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My pick for a commercial fruiting plant in aquaponics: The passion fruit

Most people interested in commercial aquaponics invariably start looking at potential yields of different crops and then, after a thorough literature search, will discover that there is very little available in terms of potential yields of larger crops.  Stuff like basil, lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers etc. seem to be written about the most.

 

With the advent of what I consider to be the most likely design for my own use in a commercial environment, namely gravel beds and rafts in conjunction with some vertical structures, came a search for the “ideal” commercial gravel species.  Tomatoes and cucumbers were obvious choices to explore, but there are many producers around thus competition for market will be tough.  Then I stuck a passion fruit vine in my home unit.  In the first season, it grew from a foot-tall sapling to bearing over 130 fruit on my side of the wall (my neighbour also gets some!).  This year, I thought the yield was going to be poor as I have replaced the 37 large tilapia with about 27 small koi.  There are some signs of nutrient stress, but the vine is determined to outdo last season’s output.  I have counted well over 130 fruit on my side of the wall just from the spring flush.  At around R25 for 4 – 5 of these fruit at our local stores, I’m looking at a yield of R812 (market value) odd from just one plant and in one season.  It slowed down in winter in the open system, but all the fruit formed last year matured.

 

In terms of management, it is in its own gravel bed, and in more than a year in the unit has not clogged the inflows or the bell siphon.  As said, I can see signs of nutrient stress, but the vine is hardy and determined to fruit like mad.  I would love to have a controlled environment with 50 or so of these vines going, together with the traditional leafy greens and cucumbers……………

 

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Comment by Kobus Jooste on October 15, 2011 at 10:25am

Claudio - will hold thumbs that you get it right.  Don't think we have a seed exchange yet.

 

Chris, in my climate, they tend to form fruit year round but the winter period takes longer to develop, making it look as if it bears year-round

Comment by Chris Smith on October 15, 2011 at 10:00am
Do your vines produce fruit year around? Mine produce for only 6 months of the year and are wild vines not in the system.
Comment by Claudio J Tracchia on October 15, 2011 at 9:05am
If this plant develops heavily in rut, in a raft system it my be a very happy plant, support it will be the challenge but not impossible Am going to order some seeds from a tropical nursery in Florida or have it ship from Argentina "they call it granadina and make sangria wine with it" and have every thing ready for the next spring I will kepe post to this and comment in every upcoming, Am like you my concern wen it come to marketing is to go with the demand or explore a new route.. Do we have a blog here were we can exchange seeds??
Comment by Kobus Jooste on October 14, 2011 at 11:16pm

Thanks for all the interest - I'll try to cover all the questions in one response.  In terms of keeping seeds, You only have to keep one or two fruit to have a serious amount of seed - 100 plus.  I will germinate them soon to see what the % germination is.

 

In terms of dimentions that the plant covers, it will likely take as much as you give it! It only produces fruit on new growth, thus it will be possible to prune it back heavily in otder to keep it in a confined area, but mine covers at least 4 square meters (can be less if I prune it).  My idea in a commercial greenhouse is to allow it to cover the one wall and crop support area of the entire strucure.

 

In terms of putting these guys in a raft, I'm not sure as I have not tried.  I think they may be happier in gravel but perhaps if they are in a gravel crate then inserted into a raft it may work.  They seem to be happy with a relatively confined root volume.

 

As can be seen from the image below, mine is in a small bed, 1.16 meters by 0.6 meters x 0.3 meters (about 220 liter capacity).  There are no signs of root mass coming out of the gravel, and even if it is in very close proximity to the siphon, the bell has never packed up.  The pvc pipe across the two inflows is a mod I brought in to all my beds - basically a slotted pipe on the surface of the grave in case the inflow gets clogged.  Then the water gets distributed across the surface of the bed in stead of squirting up at one spot.  It was the tomatoes that forced this though, not the passion fruit.

 

 

Comment by Claudio J Tracchia on October 14, 2011 at 10:01pm
Do you think it my work in a raft system what are the dimensions of the plant
Comment by David Waite on October 14, 2011 at 9:28pm
Kobus definitely dry some seeds and save some for me hehe. Great job.
Comment by TCLynx on October 14, 2011 at 5:53pm

How are the roots doing in the grow bed?  I haven't tried any really aggressive perennial vines in my systems yet but I've experienced a lufa vine (annual) being able to completely root clog a 100 gallon stock tank gravel bed in about 8 months.  Granted, this is the lufa that has grown up over the top of the 30 foot tall oak tree next to the system.

 

I'm starting to think I might want to grow some passion fruit.

Comment by Sahib Punjabi on October 13, 2011 at 4:43pm
I want some...Love this "passion" :-)

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