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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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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Hi Carolyn,

Now that you have heard from Chris and Friendly about raft based systems, I wanted to give a little different perspective as someone who is a dedicated media based aquaponic gardener. While I am in complete agreement that raft based systems are the most efficient for commercial operations, especially growing produce where the entire plant is harvested (salad greens and herbs, for example) I think that the those advantages become replaced by a lack of flexibility in a home-based garden. I can plant any type of plant anywhere in my beds...and move it later if I want...without needing to worry about the established layout of plant holes on a raft. There is no reason why a media bed should be any more expensive than a raft bed if both are on the ground - they both are built to hold substantial weight in a wet environment at approximately the same depth. If either is lifted to waste height - a wonderful way to garden, I must say - it only makes sense that they will incur approximately the same structural expense. Yes, there is the cost of media (gravel) in a media based system, but that is replaced by the cost of net pots, styrofoam rafts and filtering equipment in a raft based system. As for the notion that a media based system is more work...I'm not sure where that is coming from. There is no filter that needs to be cleaned out on a regular basis in a media system as there is in most raft systems (forgive me, Friendly, if you guys have figured out a way around this...I don't know the specifics of your systems). With my beds I just feed the fish twice a day and clean the pumps when they need it. It is the easiest form of gardening I have ever encountered...by a lot! As for the notion that "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" well, it just simply isn't true. As long as you set up your system with the proper ratio of grow bed to fish tank, don't overstock your fish, have a 12" deep grow bed (very important), and add composting red worms you will not have this problem. Joel Malcolm and Murray Hallam can tell you about media systems in Australia that have been running for close to a decade without ever having this problem or needing to be cleaned out. Some of my beds are approaching 2 years old now and I"ve never seen this problem. They just keep getting better and better with time. I"m sure the same thing could happen with a raft system...if set up and operated properly, it works well. If not, there are problems.

I just don't accept the premise that one system type is better overall than the other...they both have their place. Bottom line is this isn't about right and wrong, but rather about different experiences and priorities. As I said, I think that a strong case has been made by Chris and Tim for the efficiency of using rafts in a commercial operation, especially for fast growing, frequently harvested plants. But for backyard, hobby systems give me a nice, compact, low maintenance, simple to understand media bed that I can put at waist height if I chose. It is easier to operate, more flexible for planting, more space efficient, and more attractive. If raft based systems were all that was available I would never have started gardening with aquaponics - I don't have the space nor do I want styrofoam sheets in my yard...but that's just me ;-)

And isn't it wonderful that we have a choice of two terrific styles of growing using aquaponics?! It only makes the overall message of how great aquaponics is that much stronger. Viva la aquaponics!

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

I think you have a good point Sylvia!!!
There are certain crops that will do real good in a media based system especially for backyard and some will do great in a raft system, depending on what you are growing.
Personally I have a mix of many different systems for growing all kinds of crops, I have the DWC raft system just like FA and the NTF, the dutch bucket and the cinder based systems all tied into one as well as vertical wall growing, I'm using my fence to grow up, everything is doing great and I get all kinds of crazy stuff. I have so much fish now I have to start eating them, after I upgraded my air pump and air stones everything is growing fast....Yeahhhh
When you are doing a commerical farm you will need to make sure you have the market for selling the item. It would be good to contact the stores, restuarants, etc. in the area to find out what kind of produce is hard to find,when and then what the pricing is during that time so you can be sure you can grow, harvest and sell enough to make it viable. Growing aquaponics has the advantage of organic, but even that isnt enough if the market isnt there. You have to do your homework first.

Raychel A Watkins said:
I would like to do it commercially but keeping up with all the planting is a chore. I am investigating what plants would be easy to grow and have the best chance of selling. So far I have decided that ung choy, watercress, and celery are the most prolific growing plants. You can't stop them. I now have to get up enough systems. I also want to spread the word about aquaponics. I think I have talked at least 2 people into building a small system. One of the people said to me that she found a container to use as a tank on craig's list. Yea I said and it cost $200.00 doesn't it. She said yes how did I know. I look at craig's list all the time. I then told her I could get the same thing for $25.00. I really feel good about being able to show people how they can save money. You need a lot of contacts. I don't have enough but I do have a few. So I hope to be able to help her get a small system up for very little money. Maybe this is my lot in life. I do get a lot of people to come and look at the systems. Sometimes I think I am a little stupid to begin these things at my age and then I realize that if I don't do things that I enjoy and have a passion for what is life for anyway. Not that it matters but I will be 70 in Nov.
Aloha Sylvia, I agree with all of the points that you brought up. I do not believe that one system is better than another. I believe that integrated systems are a good way to go. Aquaponics is a natural ecosystem in a man made container and the more complicated the ecosystem the better. I am in the process of integrating gravel beds, with composting worms, to replace my net tanks on two of my systems. I will gain extra grow space along with a filter. I plan to keep the clarifiers because my fruit trees and yard LOVE the emulsion. I am also integrating vertical tubes and NTF into my system that is on terraces. Adding the vertical and NTF will result in a huge increase in growing space with very little footprint.

