Oct 07

Aquaponics Global Consultancy Update

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Here at Aquaponics Global Consultancy we are getting busy. At the moment we are partnering with the Green Man Solutions company based in Florida, USA to roll out some medium sized aquaponic farms there very soon, as well as doing a feasiblity study and funding drive with a church community here in London, UK for what is very possibly the first large-ish scale urban aquaponic farm and community in London, UK.

The logisitical and financial challenge of setting up urban and suburban farms, fish farming and vegetable farming right by the consumer market in these interesting times is very stimulating. A lot of the cost and funding details necessary to do this internationally have not been sufficiently well examined before, and as a result, I find myself writing the book on this with my partners here in the UK and elsewhere.

As a consultant, I am not a charity however, and charge fees for my services. This is because I am not an N.G.O. but a business person who is obliged to pay bills and so has to make a profit from my activities!
In cases like the church hall, of course I cannot charge anything until funding is acquired, but my time is nevertheless extremely valuable.  There are few qualified and experienced aquaponics professionals in the UK, and they are still thin on the ground in other parts of the world as well.

To be an aquaponic farmer, you first have to have some years of experience of ORGANIC FARMING.
Organic farming is farming as a business, not a hobby, while using no artificial fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides, antibiotics, etc. on your livestock and plants. Aquaponics is a marriage of intensive aquaculture with intensive hydroponics. You have fish in your recirculating aquaculture system as well as the plants, and so cannot use any pesticides or nitrate fertilizers because they will kill off the fish within around 30 minutes, no joke since you have thousands of fish in the aquaculture sections of these systems.

DIY aquaponics is becoming popular as a hobby, but there are still very few self-built DIY aquaponics large-scale aquaponic farm operations out there.  Aquaponics requires a static tank and pipe system of a specific, carefully calibrated plumbing and water flow rate design.  You are going to have to fit a whole riverine ecosystem in there and the aquaponics system will have to serve this ecosystem with the right dissolved oxygen, flow rates for the water, filtration parameters to keep ammonia and nitrite levels extremely low, and so on.

High ammonia and nitrite levels in your water will kill your fish very fast, as will inadequate added oxygen levels.  Intensive fish farming as here in commercial aquaponics systems requires very high levels of additional bubbled-through air in the water throughout the system at all times to supply the fish and plants with enough oxygen to keep them healthy and comfortable. You want them to grow!

Feeding your fish involves the main external input to your aquaponics system apart from water and electricity, namely, fish feed. Aquaponics fish require a measured amount of feed every day to be split up into three human person-observed meals, where you allow the fish to eat as much as they want for five to ten minutes. Overfeeding the fish, which often happens if you use an automatic feeder, will only leave uneaten food in the tanks and cause rotten food to make ammonia and nitrite levels spike, killing off thousands of your fish.

Since the cost of feedstuffs for farm livestock, including fish, is currently soaring we are, like many other fish farmers, currently looking at alternative sources for fish food, such as black soldier fly larvae farming. The most commonly farmed aquaponics fish worldwide is the tilapia fish, because it is an increasingly in-demand fish, it grows fast, and is tough and relatively human error tolerant.

Plants growing in an aquaponics system however are not so human error tolerant.  You need to be pretty expert in spotting pests that have set up home among your crops, so you know what kind of integrated biological pest management tactics to use, and when to use them., you can only use green, pesticide-free integrated pest management, usually a combination of companion planting of pest-repellent herbs and flowers next to crops, such as marigolds and garlic.

In aquaponics you can also employ the judicious use of non-toxic sprays such as bacillus thuringensis spray (not the same as when it is inserted genetically into GM crops, this is the old-fashioned method) and pH-altering anti-fungal washes of a non-systemic and non-toxic nature (usually based on potassium salts).  You need to have studied this properly for quite some time in the field.  This is one of the problems with DIY aquaponics hobby enthusiasts, pest management is often hardly considered until the pests are well established and difficult to treat.

This goes far beyond the scope of the back garden DIY aquaponics hobby into the world of intensive agriculture.  As you can see, training and experience are necessary to understand not only how to construct your DIY aquaponics commercial farm, but how to produce food intensively on a large scale aquaponic farm with fish farming and hydroponics working together.  A large aquaponic farm has aquaponics system after aquaponics system in use.

We are convinced here at Aquaponics Global that the aquaponic farm is the way forward for many farmers both in Western and developing countries, and that building costs need not be too extortionate if you use local materials and technologies wisely. However, this is not fish farming using ponds! I get a lot of requests about ponds, and we never use them. Aquaponics requires a controlled growing environment, fish farming and hydroponics in tanks of water!

In order to find out how we can help you with aquaponic farm construction and aquaponics system professional training, please do not hesitate to put in a request here:

Call me! - Charlotte Appleton: Offline

» Get Skype, call free!

