Aquaponic Gardening

A Community and Forum For Aquaponic Gardeners

Are you interested in growing commercially?  Do you already grow commercially?  This is the place for exchanging ideas and experiences, and making new contacts in commercial aquaponic agriculture

 

You might also consider joining the Commercial Aquaponics discussion group for lots more information and discussion

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Aloha Aquaponics Friends

Hi, this is Tim at Friendly Aquaponics in Hawaii. We've been in commercial operation for three years now and make our income from the aquaponic produce we sell. We currently operate 5,400 square feet of aquaponic trough area and 1,200 square feet of flood-and-drain sprouting table area, with associated vegetable processing and refrigeration facilities on about 20,000 square feet of our property. We've gone through a lot of misery and learning curve, and currently have about $100,000 invested in the aquaponics and other facilities on our farm.

We have a ton of information we'd be happy to share about system start-up; green water systems; tilapia hatcheries and nurseries; aeration; pumping; water flow volume in troughs; aquaponics systems with and without clarifiers, net tanks, and degas tanks; organic certification (we were the first aquaponics operating to get USDA organic certification); processing, value-added, and marketing of aquaponic produce; economical system construction and operation; growing freshwater prawns in aquaponic systems; and much more.

Although we cover all this stuff in twice-yearly trainings we charge for, we will answer any and all questions freely and not hold any information back from the participants in this forum. Some of the answers to your questions may be pages long, though, so we will request your email(s) so we can send those interested a document containing the info rather than posting something monstrous on the website. If the answer is just a few paragraphs, we'll just post what we know about it. A lot of this stuff is already on our website's FAQ at (http://www.friendlyaquaponics.com/faq/), and more on our free downloads page (http://www.friendlyaquaponics.com/free-diy-stuff/free-downloads/), so you might want to check those first.

Our philosophy is open-sourced, freely-shared information, and our goal is to get aquaponics spread all over the world so that everyone knows how to grow their own food. We are constantly amazed by the innovations our students and colleagues have come up with, and are excited about taking aquaponics into this century. Thanks for hosting and participating in this great site!
Wow,' thank you so much' for offering to share your experiance, I'm sure, many besides my self are greatful.
I do have a few questions, which I'll send to you in a message on your page....so this thread doesn't go 'off-topic'.
Thank you again...and to Chris Smith for the insperation to go commercial.

FriendlyAquaponics said:
Aloha Aquaponics Friends

Hi, this is Tim at Friendly Aquaponics in Hawaii. We've been in commercial operation for three years now and make our income from the aquaponic produce we sell. We currently operate 5,400 square feet of aquaponic trough area and 1,200 square feet of flood-and-drain sprouting table area, with associated vegetable processing and refrigeration facilities on about 20,000 square feet of our property. We've gone through a lot of misery and learning curve, and currently have about $100,000 invested in the aquaponics and other facilities on our farm.

We have a ton of information we'd be happy to share about system start-up; green water systems; tilapia hatcheries and nurseries; aeration; pumping; water flow volume in troughs; aquaponics systems with and without clarifiers, net tanks, and degas tanks; organic certification (we were the first aquaponics operating to get USDA organic certification); processing, value-added, and marketing of aquaponic produce; economical system construction and operation; growing freshwater prawns in aquaponic systems; and much more.

Although we cover all this stuff in twice-yearly trainings we charge for, we will answer any and all questions freely and not hold any information back from the participants in this forum. Some of the answers to your questions may be pages long, though, so we will request your email(s) so we can send those interested a document containing the info rather than posting something monstrous on the website. If the answer is just a few paragraphs, we'll just post what we know about it. A lot of this stuff is already on our website's FAQ at (http://www.friendlyaquaponics.com/faq/), and more on our free downloads page (http://www.friendlyaquaponics.com/free-diy-stuff/free-downloads/), so you might want to check those first.

Our philosophy is open-sourced, freely-shared information, and our goal is to get aquaponics spread all over the world so that everyone knows how to grow their own food. We are constantly amazed by the innovations our students and colleagues have come up with, and are excited about taking aquaponics into this century. Thanks for hosting and participating in this great site!
Aloha Tim,

I am so happy to see your post. Thank you.

