Aquaponic Gardening

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Hi All,

I live on an island in the pacific region, materials are costly to ship and resources are few here.

I've searched the site on discussions about using coconut husk for a growing medium. The only discussions I've found were the use of coir (grounded husk). I'm unable to find any mention of husking the coconut, removing the fiber (inner husk) and cutting the outer/thicker portion of the husk into maybe 3/4 to 1/2 inch cubes or pieces. Rather than fill the grow bed with the husk. I was planning on placing the husked cubes into planter pots lined in the grow bed to minimize the breakdown of the material.

I have seen the use of moss that grows in our limestone jungles after being boiled and dried, but I'm looking for an alternative to hydroton of which we do not have and costly to ship. Our gravel / rock is limestone and have read would not work.

Any information would help. Thanks.

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I'm from Guam, moved up to Rota for work. Guam is moving fast now, a lot of work with the military build up and tourism. Like I mentioned the biggest challenge here are the cost of materials. Guam has a Home Depot, I bought most of my materials there, yet, I still couldn't find everything. Will need to go to Guam again, but the cost are adding up, considering we're a 20 minute flight away at $230.00 round trip and one checked bag. Would love to get some lava rock, but same story cargo and $$$. I'm looking into biochar and saw in another forum someone using the husk fibers for a few years without any problems. I'm still excited about making aquaponics work, what I have learned out here is the investments though high, pay off in the long run, and makes living out here all the more enjoyable. I can't complain, it's living in paradise. Hope you make it out to this side of the world again. (Yup, it's typhoon season, we haven't had a big one since 2004.)

Chris Duke said:

Wow, Rota island. I lived on Guam when I was a kid for a few years. I loved that place and wished I could have stayed. Last year I was even considering moving to Colonia or even Palau island south west of where you are.

Yeah, this time of year would be tough on shipping since you don't really have a reef. I was going to suggest using a private plane to make a few trips up to Pegan island since it has been having some volcanic activity, but after looking at it just now on the satellite, the old runway is now covered in a fresh lava flow. You may be able to find lava rock for sale on Guam? It's sterile, and makes for a good grow medium. If you can find some, you may want to put it in a tumbler to knock off the sharp edges so they don't cut any roots. Good luck. Hope you did well with the storm that just passed threw your way last week.

Yep, I remember one that blew threw in 72 or 73 that was real scary. Trees torn out of the ground and deposited some distance away. Actually I have decided that if I do go back to that side of the planet again I may try New Brittan. There is a lot of stuff not going on there that should be going on. Opportunities. And the political unrest that's happening on their neighboring islands is not happening there. It's the usual story though. The natives being screwed by the colonial governments. I don't think the gov even in New Brittan would let me stay for too long haha. Helping the People to be self sufficient (less dependent on gov) would most likely be frowned on by the establishment. And the French islands, forget about it. They are maxed out agriculturally already. On most of them, it's hard to find any usable land at all that is not already supporting something.

By all means, do some testing with the husks.  You may find you need to add some additional bio-filtration perhaps for the early days of the system if the husks really are antimicrobal but so many people use coir in system that I'm sure it can't be strong enough to extend beyond the actual husk.  (coir of some sort or another is probably the most common media used in the net pots for DWC Aquaponics.)

As to the worry about it being salty, I think the reality there is that alot of the coir and coconut fiber and chip products get washed or processed using salt water since fresh water is in short supply in many of the places where the stuff is harvested.  If you are doing the harvesting yourself, you can control how you process the media.  Now I'm not an expert on this and I do know that some types of plants take up a lot more salt that others so some testing is in order.  It could even be that coconuts growing on a salt water beach might have alot more salt in it than coconuts growing in a less salty environment.  (If you ever salt your system because of a fish disease, take note how it affects the taste of things like celery and swiss chard.)

Now one note about processing your own media, take the labor and machinery into account when judging the relative costs of the media.  While coconut husks may be abundant in your area, how hard or easy will it really be to cut them into cubes?  Can you and your crew do it enough cheaper and easier than getting imported media to really make it cost effective?

Now you may also want to research Terra Ponics and Wicking beds.  If you can find enough media to support your bio-filter, perhaps instead of trying to completely fill beds with an appropriate gravel or light weight media, perhaps you get a bunch of those fabric plant pots and planters and set them in the beds with sand, soil, compost coir, whatever is appropriate and grow that way.  Such methods do require that you carefully adjust the watering schedule and height so as not to keep the planting media over wet and avoid washing compost or other organic matter into your fish water but it certainly is an option when you just want to grow food and the standard methods of aquaponics are logistically not an option.

Check this out. I came across some posts on here about zip tubes, then looked it up on youtube for some video's. This may be the EZ answer to your media problems. Cheap, lightweight, etc. This guy would seem to be a big pioneer in this method considering all the video's he has going on the subject in youtube. I stayed up all night long last night watching them. I would imagine this product would be compressible to fit a lot of it into a container, or could be pre installed in the tubes, then tightly packed into a container for shipping. If I were to ever move to an island, this I think would be the system I would bring with me.

Also, I bet your coconut husks would work well in one of these vertical systems. Or what even about vertical  aeroponics?

Thanks for the link and thoughts for my situation. Their channel is quite informative. I'll have to keep an open mind and be more flexible. This is taking more thought before jumping to any one type of set up. So far, I'm moving towards Glenn Martinez' air lift set up and system, a neighbor of mine is also planning to include towers in his system...the coming months will tell what I'll end up with, again it depends what will ship out to our region or whatever I can modify or improvise to keep costs down. Thanks again for your input.

Hi Keith C, Hows it going i am a little late to reply to this but i live on an island to and i use coconut husk in my system it works well once you get roots taking over the growbed they help keep every thing together watch out the tannins from the husk will turn your water dark at first (this does not harm the fish). it takes about 10 galls of water to clean out 1 gal of husk. i use flood and drain my grow beds are 12in deep and a 5 foot Diameter circle. with a flow of 5 galls per min. Hopes this helps!!!! drop me a line on face book or google my farm Bairds village farms.


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