Aquaponic Gardening

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We all know we can grow a ton of veges in aquaponics systems.

What I would like to address are, what are the highest nutrient yielding plants to grow in aquaponics systems?

Space allocation requirements for a 2000 calorie a day diet (women) and 2500 alorie a day diet (men).

How much fish would one have to grow per person to sustain a continual protein source.

What does a garden with an aquaponics system that caters for all of a families nutrition needs look like to you?

Drawings, lay outs, spreadsheets and scribbles welcome.  

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Replies to This Discussion

I think what needs to be determined before hand is a constant. I think it should be the most efficient energy conversion and most efficient spacial-oriented  system. I think a greenhouse with zip-grow towers should be our constant. Or someone can figure out the math behind it. In any case good discussion I want to see how it pans out.

I think there are two ways to approach this problem.    First is to get the AP system to produce all of the nutrients that one needs, but as I have been looking at this it maybe the wrong way to think about it.

 

Perhaps one should look at it this way.     What is the most valuable crop one can generate from the system.   ( illegal ones excluded :-)  )     I am thinking in terms of if we can grow leafy plants ( lettuce kale ) etc in high numbers one could sell these crops and exchange them for crops that do not do well in AP, or do not grow well in the system.     I am thinking bartering is a better way to go instead of attempting to grow everything yourself.

However to think in terms of what you are stating I would recommend the book "How to grow more vegetables than you ever thought possible"   John Jeavons.     It details what out what percentages of food that we need to live sustainably, using the Biodynamic method.   The book is not fitted exactly to Aquaponics, but the line of thinking of percentages of what we need to maintain the system is there.  ( Chapter 2 does this extremely well )

 

In the yahoo offgrid groups that I am part of we always run into this challenge of what is self sufficiency?   That means different things to different people.   Some that is generating their own power, others it is living out of their own vehicle and having no ties.    It can vary from person to person.

 

To be 100%   we would have to make the copper and the magnets for our pumps.     For me that is a bit too far...    

I have come to the conclusion that we are interdependent on each other for the knowledge skills for more than we care to admit.

 

For myself, my goal is to simply grow 1/3 of my food.    After I have achieved that I can move up from there, I would like to then grow my own energy per say grow sugar beets to then turn to alcohol to then run an engine.  But first thing first, 1/3 of my own food needs is my first goal.    

 

To achieve this in the best means I am thinking the best use of the space of aquponics is to grow crops that sell well, and and have short turn around times.     This seems to be to be the ticket for having bartering chip of fresh food to then exchange for the rest we need,  this is my approach anyhow.

 

Another tactic I have is to use the Aquaponics system as a booster to the other garden systems.    I.E. creating the green component for compost heaps.    Or even layering it with production of BSF with compost as well.      

 

Also one could use the Aquaponic system as a boost for growing trees.    Get them to a much larger size then transplant them to soil.     Perhaps it would shorten the time needed to get a tree to full production.

 

Just some of my thoughts.

 ap

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are too many variables in your questions for anyone to answer them definitely at this point. 

First, you need to do some basic homework, which you can do on the web, and decide exactly what it is you want to be growing.  Personal tastes dictate that you alone can decide what you will and will not be willing to eat, and how often.

That said, one of the single healthiest things you can grow in an aquaponics system, or in any other system for that matter, is parsley.  Not only is parsley a nutritional powerhouse, but there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that it is instrumental in the prevention of many diseases, including many types of cancer.  It is in fact being recommended to cancer patients to eat as much parsley and carrots, including the dark leafy carrot tops, as they can stand, as they have both helped people to overcome various cancers once they are diagnosed.  In addition to being healthy for yourself and your family, parsley can also be an excellent cash crop, and typically fetches high prices at farmer's markets, as do other culinary and medicinal herbs.  Italian (flat-leafed) parsley has the reputation of being the more nutritionally dense, but curly parsley contains the same phytonutrients, so either or both can be used.

 

Another issue is that, as productive as aquaponics systems are, they are not suitable for all plants, such as most root vegetables.  A mix of aquaponics and permaculture is what I am starting in my new property in Tennessee, and I will be including potted plants and trees, including a lot of different root vegetables, in the greenhouses along with the aquaponics systems.  No one way is necessarily right for every circumstance.  It pays to experiment and to be flexible.

 

As far as fish, once again, you need to do some basic homework and decide how much fish you want to eat and how often.  Are you planning for fish twice a week?  Twice a day?  Will fish be your only protein source, will you be augmenting with purchased meats and poultry or raising your own, or are you willing to experiment with nontraditional protein sources such as earthworms and grubs?  Just how "survivalist" do you want to get?  All of these questions and more need to be answered before you can do any serious number crunching.

 

Good luck with your research!  ;-)

 

Very good points guys.

 

To try to grow 100% of a family's food just in an aquaponic system could be a huge challenge.  Does this include all oils and sweetener as well as all beverages as well as all grains?  So these people are almost vegans except they eat fish?  They don't get to eat any other meats or dairy or eggs?