We can work out all the details of your aquaponics project from startup costs to break-even studies, construction planning and site management.

Don’t forget to bookmark this site to be able to find our next aquaponics update!

 

Sep 14

Famine And Aquaponics

Drought has struck again in the African Sahel.  Most of these people are nomadic herdsmen and there is no grass or forage left. War in Mali has sent millions of refugees pouring over the border into Niger, where conditions are no better.

They have, as far as I know, no aquaponics.

Aquaponics is an organic food factory that produces up to four times more food than conventional soil agriculture, using 90% less land and WATER than conventional agriculture in the process.  This is revolutionary.

No expensive chemical fertilizers or pesticides are needed or can be used.  Not only do you get vegetables and soft fruit such as melons out of an aquaponic system farm, but also tonnages of TILAPIA FISH to solve the famine problem.  Using far less water than conventional farming.

So you can provide the refugees with food, stop the famine, and also, after a little basic on-site tilapia fish aquaculture and horticulture training, jobs and skills to take them further in life.

Famine, given this aquaponics technology, can be eradicated quite quickly.  Green leafy vegetables such as lettuce and cabbage varieties come out of an aquaponics system as harvest only 8 weeks after switching it on, and continue to be harvested weekly thereafter, as long as the aquaponics system is correctly managed and maintained.

This is only intermediate technology and can be run of alternative energy systems such as concentrated solar power and anaerobic digesters.

The tilapia fish and vegetables all are in tanks, in a closed-circuit recirculating aquaculture system.  This system can be built and set into motion within eight weeks of the equipment and stock ( tilapia fish fingerlings and seeds) arriving on site.

Only a half horsepower pump and two regenerating blowers (air pumps for water aeration) are needed to service 0.05 of a hectare of aquaponics system.  This produces 5 metric tonnes of tilapia fish and weekly continous harvests of vegetables in quantity.

These units can be built using simple materials like concrete and plastic water piping.

Here at Aquaponics Global we are available as consultants on contract to mitigate famine and food security emergencies using aquaponics technology anywhere on the planet, for reasonable fees.  We are all multilingual expatriates with years of experience of coping with unusual and stressful conditions and have the requisite qualifications and experience to be rapidly effective in problem-solving on the spot in our various disciplines of aquaponics, aquaculture, construction (architecture), and business administration.

If you are a logistics professional looking for rapid ways of slowing or halting famine situations in drought areas without needing vast inputs of fertilizer, water, and expensive genetically altered organisms, Aquaponics Global can help.  Why not give us a call?

Call me! - Charlotte Appleton: Offline

» Get Skype, call free!

Jul 28

Hunger And Aquaponics.

Hunger stalks the planet. There has just been massive crop failure in the grain and soy belts of North and South America,  due to drought and the failure even of ‘drought resistant’ genetically modified crops.  Climate change is seriously disturbing weather and rain patterns globally. With crop failures increasingly prevalent, hunger edges closer to us all.

Conventional agriculture, organic or GM, depends on rain and rapidly depleting underground water supplies. Fertilizer is essential and made from ever more expensive natural gas and oil feedstocks. These are also finite, will keep going up in price, and will eventually run out.  The cost of all these chemicals is eventually passed on to the consumer.

In many parts of the world, this means that basic staple foods are out of reach of the incomes of many people already. Hunger has become a normal daily experience for many. Food grown conventionally is just becoming too expensive, and conventional agriculture is just too vulnerable to the crazy weather. Food insecurity and downright hunger are now stalking everyone.
How, then, are we going to eat? While debates rage and conventional agriculture goes on with business as usual, failing due to droughts, storms, and new crop-devastating diseases immune to modern controls, hunger is increasing its grip on human populations across the globe. Conventional agriculture is proving totally unsustainable, if not downright unworkable in current climate conditions. Hunger is even making its presence known among the urban poor of so-called rich Western countries. Food prices are rising at a steady 140% year on year globally.  That includes the food prices in your local corner shop.

The answer has already been invented and is catching on.  It is totally sustainable. It does not use soil, pesticides, herbicides, artificial fertilizers, genetically modified crops or fish, or antibiotics. It wastes 90% less water than conventional agriculture, whether organic or chemicated. It does not need expensive, risky genetically modified seeds, organisms, or plants. If more generally adopted by farmers worldwide, it promises to end food insecurity for millions of people.

It is a way to raise fish and vegetables intensively in the same recirculating water.  It marries intensive fish farming and intensive hydroponics and by doing so, gets rid of the endemic problems of both technologies.  The vegetables clean the water for the fish, so there are no uncontrolled effluent discharges to the environment.  The fish fertilize the water for the vegetables, so no artificial fertilizers need be bought. Plants love this and grow up to twice as fast at up to half the spacing.

