Aquaponic Gardening

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I am not surprised at how many people have never heard about "Aquaponics."  Up until about a year ago, I was running on a nearly parallel path until I decided to look online and see if anyone else was doing something like this. As I mentioned before, many of you have done much of the leg work and I am now catching up to speed.  But I am surprised at the wariness and stigma that many have of hydroponics, therefore, aquaponics by association. So I am doing a little project to see if I can win over some people in a cross section demographic experiment.

I am building several mini-aquaponics units, about 2'x2'x3'high.  I will be building them to a furniture grade aesthetic standard (here is where I get to put that 25 years of cabinet making to use), using a custom made glass tank, some in  oak, and some in a cherry wood, that would blend attractively into any home.  Then I am going to place these in several middle and upper class households, (I have several volunteers) to see the response and results given by various shades of green thumbs.

I have access to hoards of free glass, so the tanks are free, and I have years of scrap wood accumulated from my days as a commercial and residential cabinet maker to clear out of the shop. So the cost is basically that of the liner in the media bed, a little plumbing, pump, and aerator.  I want to see what their overall impression is and of course see if it leads to a greater interest, or remains at the novelty level.

Someone questioned, "Do aquaponics systems have to be ugly?," so I think because of the stage of the industry, and the little importance that aesthetics play to some people, and because "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" giving AP a makeover that would blend into any living room or kitchen might change the attitudes of some individuals.

I will post pics of the units that I will be producing, looking for your critique.  I want your aesthetic and mechanical opinions so I can refine the ones that will go out to "the public."  I have aleady started cutting out the glass for the tanks, and will be machining the cabinetry this morning, so I should have some production pics in the next day or so.  The units will be a flood and drain system, fish tank for viewing in the front, and a sump tank to the rear that is relatively obscured from view. The whole unit is on wheels, and will disassemble in seconds for accessibility to all components and ease of cleaning and maintenance.

I appreciate your assistance, with this little project, and hope, with your assistance, to bring some awareness to our passion.

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Comment by Rick Stillwagon on October 23, 2011 at 8:15pm
The pics are up on the prototype. Still have to plumb and wire it.
Comment by Rick Stillwagon on October 22, 2011 at 7:44pm
I should have some pics that will show you what I am starting with tomorrow night.  I have already made changes for the next on though. I found a company that sells parts that will vastly simplify the tank. But, I will show you the basics soon and then you guys can tell me what you think.
Comment by Carey Ma on October 22, 2011 at 12:44am
Out of the box thinking will only means more work....more work, hopefully means more pay. I'm in. What can I do to help?
Comment by Jake Schneider on October 21, 2011 at 6:03pm
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!  I'm glad i'm not the only one to think that systems be "pretty" and not just functional.  I love wood working so when i build my system, i'll be sheathing it in stained wood panels.  Easily removed for maintenance access of course. I'll also be adding a waterfall for my wife.  Maybe you can incorparate that in your design as well.  Kind of a zen thing.  All you would need is a small wooden platform, some plastic liner, aquarium water line, and some rocks to give it a natural look.  I think the nicer a system looks, the more visitors and guests will want one.  Great idea Rick.
Comment by Rick Stillwagon on October 21, 2011 at 5:26pm

I have already begun, it is all cut out, and I have begun machining.  I had enough cherry scraps to build it from that. I enjoy the smell of cherry when it is worked.  The first, since it is a prototype will be a simple mission or craftsman style.  After we have all the details worked out I will do some in a traditional, old world, modern, country, etc.  I like to work in wrought iron so I may work some of that in as well.  I have invested about a hundred thousand in machinery over the last 20 years, and it has been sitting for the most part until recently with the greenhouses and such.  It is kind of nice to put it back to work again.

Comment by Tom McLemore on October 21, 2011 at 3:37pm
This is a great idea. I have been toying with something along these lines only in my back yard. It seems like everything I build has to pass the "esthetically pleasing to the wife's eye test". It doesn't matter if it is a brilliant invention or design, if its ugly its out.  A piece of well built furniture can be quite expensive. Just think if it was a food producing piece of well built furniture...I think you have stumbled on to something brilliant here!
Comment by Sahib Punjabi on October 21, 2011 at 1:26pm

BRILLIANT :-)

 

God bless,

Comment by Sylvia Bernstein on October 21, 2011 at 9:20am
Bravo, Rick!  Speaking from a woman's perspective, I think that there is an important niche for attractive AP systems, especially as we work to bring more mainstream acceptance of soil-less growing (and less of a "happy weed" stigma).  Plus, being in the consumer hydro business for a long time I can tell you that one of the resistances that guys (it is 95% guys) face is from their wives or SO's saying "that ugly thing isn't going in MY house / yard."  Being attractive was an important criteria when we designed the AquaBundance system.  I'm looking forward to seeing the pictures!

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