 

It takes a fair lot of space to grow grains and processing at home is likely more than most people are willing to get into.

 

I won't say it isn't possible but actually managing to grow what you will eat and planting the right amount of those things can be more challenging than one might guess and everyone is different so one person's recommendation about how much to plant may have no bearing on what another family should do.

 

And here is the biggest stinger here.  Where is this family? and where is their aquaponic system?  Do they need to manage to grow all their food in a limited season and preserve enough to last through the winter?  Or are they living in a sub tropical to tropical climate?  That will have a huge impact on what the system needs to be like.

@Eric

While a greenhouse with zip towers is excellent in many ways, I for one am too much of a do-it-yourselfer, not to mention too Scottish (we're not cheap - we're thrifty!), to purchase the zip towers when I can accomplish the same thing far less expensively.  Once again, it pays to be flexible and to experiment.

 

There are a lot of different ways to go, from 2-litre bottles to rain gutters to Rubbermaid troughs to discarded bathtubs to concrete burial crypts, and no one way will be right for every possible configuration. 

The constant should be our own ingenuity combined with help from others on this board and in the larger communities in which we find ourselves.

And while I'm a great supporter of Zipgrow towers, they are definitely not appropriate to growing everything.

Yes, ingenuity is the greatest constant we can achieve and it's possible to use recycled materials, but I'm a bit of a math junkie and I wanted there to be quantification. Oh well. I'm going to ask Nate about it. By the way I think if more people were, as you phrased, Scottish the world would be a better place.
Cori MacNaughton said:

@Eric

While a greenhouse with zip towers is excellent in many ways, I for one am too much of a do-it-yourselfer, not to mention too Scottish (we're not cheap - we're thrifty!), to purchase the zip towers when I can accomplish the same thing far less expensively.  Once again, it pays to be flexible and to experiment.

 

There are a lot of different ways to go, from 2-litre bottles to rain gutters to Rubbermaid troughs to discarded bathtubs to concrete burial crypts, and no one way will be right for every possible configuration. 

The constant should be our own ingenuity combined with help from others on this board and in the larger communities in which we find ourselves.

Keeping in mind of course that any numbers are a very rough starting point since even if accurately collected, they will still only reflect the yields in one situation/location for those particular varieties and lots of seeds.

 

I of coursed ask Nate for all sorts of numbers to help me figure out what the heck I'm doing with the towers but those numbers are just a starting point since other than the towers, every single other parameter of our growing operations is so different.

(Water chemistry, water supplementation, fish type, fish feed, fish tanks, pumps, plumbing, filtration, climate, greenhouse, location, elevation, staffing, experience, seed type/lot, seedling production techniques, and even the amount of time allowed before the seedlings are getting put in the towers. etc. etc. etc.)

 

But Zipgrow towers are really geared more to commercial production of selling small plants to customers right in the market.  Portable Pick your own so to speak.  Not so much to attempting self sufficient home food production since the towers are not suited to large root crops or very large or long term or woody plants.  They might be a good element to add to a system on the end of the greenhouse to take production up the wall with smaller fast plants to keep the family in salad and herbs.  They seem to be making a great method of containing the mint, well almost, but I haven't seen what will happen yet after a year or two with mint in a tower.

 

So, I think a combination of methods is most appropriate to fill a family's food needs, variety of methods within the aquaponics as well as some permaculture outside the aquaponics.  We could probably be protein self sufficient here between the fish, ducks and chickens except for our desire to eat some dairy, pork and beef on occasion, oh and nuts, I've not managed to grow any nut trees.

 

I've really not tried to grow much grain here since it is not the climate for most grains.



Eric Warwick said:

Yes, ingenuity is the greatest constant we can achieve and it's possible to use recycled materials, but I'm a bit of a math junkie and I wanted there to be quantification. Oh well. I'm going to ask Nate about it. By the way I think if more people were, as you phrased, Scottish the world would be a better place.

You could approach the problem from an energy conversion stand point. With you as the appical point along the trophic scale. Helpful for designing a permaculture style aquaponics system, but probably useless for calculating growing space as to calories gained. 

Yes John Jeavons' book is certainly helpful in this regard, but as of yet I have been to busy to scale the calculations he has to an aquaponics system. Any volunteers out there?

Yes using vertical space is essential to packing more food into an area. Especially if you place plants in there shade/sun niche. Spinning towers are a way around this but require electricity to turn them.

I'm working on making an equation for edible biomass. I've only gotten the concept for mono-crops but I think it would be a good tool for the home gardener if made into a website or application. I'm going to talk to the AP Biology and AP Computer Science Teachers for guidance. 

Right now, Kale is a good crop, very nutritious.  I've read a study which showed that Lacinato is the most nutritious of all the kale, in that study anyway.  I'm just about to put fish in my system and plan to plant a lot of kale, for the family and for chicken feed.  The chickens love greens and greens grow well in aquaponics so it's a good fit.

Please take a look at my design and comment.

http://aquaponicscommunity.com/profiles/blogs/carey-s-sustainable-m...

 

Cheers

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