I have learned a considerable amount from your website and FAQ. I have purchased the Micro System plans about 3 months ago and have used them to construct my research aquaponic garden (slightly modified for my local circumstances and desires). I look forward to learning from this and God willing will be able to participate in the Commercial Training in April 2011. Keep up the great work and helpful research. It certainly adds to the knowledge data base and gives greater choice for users.


FriendlyAquaponics said:
Aloha Aquaponics Friends

Hi, this is Tim at Friendly Aquaponics in Hawaii. We've been in commercial operation for three years now and make our income from the aquaponic produce we sell. We currently operate 5,400 square feet of aquaponic trough area and 1,200 square feet of flood-and-drain sprouting table area, with associated vegetable processing and refrigeration facilities on about 20,000 square feet of our property. We've gone through a lot of misery and learning curve, and currently have about $100,000 invested in the aquaponics and other facilities on our farm.

We have a ton of information we'd be happy to share about system start-up; green water systems; tilapia hatcheries and nurseries; aeration; pumping; water flow volume in troughs; aquaponics systems with and without clarifiers, net tanks, and degas tanks; organic certification (we were the first aquaponics operating to get USDA organic certification); processing, value-added, and marketing of aquaponic produce; economical system construction and operation; growing freshwater prawns in aquaponic systems; and much more.

Although we cover all this stuff in twice-yearly trainings we charge for, we will answer any and all questions freely and not hold any information back from the participants in this forum. Some of the answers to your questions may be pages long, though, so we will request your email(s) so we can send those interested a document containing the info rather than posting something monstrous on the website. If the answer is just a few paragraphs, we'll just post what we know about it. A lot of this stuff is already on our website's FAQ at (http://www.friendlyaquaponics.com/faq/), and more on our free downloads page (http://www.friendlyaquaponics.com/free-diy-stuff/free-downloads/), so you might want to check those first.

Our philosophy is open-sourced, freely-shared information, and our goal is to get aquaponics spread all over the world so that everyone knows how to grow their own food. We are constantly amazed by the innovations our students and colleagues have come up with, and are excited about taking aquaponics into this century. Thanks for hosting and participating in this great site!
What are the advantages of floating raft systems over grow beds? What are the advantages for small systems? Is there less plumbing? That would be a BIG advantage for me :-) Carolyn

Chris Smith said:
Christopher,
With a 1200 gal tank you can have lots of grow bed space. If you want to go commercial I would recommend that you use the floating raft system. There are MANY advantages over gravel beds. Most gravel beds can easily be converted to rafts. As far as bugs go, you can use woven row covers supported by PVC. This can save the huge expense of building greenhouses. The woven cover allows 90% light and 75% air transmission depending on the brand. You can see an example in my photos. Also check out Friendlyaquaponics.com

Just joined this group and want to introduce myself... I grow information :-) and would be happy to spread the word about commercial AP systems on my websites. While I'm not yet a practiced aquaponist ... I've been researching what you are all developing for over a year ... and I write about green and sustainable solutions -- and am very supportive of aquaponics as a sustainable agri system for our water-challenged future. I live in Southern California where we import the majority of our water... so am highly motivated to find and share real solutions. I cover both non-profit and for-profit solutions on my sites. So... let me share your story. If you have news releases available, that's a good start. If not... I have a questionaire you can answer for a Q&A story. A couple of my websites that I selectively add stories to include CaliforniaGreenSolutions.com, BackyardNature.com, SolutionsForOrganics.com and you can add a listing in our green, sustainable and high performance directory at SolutionsForGreen.com. I'm here to help spread the word and generate demand ... so let me know if I can help tell your story. Carolyn
Carolyn Allen said:
What are the advantages of floating raft systems over grow beds? What are the advantages for small systems? Is there less plumbing? That would be a BIG advantage for me :-) Carolyn
Chris Smith said:
Christopher,
With a 1200 gal tank you can have lots of grow bed space. If you want to go commercial I would recommend that you use the floating raft system. There are MANY advantages over gravel beds. Most gravel beds can easily be converted to rafts. As far as bugs go, you can use woven row covers supported by PVC. This can save the huge expense of building greenhouses. The woven cover allows 90% light and 75% air transmission depending on the brand. You can see an example in my photos. Also check out Friendlyaquaponics.com

