Archive for the ‘Aquaponics’ Category

5 Essential Tips For an Aquaponics Beginner

By Aquaponics Team
Image Credit: Appie Verschoor (Flickr)

Getting to grips with your Aquaponics system? Here are 5 key pointers to get you started on your journey.

1. Location - One of the first question marks that arises once you have decided to set up an aquaponics system is where should you set it up – indoors or outdoors? Outdoors has the benefit of receiving natural light but there are several risk factors to be aware of too. There are Pest and animal infestation will be more of a problem out of doors, plus in India we run the risk of having too much heat.

An indoor aquaponics system in a greenhouse is ideal as you will still receive the natural light but it is easier to control environmental factors and to keep animals and pests away.

2. The Right Fish – for inspiration on choosing aquaponics fish, view our past blog ‘What type of fish should you use.’ Fish are probably the most important part of your aquaponics system, so it’s not a decision to be made lightly. Most fish will do well although some breeds such as Tilapia are known for working especially well in this environment.

3. Ratios – we have noticed that some aquaponics peddlers over the internet are suggesting the use of additives may be required for your plants to get all the required nutrients. This is incorrect! If the plants are not doing well, this means your ratios are wrong.

4. Grow beds – when you are setting up your aquaponics grow beds you ought to consider their height. If they are waist level then harvest will be much easier and will not require constant bending over. You only get one spine – look after it. You’ll thank us later!

5. Water Oxygenation – happy and healthy fish are the key to a successful aquaponics system. One way to keep them so is to oxygenize the water.

Aquaponics in India will soon be offering consultancy services. Please get in touch for more information.

Welcome to the 21st Century Garden Of Eden

By Aquaponics Team
Image credit; Ian Burt (Flickr)

Imagine: no weeds, no pests, no tilling the soil, no compost, no manure spreading, no watering, no rusty old tools, no tractor and all its extra costs, no breaking back and sore joints, no cracked skin or needless exhaustion, no working to the bone for no reward, no empty pockets, no worry….

…Sound too good to be true?

Start believing – Aquaponics is here, and we are on a mission to change the way farming is done in India.

Aquaponics fact bulletin:

• Grow up to 10 times the plants in half the time
• You use only 3% of the water that traditional farming uses
• This can all be done in a fraction of the space
The fish do all the work – so you don’t have to!

How do the fish do this? Fish naturally produce algae, ammonia, minerals and nitrates – exactly what plants need to thrive.

Most of the hard work that you need to put into your aquaponics system takes place in the first month, when you will need to regularly check ammonia and PH levels – after which the system requires only a little maintenance, so you can sit back and start to enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of your labor.

This amazing technique is set to revolutionize food production, meaning more of the world can live in abundance.

Oh, Hello Hollywood

By Aquaponics Team
Image Credit: Glen Scarborough (Flickr)

Step aside, organic. Sustainability is the new buzzword in farming, and for good reason!

Organic farming is great and all, but with the amount of water and land required to grow a substantial amount of food – it just doesn’t cut it anymore, least of all in India with its poor soil and volatile weather.

Aquaponics is unique in that it uses just 3% of the water that traditional soil farming methods use, and farmers can grow a large amount of food in an amazingly small space. This is especially good news when bearing in mind that by 2030, 60% of the world’s population will live in cities (as predicted by the World Health Organization).

The beauty of aquaponics means that food can be grown in urban environments, using very little space and water. In other words, we can all enjoy locally grown, chemical free and completely SUSTAINABLE food!

It was only a matter of time before Hollywood caught on……

No, they’re not making ‘Aquaponics The Movie’ (yet – although we can’t imagine people growing and enjoying beautiful fish and vegetables makes for a terribly exciting plot.) However, Transformers star Shia LaBeouf has wised up to the incredibleness that is aquaponics. He says:

“Me and my girlfriend are getting ready to build an aquaponics farm up in Cambria. Aquaponics is the future, dude. Aquaculture is the study of fish, and then hydroponics is the study of plants growing without soil. So when you marry those two things you wind up with an ecosystem.”

Well said, dude.

The idea of aquaponics becoming yet another celebrity trend kind of makes us cringe. But if it does become ‘cool’ perhaps more of the elite will donate their money to building aquaponics farms…Then everyone will reep the benefits and it will soon become the norm. That can only be a good thing, yar?

Who Is Dr James Rakocy?

By Aquaponics Team
Justin Leonard (Flickr)

Dr James Rakocy is often considered the father or modern aquaponics. But how did he get here, and what convinced him that aquaponics was the answer to many of the world’s problems?

…..

