Aquaponic Gardening

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Just thought I'd start a discussion here.  This group has been a little slow lately.

 

Anyway, I've got a growing Zipgrow tower system going and I thought to share some of what I'm discovering about vertical growing and see what ideas others can come up with.

First a bit about Zipgrow Towers.  Our Friend Nate Storey developed them and as far as I know they are the first invention specifically for aquaponics, not simply a specially designed container but an invention.  And not simply something borrowed from Hydroponics or Aquaculture and adapted but specifically to combine the two.  They consist of a specially designed hanging sleeve with the zip down the front to allow the plants to be zipped into the towers with the specially developed matrix media which holds the seedling while also being airy enough not to clog while still filtering the water.  The media is re-usable.  I've been using the same pieces for over a year now without swapping them out and I've had plants in them pretty much continually.

 

Now I said the system was growing.  It started out as 10 towers hooked up with a sump and a 300+ gallon fish tank (probably about 320-350 gallons in the 410 gallon tank?)  Then this fall I got ready to add more towers to the system and it currently has 30 towers hooked up and it's running with a 145 watt pump.  I'm gonna see if that pump can handle feeding another ten towers.

 

I think my biggest challenge is going to be keeping a steady supply of seedlings coming on to plant into the towers.

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Looking good :-)

 

 

 

Now I just need to manage to get more cilantro to sprout.  Nate tells me that is probably the fastest seller at his markets and they sell out and can't seem to germinate enough seedlings to keep enough towers filled with it.  I seem to be having similar problems.

 

I'm still trying to work out the best way to have enough seedlings growing and ready to go into the towers.

I believe cilantro is like spinach re weather condition and time taken to germinate. I remember my mother used to break the seeds and soak them overnight before planting them...something my wife also suggested...interesting. I going to give it a try :-)

TCLynx said:

Now I just need to manage to get more cilantro to sprout.  Nate tells me that is probably the fastest seller at his markets and they sell out and can't seem to germinate enough seedlings to keep enough towers filled with it.  I seem to be having similar problems.

 

I'm still trying to work out the best way to have enough seedlings growing and ready to go into the towers.

Yea, I was Just searching and so far that seems to be the most useful suggestion.  Splitting the hull since there are two seeds in there and then soaking it before planting I've seen suggested a couple times.
Has anyone tried sprouting in the Zipgrows?  Or would that be impractical?

Hey TC, the towers look great! 

I have a few questions -

  • What species of fish are you cultivating with the towers?
  • How many fish are in the tank?
  • What's the average fish length?
  • Are you feeding them a mixed diet (duckweed with manufactured pellets)?
  • How much do you feed per day?

 

The tower system had 200 small bluegill in it this past spring for a while until I was able to move them and then I got 100+ channel catfish fingerlings.  Shared some with Ron and Cosmo.

So now for the past few months the tower system has had 85 small channel catfish fingerlings.  I have not netted any of them to check size but I would guess that some are over 6 maybe even 8 inches now, they seem to be growing fast.

My plan is to move 70 of them over to the big system when we finish harvesting the last 20 or so of the big guys (upcoming catfish fry maybe?)

Which that will leave me with only 15 catfish in that tank and I was thinking about putting some of the bluegill (maybe 15 or so) in with them to see how they do together.

 

I've been feeding the Aquamax 4000.  When I first put the little fingerlings in I was feeding a 45% protein feed (ground up pellets) But I only did that for as long as the 5 lb bag lasted then I moved them up to the Aquamax 4000.  The catfish have never seemed much interested in the duckweed.  I will probably hook up the bug zapper for the tower system now that the fish are bigger and might be able to handle some of our large bugs.

 

I feed as much as they will eat in about 10 minutes between 1-3 times per day.  That amount will get adjusted here shortly as the water temps are dropping now.  I can't tell you exactly how much feed that is since I usually feed with an automatic timer and I just adjust the time.  If I see any leftover food 15 minutes after I feed, I reduce the amount of time the feeder runs.  If they seem really fast to eat up all the food, I might give them more and slowly adjust the amount of feed up.  I know this isn't all that scientific but it isn't like I'm about to net out catfish to weight them since extra handling of catfish usually results in illness and losses since they don't take well to stress and handling.

 

I can tell you that so far, I need more plants to use up the nitrates but I only just got the additional 20 towers hooked up not long ago so the plants haven't had time to catch up.

As for the cilantro seeds I direct planted 1oz to 1 square foot of media and got these results:

 

This is last week before first harvest: (cilantro is the top tube)

 

 

Excellent Rik :-)

Rik Kretzinger said:

As for the cilantro seeds I direct planted 1oz to 1 square foot of media and got these results:

 

This is last week before first harvest: (cilantro is the top tube)

 

 

So my new 2500 sq. ft. system is up and running.  I'll start posting pictures in the next few weeks. This system is the most forward-weighted system I've put together and it should be several thousand times the average BSA of a comparable raft system.  Even without broken in towers we're getting almost instant nitrification, giving us the ability to run from 0-60 ppm nitrate in the course of 3-4 hours with really heavy feeding at a pH of 6.0.  We're operating right now for only a few clients, but will be fully planted in on the first week of October, producing between 250 and 300 lbs of greens per week and 30-50 lbs of herbs per week.  We've designed our operational costs to be less than $500 per month and we are receiving between $2 and $4 per lb for our greens, and on average $2/oz for our herbs.  We anticipate being in the black on the entire build by the end of this month (our 4th month since breaking ground).  I'll try to jump in and keep everyone informed on how the experiment is progressing!

I just hung four towers over a 50 gal tank. I have one planted and am cycling the system fish-less. Am I correct in assuming that I should leave my 264 GPM pump running continuously.

Thanks,

Bud Cragar

AKA OxBeaux

4 tours, what size towers? 

264 gpm?  Do you mean gph?  If it is GPH, and you are using 5' towers, where the heck did you find a 264 gph pump that would feed 4 towers at 6 foot head?  I usually find I can really only reliably feed one 5' towers with a 264 gph pump.  If they are the 3' towers then I can see it.

While cycling up the system I would say leave the pump running continuously.  I have 14 towers that run continuous because I don't want to turn those pumps on/off all the time.  The rest of my towers get water on a 10 min on/10 min off cycle or a 15 min on/15 min off cycle.  Either way works.  Continuous pumping gives you continuous filtration and is easier on the pump that turning it on/off all the time.  Starting and stopping the flow seems to give me better results in keeping the water from clogging in the spray to the towers and many of the plants seem to like it better that way though it is harder on the pump or requires a valve to alternate the flow between to banks of towers.

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