We use floating rafts because you can both plant into them and harvest out of them by putting them on sawhorses at waist level, under a tent in the shade, rather than bent over a gravel bed out in the sun planting and harvesting, or even worse, waist level on a REALLY expensive gravel bed that you had to build supports for to get it up at waist level. In other words, they're a LOT less work! The raft system also allows you to do all kinds of "re-ordering" of rafts and contents in your aquaponics, which is really important if you are commercial growing with a large area. The raft system is a HUGE labor saver over gravel bed, and the raft troughs are much less expensive to build and maintain than gravel bed systems, even gravel bed systems on the ground. There also appear to be potential problems with anaerobic zones forming in gravel bed systems, the only solution to which is to remove and wash or replace the gravel, which is a huge job. A commercial grower on our island recently abandoned their gravel bed systems and replaced them with raft systems.
FriendlyAquaponics said:
Carolyn Allen said:
What are the advantages of floating raft systems over grow beds? What are the advantages for small systems? Is there less plumbing? That would be a BIG advantage for me :-) Carolyn
Chris Smith said:
Christopher,
With a 1200 gal tank you can have lots of grow bed space. If you want to go commercial I would recommend that you use the floating raft system. There are MANY advantages over gravel beds. Most gravel beds can easily be converted to rafts. As far as bugs go, you can use woven row covers supported by PVC. This can save the huge expense of building greenhouses. The woven cover allows 90% light and 75% air transmission depending on the brand. You can see an example in my photos. Also check out Friendlyaquaponics.com

FriendlyAquaponics said: We use floating rafts because you can both plant into them and harvest out of them by putting them on sawhorses at waist level, under a tent in the shade, rather than bent over a gravel bed out in the sun planting and harvesting, or even worse, waist level on a REALLY expensive gravel bed that you had to build supports for to get it up at waist level. In other words, they're a LOT less work! The raft system also allows you to do all kinds of "re-ordering" of rafts and contents in your aquaponics, which is really important if you are commercial growing with a large area. The raft system is a HUGE labor saver over gravel bed, and the raft troughs are much less expensive to build and maintain than gravel bed systems, even gravel bed systems on the ground. There also appear to be potential problems with anaerobic zones forming in gravel bed systems, the only solution to which is to remove and wash or replace the gravel, which is a huge job. A commercial grower on our island recently abandoned their gravel bed systems and replaced them with raft systems.
Aloha Carolyn, the first two of the three biggest advantages, that I have found with the raft system, have to do with mobility.
1 Since the roots are not planted in a medium everything can be moved around every easily. When plants are small I space then very close(60+ in a 2'x2' square). They do not need any more space than that for several weeks. Then I spread them out to a final grow out spacing as they need it(6" or 8"spacing). This micro management technique saves me final grow out space, which increases yield.
2 I can pick up my rafts, take them into the shade and next to the stereo so I to do my spreading and harvesting work at a comfortable working height.
3 The large volume of water stays very stable in temperature and keeps the plant roots cool on during the heat of the day. The plants may wilt with the heat, but the roots are still cool. The plants will recover from wilting after heat with NO heat damage since the roots stay cool! With cool water I am able to grow plants that I could not otherwise grow in my environment.
Chris
Carolyn Allen said:
What are the advantages of floating raft systems over grow beds? What are the advantages for small systems? Is there less plumbing? That would be a BIG advantage for me :-) Carolyn

Chris Smith said:
Christopher,
With a 1200 gal tank you can have lots of grow bed space. If you want to go commercial I would recommend that you use the floating raft system. There are MANY advantages over gravel beds. Most gravel beds can easily be converted to rafts. As far as bugs go, you can use woven row covers supported by PVC. This can save the huge expense of building greenhouses. The woven cover allows 90% light and 75% air transmission depending on the brand. You can see an example in my photos. Also check out Friendlyaquaponics.com

Thanks FA and Chris for your posts! It is so wonderful to have commercial growers on this site. I'm getting there!!

Chris,

Which plants do you space at 6" on your ratfs and which are at 8"? Are all your net pots 2"?

I had some setbacks with my system and all this rain... I am just getting ready to cut the holes in my rafts today (15 4'x8' sheets cut down into 2'x4'sections) and was planning to space them 8" on the center. I have started my seedlings in floating seed trays (128 and 242 cells) that I want to put on the system at 3 weeks(which is coming up! and still no fish,but that's another story)
I would like to grow a variety of things. After seeing your post, I'm wondering if I should make some of the spacing at 6" instead of all 8"?