As a child growing up in the United States in the 1950’s, Rakocy had a passion for fishing, ornamental fish breeding and gardening. This led him to undertake a degree in Zoology, following which he joined the Peace Corps and was sent to Sierra Leone. It was here that he noticed the tropical soil was lacking in nutrients and organic matter and was unable to produce abundant crops. He noticed considerable malnutrition in the country, which led him to an interest in food production.

Image Credit: Sistak (Flickr)

Image Credit: Sistak (Flickr)

He went on to do a Masters degree in Environmental Biology and a PhD in Aquaculture. He subsequently joined the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) where he strived to develop aquaponic technology. At first his focus was on how he could use Tilapia to reuse water and nutrients, but his focus soon switched to vegetables and herbs. He and his research team built a model aquaponic system. This went on to produce 45kg of food in 4.5 months. They made further models and experimented to find the best method.

By 1999, they had perfected the technique and it was time to share their knowledge with the world. They launched a training program to teach 566 students from across the US as well as 56 other countries. Aquaponics popularity has grown and grown, but in developing countries it was still largely unheard of.

India is now starting to take notice, and at Aquaponics In India we hope to bring this incredible and highly sustainable food production technique into the mainstream.

5 Reasons You Need Aquaponics In Your Life – NOW!

By Aquaponics Team
Credit: Geoffrey Dudgeon (Flickr)

Aquaponics is…

1. 100% Organic

It is impossible for an aquaponics system to NOT be organic. Because of the re-circulating aquaculture, (the water from the plants is then pumped back into the fish), if chemical sprays have been used on the plants, the fish will die. As a result the crops and fish are completely pesticide and toxin-free. Even regular “organic” farmers are allowed to use certain permitted pesticides, but these would also kill our fish. SO aquaponics produce is better than organic! This is the most honest source of farming there is.

2. A Safe Food

Your pesticide, chemical, hormone and anti-biotic free crops and fish are a great source of healthy food for your family and community!

3. Sustainable

if you’ve made it to our website, you are probably already aware of how much trouble traditional farming is in. Did you know it is believed that an Indian farmer commits suicide every 30 minutes? Depleted and infertile soils combined with irregular weather means crops are often ruined, and the farmer makes no money. Aquaponics systems use no soil, needs only 3% of the water that traditional farming requires, and can produce a large amount of crops in a very small space (you can even have aquaponics systems in urban environments). This is very good news for the farmer.

4. Locally Grown

Food should be locally grown, don’t you think? Our mission is to implement as many aquaponics systems across India as possible… this means food doesn’t have to be carted around too much and can be enjoyed by local families and restaurants. This also makes it more environmentally friendly.

5. Therapeutic

Don’t think aquaponics can be therapeutic? This lady of ‘Happyponics’ certainly thinks it is! She says: “no matter what is stressing me I can just go out and listen to the water flowing, watch the fish swim, throw them some food, and yes watch the vegetables grow.” Also see this blog post: ‘You know you’re addicted to aquaponic gardening when…’

Aquaponics is fun, healthy for everyone and above all – get’s results!

The Importance Of Being Clean!

By Aquaponics Team
Credit: emilydickinsonridesabmx (Flickr)

At the risk of sounding like your mother, hygiene is pretty darn important. Keeping your aquaponics system clean is vital to its success as it will remain pest and disease free.

Successful aquaponics farmers keep their equipment and personnel clean at all times. Anything that is going to come into contact with the plants or fish need to be food-grade quality.

Once your aquaponics system is established, the sides of all of the tank walls will be covered with beneficial bacteria and will feel slimy. If you are OCD clean it may be tempting to scrub this off – don’t! This bacteria is the good kind so let it be.

It’s also worth remembering that fish are very sensitive to chemicals so any chemical cleaning agents are to be avoided.

General guidelines for aquaponic cleanliness:
- Keep all walkways free of debris, weeds and dirt
- Never touch your plants, fish or water without first thoroughly washing your hands
- Testing supplies and test kits are to be kept in a clean, dry place
- Fish food, seeds and other organic supplies are to be kept separately in an area that is clean and dry
- All plants are to be grown from seed
- Your aquaponics area should be an animal free zone – so no birds, rodents or even your pet dog should be allowed in!
- Fish from unknown origins must be avoided

Commercial farmers should have an effective bio-security program to maintain standards. Unlike field farming with its numerous problems and potential for contamination, an aquaponics greenhouse grower can manage the environment to avoid infection and have consistently healthy and abundant crops!

New to Aquaponics?

By Aquaponics Team
Credit: Aquaponiacs (You Tube)

Anyone new to aquaponics can be forgiven for being confused. What exactly is it? How does it work? Why is it worthwhile?

We stumbled across this video which we think illustrates perfectly how a successful aquaponics system functions. It is based on aquaponics in the US, but not very different to how we plan to do it in India.

Still hungry for more information? Check out Aquaponics Class 101.

Let us know what you think!

