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:

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


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Hello everybody, new to this community, I work in integrated farming in Bolivia and I must find a solution to electrical energy shortages and 2/3 weeks interruptions, no joke.

I've been working on that problem since a few weeks and I'm rather optimistic. I'll be glad to share my findings, and get some feedback about my options.

In the meantime I invite you to a trip in the Andes mountains where I work :

I have made the pulser pump, tromp driving an airlift pump. It is in wikiipedia.
There are no moving parts in the entire system. So I think that qualifies.   If you want a pumpless aquaponics I have a system for you!   You use a tromp in a river at about 5 ft deep to collect 2 psi air and you pipe that air (in cheap irrigation tubing) to your aquaponic system.  There you do either ebb and float or "Lungfish" air driven aquaponics.   <iframe width="475" height="267" src="//" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Link is here for a playlist about the new aquaponics systems

first thing come in my mind is the windmill. i think it can do the job circulating the water in our AP but not consistently

Hi Brian, thanks for the playlist, interesting. The Thais have done a study about pump less aquaculture, have a look.

I think your floating/inflatable GB/raft can go on top. I prefer dedicated bio filters in order to concentrate on the aeration business.

From my side I abandoned the idea of truly pump less, water or air. I come with a very low head design, coils pumps and all available renewable and bioenergy . Since I must grow lots of fish, the biomass is jumping 1 to 100 during the 6 month breeding. BOD and COD vary and near the end of the growing I plan to use motor pumps.

My favorite energies are steam from sun with venturis to either pump air or water. Then come wood gasification and biogas. The bio filtration and the aeration are from triplicated energy source, normal and emergency.

Here is an energy matrix I did :

I haven't done yet the bioenergy one.

HI, for you Philip, another energy source you can consider is the gravitational vortex power plant.  But make it small scale (rain barrel sized) and  use it directly to pump air or water. So anyway it is a playlist with big stuff at the start.  Check out my video at the end for some more detail about how the water vortex works. I found that on the experimental model, you could just swap out the extremely simple "turbines" or raise or lower them to produce a different rotational speed.  Another extremely interesting feature is that if you are not using the power briefly, the vortex rises up (stores energy) until the draw comes back on. So if it is pumping air, I think it will work for either high or low pressure pumping and just speed up if the pressure is low or torque up if the pressure is high. With the ebb and float, imagine a big wooden log raft with plants on board with the middle lower and roots submerged. And ballast cans underneath.   Blow air into the ballast and the log raft rises and aerates the roots.   Here is the ebb and float video. (I just got video software so I will try to make a much better version.)

Pumps are required because you need water movement so its a water wheel powered by wind or an adjacent river or a pump. now there are MANY low voltage pumps that could easily run on battery/wind/solar especially well pumps for livestock feed.

Hi, Steve, I have used air from the pulser pump to wash clothes, the water moved pretty fast! because the clothes were swirling,  to agitate cattle slurry and to wash fodder beet.  A pump in the system is not needed for aquaponics.   Indeed, with a tromp providing air from a stream,   no moving parts or any electrical components, are required anywhere in the system. 

Steve R said:

Pumps are required because you need water movement so its a water wheel powered by wind or an adjacent river or a pump. now there are MANY low voltage pumps that could easily run on battery/wind/solar especially well pumps for livestock feed.

Brian, I do use vortices in mi off grid setup, 8 of them for solids separation and aeration.

Now the gravitational vortex power plant is very interesting if there is some running water nearby. It allows very simple DIY turbines.

4 blue cylinders outside the FT and 4 grey cylinders just out of the coils pumps and near the green ones which are the submerged biofilters

The coil pump pumps both air and water, just like the pulser, my last problem to solve is to dissolve it with the highest efficiency in the water. Anybody got an idea ? I'm thinking of a U-tube... 

Well, I'm planning on having a large natural style pond one day. I will stock it with several species of fish and crawdads and use it for supplemental irrigation for small rotational pasture paddocks and fruit trees. But I don't see not having to top it off with a pump. If I can find a place that has a stream or spring I can use without EPA flying in with black helicopters and machine guns to stop me from using it, then all would be easy to go with a water wheel. Otherwise I'll have to use pumped well water for top off.

I've read through these replies but nothing seems to fit my application.

As most of you know, I mostly run pond/ greenwater AP systems instead of Clearwater/ confinement systems used in most backyard and commercial AP. In my application, it seems raft systems are the only way I can grow without a pump. I also grow (multi-trophic) a good crop of lotus root and other edible water plants in the netted off portion for fries/ fingerlings as well as crustaceans which give me extra diversity and income without extra work.

I am sure there is a way but my financial resources and time have been very limited lately due to construction of this new farm but I would like to try a few mechanical based solutions. Solar/ PV is still too costly. One idea is using a windmill to drive an air compressor to drive an airlift pump/ tromp. I'm not sure if this will work because I need to pump water at least two meters vertically. Another idea is simple mechanical pump via wind power and use gravity to run through the grow apparatus, but had problems insulating against temp increases and light infiltration.

Any ideas?

@ Chris Duke: I'd be glad to share what I've done so far if you are interested. Planning is paramount in natural systems and could be quite costly to set up but once you are done, everything is almost free and almost perpetual.

If you are truly interested, please send me a complete description of your situation. Cheers

I'm not even close to ready to start taking in detailed info about starting a natural pond yet. I've watched a bunch of video's on the subject so far, and that's about where I'm at for the next few years. Would be nice to see what you've done. Just not a project I'll be ready for for some time yet.

Here is something to think about. I call it my Swamp-Thing.

This is meant to be a self feeding/ self regulating, zero input system. Basically the concept is to combine the use of shipping containers and natural swimming pond filtration in a multi-trophic application. The only folly I see so far is that one has to wear waders or tall rain boots to harvest/ check/ maintain big fish. I guess it wouldn't be too difficult to build a platform/ runway across the pond, over the containers.

I might have been a bit ambitious using six containers (fish to bog area ratio), so maybe leave one container empty as your private swimming hole. There are two sets of floor level. The higher edge-water shelf would hold plants in net-pots or geotextile pots of various sizes and height depending on crop or regenerative flora. The lower ledge would be used to grow submerged plants as well as sections using raft technique to simulate shadow areas. Zooplanktons that form provide feed for the harvestable meat products which include fish combinations and crustaceans.

Don't expect to get rich with this but I think it can certainly help lower the food bill while getting great organic food with little work or cost. A nutrient source would be helpful. A line of rabbit cages over the South side would do wonderfully. Or if you are not too squeamish, dose it with pee-ponics, fresh or processed.

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