All my net pots are 2" poppleman. Is it best to use a 1 3/4" hole saw to make the holes?

I also have 350 vertigro pots incorporated into the system and a row of 14 of the very large ground (26"x18")pot. I plan on using the smaller vertigro pots for cherry tomatoes and addtional veggies or strawberries etc....all verticals will drain into a lined trough in the ground(4'x40'x4")sides bermed up with dirt.. that will hopefully work out to grow microgreens,baby greens and sprouts in flats as water flows back by gravity and passes through them and back to the fish tank..all this is on a timer (3x a day).. This last part is an experiment,the greens,sprouts in the ground trough as I haven't seen it done this way, but seems like it would work. I have one trough with double spaced staggered stackers done so far.

Does anyone have experience using "sure to grow" mats for sprouts??...I've seen burlap being used instead
form a company in Jamaica, but they have a testimonial on the STG site that they have switched over!

Any help would be greatly apprecitated!
Michelle
Passion for Produce
Sarasota, FL

Chris Smith said:
Aloha Carolyn, the first two of the three biggest advantages, that I have found with the raft system, have to do with mobility.
1 Since the roots are not planted in a medium everything can be moved around every easily. When plants are small I space then very close(60+ in a 2'x2' square). They do not need any more space than that for several weeks. Then I spread them out to a final grow out spacing as they need it(6" or 8"spacing). This micro management technique saves me final grow out space, which increases yield.
2 I can pick up my rafts, take them into the shade and next to the stereo so I to do my spreading and harvesting work at a comfortable working height.
3 The large volume of water stays very stable in temperature and keeps the plant roots cool on during the heat of the day. The plants may wilt with the heat, but the roots are still cool. The plants will recover from wilting after heat with NO heat damage since the roots stay cool! With cool water I am able to grow plants that I could not otherwise grow in my environment.
Chris
Carolyn Allen said:
What are the advantages of floating raft systems over grow beds? What are the advantages for small systems? Is there less plumbing? That would be a BIG advantage for me :-) Carolyn

Chris Smith said:
Christopher,
With a 1200 gal tank you can have lots of grow bed space. If you want to go commercial I would recommend that you use the floating raft system. There are MANY advantages over gravel beds. Most gravel beds can easily be converted to rafts. As far as bugs go, you can use woven row covers supported by PVC. This can save the huge expense of building greenhouses. The woven cover allows 90% light and 75% air transmission depending on the brand. You can see an example in my photos. Also check out Friendlyaquaponics.com

Aloha Michelle, If you drill your rafts at an 8" spacing it is easy to convert to 6" simply by drilling out the middles of the 8" spacing on a criss cross pattern. I grow most of my lettuce at 8" because I want perfect heads, that have not been cramped, so I can sell them live at a local market. I grow bac choy, celery, strawberries, chard and compact plants in general at a 6" spacing. Onions and leeks do well at 4". I have found it much easier to cut rafts to 2'x2' squares for very close spacings of 2" and 4" because the rafts get heavy with 36 or 60 wet net pots. I drill a 2" hole for a 2" pot. The lip at the top of the pot will hold them in.
I have not used sure to grow mats as they are too expensive for me to purchase and ship to Hawaii. I always try to find inexpensive and locally available alternatives to purchasing the expensive materials commonly used.
Keep in mind that things grown on the ground will be more prone to bugs and slugs. One bug or slug can eat a lot of small plants in one night.
Chris

Michelle Silva said:
Thanks FA and Chris for your posts! It is so wonderful to have commercial growers on this site. I'm getting there!!

Chris,

Which plants do you space at 6" on your ratfs and which are at 8"? Are all your net pots 2"?

I had some setbacks with my system and all this rain... I am just getting ready to cut the holes in my rafts today (15 4'x8' sheets cut down into 2'x4'sections) and was planning to space them 8" on the center. I have started my seedlings in floating seed trays (128 and 242 cells) that I want to put on the system at 3 weeks(which is coming up! and still no fish,but that's another story)
I would like to grow a variety of things. After seeing your post, I'm wondering if I should make some of the spacing at 6" instead of all 8"?