It’s part of the Blue Revolution of aquaculture-water farming-that is taking the world by storm.  It’s called AQUAPONICS.

Aquaponics farms both the fish and the vegetables sustainably. Aquaponic systems growing fish and vegetables together can be certified organic. Everything grows in tanks in  aquaponics, and water evaporation is stopped by shading the fish tanks and enclosing the water almost completely in the hydroponic raceways, so at least 90% less water wastage occurs than in conventional agriculture. Most water is constantly recycled between the fish and the vegetables.  Only around 1.5% leaves the system every day as a consequence of fish solids flushing and cleaning, and this can be scavenged back by dewatering the solids, and reused for irrigating soil crops such as orchards.

Aquaponics is a proven technology that has been used commercially since the 1970s. It also uses around 17% of the energy used by conventional farming, since no trucks, tractors, and other machinery are necessary. As a modest user of energy, it is also very suitable to be operated using alternative energy sources such as wind power or solar panels. It’s all on the spot and harvesting is easy, especially with floating raft aquaponics systems, where the rafts are lifted onto trestles and harvested at waist height in a few minutes.

Aquaponics is a way to build efficient, highly productive, sustainable, largely organic food factories. It is industrial agriculture gone green. It’s renewable food. And it fits snugly into a climate controlled greenhouse, and reduces water use on the farm by at least 90%.

It’s taking off right across the United States and Australia. Properly designed and managed aquaponics can easily produce far more food, far faster, than any form of conventional agriculture using soil. Aquaponic farming is the farming method of the present now, not just the future.

Jul 14

Arduino-Based Aquaponics In a Food Desert.

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This is food being grown in an aquaponics system in the middle of a concrete food desert in Oakland, California, USA.  Food and fish are growing well due to a lot of dedication and attention.

This is a clear explanation of a small aquaponics system that is almost completely automated and off-the-grid. It uses solar power. This aquaponics system talks to the farmer on his mobile phone, telling him what is going on with his fish and if his food is growing well.

However, if any of the automated sensors break, for any reason, disaster could happen to an aquaponics system, with no-one actually there to fix it.  A lot of aquaponic systems have a 30-minute time margin before massive fish deaths begin due to aeration and pumping not happening or being substantially reduced. This will happen even in an automated system. This means that if you get stuck in a traffic jam trying to get to your automated aquaponics system to fix the pump, many if not all of your fish could be dead by the time you get there. Automated systems for aquaponics are certainly attractive, but you have to realize they also have automated limitations!

If the sensors are out of action, you may arrive the next day to find a lot of dead fish and your plants wilting.

Growing media based aquaponics systems like the one in the video do not retain water in the growing media.  Inert growing media such as pea gravel and expanded clay balls, also called “clay rocks”, “hydroton”, and “hydroleca”, do not retain or store water like earth and compost do.  If the pump is out of action, in a flood and drain system, or even some constant flow systems without standpipes in the growing media filled growing beds, all the water will return to the fish tanks. Then the growing media will rapidly start to dry out.  If this is happening in hot weather, you had better get there extremely quickly!

If you like this article, the aquaponics article-packed Aquaponics Global Anthology 1 is now available to download here:

[paiddownloads id=”1″]

Jun 15

Aquaponics – Your Community Food Bank


By getting together with other members of your local community to exploit unused spaces such as back lots and rooftops, along with waste heat and water from buildings and also food waste from restaurants and institutions, you can build integrated aquaponics systems into your area that will serve as a permanent food bank in these hard times.

You must have seen the film clips in which desperate people sit on street corners with notices saying “Will work for food.” Well, with a community aquaponic farm in place on one or several sites, people can work for food and also for other things like valuable experience and social networking on the farm.  When your farm is finished and in full production, excess food can be sold to pay a living wage to the stalwart workers who have helped to make it all happen. You may find that the farm very rapidly outperfoms expectations as a local food bank.

Building an aquaponic system can either be a million-dollar large commercial enterprise made of state of the art technology, or it can be just as sophisticated, but built out of recycled materials garnered from skips and building sites, and friendly donations of bags of concrete and rolls of LDPE pond liner.  You will need to build tanks and these can be cobbled together successfully in a variety of ways. Aquaponics is always a stimulating design challenge, but with so many successful systems like the University of the Virgin Islands type aquaponics system already proven to work, it is better to follow their lead rather than reinventing the wheel!

If you are going to use wood in aquaponics system tank construction, you should make sure it is sound and thoroughly termite and rot proofed before it is incorporated into any tank structure.  Also be very careful about copper sulphate compounds that are routinely used for rot proofing wood.  These are lethal to fish and plants.  So any such treated wood must be painted over with a non toxic paint as well to make sure the water in the system is not contaminated with copper!  If you can, use steel pipes and galvanized heavy duty welded fence wire in tank construction rather than wood for your aquaponics system. That way you avoid your tanks rotting and breaking before you can harvest the fish inside. Wood can break your food bank!

