Aquaponic Gardening

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I am surprised to find no references in any of the forums about ziptowers. I want to do vertical towers but can't afford $80 per tower. What would be good media for filling a 5 foot long tube that would allow water to flow pretty freely but act as a good anchor and media for such towers?

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I am curious to know what your return on investment is with single use media like that. Once the cloth gets filled with roots you will never get them out and you will need to replace the media. Cloth of any type isn't cheap. Wool is very expensive.

Glenn said:

I should have said "loosely folded back on itself like ribbon candy. This to prevent it from bunching up". 

 

The felt gives some structural strength to keep compaction from interfering with the roots as they weave their way through the terry cloth's open stretch weave.
 
Glenn said:

I am trying strips of  both 100% wool felt  and cotton terry cloth weave fabric both folded on itself like ribbon candy. Yes both are food safe AND reef safe. And yes both will bio degrade so I expect to replace it regularly. It has held up well since early June and the plants like it.  Oh and it's cheap.

 

 

Hi Friends,

Tom, I get the impression that anything that is suggested might not fit Your requirements.

As for me, I have just returned from a trip to Haiti where I introduced roof gardening and vermiculture.

The next step will to introduce simple aquaponic systems.  I say simple because there are no resources

to buy even the cheapest solar-powered pumps.  They will have to be hand pumped, gravety fed systems.

I have been looking at the possibility of introducing a simple wind-powered water pumping system.

I am specifically interested in introducing 3" vertical towers because that size is readily available in the larger

communities.  Out in the country we have to rely on hand dug ponds and raised grow beds.  I am still working

on the ways we can recirculate the water.

Thanks for the info on the cotton and wool inserts.  I have been looking as polyester clothing cut in strips.

I shouldn't think that the old roots would be a problem unless they build up and become anerobic.  Dr. Storey at Bright Agrotech, uses worms in his system to feed on the old roots.  I suppose You could pull the material and clean it after each crop.

Which brings me to another point.  Bright Agrotech has spent many years and untold amount of resources developing their vertical growing system.  I have looked at what they charge for one of their towers and I find it hard to beat the price.  By the time You buy the materials and make the systems, unless You are retired as I am and can put up with the crop failures that will shurely happen, I think You are better off buying Your towers from Bright.  Besides, You have the advantage of a ready source of information.  Even though I am interested in building systems in Haiti from local materials, I will still buy towers from Bright Agrotech here in the States.  I am still going to have to build some towers for myself here in the States so I can find out the problems we are going to have in Haiti.  By buying towers from Bright Agrotech, I will have proven comparable examples.  No, I am not on Bright Agrotech's payroll, in fact, I have never met Dr. Storey.

It is just good business practice to take advantage of Dr. Storey's knowledge, experience and investment.  If we keep making cheap copies of proven systems, then no one will develop new systems and be so free with the information as Dr. Storey. 

I would look into using local ingredients to create an organic fiber based media that looks like what Bright uses in their towers a product called "matala". Stuffing any kind of tube with any kind of woody fiber should work well. Roots don't need that kind of scaffolding as much as they need room to grow.

 

Suggestion ..... Take a trip to Home Depot, look at the "cut to fit" fiberous filter they sell.  I bought a sheet, put together a DIY version of towers.  Inexpencive, easy to cut, enough in one pack for a few towers, and it seems to be working just fine for my purpose.

Hi Paul, Tom,

I am certainly not in competition with Dr. Story. I have no desire to do anything more than to see and really understand how to best support and provide what is needed to the roots in towers and other vertical structures. And wool and cotton ARE or can be grown local just about anywhere. Local would be easier to assure that dye and binders wouldn't be a hidden problem. It might be a part of a community learning curve to come up with a method to construct the felt and terry weave. But if I can do it, anyone can if they try.  

Another media building method might make more or less sense, but we are also experimenting with using ice and clay slurry to form the media that is then thawed and slow baked into the desired structure. The winter has seen some success. Again, I have nothing against the proven hydroton other than it is made in Germany the last I heard and don't want pinned down to something I have to hire people half way around the globe to supply for me. For now, I use mostly crushed granite in my beds.

Paul, I have built several "rope pumps" of various sizes with a couple wind powered that I think might serve well in places like Haiti. Because of the simplicity in making and maintaining them, rope pumps have been employed in several remote places. While mostly for well water, I think that small ones and even string pumps could find a niche lifting such short heights in aquaponics. 
 
Paul Smith said:

Hi Friends,

Tom, I get the impression that anything that is suggested might not fit Your requirements.

As for me, I have just returned from a trip to Haiti where I introduced roof gardening and vermiculture.

The next step will to introduce simple aquaponic systems.  I say simple because there are no resources

to buy even the cheapest solar-powered pumps.  They will have to be hand pumped, gravety fed systems.

I have been looking at the possibility of introducing a simple wind-powered water pumping system.

I am specifically interested in introducing 3" vertical towers because that size is readily available in the larger

communities.  Out in the country we have to rely on hand dug ponds and raised grow beds.  I am still working

on the ways we can recirculate the water.

