Aquaponic Gardening

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Prior and Proper Preparation Prevents Pee Poor Performance

In a little over a year, we have had over 500 people visit our farm and answered countless emails and phone calls from those interested in starting a commercial aquaponic farm.  The questions are varied, from how much did it cost to start up, to how much money can you make to how many fish do I need.   Interestingly though, people often ask what we would have done differently when setting up our system or starting our business.  I never have an earth shattering answer.    There are definitely a couple mistakes we wouldn’t want to repeat but I always wonder why no one ever asks, what would we absolutely have done the same? 


In addition to co-managing an aquaponic farm, I also do some farrier work as a certified barefoot horse trimmer and do a little bit of horse training too. One of the natural horse trainers I’ve followed and studied for years has a favorite saying that really applies to handling and working around horses.  He always says, “Prior and proper preparation prevents pee poor performance.”  It makes perfect sense.   After the training I have had, I could never imagine walking up to a horse, picking up its foot and knifing away at its sole or nipping away their hoof wall.  I probably wouldn’t know what to do, how to use the tools, or have any confidence.  Most importantly, if I didn't know how to approach a horse the right way, there’s a good chance I’d get myself kicked.  That is certainly something to avoid; as anyone that has even been kicked by a horse knows it hurts!   Handling horses is definitely a situation where prior and proper preparation has a direct impact on the success of the situation.   I have looked at pictures, watched videos, read books and done research, but nothing parallels the hands on training I received from professional farriers and courses.         


When we started doing the research for our commercial venture, we of course took the typical early steps when starting a new venture and developed a business plan, a budget and did mass amounts of research.  One of the things we immediately factored into our budget was an education expense and began researching our options.   There were a couple programs that we found at first, but none really seemed quite what we were looking for as they lacked what to us was an essential ingredient; experience operating a commercial farm.  We were just coming out of years in the construction industry and were quite resourceful but wanted a training that could provide a road map on how to build and operate a commercial aquaponic farm, not just a system. 


Much like my horsemanship training, applying the same philosophy of prior and proper preparation to growing commercially has helped to set us up for success.  We often talk to people willing to invest plenty of money and time in a new aquaponic venture but not allocate funds to what we consider the single most important component, a good education.  It’s insurance for your investment.    


I am certain it is possible to achieve success without securing an education, but it definitely can help minimize mistakes and drastically alter the learning curve.  Additional benefits can include on ongoing source of mentoring from instructors that are operating a commercial operation and willing to share what they too are still learning.  It certainly seems to me the most logical plan to follow and it can minimize the likelihood of pee poor performance.  Without it, I imagine there's a good chance you may find out that a commercial aquaponic venture can kick much like a horse if you approach it the wrong way.   I bet it can smart too.

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Comment by steve on August 28, 2011 at 4:44pm
And what are the details of that upcoming class?
Comment by Gina Cavaliero on August 27, 2011 at 11:54pm
Thank you Rob!  I am so touched!  We welcome any advice you may have especially as it looks like you are already doing what we want to do.  Your Kale is amazing!  We just started some, but it will probably go in the DWC for now, as the media bed is probably a couple months out from being done.  We too have been experiencing typical warm summer temps and easily hit the low 100's in  our greenhouse, but are ecstatic to still be growing beautiful lettuce in August.  My deepest thanks again!  :)
Comment by Rob Nash on August 27, 2011 at 11:01pm


Gina, I love Green Acres Organics and have even said "if you want to go commercial, do what they have done".

I hope to help with the addition of the media beds to your system. I have 1000 gallon fish tanks run through 250 sft of gravel beds, then through the 8x36 raft. This has worked great for the first kale trials and have sense brought the second raft online to grow lettuce for the winter.

Im in Austin Tx and the temp hit an all time record of 110 today. its been amazing to see the DWC holding up. the kale has done very well all summer long despite the heat.


Comment by Gina Cavaliero on August 26, 2011 at 9:03am

Thanks David, we will definitely post progress.  

Sylvia, I appreciate the attempt to augment the article with additional awesome alliteration!  

Comment by David Waite on August 26, 2011 at 8:57am
Francois Lemmers project was very successful using constant flood and 1 to 2 in rock. I like that concept for ease of conversion. I was amazed at his crop diversity in a wet foot enviroment. I am contemplating that for phase 2. I am looking for more fish carrying capacity as well as veges. I also think your concept of air and constant flood gravel is the way to go. Will be great to watch your progress.
Comment by Sylvia Bernstein on August 26, 2011 at 8:42am
Truly eloquent, my friend.  Thanks for contributing this profound, painstaking piece of prose.
Comment by Gina Cavaliero on August 26, 2011 at 8:26am
Definitely will!  I agree, installing it now as opposed to after the fact would be much easier.  Yes, some plants definitely do better in media and will help greatly with crop diversification.  That is our goal too!
Comment by Darlene Skellion on August 26, 2011 at 7:35am
Keep us posted on how it works. We're building a micro 128 system and I've been wondering if we couldn't incorporate a media bed in one of the 4 troughs we're building. I know that some plants do better in media and would like to do it now during initial construction than to have add a separate system later.
Comment by Gina Cavaliero on August 26, 2011 at 6:53am
David, we are thinking it will be a combination of the two.  With 200sqft it would take quite the long time to flood it and it would also likely empty half my tank.  I haven't yet done the calculations to see what the water displacement will be by the mass of media, but the trough currently carries about 1500gallons.  Our thoughts are that it will carry a consistent amount of water, perhaps 4" deep with aeration, as it is already there and then the remainder will flood and drain.  Not sure how this will work, but when Murray Hallam is here next month, he will be advising us on how  to convert over.  So looking forward to hearing from the master!
Comment by David Waite on August 24, 2011 at 4:16pm
Will this be constant flood or are you going to try and flood and drain that monster.

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