Do not use any copper pipes or implements when doing aquaponic farming.  Copper pipes and wires may be all right inside your house, but copper is a fish farmer’s and hydroponic farmer’s nemesis. Avoid it at all costs.

Fish are very sensitive to any heavy metals and will die if their water is in continuous contact with any of them (copper, lead, silver, rusty iron, and so on). When building your aquaponic food bank, remember this is not at all just book learning. You are working with living, breathing creatures who have minds of their own.  Fish and plant wrangling can be stresssful since a food bank of this sort is also a living species bank!

Various means can be used for heating and pumping water, and for creating the energy that will run the air blowers you will need to make a success out of intensive fish and plant raising on a commercially viable scale.  One of the cheapest ways of building your own power station is to build an anaerobic digester or series of digesters.  These make methane out of farm and human waste, which is ‘cooked’ by airless fermentation inside a large concrete vessel.  The resulting methane gas can be compressed and used to fuel  boilers for hot water and steam for electric turbines.  These days self-assembly anaerobic digester kits which do not need anyone with an engineering degree can be got for reasonable prices from China.  For further details, look up ‘anaerobic digester’ on http://alibaba.com.

Anaerobic digestion also gets rid of farm waste which would otherwise create a health hazard fairly rapidly.  This makes sure that your community live food bank is not also a toxic waste dump.  Ensuring your own food security should not entail creating a stink!  You need to get off the grid with your energy supply in any case, since an aquaponics system uses modest amounts of electricity 24/7.  You do not want your food security to be impacted by enormous electric bills.

Before going ahead and raising fish, find out which fish are popular already in your area and raise those.  It will be the vegetables raised in the fish waste water that make most of your profits, since fish take anything up to two years to get to plate size. So for the first couple of years, until you start harvesting your fish tanks in succession, you will be making your living off the plants, not the fish.  The fish will be too small to eat for most of that time.

Make sure that your fish tanks are seeded in succession so that you get a harvest of fish say, once every six weeks once they start to come on line. Work out how many tanks you will need to get that harvest coming in year-round, and how many vegetable raceways you will need to balance the nitrates in the system.  This is a complex calculation and will be referred to in my next How Much Fish Can An Aquaponic Farm Raise? article.

The nature of your community and the level of its commitment to farming locally and sustainably, creating local food security, will directly affect the size and success of your community aquaponic farm. You need to establish routines and standard operating procedures and stick to them.  Your local markets for your produce and fish will also have to be weaned off imported and artificially fertilized produce bit by bit. You can also expect to see an increase in the organic waste offered to your anaerobic digesters for recycling. This is free fuel for your aquaponics system power plant.  Food security depends on energy security, so training your local community to route organic waste to your digester should be a top priority in marketing your aquaponic community live food bank to all concerned..

Because aquaponic farms, properly designed and managed, can produce up to four times more food than an equivalent conventional farm on the same area, for far less inputs, you may eventually find that you can actually feed a lot of your local community members almost entirely from the produce, fish, and other food enterprises that you local community aquaponic farm has put in place.   For the food security your own community live food bank will provide over many years to come, everyone has to make a commitment to keeping up the pace of work on the aquaponic farm.

Mar 20

Aquaponic Farming And Urban Farming

Urban farming is usually associated with allotments and toolsheds, hobby farming and non-profits.  But what if urban farming could be totally industrialized and still retain all the benefits of organic, sustainable farming and fresh produce?

This is where the soil-less farming method, aquaponics, comes in.  Properly managed and designed, aquaponics systems can be certified organic. But don’t go to your local soil association for your organic farm certification if you are aquaponic farming.  They won’t be interested. You won’t be using soil, only the waste water from your intensive fish farm.

AAAAGH! But fish farms pollute and use gallons of antibiotics, you say.

Not these fish farms. Due to the fact that the hydroponic part of an aquaponics system is full of growing plants, and that plants use nitrate compounds as fertilizer, you CANNOT use antibiotics in your aquaponics systems.  If you do, your fish will all die of ammonia poisoning and your plants will die of starvation.

This is because antibiotics kill off the two different kinds of nitrifying bacteria that naturally occur in your solids removal system, and digest the fish waste ammonia into nitrate fertilizer for your plants.  No bacteria, no aquaponics.  Antibiotics kill bacteria.

The nitrates the bacteria make from the ammonia are what the plants use for food.  As a side-effect of soaking up all those nitrates, they CLEAN THE WATER OF POLLUTANTS and it is pumped clean back to the fish to be re-used.  So no water is wasted, and no pollutants need to be pumped out into the surrounding environment.  Everything gets constantly recycled in aquaponics systems!