This is a commercial forum though and my comments have been directed toward commercial systems.

Chris
I would love to see pictures of this setup when you get them.

Chris Smith said:
Aloha Sylvia, I agree with all of the points that you brought up. I do not believe that one system is better than another. I believe that integrated systems are a good way to go. Aquaponics is a natural ecosystem in a man made container and the more complicated the ecosystem the better. I am in the process of integrating gravel beds, with composting worms, to replace my net tanks on two of my systems. I will gain extra grow space along with a filter. I plan to keep the clarifiers because my fruit trees and yard LOVE the emulsion. I am also integrating vertical tubes and NTF into my system that is on terraces. Adding the vertical and NTF will result in a huge increase in growing space with very little footprint.

This is a commercial forum though and my comments have been directed toward commercial systems.

Chris
Aloha back at you, Chris ;-) Great points about the integrated system - that really is the ultimate, isn't it?! And good point about the commercial thread. Just felt the need to correct a few generalizations that seem to persist....but probably better done in a different spot. Mahalo.

Chris Smith said:
Aloha Sylvia, I agree with all of the points that you brought up. I do not believe that one system is better than another. I believe that integrated systems are a good way to go. Aquaponics is a natural ecosystem in a man made container and the more complicated the ecosystem the better. I am in the process of integrating gravel beds, with composting worms, to replace my net tanks on two of my systems. I will gain extra grow space along with a filter. I plan to keep the clarifiers because my fruit trees and yard LOVE the emulsion. I am also integrating vertical tubes and NTF into my system that is on terraces. Adding the vertical and NTF will result in a huge increase in growing space with very little footprint. This is a commercial forum though and my comments have been directed toward commercial systems.

Chris
Well said Sylvia. One thing about aquaponics is that there is no perfect or best way. I started out putting in rafts on the ground. They do well my back does not. My next systems were raised to waist high but still rafts. These are great for some plants. I can see what the media beds do. I got Murray's videos and it made the world so much clearer. He explains things so well. I was impressed by the fact that his grow beds were so old with little problems. I even learned how to make a bell siphon from the video. Then I looked at the you tube things on this site and I constructed my first bell siphon. It works not as well as I want but I am sure that I will find all the secrets soon. There is no question about wether you could grow all that lettuce like Susanne and Tim do but who wants to. Those that do will. The one thing that I love about this site is that everyone shares what he or she is doing. This is wonderful. I want to learn all the ways to do aquaponics so that I can share with the people who come to me to learn. I loved what Chris said about all the ways he is expanding. Let's be serious most don't have an acre like I do or several acres like the Friendlys. Most have 5000 sq ft or less. They can't do rafts not even the small ones but they can do a small tank with a small grow bed above.
Keep on sharing everyone. Let us know what works best for you. Then we can glean from all this info and share with others. Nate I love your towers and hope to incorporate these into my systems.
This is the greatest site there is for shared knowledge keep it that way
Aloha and Mahalo Nui Loa
Raychel
Beautifully said, Raychel. You actually got me a little choked up! A big virtual hug.

Raychel A Watkins said:
Well said Sylvia. One thing about aquaponics is that there is no perfect or best way. I started out putting in rafts on the ground. They do well my back does not. My next systems were raised to waist high but still rafts. These are great for some plants. I can see what the media beds do. I got Murray's videos and it made the world so much clearer. He explains things so well. I was impressed by the fact that his grow beds were so old with little problems. I even learned how to make a bell siphon from the video. Then I looked at the you tube things on this site and I constructed my first bell siphon. It works not as well as I want but I am sure that I will find all the secrets soon. There is no question about wether you could grow all that lettuce like Susanne and Tim do but who wants to. Those that do will. The one thing that I love about this site is that everyone shares what he or she is doing. This is wonderful. I want to learn all the ways to do aquaponics so that I can share with the people who come to me to learn. I loved what Chris said about all the ways he is expanding. Let's be serious most don't have an acre like I do or several acres like the Friendlys. Most have 5000 sq ft or less. They can't do rafts not even the small ones but they can do a small tank with a small grow bed above.
Keep on sharing everyone. Let us know what works best for you. Then we can glean from all this info and share with others. Nate I love your towers and hope to incorporate these into my systems.
This is the greatest site there is for shared knowledge keep it that way
Aloha and Mahalo Nui Loa
Raychel
Great comments Chris,

I am really learning on this forum.

I have one small point . As regards as this being a commercial forum, using "vertical tubes and NTF" is in my opinion also a commercial growing method. You only have to see the numerous "hydroponic" setups that use NFT's (easily modified for Aquaponics : see http://gallery.me.com/erinroper#100054 and http://greenskygrowers.com/), as well as vertical tubes. I am looking to incorporate Nate's Storey's Zip Grow Towers in my research Aquaponic Garden...he has some wonderful photos that he has shared growing herbs and strawberries. As pointed out by Ken in the previous post, it all depends what is your market and what you want to grow / market.

Thank you for your fantastic informational posts.


Chris Smith said:
Aloha Sylvia, I agree with all of the points that you brought up. I do not believe that one system is better than another. I believe that integrated systems are a good way to go. Aquaponics is a natural ecosystem in a man made container and the more complicated the ecosystem the better. I am in the process of integrating gravel beds, with composting worms, to replace my net tanks on two of my systems. I will gain extra grow space along with a filter. I plan to keep the clarifiers because my fruit trees and yard LOVE the emulsion. I am also integrating vertical tubes and NTF into my system that is on terraces. Adding the vertical and NTF will result in a huge increase in growing space with very little footprint.
This is a commercial forum though and my comments have been directed toward commercial systems.
Chris
I agree that commerically (which is what I'm setting up) DWC offer more pros over flood and drain. Although, having worms in the system is a great plus. I looked into gravel beds on a large scale and the cost of gravel here was exhorbitant and I didn't want to move all of that. Although, making the cinderblock raft tanks was not much fun either!: )
I made the three 4x 40' raft tanks out of two cinderblock high that I found at a really great price. I really think I would build out of wood next, like Chris once suggested. I just was nervous about the termite issue that TCLynx had (as we are in Florida too).
I am not setting up all the extra filters ,air diffusers,air stones etc etc either that most DWC sysytems seem to have... as I think I will have tons of oxygen between the waterfall splashing effects of the cascading four fish tanks, the water turnover rate and all the vertical stacks. I am trying to keep it simple.

Chris Smith said:
Aloha Sylvia, I agree with all of the points that you brought up. I do not believe that one system is better than another. I believe that integrated systems are a good way to go. Aquaponics is a natural ecosystem in a man made container and the more complicated the ecosystem the better. I am in the process of integrating gravel beds, with composting worms, to replace my net tanks on two of my systems. I will gain extra grow space along with a filter. I plan to keep the clarifiers because my fruit trees and yard LOVE the emulsion. I am also integrating vertical tubes and NTF into my system that is on terraces. Adding the vertical and NTF will result in a huge increase in growing space with very little footprint.

This is a commercial forum though and my comments have been directed toward commercial systems.

Chris
Michelle is right,our river rock in Fl is at least twice the cost as up North.
I'm in the middle of re-building my original system. I'm also doing what Chris mentioned...I'm using media beds first, then run the water to my new DWC's.
I'm working with my local extension office....gearing up to go commercial, even though I live in the city and have a small backyard.
I never did like cutting the grass back there anyway... :-)

Michelle Silva said:
I agree that commerically (which is what I'm setting up) DWC offer more pros over flood and drain. Although, having worms in the system is a great plus. I looked into gravel beds on a large scale and the cost of gravel here was exhorbitant and I didn't want to move all of that. Although, making the cinderblock raft tanks was not much fun either!: )
I made the three 4x 40' raft tanks out of two cinderblock high that I found at a really great price. I really think I would build out of wood next, like Chris once suggested. I just was nervous about the termite issue that TCLynx had (as we are in Florida too).
I am not setting up all the extra filters ,air diffusers,air stones etc etc either that most DWC sysytems seem to have... as I think I will have tons of oxygen between the waterfall splashing effects of the cascading four fish tanks, the water turnover rate and all the vertical stacks. I am trying to keep it simple.

Chris Smith said:
Aloha Sylvia, I agree with all of the points that you brought up. I do not believe that one system is better than another. I believe that integrated systems are a good way to go. Aquaponics is a natural ecosystem in a man made container and the more complicated the ecosystem the better. I am in the process of integrating gravel beds, with composting worms, to replace my net tanks on two of my systems. I will gain extra grow space along with a filter. I plan to keep the clarifiers because my fruit trees and yard LOVE the emulsion. I am also integrating vertical tubes and NTF into my system that is on terraces. Adding the vertical and NTF will result in a huge increase in growing space with very little footprint.

This is a commercial forum though and my comments have been directed toward commercial systems.

Chris

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