Thanks for the info on the cotton and wool inserts.  I have been looking as polyester clothing cut in strips.

I shouldn't think that the old roots would be a problem unless they build up and become anerobic.  Dr. Storey at Bright Agrotech, uses worms in his system to feed on the old roots.  I suppose You could pull the material and clean it after each crop.

Which brings me to another point.  Bright Agrotech has spent many years and untold amount of resources developing their vertical growing system.  I have looked at what they charge for one of their towers and I find it hard to beat the price.  By the time You buy the materials and make the systems, unless You are retired as I am and can put up with the crop failures that will shurely happen, I think You are better off buying Your towers from Bright.  Besides, You have the advantage of a ready source of information.  Even though I am interested in building systems in Haiti from local materials, I will still buy towers from Bright Agrotech here in the States.  I am still going to have to build some towers for myself here in the States so I can find out the problems we are going to have in Haiti.  By buying towers from Bright Agrotech, I will have proven comparable examples.  No, I am not on Bright Agrotech's payroll, in fact, I have never met Dr. Storey.

It is just good business practice to take advantage of Dr. Storey's knowledge, experience and investment.  If we keep making cheap copies of proven systems, then no one will develop new systems and be so free with the information as Dr. Storey. 

Wool and cotton can be grown anywhere but they are extremely expensive and in the case of cotton take more insecticide and herbicide than just about any other crop to grow. Unless you have some source of cloth that costs almost nothing and can be thrown away and replaced after each use forget it. There is no stupid idea that you can't find a room full of PhD's to sign on to. Roots once they get a few weeks old are very woody are very hard to get rid of. If you want a low cost supply of growing media then look for some kind of integration to existing local agriculture. Any kind of organic fiber would do and as long as water can flow through it the less it is processed the better. Why would you only consider media that has been through some kind of manufacturing process? That sounds like a good way to starve to death.

Tom, You asked "What would be good media for filling a 5 foot long tube that would allow water to flow pretty freely but act as a good anchor and media for such towers?".

What media have you decided upon then. I can only assume you've settled on matala. And that is fine. Please let me know how it works out for you.  As of the last harvest, I am more impressed with a "jute natural fiber open weave. It cleaned up fine and looks ready to go at least another growing season.

It and plain wool and cotton has never seemed difficult to process. but you might be right,,,, chicken feathers might be a more readily available and easier to harvest fiber material. I don't think they are all that much cheaper than a stack of cotton towels, a bail of cotton, or a pile of freshly shorn wool..

Good luck.

I couldn't agree with you more. I know aquaponics is a hobby for most of us and seeing how cheaply we can do something is part of the thrill but I too have looked into how to build a tower cheaper and have decided "why?". It's hard enough to get something to work properly and the more variables we can take out of the equation the better. Nate Story has selflessly provided great information to our community for years so if I spend a few extra bucks with Bright Agrotech to support their work, not to mention eliminating possible failures on my part, then I so be it. Not to mention many times my "save a buck" projects wind up costing me more for lesser results.

Paul Smith said:

Hi Friends,

Tom, I get the impression that anything that is suggested might not fit Your requirements.

As for me, I have just returned from a trip to Haiti where I introduced roof gardening and vermiculture.

The next step will to introduce simple aquaponic systems.  I say simple because there are no resources

to buy even the cheapest solar-powered pumps.  They will have to be hand pumped, gravety fed systems.

I have been looking at the possibility of introducing a simple wind-powered water pumping system.

I am specifically interested in introducing 3" vertical towers because that size is readily available in the larger

communities.  Out in the country we have to rely on hand dug ponds and raised grow beds.  I am still working

on the ways we can recirculate the water.

Thanks for the info on the cotton and wool inserts.  I have been looking as polyester clothing cut in strips.

I shouldn't think that the old roots would be a problem unless they build up and become anerobic.  Dr. Storey at Bright Agrotech, uses worms in his system to feed on the old roots.  I suppose You could pull the material and clean it after each crop.

Which brings me to another point.  Bright Agrotech has spent many years and untold amount of resources developing their vertical growing system.  I have looked at what they charge for one of their towers and I find it hard to beat the price.  By the time You buy the materials and make the systems, unless You are retired as I am and can put up with the crop failures that will shurely happen, I think You are better off buying Your towers from Bright.  Besides, You have the advantage of a ready source of information.  Even though I am interested in building systems in Haiti from local materials, I will still buy towers from Bright Agrotech here in the States.  I am still going to have to build some towers for myself here in the States so I can find out the problems we are going to have in Haiti.  By buying towers from Bright Agrotech, I will have proven comparable examples.  No, I am not on Bright Agrotech's payroll, in fact, I have never met Dr. Storey.

It is just good business practice to take advantage of Dr. Storey's knowledge, experience and investment.  If we keep making cheap copies of proven systems, then no one will develop new systems and be so free with the information as Dr. Storey. 

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