Now I can hear you muttering about pesticides, herbicides and the like.  Well, to start with, there are no weeds in aquaponics systems. There is simply no place for them to grow.  Plants that have not been inserted as seedlings in specially prepared plant plugs will not grow in aquaponics systems, on the whole.  So you are in control, not the weeds, and you need NO HERBICIDES.  If you use any of the chemical pesticides normally used in agriculture, including the so-called organic pesticides made from pyrethrum flowers, you will immediately get tons and tons of very dead fish.  Since most of your fish will not be of marketable size, and also because you will not be able to sell pesticide-polluted fish, you will have to throw them out, and spend a lot of money starting over with clean water and new fish, etc.  You cannot use chemical pesticides in an aquaponics system.  There is no place for chemical pesticides, herbicides, or artificial fertilizers in aquaponic farming.

You don’t need artificial fertilizers in aquaponic farming because the fish waste is your fertilizer and it’s produced for free all the time as long as you feed your fish correctly.

The reason aquaponic farming is a good way to do urban farming is because it is all done in tanks.  You don’t need soil. So you can base your tanks on any flat surface that can take their weight, such as a sturdy flat roof or a back lot.  If you use low-energy grow lights, you can even put your aquaponic farm in a basement or a disused warehouse.  This has already been done very successfully in Milwaukee in the United States by James Godsil’s Sweetwater Organics aquaponic farming enterprise, which is urban farming at its best, right smack in the middle of a big city.

He used an old railway carriage repair shed, which already had the repair pits in the floor for the mechanics to go under the railway cars.  Lined with LDPE pond liner, these make excellent fish raceways for the tilapia fish and Great Lakes perch of his fish farm.

He then built wooden superstructures over the raceways of the intensive fish farm to hold the grow beds for the plants, and suspended low-energy grow lights on the undersides of the beds to light each shelf space sufficiently for plants to grow.

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Urban farming and aquaponic farming have also been combined by Will Allen at Growing Power, also in Milwaukee.  Using compost worms and worm tea in addition to fish water, Will Allen has managed to grow a million pounds in weight a year of food off only three acres of greenhouses right on a city street in the center of Milwaukee city.  He has received many awards and international recognition for his urban farming efforts.

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By piling large amounts of heat-producing fermenting compost up against his greenhouse walls, he has eliminated fuel costs for heating his greenhouses through the Arctic North American winters, and extended his growing season year-round.  Urban farming need not stop in winter with aquaponics.

The extended growing seasons possible, using aquaponics in greenhouses, in urban farming in cold climates also make this even more attractive, since you can guarantee food security year-round for the local population.  Fresh produce is constantly made available. Without needing to import food in the winter at vast extra expense for the consumer.  Aquaponic farming in the city rocks!

Further detailed professional advice is available to hand from the following books, which apply equally to large commercial aquaponic farming enterprise plans and to backyard aquaponics for the interested amateur:


 

Mar 20

Food Insecurity Banished Using Agricultural Engineering In Cities.

Food insecurity used to be something relegated to the Third World, places like Africa and India.  No longer. Due to the economic downturn, people in Western countries like Spain and Italy, and even in poor areas of London, are finding it hard to feed themselves adequately and well.

Half the world’s population now live in cities. That’s half the people who need food security, but are miles away from where food is grown and readily available at cheap prices.

Meanwhile climate change and economic disarray are making food prices rise at hundreds of percent more than wage levels. In Western countries, not only in poor benighted Africa and so on.  And food prices in the cities are going up even more, due to high shop rents and energy bills being passed on to the food consumer on the street. This is set to seriously impact food security in cities.

However, if you fly over a city like London or Rome, acres and hectares of flat roof space can be seen spreading for miles.  These flat roof spaces are ideal for agricultural engineering projects such as aquaponics systems, run off the excess heat that these buildings necessarily generate anyway. Using this energy to grow food is also a way to guarantee urban food security.

Soilless agriculture of a peculiarly productive and innovative kind involving intensive fish farming married to an adapted form of hydroponics is called ‘aquaponics’.  This natural ecosystem in an artificially engineered tank and piping setup can be assembled and set into motion on a flat rooftop in a matter of a week to ten days. The flat rooftop can be producing tonnages of vegetables and fish at an accellerated rate within six weeks of switching this rooftop food factory on.  Agricultural engineering of this sort is easy to assemble from mostly recycled parts and does not have to cost a fortune to run, either.

Food insecurity in cities, where half the world’s population lives without access to land for growing soil-based crops, would be a thing of the past if zoning laws and city regulations were opened up to permit agricultural engineering projects such as aquaponics systems inside the city limits on waste spaces, such as flat rooftops.