Aquaponics Class 101

By Aquaponics Team
Credit: Scrap Pile (Flickr)

Why should we attempt to spread aquaponics in India?

- In India, a farmer commits suicide every 30 minutes.
- Volatile weather conditions frequently ruin crop that a farmer has worked hard to achieve – meaning he not only has no profit, but is pushed into greater poverty
- Water and land are 2 precious resources needed for traditional agriculture – we don’t have enough of it

Credit: Scrap Pile (Flickr)

Credit: Scrap Pile (Flickr)

Why is aquaponics the solution?

Aquaponics farming uses approximately 2% of the water that conventional farming uses, and a greater crop can be yielded in a fraction of the land. Crops also grow at a much faster rate.

The emphasis is on the vegetables grown – this is the ‘cash crop’ so to speak, and the fish are the ‘fertilizer factories,’ although the fish can also be sold for food for additional income.

What exactly is it?

A combination of fish farming and hydroponics = aquaponics.

Hydroponics is the cultivation of plants without soil – using only water. The problem with this method is that in order to deliver the correct nutrients to the plants, artificial (and often costly) formula’s need to be added to the water.

However when we introduce fish, and use the ecofriendly ‘circulating aquaculture system,’ the waste from the fish tanks feeds the plants, providing them with all the nutrients they need. The plants then clean the water ready to go back to the fish.

So how exactly does it work?

The process starts with the fish. (many types of fish can be used – catfish, trout and tilapia being common choices) and a variety of breeds can be used together in one tank.

Credit: Kanu Hawaii (Flickr)

Credit: Kanu Hawaii (Flickr)

Once the fish are fed and release their waste, this then gets pumped to an intermediary tank – a ‘clarifier or settler’. This is where the mineralization of the waste takes place. This breaks down and releases nutrients to the water.

The water then moves to a biofilter which allows for ‘nitrification’ – a natural biological process. Amonia is released into the water – the natural bacteria present uses oxygen in an aerobic process that converts the ammonia to nitrite – then to nitrate.

This nutrient rich water is now ready to move to the plant beds.

There are numerous ways to organize the plants in the tanks. Perhaps the most common sees the plant balanced on Styrofoam rafts with the roots placed through a hole and immersed in the water. They soak up the nutrients they need, as well as filtering out the nitrogenous compounds that are toxic to the fish. The water then pumped back to the fish tanks.

The water is constantly recycled so the process is highly water conservative and green-friendly.

Things to remember

Access to water and a reliable electricity/energy source is required. This is needed to keep the fish tanks at the ideal temperature and run pumps to circulate water between plants. However, even if power is lost for a few hours, it is unlikely there will be any significant problems. There is far less maintenance and manual labor needed as compared to traditional farming, but regular observation is required, such as checking the PH balance of the water.

The many benefits

- This method 100% organic (if it wasn’t organic, the fish would die). This means we can guarantee we are creating organic vegetables and fish.
- We get two crops in one process – vegetables and fish
- The plants grow quicker than in traditional farming, allowing for greater turnover. For example, a lettuce can be grown to full size in about a month (3 months when grown traditionally).
- Farmers are able to grow exotic plants that may not be native to the region – meaning the product is ‘exclusive’ and farmers can charge more from buyers
- The controlled environment means the plants are less susceptible to disease and damaging weather elements, it also means a farmer benefits from a consistent crop all throughout the year
- All crops and varieties can be cultivated year round – not just seasonally.
- Fish do not carry pathogens such as E-Coli and salmonella that warm-blooded animals do
- Unlimited potential to grow high quality food from almost anywhere
- Plants can be spaced close together, meaning more plants (and therefore profit) can be grown
- It is a closed system so there is no evaporation, and the water doesn’t seep into the ground so there is little wastage. Therefore a farmer does not need to rely on rainfall.

Indeed, the only downside is the initial cost required to set up the system – however the profit potential should soon cover this.

Did you know?

Aquaponics is not new, but for some reason it has been long overlooked and forgotten.

The ancient Aztecs used a system of aquaponics with stationary floating islands called Chinampas where they manually collected waste from the fish in nearby canals to feed to plants.

Ancient Egyptians and Chinese are thought to have used aquaponics systems too, as well as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, all of which used a system of growing plants without soil, above fish.

We could be in worse company, hey?

Are Your Fish Living in TOXIC Water?!

