Aquaponic Gardening

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Well, I've been getting enough questions and comments that TCLynx suggested I start a discussion so here it goes- I definitely want to hear about anyone elses attempts at vertical hydroponics, and I'm more than happy to share any details of my system that folks are interested in.

 

TC- Where do you find that media? I get my media from a large plastics company- the problem is, they only sell it in massive quantities (i.e. minimum orders of thousands of square feet, min. $5,000.00 an order or so). I got my intial stuff as a researcher, so they were willing to work with me.  I'm currently using the stuff for my towers, and I'm trying to start a business selling towers (eventually) so I can make big orders.  If you want a chunk of it, i could send it to you, or if you were interested in more, i'd split an order with you however you want.  i also have lots of scraps- it's really cool stuff and it would be great to see more folks playing with it- i'd send you some scraps if you want. email me if you're interested- i'll send you thier contact information too if you want- but i've found they're really unwilling to work with folks interested in small quantities (they're wholesale).

 

 Have you used if for any purposes other than your vertical growing towers? If so, what did you try and how were the results compared to other media.  I've played with it a lot over the past couple years, and it's neat stuff. there are some folks using similar material for floating islands.  I've used it as filter material, and water diffusion material, but the towers seem to really be what it works best for.

Have you tried direct seeding into it or only with seedlings? What are your seed starting methods for the seedlings going into the towers.  The material isn't suitable for direct seeding- it's too coarse and porous, and really doesn't "hold" water  like most starting materials.  I start my seedlings in peatmoss or rockwool and then transplant the seedling peat/rockwool and all.  I've experimented with different starting techniques, and the tubes do best with a peat/perlite/verm. mix that just goes straight into the towers.

Hope that starts to answer your questions. I'll put up some pictures of how i transplant.

 

Nate

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I dream of filling community greenhouses with these too Sheryl. We're in the final process of getting a business up and running making these- shoot me an email at "nate81@uwyo.edu" if you're interested in getting ahold of some, it will be a few more weeks before we're official, but our manufacturing is up and running. The most interesting application (I think) for these towers is transporting them whole to farmers markets. Because they're modular you can take the entire tower and haul it to market to sell live produce- we're going to give it a try this summer- guaranteed to be more fresh than anyone elses produce!

Sheryl Gambardella said:
I am very excited about trying the vertical tubes. (I have been busy putting in my traditional garden and my back won't take this another year.) I live in an area of eastern New Mexico that has been called a 'food desert'. A group of us are interested in encouraging local gardeners and producers for a farmers market here. I and they are interested in having fresh greens to offer. I know you are reluctant to discuss selling your tubes on this site- but I wonder if I could contact you to discuss getting some supplies of the tubes and medium to try. I dream of a community greenhouse filled with these.
OH oh, yea totally!!!!! Take the whole tower to market!!!!! Around here in summer we would need to have a pump and bin of cool water to keep most stuff happy on display at the market but I totally love the idea.

U-Pick right at the market!!!!!!
Great Idea! Thanks. I'll contact you.
Sheryl

Nate Storey said:
I dream of filling community greenhouses with these too Sheryl. We're in the final process of getting a business up and running making these- shoot me an email at "nate81@uwyo.edu" if you're interested in getting ahold of some, it will be a few more weeks before we're official, but our manufacturing is up and running. The most interesting application (I think) for these towers is transporting them whole to farmers markets. Because they're modular you can take the entire tower and haul it to market to sell live produce- we're going to give it a try this summer- guaranteed to be more fresh than anyone elses produce!

Sheryl Gambardella said:
I am very excited about trying the vertical tubes. (I have been busy putting in my traditional garden and my back won't take this another year.) I live in an area of eastern New Mexico that has been called a 'food desert'. A group of us are interested in encouraging local gardeners and producers for a farmers market here. I and they are interested in having fresh greens to offer. I know you are reluctant to discuss selling your tubes on this site- but I wonder if I could contact you to discuss getting some supplies of the tubes and medium to try. I dream of a community greenhouse filled with these.
Add a few fish to the tank and you have an educational display to boot. I can't wait to get going!


TCLynx said:
OH oh, yea totally!!!!! Take the whole tower to market!!!!! Around here in summer we would need to have a pump and bin of cool water to keep most stuff happy on display at the market but I totally love the idea.

U-Pick right at the market!!!!!!
Only thing I see to work out for actually having fish at the market would be with logistics. Many markets don't give you access to power or water and hauling/moving a big tank off a truck for the weekend might be a challenge and a smaller tank around here would heat up to much for my taste in keeping the fish comfortable.