The waste heat from buildings can be harnessed using heat exchanger technology to provide the power and heat needed to run pumps, water heaters, greenhouse heaters, air blowers, ventilation and lighting for rooftop greenhouses.  Aquaponics is not dependent on agrichemicals from the oil and gas industry, and so is cheaper to run than its cousin hydroponics.  Using recycled waste energy from the buildings it is based upon, aquaponics systems as urban farms can also save further on running costs.  This can be passed on to the consumer in the form of cheaper food prices.

By growing food locally in the city where the market for it is, you also save a fortune on food transportation costs, since the food can be sold right out the back of the aquaponics systems directly to local consumers. This also means the food is extremely fresh and is consumed at the peak of its nutritional value.

Since food is produced and consumed locally in the city, it also gives back control to local people over their own food security.  Food security issues also become linked to local employment issues, and such rooftop urban farming aquaponics enterprises would also provide skilled and semi-skilled jobs for local people.  The agricultural engineering aspects of this business in the city would also open up agricultural engineering jobs for urban farm designers.

Food insecurity will become an increasingly obvious problem in cities worldwide, as urban populations grow in response to the despoiling of the natural environment, with its consequences for rural communities, who have lost their small farm economic base to vast agricultural combines.  This is happening all over the world.  With high food prices in cities, it makes sense to recycle energy and materials, which would otherwise be wasted, within the city, to grow food more cheaply on the spot, using soilless growing technologies like aquaponics locally where the food is needed.

People should work together in the cities to tackle this problem of food insecurity themselves, using the spaces and materials that are actually readily to hand.  All you need is a little imagination, and the aquaponics system construction and maintenance skills necessary.  These are easily acquired by anyone with a high school education and construction skills in a couple of weeks.

Food prices for food imported into the city from the countryside, or abroad, will always rise.  But with a bit of ingenuity and agricultural engineering, food prices for food grown on urban aquaponic farms may well substantially undercut the food prices for food grown far away from the city, and trucked or shipped in at great expense.

To find out more detailed information about how to design and operate aquaponic farms, see the professionally expert books below, all of which I highly recommend:


 
Aquaponics Global Anthology 1 is available for instant download and to print out here: [paiddownloads id=”1″]

Mar 19

Environmental Issues, Aquaponics, And Agriculture

The environmental issues surrounding conventional agriculture are well known.  According to http://savetherainforest.org, 60% of rainforest loss is due to landless farmers going in to farm along new roads opened up by loggers in the jungle.  This is because their land has been taken over by large concerns to grow crops for export such as soybeans, and also due to population growth in these areas.

There are other tales of soil destruction due to land overuse, which creates dustbowls, and due to the use of substances such as herbicides containing glyphosate, which destroy soil bacteria and distort soil structure in the long term.  For more about this go to the interviews with Dr. Huber of Purdue University, on http://mercola.fileburst.com/PDF/ExpertInterviewTranscripts/InterviewDonHuber-Part2.pdf, which is a transcript of the second part of an interview with him on mercola.com, the website of the world-famous Doctor Mercola.  Wikipedia also has scary entries about this substance if you look it up.

In between desperate farmers and the chemical assault on our soil and environment, which may well be causing other problems such as the disappearance of the bees, without which many crops will not fruit, conventional agriculture is reaching a state where the law of diminishing returns comes into play.

These environmental issues have spawned a rise in the adoption of organic farming, but the question here is that it is vulnerable to the very diseases and blights that are dealt with by the chemical barrage used by conventional agriculture.  As such, it may well not be able to produce enough food if universally adopted. It also takes up as much if not more space on the soil as conventional agriculture and is just as water-hungry.

The next environmental issues, to do with water use in agriculture, are also key.  Worldwide, we are running out of potable water at an alarming rate.  These environmental issues are caused by the fact that for the most part, water is used only once in conventional agriculture, then discarded.  It is hardly ever recycled since it is used to carry away waste and for cleaning, also for irrigation, which consumes whole rivers and lakes.  Due mostly to irrigation, the River Jordan in Israel no longer flows into the Dead Sea.  Many other bodies of water such as the Aral Sea have all but disappeared. ‘Formerly one of the four largest lakes in the world with an area of 68,000 square kilometres (26,300 sq mi), the Aral Sea has been steadily shrinking since the 1960s after the rivers that fed it were diverted by Soviet irrigation projects. By 2007, it had declined to 10% of its original size’-Wikipedia.

Lake Chad in West Africa is also rapidly disappearing.

