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wondering if anyone has input that can help? I plan on installing a 440 Gal. FT along with (4) 4x6 DWF beds (12" deep) and (2) hydroton media beds. My clairifier would be 120 Gal. Clairifier, 50 Gal. bio filter, 10 Gal Degassing tank, 10 Gal. Sump, and a 5 Gal Base addition tank. Are these proportions correct?

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Thanks for taking a look at this for me. My wife and I have an opportunity with a couple who bought a greenhouse to create a sort of cross between Will Allen's Growing Power and The Plant in Chicago. We were looking at doing aquaponics for the past 3 years and bumped into them. They were also planning on doing Aquaponics in addition to the other soil growing methods they will be teaching so it worked out. They are incubating (funding and housing) our build until we are big enough to go out on our own and have the opportunity to continue to run the site at their location. They are a non-profit so any profit will go toward saving up for a full sized commercial plant at another location.

Right now we are looking at an area within the greenhouse of 2500-5000 square feet in the green house. However the roof needs repair and won't be fixed till next summer. So they have agreed to let us build a temporary small greenhouse within the green house to get a small system up and running this summer. After we toured multiple commercial set-ups in Illinois and Wisconsin, my wife (a AP/Honors biology teacher) and I also toured Nelson and Pade. We were impressed with their system design (based on UVI's) and seems to be the prevalent school of thought amongst the commercial producers we visited in Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul. The science made sense to us, so we presented it to our funders and they said go for it. Now, our budget for this project is limited but I have construction and woodworking experience and my wife has 2 small aquaponic set-ups in her classroom and my father has much experience with electrical and fluid pumping from working for many years in hydraulics for John Deere. However, Ratios and calculation methods have varied wildly throughout our research and we resorted to trying to mimic UVI/N&P's system as we cannot and do not want to purchase a turn key system.

Our intention is to design a system that will fit in a 25x25 greenhouse (rafts can be stacked and lit with artificial light as well) that is an exact replica of the full size system we will later install in the greenhouse. Once the full size system is completed this system will serve two roles: 1.) an educational system for those wanting to learn how to run their own for home gardening and 2.) a nursery system for the larger system once completed.

So we reverse engineered the proportion of each system component of the UVI system and Nelson and Pade's for size and then applied the proportions. However because of the hybrid nature of our system we wanted to get opinions as to if we were on the right track.

So far, we have just gotten the system components identified, and general size based on those two systems and are working on the arrangement to fit into our proposed mini-greenhouse. 

We wanted to double N&P's family system (2 x 110 gal FT and 3 x 6'x4'x1' raft beds.) We have not begun plumbing and piping considerations yet.

We were planning on either (2) 220 or (1) 450 Gal Conical 45* full drain FT, (2) 60 or (1) 120 gal 45* full drain conical Clairifiers (two, we figured, would allow minimal disruption to the system in case we had to shut one down temporarily for any reason) and a 50 Gal drum Bio filter filled with Bio medium. We chose to go with a degassing tank (10 GAL drum, but thought 50 gal drum tank would work just as well or better) due to the water then going to the raft beds. From the rafts (4- 4'x6'x1' rafts) we were going to pump DWR growbed water through a sand filter, as we saw at N&P, to eliminate any remaining solid suspended particles and then into our media beds (2- 4'x6') to eliminate any remaining potential for hotspots in the bed and to minimize cleaning or replacement of media. The grow beds would be growing tomatoes and peppers, maybe Cilantro for a neighborhood mexican restaurant and the DWR's would be dedicated to Basil for an Italian restaurant.

The water from the grow beds would then go to the sump for return to the FT's or FT to begin the process over.

We planned on installing a smaller FT with a similar set-up for raising Fry and to transfer seedlings into a small NFT system until they are ready go into the rafts (saw same process at N&P)

Our tank size should be adequate for 6 (4'x6'x1') DWR's but we planned on using two of them for a media bed (4'x12'x1' total) in which we would set dutch buckets into to grow the larger plants and this way it would be an easy conversion back to DWR if we ever desired to by simply removing the media filled Dutch buckets.

Because my wife and I both work full time, we wanted to minimize any issues with water quality or system maintenance as much as possible in the beginning by over engineering our system to allow maximum time and effort to be devoted to the planting and harvesting/fish feeding and observation as much as possible. This system is probably over-engineered for it's size but we wanted to plan it as close to a full sized commercial system as possible so the data tracking (we are data junkies and she's a science teacher, go figure) and trouble shooting process would transfer over to the new system without differentiating variables. If all goes well with the mini-system and then the full size system, if the demand is there, we hope to step-up into 10,000-20,000 square foot system at a new location

So that's as far as we have gotten so far, I hope this makes sense. If you have any input on this before we start to go onto the next phase, (pumping and plumbing) please let us know. I have also attached some calculations that we made from reverse-engineered data from a basil growing study published by UVI that we based our system sizing on...

