sump tanks to be able to handle more than a very small amount of fish.

Why not combine multiple aspects into one system?

To start, let's use the Archimedes' Screw idea to move the water from the bottom to the top.  We are left with how to power it.  Being lazy, I don't want to use human power if at all possible.  We could set up solar panels to provide electricity, but I think it was decided in an earlier post that we don't want to do that because solar panels are cost-prohibitive and not available everywhere. 

One idea I had was to use a waterwheel to generate power.  Picture this... using an IBC as the FT (simply for the visual, you can change it to something else if you want), mostly bury it (to help regulate the water temperature in areas that don't have perfect year-round temperatures) and place the GB above it at about 4 feet up or so (so it's still at a comfortable working height for planting/harvesting).  This gives you somewhere around a 3-4 foot water drop between the FT and the GB.  Place a waterwheel so that the falling water hits the paddles and moves the wheel, generating electricity (with the added bonus of all the splashing would add a lot of aeration).  As TC pointed out, you won't generate enough power from falling water to lift that same water back to the top, but this is only one part of a larger, more complex design.

The second part would be to use the Sterling Engine that someone mentioned earlier.  As pointed out in an earlier post, a single SE doesn't generate that much electricity, but there is no reason that we can't use multiple SEs.  In my head, I can easily picture multiple SEs running from a single heat source.  I've imagined two different heat sources to power them from... 1) Methane produced from a digester.  We wouldn't want to use "beneficial waste" like kitchen scraps as those are all going to our worms and BSFs, but this would be a great way to use the "non-beneficial waste" like human and pet excrement that we can't put into our composters.  I picture an "eternal flame" type of thing from the methane gas in a sort of lantern fixture where we can mount the "to-be-heated" sides of at least four SEs, possibly even more depending on the lantern design.  I imagine an insulated device with minimal air slots (to allow necessary air/oxygen in to burn, but restricts the escape of the heat.  Depending on how much heat was trapped, you could easily power 4, 8, or more small SEs from it.

The second SEs heat source could come from solar ovens.  The amount of heat generated and the number of SEs powered would be limited only to the size of the solar oven.  And you could have multiple solar ovens.

Since the water flow and the solar power would have limited use (no sun at night, waterwheel only works when the GB is draining), we would need to incorporate batteries or some way to store power. 

So, there you have it.  No pump, no grid power.  Multiple sources of power that should provide more than enough to power the AS to move the water.  No pollution generated, actually using pollution (human and pet waste) that was previously not being utilized.

Thoughts?  Critiques?

probably more efficient to have the water wheel actually mechanically help power the turning of the screw rather than trying to use it to generate a useful amount of electricity that you have losses when generating and then losses when storing than then losses when converting that energy back into mechanical power to turn the screw.

It still sounds like a heck of a lot of STUFF and expense to get something that will be of only marginal functionality.

Agreed.  I'd much rather just plug a pump into the wall.  :)

TCLynx said:

It still sounds like a heck of a lot of STUFF and expense to get something that will be of only marginal functionality.

3 steps to a pump free system

Step one, get a girl

step Two, have a child with thus girl

step three make child carrie water.

Just saying free labor is as simple as having kids....... with a few minor strings attached......and maybe some growing pains

While all this is fun to think about, some people need to start building an actual system, any system, and then worry about what to do when the grid fails later on. Just say'n 

For now at least NOTHING beats the grid for cheap. I think our bill went up about 10.00 per month running a 2000+ gal system. Now if and when the great solar flare, that is all the buzz on the net right now, hits, well that could be another story and it don't hurt to have done some think'n up front just in case. Personally I am still planning on taping our stream for turbine power and that moment to hit "Buy It Now" is getting ever closer! According to some out there the Comet Ison will be blessing us with "3 days of darkness" starting on the 26th of this month. If that actually happens then all hell is supposed to break out in the following weeks and this thread could mean something after all. I vote for NOT.

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