The north of China is also rapidly running out of water.   It has already used up most of its fossil water resources, the underground aquifers that cannot be replenished by rain. I enclose a scholarly presentation about this vast problem:

However, in the midst of all this disarray, and a tide of misinformation from vested agricultural interests bent on selling more toxic chemicals and genetically modified organisms, purported to make conventional agriculture more efficient at vast expense, there are other less well known technologies which do not require any of these complexities to work, and once installed, are vastly cheaper and less water-hungry to run.

These technologies are all based on recycling water, instead of using it just once.  Recirculating aquaculture (sustainable fish farming) has spawned an offshoot called aquaponics, where plants are grown hydroponically in the waste water from the fish.  This waste water is cleaned by the plants, which absorb the nitrates dissolved in it and use them for exponentially faster growth than normally seen in conventional agriculture. This deals with several environmental issues at the same time.

These environmental issues can be listed as follows:

  1. Water is constantly recycled, and used again and again by the fish and the plants. Less than 10% of the water used by conventional agriculture normally to grow food is required. Evaporation is controlled by covering most of the water surface with floating rafts that suspend the plants in the fish water, and shading the fish tanks. These can also be provided with lids in some situations.
  2. Water pollution from fish waste released into the environment is eliminated completely. Removed fish waste solids are dewatered and used as organic fertilizer after composting. The water from this process is fertile and can be used for irrigation. Still 90% less water or less than conventional agriculture uses,  is required to keep the aquaponics system going.
  3. Toxic herbicides are unnecessary since there are no weeds to pull.  Only biological non-toxic pest control methods can be used, since all pesticides, even the so-called ‘organic’ pesticides based on the pyrethrum flower, kill all the fish dead fast. The chemical assault normal with conventional agriculture is stopped.
  4. Artificial fertilizers are not necessary or used. The fish water provides ample nitrogenous matter which is turned by naturally occurring bacteria in the aquaponics system, into nitrates that fertilize the plants in the aquaponics system’s hydroponic component.  The expense of buying in artificial fertilizers is avoided, and the pollution of fertilizer over-use, stopped.
  5. The space used is around half what would be necessary to grow food using conventional agriculture.  This means that you can grow up to twice as much food on any given acreage than would be possible using conventional agriculture. This does not even count in the harvests of fish that will be produced.  Due to the efficiency of hydroponic growing methods, plants can be spaced at up to half the spacing normally required in conventional agriculture.  They also grow at up to twice the normal speed for plants grown in soil. So you get up to twice as many plants, twice as quickly.  This is all dependent on the types of crops grown, but lettuce and basil can be managed professionally to grow at these rates, for instance, quite easily.  This has revolutionary implications for land-starved farming communities, especially since no soil is needed, so any flat surface can be used to grow food.  You can even grow food on a flat roof surface, in the city.
  6. Fish can be grown intensively on land with very little ecological footprint. The biofilter is the aquaponic system, so none of the notorious water pollution normal with intensive fish farming on its own is caused. This means that there is a possibility of reducing the pressure on ocean fish populations which is steadily wiping them out at present.  1/8 of an acre of aquaponics can rear 5 metric tons of tilapia fish a year, for instance.
Tropical aquaponics-lettuce crop in 29 days, University of the Virgin Islands, 2010

Tropical aquaponics-lettuce crop in 29 days, University of the Virgin Islands, 2010

In places like South America, West Africa and China, the wholesale adoption of this technology could spare the countries in these places further environmental issues, drought, poverty and desperation. However, there are only a limited number of trained and available independent consultants such as myself who are willing to undertake the consultancies necessary to set up demonstration aquaponics systems.

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These aquaponics systems should be set up professionally on a large enough scale to show how aquaponics can replace the methods of conventional agriculture.  Farmers can then be taught how to produce more food using 90% less space and water, and 17% of the energy currently used in conventional agriculture. They will learn that they need far fewer and far less costly inputs to do this than currently used in conventional agriculture.  These inputs mostly consist of fish feed. Aquaponics uses only non-toxic pest control and needs no herbicides.  If you liked this article, I have edited the past 6 months of this website’s posts into an ebook to download on the spot which is available here for only $10: [paiddownloads id=”1″]

To learn more about how aquaponics works, and how to make it work for you, I suggest you read a few of these books from the world’s leading experts on aquaponics and aquaculture:


 

Feb 23

Grain Amaranth Grown In Aquaponics.

usda image gallery-grain amranth

USDA Image Gallery-Grain Amaranth

Amaranth pseudograin is the rice of the Aztecs. But it grows much like spinach, and the leaves can be cooked like spinach, too. So you get a green leafy crop with a grain head on top.  But it grows like spinach.

The grain amaranth seed head starts as a fluffy purple or orange flower head, that looks like outrageous candy floss. When the grain amaranth seeds ripen, they can be pulled off the flower head with a fork into a container.  No further processing apart from sun drying is necessary. The seeds are the product.