All my net pots are 2" poppleman. Is it best to use a 1 3/4" hole saw to make the holes?

I also have 350 vertigro pots incorporated into the system and a row of 14 of the very large ground (26"x18")pot. I plan on using the smaller vertigro pots for cherry tomatoes and addtional veggies or strawberries etc....all verticals will drain into a lined trough in the ground(4'x40'x4")sides bermed up with dirt.. that will hopefully work out to grow microgreens,baby greens and sprouts in flats as water flows back by gravity and passes through them and back to the fish tank..all this is on a timer (3x a day).. This last part is an experiment,the greens,sprouts in the ground trough as I haven't seen it done this way, but seems like it would work. I have one trough with double spaced staggered stackers done so far.

Does anyone have experience using "sure to grow" mats for sprouts??...I've seen burlap being used instead
form a company in Jamaica, but they have a testimonial on the STG site that they have switched over!

Any help would be greatly apprecitated!
Michelle
Passion for Produce
Sarasota, FL

Chris Smith said:
Aloha Carolyn, the first two of the three biggest advantages, that I have found with the raft system, have to do with mobility.
1 Since the roots are not planted in a medium everything can be moved around every easily. When plants are small I space then very close(60+ in a 2'x2' square). They do not need any more space than that for several weeks. Then I spread them out to a final grow out spacing as they need it(6" or 8"spacing). This micro management technique saves me final grow out space, which increases yield.
2 I can pick up my rafts, take them into the shade and next to the stereo so I to do my spreading and harvesting work at a comfortable working height.
3 The large volume of water stays very stable in temperature and keeps the plant roots cool on during the heat of the day. The plants may wilt with the heat, but the roots are still cool. The plants will recover from wilting after heat with NO heat damage since the roots stay cool! With cool water I am able to grow plants that I could not otherwise grow in my environment.
Chris
Carolyn Allen said:
What are the advantages of floating raft systems over grow beds? What are the advantages for small systems? Is there less plumbing? That would be a BIG advantage for me :-) Carolyn

Chris Smith said:
Christopher,
With a 1200 gal tank you can have lots of grow bed space. If you want to go commercial I would recommend that you use the floating raft system. There are MANY advantages over gravel beds. Most gravel beds can easily be converted to rafts. As far as bugs go, you can use woven row covers supported by PVC. This can save the huge expense of building greenhouses. The woven cover allows 90% light and 75% air transmission depending on the brand. You can see an example in my photos. Also check out Friendlyaquaponics.com

Hi Chris,
I just did a test with a 2" hole saw and the pot went goes right thru..then did another test with a 1 3/4" hole saw and it's too small and doesn't sit flush with the under side of raft..it doesn't look like it will touch the water..I understand the roots will go thru,but this doesn't look right...The supplier said these pots have a lip, but it barely looks like it to me!
Do you use 2" thick foam(that's what I'm using)? With the 1 3/4 " holesaw the net pot sits approx 1/4" up on the underside of raft!
I am going to see if there is a hole saw that is inbetween. I'm not sure why this isn't working.

I think that "sure to grow" is a bit expensive, although waiting to see what commercial wholesale price is still.
What do you grow that is 2" spaced apart? Are all your net pots 2"? Do you use med coco coir?
Thanks,
Michelle

Chris Smith said:
Aloha Michelle, If you drill your rafts at an 8" spacing it is easy to convert to 6" simply by drilling out the middles of the 8" spacing on a criss cross pattern. I grow most of my lettuce at 8" because I want perfect heads, that have not been cramped, so I can sell them live at a local market. I grow bac choy, celery, strawberries, chard and compact plants in general at a 6" spacing. Onions and leeks do well at 4". I have found it much easier to cut rafts to 2'x2' squares for very close spacings of 2" and 4" because the rafts get heavy with 36 or 60 wet net pots. I drill a 2" hole for a 2" pot. The lip at the top of the pot will hold them in.
I have not used sure to grow mats as they are too expensive for me to purchase and ship to Hawaii. I always try to find inexpensive and locally available alternatives to purchasing the expensive materials commonly used.
Keep in mind that things grown on the ground will be more prone to bugs and slugs. One bug or slug can eat a lot of small plants in one night.
Chris

Michelle Silva said:
Thanks FA and Chris for your posts! It is so wonderful to have commercial growers on this site. I'm getting there!!