By Aquaponics Team
Happy Fish

Some of us are not so science-savvy and don’t have the slightest clue about all this “make sure your water is balanced” and “pH level” talk, so I’m going to try my hardest (I’m not the best at science either) to explain what this all means. I’m pretty sure I remember learning about pH levels in 10th grade science, but that was kind of a long time ago so I had to refresh my memory and do a little bit of research. <br/
We do not own the rights to this image
So first things first: what is pH?
pH measures the activity of the (solvated) hydrogen ion. Pure water has a pH very close to 7 when it is at 25°C; solutions with a pH less than 7 are acidic and solutions with a pH greater than 7 are basic or alkaline. You want your pH levels in your aquaponics system to be balanced so you don’t harm your fish- many people keep their levels between 6 and 7. Measurements can be done with a glass electrode and a pH meter or using indicators.

How do the levels change?
Fish excrete ammonia in their waste and through their gills which is then converted into nitrite by one bacteria, followed by nitrate by another bacteria. Both of these bacteria will naturally come to flourish in this environment as long as ammonia is present. Once the ammonia and nitrite is converted, the nitrate is consumed by the plants in the system; this completes the process of removing what would be toxic ammonia produced by fish from the water in a way that benefits the plants. The water is recycled; the fish produce plant food and the plants produce clean fish water. Too much nitrate? If you find your nitrate levels are too high, the problem could be that you do not have enough plants in your system, or enough plants that are large enough to consume the nitrate. To lower the levels you can try the following: stop feeding the fish for a little while so the plants can catch up with the nitrate in the system or add more (large enough) plants. Also try adding some red worms to your system; the composting worms will break down accumulated waste quicker.

What levels of ammonia are too high?
Ammonia is very toxic; lethal concentrations at a pH of 6.5 are 0.73ppm (parts per million), while at a pH of 8.5 only 0.17ppm are considered lethal. Most fish can withstand ±40ppm of nitrate. You want to keep fish that are tolerant to high levels of nutrient, for example catfish or tilapia. Test your water regularly for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate and phosphate.

I hope this makes all the scientific talk a little bit less confusing for you, and you realize how important it is to keep an eye on your levels. You want a happy and healthy aquaponics system; you don’t want your fish living in a toxic environment!

Have you made any critical mistakes with your water levels, or do you have any more advice on balancing the levels?

Wormtastic Ways to Improve Your Aquaponics System

By Aquaponics Team
We do not own the rights to this image

Adding worms to your aquaponics system can be extremely beneficial. It is another completely organic way to get rid of waste and excess material that you do not want in your system. They will not harm your plants or your fish, they will simply improve your system.

You must choose worms that will survive in your aquaponics system; the most common type being Eisenia fetida also known as the red worm, red wiggler, branding worm, manure worm and tiger worm. You probably won’t find these little guys on your property; you’ll have to purchase them from somewhere else. Regular (soil and garden) earth worms cannot be used- they will die if added to an indoor worm bin.

Why add red worms to your aquaponics system?
Red worms will break down solid waste from the fish, excess roots and other materials that plants give off, and make them more bio-available to the plants through their excrement; this is called vermicompost. Media growers can avoid frequent cleaning and filtering by adding worms to their system; a 12” deep grow bed with a healthy population of worms will only need to be cleaned out about every five years. Worms can save you time and money! Researchers have found that vermicompost and the “tea” that results from soaking vermicompost in highly oxygenated water are very beneficial- they suppress plant disease including Pythium, Rhizoctonia, Plectosporium and Verticillium; and suppress plant insect pests including tomato hornworms, mealy bugs, spider mites and aphids (click here for our post on pests in your system).
Red worms love environments with high levels of moisture content, as well as areas with very rich organic matter – perfect for an aquaponics system.
Research has shown that vermicomposting can reduce the levels of pathogens in waste materials, as well as mitigate pathogens that affect humans. Who knew worms were so helpful?!

How many worms should you use?
Try and figure out how much waste you have and want to get rid of in your system. A reasonable guideline to follow is ¼-1/2 total worm weight in waste per day, so if you have a pound of worms they should be able to process roughly ¼-1/2lb of food waste per day. It is widely believed that a worm can process the equivalent to its weight in waste each day. 1 pound of composting worms consists of about 1000 individuals and can cost in between 15 and 40 USD.

Things to Remember

  • surface area is more important than depth for red worms
  • regular light is harmful to red worms, but red light is not
  • red worm eggs look like tiny straw-colored lemons
  • adding crushed egg shells can help stimulate worm production
  • this next one is very important: worms can bring diseases into your system. If you’re getting them from a source you’re not so sure about, such as Craigslist, be sure to clean them off before adding them to your system, and ensure that there’s nothing sticking to them (soil, etc.). The worms could be carrying bad bacteria, but once it passes through their system it will be completely safe. In order to purge their systems you can put them in wetted down corn meal for 24 hours and then wash them off.

To learn more about red worms, click here.

Though many of us aren’t exactly the biggest fans of the slimy little guys, there are plenty of benefits of welcoming them into your aquaponics system!

Do you use worms in your system? Have you noticed any changes- positive or negative?