Aquaponic Gardening

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I have noticed that a lot of you are wasting perfectly usable space. I am sorry that I don't have any pictures to show but when I was still in the States (Seattle), I built an experimental greenhouse that was only 8'x16' and produced ungodly amounts of food (quadruple out output).

 

The system I built was basically the same as "The Mad German's" is using except I made a T frame and added four more layers, (total 5 layers or grow out space).

 

Nutrient solution would first go to the bed system on the south side then flow back into the tank. Tank water would also be pumped to the top layer where I had  basins attached to the frame and used as my second main filter and grow beds for flat laying, sun loving, heavy feeders like squashes which also provided shade. On the second tier from the top I grew lettuce. I grew starter strawberries or other full sun to medium shade loving plants followed by a layer of basil and herbs on the next level with greens (lettuce) occupying the bottom level.The next step  of this cycle was to run it through a bucket to recharge the remainder nutrient solution with oxygen and pump it up to a hanging verticle   system like the zip system featured on this site. Finally, my " "waste water" went to growing sprouts before returning to the fish tank (500 gal). Later I added greenwalls of strawberries on the east and west side of the T frame and filling all the racks with herbs and greens. Talk about packing it in!

 

*Note: Do not run more than 30 ft(10 meter) of continuous flow without adding oxygen (air).

Do not attempt this unless your system is mature (fish load 50lbs) or it will not support all these plants.

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Wow! What a system. That is space utilization! I sure would like to see pics. I have had such sucess with verticals that I am expanding with then when ever I can work them in.

I have a future plan to run verticals down most of the entire length of my property lines to grow food.

Thanks for sharing your information!

 

Carey - I share your passion for packing a lot of produce into a small space.  My original home system has slowly begun a metamorphosis into a "cube" - 3 m x 3m x 3m of growing space.  It is too small to sustain 50 lb of fish (around 30 - 40 max) but I am slowly trying to get to a ratio of 200 plants to 1000 liters of fish tank.  One thing that is holding me back (apart from the monster passion fruit that totally took over half my space) is power consumption though.  I do not like using a lot of electricity and lifting water 3 m up in the air in a small system can be an issue (I retrofitted two balancing sumps / mineralization tanks to aid in water level).  What was the total power consumption of your unit? 

Hi Chris, thanks for your support.

Hanging type verticle systems only have two drawbacks: one is most have a difficult time with even water retention and the other is blocking or shading anything behind them which is OK if strategically placed. ie on the north wall or if you want/ need along any wall, just don't pack them together or you'll block off sunlight from your main production area.

 

I love the idea of an edible fence. Great outside of the box thinking. Please let me know what you have come up with, maybe I can give a few pointers. I'm all about feeding yourself, being food independent.

To be honest Kobus, I didn't really much care at the time. I love to experiment and hunger for understanding but never claim to be a scientist or scholar. I'm simply to tired (lazy) to record anymore. I'll start recording things again after I start my farm school, (perfect job for students).

I used an old sump pump run on X-10 home automation control that turned on every fifteen minutes for one minute. At the time I had several greenhouses and was my most ambitious/ prolific time for experimenting. It was so noticeable that the cops came knocking, dogs and all, wondering where my "grow-op" was hiding. They left in bewilderment and bags of veggies.

 

Yes, I am convinced multilevel growing is a necessary advancement in the way we think about growing our food in the future. I am so glad we think so much alike.

Cheers

I also agree vertical is just 1 more aspect of the Ap ideology that should be utilized more than what it is. The system I had planned was a horizontal vertical combo system, Plant positioning would be the biggest issue, As far as water even water......not even a problem, if it can be plumbed it can be leveled and water can be distributed evenly likewise. I could build it diagnally and still get you even water flow. 

Then again, there aren't many problems that I can't solve.

Yep.  Vertical is a great thing to incorporate.  We recognize that we have 2520sqft in our greenhouse but are only growing in 1000sqft of it and all of that growth is only 12" off the ground!  Well, except the tomatoes and cukes which are about 8-10' tall.  We have 100 Vertigro pots that we have had since April and still have not had a chance to install them yet.  The initial thought was to have them centered over the rafts but most of our lettuce growth occurs in the troughs and were concerned about too much shading in the winter as we remove the 60% of shade that we currently have for summer.  I think though if strategicly placed, the shade they will throw will be minimal.

 

If you are familiar with Vertigro pots, they are square in shape and stack upon each other so only the corners are exposed for a very small growing space.  We are planning on spacing them out at least 16" apart to utilize all of the grow surface.  Our intention is to get them up in the next 6 weeks before the conference and our training along with the other 1000sqft o raft we are adding.  Wish me luck! ;)

How about some pics?

 

Break a leg chicka-dee!
Gina, you can easily run your verticals using a separate pump in a trough that runs the water through the verticals and then return the water just down stream from the pump. That way you are pumping clean system water the shortest distance and not disrupting flow to your troughs. I am doing a similar thing with gravel beds.

Gina Cavaliero said:

Yep.  Vertical is a great thing to incorporate.  We recognize that we have 2520sqft in our greenhouse but are only growing in 1000sqft of it and all of that growth is only 12" off the ground!  Well, except the tomatoes and cukes which are about 8-10' tall.  We have 100 Vertigro pots that we have had since April and still have not had a chance to install them yet.  The initial thought was to have them centered over the rafts but most of our lettuce growth occurs in the troughs and were concerned about too much shading in the winter as we remove the 60% of shade that we currently have for summer.  I think though if strategicly placed, the shade they will throw will be minimal.

 

If you are familiar with Vertigro pots, they are square in shape and stack upon each other so only the corners are exposed for a very small growing space.  We are planning on spacing them out at least 16" apart to utilize all of the grow surface.  Our intention is to get them up in the next 6 weeks before the conference and our training along with the other 1000sqft o raft we are adding.  Wish me luck!

Thanks Chris. I was thinking something very similiar.   I want to put the stackers over the troughs but Tonya wants to fabricate something different that would be easier to take down and put up.  Not sure yet who will win that battle yet! 

For those of you who requested this pic...here ya go.

This is the main feature talked about above without plumbing just to give an illustration of multilevel growing or 3D growing.

I hope this helps.

Cheers

Namaste Carey,

 

Good design that improves upon a number or others. My only concern with such intensive and tight packed growing systems is that there really is never adequate space for he individual plants to "breath"...here it is "Quantity v Quality". One should look into the overall growing needs and space available and then design growing systems that allow for maximum "safe" growing. I have noticed that in my NFT systems, spacing growing holes every 6 inches apart or even 8 inches apart did not give adequate space for plants to mature or give them room to breath individually. You also stand the risk of spreading plant disease at an increased pace. So my suggestion is, increase grow spacing in NFTs to at least 10 inches and keep the pipes at least 1 ft apart and have a height space of at least 18in to 24 inches. It also makes a lot of sense to plumb so that you do not use the same water for more than two NFT tubes (max 40 ft). Plumb a separate supply feed and let all the plants enjoy the appropriate nutrients.

 

As regards Verticals and lack of sunlight / movability or proper water retention, this is also an area that is often not given adequate thought. Verticals can be hung against a wall as you suggest but then you are using only part of the growing space...sometimes one has no choice...thus create a "food wall". Another way is to hang them above growing beds, be they DWC, Media, recirculating wicking beds or just plain raised organic beds. They should be hung by a swirling hook so that they can be rotated to take full effect of the Suns various positions. There are numerous types of verticals one can use, from multi side pots such as Vertigro, hanging tubes as Chris's pockets, Nate's towers, hanging baskets, snake tower, or other designs (some of which I have incorporated in my research garden). Water can be simply pumped to make use of gravity flow or forced via spray so as to create an aeroponic effect. It can then be plumbed to recirculate back direct to the source or via other growing beds or not at all ( Aquaponics can incorporate this if the overall vertical growing needs are small as one should be changing 5 to 10% off the pond water periodically - proper design to the system can incorporate collection and use of rain water so this can eliminate / reduce water costs).

 

As far as DWC bars are concerned, these can be designed to be as high as you want, depending upon the space that you have and the lighting available (natural is always best...much cheaper). With proper framing, I like steel...like warhorse racking one sees in "Box Stores" such as Home Depot or Lowes), DWC beds can be layered with height differences of at least 3 feet. The bottom DWC bed can be 12 inches deep but the higher beds should be 8 inches or so. The steel structure should be designed to be strong enough to support such weight. A proper ladder system would need to be used. Such a system is used to some extent by Sweet Water Organics (according to photos posted), although they seem to be using wood.  One could design their system to have the fish pond below the beds as is the case with them. Such DWC beds could even be designed to mechanically rotate... I had posted a video of a facility in the far east that was using a windmill to provide the power to rotate the beds from top to bottom.

 

Many of the members are just rediscovering the magic of growing your own food. Aquaponics is like magic to them so they are starting out with simple designs. Nothing wrong with that. As one gets the bug and desire mounts, they start to explore how far they can push the envelope. They discover that no one system is perfect, that you may need more than one pump and timer. As you can see, there is no preferred way. It all depends upon the space available, the growing needs, the skill set available and the desire and quest to challenge one's self to improve the existing system for everyone's benefit.

 

I honestly enjoy reading your posts and thoughts. You obviously are an enlightened soul as far as growing food. Keep sharing.

 

God bless,

 

 

Carey Ma said:

For those of you who requested this pic...here ya go.

This is the main feature talked about above without plumbing just to give an illustration of multilevel growing or 3D growing.

I hope this helps.

Cheers

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