A bit of background both about my location and desires. For those who are interested in such things, I can be found on Google Earth at Lat: N40º13.33’, Long: 75º26’. As with any hobbyist gardener I am interested in getting veggies as early in the spring as is possible. The idea of building a Hoop Greenhouse that would permit starting and harvesting produce earlier than what came from the outdoor garden was a great incentive. Two years ago, I built a twelve-foot wide by twenty-four foot Hoop Greenhouse for that purpose. But like everything else it too is not a perfect solution. Attempts to maintain ideal soil conditions, controlling very high ambient greenhouse temperature levels from late June through early August, and keeping insects and other pests at bay has proven to be quite taxing.
Two months ago in my continuing search to produce high quality veggies and reduce labor, I started researching both Hydroponic and Aquaponic regimens. I joined a number of both Hydroponic and Aquaponic forums that I continually refer to for both insight and information, have read as much material that I could lay my hands on, have viewed as many You Tube videos that I could find, and have toured a local commercial Hydroponic installation that raises both Lettuce products and Tomatoes.
Early in my research, I became very enthusiastic about Aquaponics. What a great concept. Raise fish for the table, yet let the fish provide the nutrients for raising the veggies and let the veggies clean the nutrients for the fish to survive. Yet, there was something in this concept that was not quite adding up. Mother Nature has a way of taking what seems to be a simple and reliable concept into something quite a bit more complex and not quite as reliable. Where I live, energy and infrastructure costs become a huge factor in making any decision about making a game change. Whether you are a hobbyist or are planning to become a commercial operation, it’s all about the scale of dollars that can be invested and what you can get back in return.
If you work in a greenhouse, keeping air temperature down in the summer is huge and what follows is water temperature for the fish. A circulating fan will help to maintain outdoor ambient temperature, but a water evaporator can reduce temperature by upwards of twenty to thirty degrees. A chiller may be needed to control water temperature. If you are working in the house, it’s mostly all about grow lights, including sub-panel, wiring, and operating costs. Whichever way you work
Now, about the fish. As a hobbyist, I have looked into Yellow Perch, Rainbow Trout, Brook Trout, Nile Tilapia, Gold Fish, Koi, Channel Cat Fish, and Blue Gill. Due to fish optimum temperature ranges, availability, purchase order requirements, delivery charges and over wintering costs, it comes down to where you live, how you plan to operate, and what risk you are willing to take.
I use Google Earth for a lot of research. I have formed my own opinions about the viability and the future growth of both Hydroponics and Aquaponics. World wide, Aquaponics appears to be the most profitable, productive, and easiest to operate between the Tropic of Cancer and The Tropic of Capricorn. Real profitability and productivity can still be had when extended to both North and South 35º latitude. Hydroponics appears to be better suited for more northern and southern latitudes. An exception to this is when warm ocean currents come into play. The pacific current has an impact upon Japan and the West Coast of the United States. The Mediterranean Sea appears to impact most of the Northern coast.
So, to all the great people working to develop the Aquaponic model, keep up the great work, for me and sorry to say, Aquaponics just does not seem to fit.