My personal opinion is that stacked horizontal DWC beds a la growing power or other warehouse operations with artificial light is a poor vertical solution for a northern climate. Dr. Nate Story over at Bright Aggrotech has developed a great vertical product that is mobile, well suited to a greenhouse in a northern climate and offers great free support and education for commercial growers. Remember that the UVI system was designed for the climate of a Caribbean Island.

While I am somewhat knowledgeable on vertical growing columns, I am not familiar with his system. Can you explain to me why this would be a better option, and provide any statistics or information on increased production, ease of cultivation, less system maintenance, less artificial light etc. when compared side to side with an N&P/UVI type system? We are primarily focused on Basil production, Cilantro, Tomatoes, and Peppers right now for commercial sale to two restaurants and quality, consistency, and  reliability are going to be key to keeping them happy. This will set our precedence for further expansion and future customers later so I need to make sure (data wise) that this is a better option for us to consider. We toured Farmed here in Chicago and researched and spoke to reps from Urban Organics in St. Paul and they were utilizing this type of system. both are  utilizing 20-40,000 sq.ft. While we will probably continue to be in a climate controlled greenhouse and not as big as them, we have explored the option of a warehouse style in the future.

We are open to all opinions and suggestions as long as the data and operational feasibility make more sense. Unless I can find data to say otherwise, we might try a small system like this to test/evaluate and use as a demo set-up for others to consider for personal use at the non-profit Urban farmstead that is incubating us.

Thank you for bringing this to light and I will look into it more and welcome any additional info you have. If anyone else has any opinion on our present system design or the B.A system, we would like your insight as well...

Thanks Johnathan!

Well I am not a sales rep who can give you the answers you need, but I have done the nelson & pade course, studied with Dr. Rackocy and Dr. Lennard, been to Growing Power and other sites in Milwaukee as well as other operations around the north east. I have a buddy who has used the Bright Ag towers in long Island and is very pleased with how they perform. I must say the mobile nature of the tower allows for in store/restaurant  marketing of entire towers to sell live plants. This alone can keep your regulatory exposure down because you are not handling produce. They have a ton of videos and blog entities on this and many other subjects, so just go to their site and dig in.

Yes - I agree with Jonathan - BAT has a wealth of useable information.

Sean, you are WAY over thinking a simple small system. Chill out and start with a basic system without all the gadgets. Start with media beds and a fish tank and a sump. The media beds ARE the bio filter. You are describing a small back yard system and applying every commercial component you have ever read about. Our 2500g system has 5 IBC x 12" media beds, a 3x12' wicking bed and 5 IBC (@1200g) full size fish tanks and a 275 g buried sump. After getting up and started THEN you can add a swirl filter with floater control to keep your grow beds cleaner (just leave a spot for it in your plan) and if you raise a fussy fish like we do, Trout, you can add bio-filters to the 2 grow out fishtanks as they grow large, as we did. We have pretty much stuck to our plan and it has been 3yrs of "build when we can" but harvest great meals along the way. Here is our GH plan that really hasn't changed all that much as we cruise toward our ultimate and original design. Perhaps the biggest change is from DWC that we did not find helpful, to wicking bed, but we designed the DWC so it could be easily changed from DWC to media or wicking. Also I have decided that the composter is more valuable for us than more GBs, barrelponics or otherwise. Growing the plan allows for such adjustments. My 2 biggest advices: bury the sump and wall off the fish room.

We have also added solar system water heaters, our own digitally controlled woodstove that heats the system water and the air, etc. There will always be add-ons along the way but start simple (KISS). We use no artificial lights. Instead we grow seasonal crops that will tolerate cold temps should the heat fail. Far better than losing an entire crop due to a freeze up. Our GH is 24x22'. (Not sure what happened to the color in this first photo but it is readable at least) The floor plan is more up to date than this side view.

Hey thanks Jim...

I would really like to stick with DW Rafts. Our intention  was to create a mini-scale system (with the exact same components) of a full size 2-4,000 sqft. system that we will be installing next year so that the data and performance we document on this small one will easily transfer to the larger one and the data from that would transfer to the 10-20,000 sqft we anticipate building 2 years after that. Our  intentions are purely commercial as we both want to use this as a business. I originally thought about adding in media beds for a hybrid system but I think, from a commercial production stand point, we should just stick to rafts.

Since I was unclear how to size the components other than the fish tanks and grow beds, I was hoping someone might chime in with info on sizing for the clairifiers, bio filter, de-gasser (or not), and the sump. I resorted to reverse engineering the UVI/Nelson & Pade systems to get a rough idea as I was not finding calculation methods on this on the web. Guess that's why people pay to take the classes....

I'm starting to work on the plumbing and pumping now and will post the finial system design, when completed, for review and any input. Guess we'll have to fly by the seat of our pants on this small system and revise as needed until we are ready for the mid-sized system...

Good news is we almost have our small dutch bucket Hydro system up and running and are modifying my wife's 2 Friendly Aquaponics media systems for her classroom at school in 3 weeks...

Thanks for the input! There was still some good info I'll be using from your reply. And if anyone asks about personal systems from the local area, I'll be sure to refer them to your system design...

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