Chris,

Which plants do you space at 6" on your ratfs and which are at 8"? Are all your net pots 2"?

I had some setbacks with my system and all this rain... I am just getting ready to cut the holes in my rafts today (15 4'x8' sheets cut down into 2'x4'sections) and was planning to space them 8" on the center. I have started my seedlings in floating seed trays (128 and 242 cells) that I want to put on the system at 3 weeks(which is coming up! and still no fish,but that's another story)
I would like to grow a variety of things. After seeing your post, I'm wondering if I should make some of the spacing at 6" instead of all 8"?

All my net pots are 2" poppleman. Is it best to use a 1 3/4" hole saw to make the holes?

I also have 350 vertigro pots incorporated into the system and a row of 14 of the very large ground (26"x18")pot. I plan on using the smaller vertigro pots for cherry tomatoes and addtional veggies or strawberries etc....all verticals will drain into a lined trough in the ground(4'x40'x4")sides bermed up with dirt.. that will hopefully work out to grow microgreens,baby greens and sprouts in flats as water flows back by gravity and passes through them and back to the fish tank..all this is on a timer (3x a day).. This last part is an experiment,the greens,sprouts in the ground trough as I haven't seen it done this way, but seems like it would work. I have one trough with double spaced staggered stackers done so far.

Does anyone have experience using "sure to grow" mats for sprouts??...I've seen burlap being used instead
form a company in Jamaica, but they have a testimonial on the STG site that they have switched over!

Any help would be greatly apprecitated!
Michelle
Passion for Produce
Sarasota, FL

Chris Smith said:
Aloha Carolyn, the first two of the three biggest advantages, that I have found with the raft system, have to do with mobility.
1 Since the roots are not planted in a medium everything can be moved around every easily. When plants are small I space then very close(60+ in a 2'x2' square). They do not need any more space than that for several weeks. Then I spread them out to a final grow out spacing as they need it(6" or 8"spacing). This micro management technique saves me final grow out space, which increases yield.
2 I can pick up my rafts, take them into the shade and next to the stereo so I to do my spreading and harvesting work at a comfortable working height.
3 The large volume of water stays very stable in temperature and keeps the plant roots cool on during the heat of the day. The plants may wilt with the heat, but the roots are still cool. The plants will recover from wilting after heat with NO heat damage since the roots stay cool! With cool water I am able to grow plants that I could not otherwise grow in my environment.
Chris
Carolyn Allen said:
What are the advantages of floating raft systems over grow beds? What are the advantages for small systems? Is there less plumbing? That would be a BIG advantage for me :-) Carolyn

Chris Smith said:
Christopher,
With a 1200 gal tank you can have lots of grow bed space. If you want to go commercial I would recommend that you use the floating raft system. There are MANY advantages over gravel beds. Most gravel beds can easily be converted to rafts. As far as bugs go, you can use woven row covers supported by PVC. This can save the huge expense of building greenhouses. The woven cover allows 90% light and 75% air transmission depending on the brand. You can see an example in my photos. Also check out Friendlyaquaponics.com

RE:slugs;thanks for the heads up on that..I was concerned about animals too, but decided on this as the simplest and least expensive way to incorporate growing them with the vertical stacks,using the bottom pot draining water..want to use the space between and under the pots that will be draining. I'll try to post a pic soon. When I had a garden when we lived in NJ we had a problem with slugs, beer in jars in the ground helped a bit and at least they died happy, lol!..maybe I'll put some shells (From our driveway) along the edge so they don't go down into the trough.

Michelle Silva said:
Hi Chris,
I just did a test with a 2" hole saw and the pot went goes right thru..then did another test with a 1 3/4" hole saw and it's too small and doesn't sit flush with the under side of raft..it doesn't look like it will touch the water..I understand the roots will go thru,but this doesn't look right...The supplier said these pots have a lip, but it barely looks like it to me!
Do you use 2" thick foam(that's what I'm using)? With the 1 3/4 " holesaw the net pot sits approx 1/4" up on the underside of raft!
I am going to see if there is a hole saw that is inbetween. I'm not sure why this isn't working.