Then again, my main fish are catfish and they don't do nearly so well with rough handling as tilapia do. (I hope the little catfish fingerlings I rescued from the plumbing last night recover ok. I actually rescued one that made it all the way into the grow bed.)

Anyway, I'm gonna be checking at the markets to see if there are any out there where I would be able to access my booth every day of the week. In which case one might be able to keep an AP system going on site. Being able to check on the fish daily is kinda important. Next question would be, can I get access to power/water on site or would I have to set up solar and haul in water.

Hum.........
You're right, TCLynx, this would be awesome at a Farmer's Market. I was thinking that even if you get push-back about having (selling?0 your monster catfish there (which would be a dammed shame, if you ask me) you could still have a small tank with goldfish and an image of what you have at home next to it just to get the idea across. And worse, worse case even just selling off the towers with no fish or water reservoir at all would still be completely unique and cool
.
TCLynx said:
Only thing I see to work out for actually having fish at the market would be with logistics. Many markets don't give you access to power or water and hauling/moving a big tank off a truck for the weekend might be a challenge and a smaller tank around here would heat up to much for my taste in keeping the fish comfortable.

Then again, my main fish are catfish and they don't do nearly so well with rough handling as tilapia do. (I hope the little catfish fingerlings I rescued from the plumbing last night recover ok. I actually rescued one that made it all the way into the grow bed.)

Anyway, I'm gonna be checking at the markets to see if there are any out there where I would be able to access my booth every day of the week. In which case one might be able to keep an AP system going on site. Being able to check on the fish daily is kinda important. Next question would be, can I get access to power/water on site or would I have to set up solar and haul in water.

Hum.........
Sylvia, I see you have a couple towers started in your greenhouse. I hope they work well for you, post lots of pics and stuff of the progress with them!
Hey TCLynx,

Yea, they are fun already. You plant by sandwiching the seedling between two layers of the grow media - pretty efficient! They have been getting a lot attention by various greenhouse visitors we've had this week - my poor beds are feeling a little left out...

TCLynx said:
Sylvia, I see you have a couple towers started in your greenhouse. I hope they work well for you, post lots of pics and stuff of the progress with them!
Hay Nate, have your towers gotten a name yet?
We're calling them ZipGrow Towers. How're yours doing? I've found keeping them wet while they establish roots in the first couple days is the biggest deal (on large plants). Small plants don't seem to care at all. . . I'm putting in a large basil trial in a week or two. It's going to be awesome. I've got 32 photometers that will tell me what light is doing throught the mass. . . My fish are getting big too. I'm converting my 2000 gal. aquaculture system over to towers this week too. Gonna put strawberries in it.



TCLynx said:
Hay Nate, have your towers gotten a name yet?
I put two strawberry plants in one of my towers. The crowns are getting too wet and I fear those plants are not gonna make it. Definitely need to make sure towers with strawberries are angled back and the flow is such that the crowns of the plants won't be getting wet.

Otherwise my towers seem to be doing great!

Nate Storey said:
We're calling them ZipGrow Towers. How're yours doing? I've found keeping them wet while they establish roots in . . . My fish are getting big too. I'm converting my 2000 gal. aquaculture system over to towers this week too. Gonna put strawberries in it. TCLynx said:
Hay Nate, have your towers gotten a name yet?
yeah, I've found that with some crops you need to lean the towers a tad- almost use them like an NFT trough at say 85 degrees. I've played with rockwool wicks too for this. I'll let you know how I end up doing the strawberries. I've also found that directional irrigation at the top can help. Since my irrigation PVC arms are screwed in with teflon tape, I can twist them so they irrigate the front of the tower, the middle of the tower, or the back of the tower. I start everything with forward to mid irrigation and then move my irrigation to the back once the roots are established. This keeps the crown nice and dry and/or give the plants a chance to develop a root "cap" along the front gap. Only my most prolific plants cap themselves (barley, mustard greens, etc.) but they actually seal the tower with roots if i use forward irrigation for a while at the start. That's why I really like these kinds of plants for straight up phytoremediation.

TCLynx said:
I put two strawberry plants in one of my towers. The crowns are getting too wet and I fear those plants are not gonna make it. Definitely need to make sure towers with strawberries are angled back and the flow is such that the crowns of the plants won't be getting wet.

Otherwise my towers seem to be doing great!

Nate Storey said:
We're calling them ZipGrow Towers. How're yours doing? I've found keeping them wet while they establish roots in . . . My fish are getting big too. I'm converting my 2000 gal. aquaculture system over to towers this week too. Gonna put strawberries in it. TCLynx said:
Hay Nate, have your towers gotten a name yet?

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