Grain amaranth can be cooked like couscous or semolina and is gluten free.  It has up to 17% high quality protein content.  When the Spanish conquistadores banned it as a devilish crop, people died like flies from malnutrition.  The reason the Aztecs worshipped it was because it was a vital protein staple in a world with no real domestic meat animals.

IT GROWS LIKE SPINACH. Grain amaranth likes heat, though. It can grow up to 6 feet tall eventually, so allow for head room.  But you would space it like spinach plants in aquaponics.

So you would get the same growth rate in grain amaranth in an aquaponics system as in a spinach plant, I reckon.  That is just 30 days from seedling to maturity.  Fast for what is essentially a grain crop with a leafy spinach type understory.  Two crops in one, and one a staple that can stand in with beans on the side for meat. Of course, your aquaponics system also provides fish.  Fish dishes go very well with steamed spinach or grain amaranth leaves.

If you get migraines from spinach, try substituting grain amaranth leaves. Grain amaranth grain is suitable for celiac disease sufferers.

Grain amaranth also provides a lot of grain per hectare even in soil.

You can also sell the flower heads as ornamental flowers.  But then you will not get the grain amaranth grain.

I will be planting some grain amaranth in one of my aquaponics systems soon and will be reporting on how it performs.

To find out more about growing food for pleasure and profit in aquaponics systems, I highly recommend reading a few of the following expert books:


 

Feb 23

Drought Resistant Crops Or Drought Resistant Agriculture?

Drought proof aquaponic crops

Drought proof aquaponic crops

This week, the UK Environment Secretary, Caroline Spelman said genetically modified drought-resistant crops will be considered as a way of ensuring food security at the main conference of the country’s farmer’s union.  Meanwhile, protests largely go unheard about the deadly toxicity of the methods used to grow such crops, including evidence from Purdue University’s plant pathology department in the US that the herbicide routinely used with such crops, glyphosate, commonly known as Roundup, is many times more toxic than DDT and causes premature ageing and infertility in cattle, sheep, pigs, and chickens fed on GM crops exposed to it.

However, there is another way to ensure food security in a drought.  It is far more water efficient and safe than genetically modified food crops, and needs no GM seed or expensive chemical fertilizers or pesticides.  It can grow up to 40% more food per acre/hectare than conventional agriculture using less than 10% of the water normally required by conventional agriculture.  It is essentially drought resistant because of this water use efficiency which is built into the system from the start.

It is called aquaponics and it is a form of recirculating aquaculture (intensive fish rearing in recycled water) which uses plants grown in the same recirculating water to clean it of nitrates produced by the fish.  In the process of filtering the water, the plants grow at up to twice the speed and up to half the normal spacing, outstripping even hydroponically grown produce, when grown in a mature aquaponic system. As well, but later in the day, you harvest generous amounts of edible sustainably grown fish such as tilapia or trout.  All with no waste in water use.

No genetic modification, pesticides, herbicides, weeding, ploughing, irrigation, or artificial fertilizer are needed in this drought resistant agriculture method.  Because the tanks in which it takes place are covered over with white-painted heat reflective polystyrene rafts, or else shaded in the case of the fish grow out tanks, evaporation of the water is kept to a minimum.  At the  University of the Virgin Islands, in the perennially drought-stricken Carribean, in Hawaii and high and low on the American continent, even in the icebound wintry streets of Milwaukee, you will find agriculture businesses using this  technology to produce fish and vegetetables of many diverse kinds.  It is becoming a useful weapon in their local food security arsenal.  This is because it is a reliable form of drought resistant agriculture.  It is also a good example of efficient water use.  90% or more of the water used for fish rearing and vegetable and fruit production is constantly recycled.

Although in the UK aquaponics is still largely seen as a new unproven experiment, in the United States this drought resistant technology is becoming very widely used, from small scale farmers’ markets to large scale commercial food production facilities, and has a 30 year old pedigree. Many university agriculture departments there are training people how to install and use this drought resistant agriculture method in one form or another.  To see the extent to which it is being adopted as an agriculture method, just go to http://aquaponicscommunity.com and look up the Google map on that site, which charts the global spread of this drought resistant technology.

So in financially strapped Britain, why on earth are we not using this low-input, drought resistant agriculture more, instead of investing yet again in risky and demonstrably poisonous and ineffective genetically modified crops?

Links to the articles sourced from the scientific community about the virulent toxicity of genetically modified crops in the Links section of this website.

To download the transcript of an interview with Dr. Don Huber, plant pathologist, of Purdue University on the toxicity of glyphosate, click on the following: InterviewDrHuber-Part1.

If you have more questions about aquaponics, my old teacher at the University of the Virgin Islands Agricultural Experimental station, Dr James Rakocy, has brought out a standard FAQ answering book that is very helpful: