Aquaponic Gardening

A Community and Forum For Aquaponic Gardeners

Jason,
I live in Monmouth Or. I appreciate your hard work and advancement in the area of aquaponics. I am interested in what you guys are doing at st Johns I am going to try to come out and support you on the 2nd.

I am interested in your project as well but I do not feel like your video or project description gave much meat to how your going to accomplish this and what end product and cost will be.

My interest is two fold feeding my family and empowering people to be fed (without poisoning them or sending them into financial instability) even in economic instablility and world crisis.

Feel free to call me

Von

 

My Response:

 

Von,

 

Thanks for reaching out to me. You're right, there isn't much meat in the video. It was very difficult for me to make because I’m not an editor and well, it’s difficult to make a video, and because the project has some complexity to it. So I approached this challenge trying to appeal to a broad audience (not necessarily just the sustainable food or aquaponics people) because the greenhouse will impact a larger community than just the aquapons. I didn't feel like I could/should avoid mentioning the food/water crises that we are experiencing and yet I knew that I couldn’t go into any depth about these issues. I also knew that the nuts and bolts, the science, and the operating philosophy would be unfamiliar territory to most. So, I'm not surprised that someone from the aquaponics community would have some questions, because this community knows something about the importance of food security and the challenges in, as you perfectly put it, “feeding my family and empowering people to be fed (without poisoning them or sending them into financial instability) even in economic instability and world crisis.” And, that is absolutely what we are trying to accomplish with our dynamic little greenhouse project
Here's some meat:

 

With the modeling software that we developed we've calculated that we can provide 84% of the recommended dietary intake (RDI) of 30 people on just 7500 square feet. This is unheard of. Biointensive gardening methods, the work of John Jeavons, is maximized by David Duhon in his book One Circle to provide a complete diet on 1400 square feet for women and about 1600 square feet for men. By comparison, we expect to use just 250 square feet per person while providing a more diverse vegetable diet than Duhon’s… and fish! Most of the remaining nutrition needed for our CSA members would come from their own purchases of their choosing, we suggest primarily rice and wheat flour and a few other key food items. We know that the final 16% of RDI can and will be reduced in time and produced onsite, especially with the establishment of fruit and nut trees, berry bushes and cereal grains. This idea of growing for total nutritional requirements is an operating philosophy which is unique. Consider how you plant your own garden. I know that for mine I always go heavy with the tomatoes. So my garden yield exceeds my usage. I get lazy about harvesting them and some invariably rot on the vine. This is pretty typical, it’s a waste of resources and truthfully the tomatoes aren’t a significant source of my required nutrients-- I just like how they taste. Our operating philosophy is also different from the typical food grower’s mentality where one would grow what sells for the most money at market. We could choose to grow foods which maximize the profitability of the system. But if we do this, if we produce nothing but salad greens and fresh herbs, where will our customers get their calcium? Where will they get their calories? Immediately we’re right back into our modern industrialized monoculture food system. So I think this criterion, Grow what you need, is critically important within the definition of a sustainable food system. Maybe it is the definition of a sustainable food system. And, we’re really close to achieving it.

 

Our greenhouse is a power plant that grows plants. How much power can it produce? 80 multifunctional photovoltaic panels will provide 8.4kW of power production. These specially constructed PV panels are also part of the lighting control as well as the heating and cooling system. We will be using multiple methods for producing electricity. We have steady winds and are situated near to the river. Through our friend Franz Schreier, we have access to German technology which optimizes multiple electrical inputs to a battery bank and manages the draw from that bank.

 

Our greenhouse is built to last. We’re looking for long term sustainability. There's no sense in expending energy and resources for tools or materials that need to be replaced after a few years. Therefore the materials in our greenhouse are chosen to last for many generations. We're trying to make material expenditures which pay off. The only way to do this is to make sure the finished greenhouse has no further material expenses for many, many years and has an extremely low or preferably negative carbon operating cost. Maybe to say it best, our greenhouse has a recoverable carbon cost. Our greenhouse does have a negative carbon operating cost because the plants process volumes of CO2 and because the solar panels provide the bulk of our energy. The materials that we’ve chosen do have relatively light carbon footprints to begin with. The best example of this is F-Clean ETFE greenhouse glazing. This material is UV inert and extremely durable so it won’t break down with continued exposure to the elements including the Sun’s harmful rays. This means that unlike polyethylene films and polycarbonate panels it won’t need to be replaced.  It’s far lighter than glass and it won’t break. So we can create snow and wind load resistance with far less supportive materials. It also is more translucent than any other glazing material, so it allows more light penetration into the greenhouse, allowing for the best possible growing conditions in winter.

 

Finally, aquaponics. We believe that aquaponics is a critical tool for sustainable food production. Life on this planet is sustained through give and take. Any species which takes from their resources without allowing for the replenishment of those resources will fail. A balanced ecosystem sustains itself, that is, there is a balance between the give and the take. Aquaponics, as we see it, is about creating and maintaining the balance within a contained ecosystem. Plants get harvested at a certain age, so do the fish, but the system remains in balance through careful planting plans and harvesting schedules. In maintaining these rhythms, we provide for our own resource requirements as we balance the system. Let me try to sum up some further benefits within some bullet points (each of which could be a chapter in a book--- or at least their own blog)

  • Fish are buoyant and nutritious
  • Nutrient losses are minimized
  • The aquaponics system as thermal balancing and distribution element
  • Soluble nutrients are ideal for plant absorption
  • Nutrient cycling equals BSF divided amongst insectivores
  • Water: unrivaled availability, maximum efficiency
  • Oxygen makes plants happy
  • Harvesting and operation are “tolerable” labor

 

Maybe my favorite reason: Aquaponics is honestly organic. As you know, herbicides and pesticides will kill the beneficial microbes and fish in the system. So you don’t need labels to tell you that most of the time your farmer didn’t use poisons. I’m a label reader and a former food producer but I get fatigued by labels because there’s always new “food ingredient” tricks designed to fool me. Just eat from an aquaponics system. You can trust aquaponics.

 

What about affordability? Well, I can’t help but think of a quote from Kurt Vonnegut: “We could have saved the Earth but we were too damned cheap.” This sounds harsh, but isn’t it right on target? Let me just soften his words by saying that our Aquaponics Integrated Food Energy and Water system is money well spent and in the right direction.

So, there you go Von, some meat. Thanks for asking. And, sincerely, thank you for your pledge.

 

If you’re interested in even more “meat” please do join us for our event with Portland Mayoral Candidate Jefferson Smith. We’ll have more information on our aquaponic integrated food and energy system, lay it out so we can have a sense of scale. We’ll be able to bring these questions, concerns and ideas to a key public figure. We hope to see you there.

 

Best,

 

Jason Garvey

Portland Purple Water

www.pdxpurple.com

503-922-3583

our kickstarter campaign: http://kck.st/N47Cxv

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