I think that "sure to grow" is a bit expensive, although waiting to see what commercial wholesale price is still.
What do you grow that is 2" spaced apart? Are all your net pots 2"? Do you use med coco coir?
Thanks,
Michelle

Chris Smith said:
Aloha Michelle, If you drill your rafts at an 8" spacing it is easy to convert to 6" simply by drilling out the middles of the 8" spacing on a criss cross pattern. I grow most of my lettuce at 8" because I want perfect heads, that have not been cramped, so I can sell them live at a local market. I grow bac choy, celery, strawberries, chard and compact plants in general at a 6" spacing. Onions and leeks do well at 4". I have found it much easier to cut rafts to 2'x2' squares for very close spacings of 2" and 4" because the rafts get heavy with 36 or 60 wet net pots. I drill a 2" hole for a 2" pot. The lip at the top of the pot will hold them in.
I have not used sure to grow mats as they are too expensive for me to purchase and ship to Hawaii. I always try to find inexpensive and locally available alternatives to purchasing the expensive materials commonly used.
Keep in mind that things grown on the ground will be more prone to bugs and slugs. One bug or slug can eat a lot of small plants in one night.
Chris

Michelle Silva said:
Thanks FA and Chris for your posts! It is so wonderful to have commercial growers on this site. I'm getting there!!

Chris,

Which plants do you space at 6" on your ratfs and which are at 8"? Are all your net pots 2"?

I had some setbacks with my system and all this rain... I am just getting ready to cut the holes in my rafts today (15 4'x8' sheets cut down into 2'x4'sections) and was planning to space them 8" on the center. I have started my seedlings in floating seed trays (128 and 242 cells) that I want to put on the system at 3 weeks(which is coming up! and still no fish,but that's another story)
I would like to grow a variety of things. After seeing your post, I'm wondering if I should make some of the spacing at 6" instead of all 8"?

All my net pots are 2" poppleman. Is it best to use a 1 3/4" hole saw to make the holes?

I also have 350 vertigro pots incorporated into the system and a row of 14 of the very large ground (26"x18")pot. I plan on using the smaller vertigro pots for cherry tomatoes and addtional veggies or strawberries etc....all verticals will drain into a lined trough in the ground(4'x40'x4")sides bermed up with dirt.. that will hopefully work out to grow microgreens,baby greens and sprouts in flats as water flows back by gravity and passes through them and back to the fish tank..all this is on a timer (3x a day).. This last part is an experiment,the greens,sprouts in the ground trough as I haven't seen it done this way, but seems like it would work. I have one trough with double spaced staggered stackers done so far.

Does anyone have experience using "sure to grow" mats for sprouts??...I've seen burlap being used instead
form a company in Jamaica, but they have a testimonial on the STG site that they have switched over!

Any help would be greatly apprecitated!
Michelle
Passion for Produce
Sarasota, FL

Chris Smith said:
Aloha Carolyn, the first two of the three biggest advantages, that I have found with the raft system, have to do with mobility.
1 Since the roots are not planted in a medium everything can be moved around every easily. When plants are small I space then very close(60+ in a 2'x2' square). They do not need any more space than that for several weeks. Then I spread them out to a final grow out spacing as they need it(6" or 8"spacing). This micro management technique saves me final grow out space, which increases yield.
2 I can pick up my rafts, take them into the shade and next to the stereo so I to do my spreading and harvesting work at a comfortable working height.
3 The large volume of water stays very stable in temperature and keeps the plant roots cool on during the heat of the day. The plants may wilt with the heat, but the roots are still cool. The plants will recover from wilting after heat with NO heat damage since the roots stay cool! With cool water I am able to grow plants that I could not otherwise grow in my environment.
Chris
Carolyn Allen said:
What are the advantages of floating raft systems over grow beds? What are the advantages for small systems? Is there less plumbing? That would be a BIG advantage for me :-) Carolyn

Chris Smith said:
Christopher,
With a 1200 gal tank you can have lots of grow bed space. If you want to go commercial I would recommend that you use the floating raft system. There are MANY advantages over gravel beds. Most gravel beds can easily be converted to rafts. As far as bugs go, you can use woven row covers supported by PVC. This can save the huge expense of building greenhouses. The woven cover allows 90% light and 75% air transmission depending on the brand. You can see an example in my photos. Also check out Friendlyaquaponics.com

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