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Ryan Lenz
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Locavores--may I suggest small scale organic hydroponics?  A small amount of electricity (to run an aquarium air pump) can create incredibly vigorous growth in very small space.  Hydro is one of those methods that can get out of hand very quickly, in terms of expense, complication, energy costs, etc., but the most simple method (deep water culture) is very elegant.  And you don't have to worry about weeding

Imagine:  Bucket, lid, water, organic nutrients/compost tea, an air pump/stone, and you're golden.  Soil?  Who needs it    When getting soil involves transportation via automobile, I think sometimes it makes sense to simply use water. 
 
Brenda Groth
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my hubby and I have looked at hydroponics from time to time but so far we haven't dived (pun intended) in...lousy grammer
 
Leah Sattler
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I tried to set up a small system once. of course like usual I used materials I had on hand and the maintenance of it was too much. it seemed like it would be really expensive to set it up right (well..... 'expensive' is relative) and difficult to grow much. indoor space was at a serious premium at my old house too and it was too pia for me. I like to plant and grow and visit things and tend to them when I have time. if someone had the time money and incliniation it could be a real fun project.
 
Brenda Groth
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yeah that is how it seemed to me, too hard and time consuming and I'm not even good at remembering to water houseplants..i need a system that allows some natural rain...that is why I do not do container plants outside, except a houseplant or two going outside..(to get rain so it will live)
 
Ryan Lenz
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I don't mean indoor hydroponics...that is definitely a high-energy way to grow anything (only the black-market can support that kind of cost!).  I mean basically an aerated, covered tub/pond of water with floating rafts of whatever on top of it.  The aeration is key (plants need oxygen!) and so is covering the vat--otherwise it becomes a murky, green mess.  But I still have yet to top the growth rate of a bathtub-grown head of lettuce--we're talking inch-a-day.  I knew I should have documented that....
 
Rebecca Dane
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Check out this hydroponic garden wall in Mexico!  Cool!
 
                                          
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Location: Ferndale, MI- Zone 5b
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i think that since the expansion of medical cannabis in so many states, hydroponic systems are increasingly cheap and increasingly easy to maintain.
 
Emerson White
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I really like hydroponics, I just can't figure out why other permies do to. It is the ultimate expression of the trend line in farming from traditional methods all the way up past the chemical boom of the 1940's. It's raising plants as far removed from nature as you can get, in what is a hopefully nearly lifeless medium of extremely accessible simple chemical fertilizers (doesn't matter if it came from urine or a fertilizer plant, urea is urea).

My one big complaint is that with hydroponics you don't actually get to improve any soil. I'm very fond of improving soil.
 
Rebecca Dane
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I would have to agree, and I would rather use soil as well.  However, this is an ALTERNATIVE, say if a person has no soil to work with.  a different way to indoor garden or on a cement patio in the city.
 
Abe Connally
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Yeah, I question the viability and sustainability of hydroponics and aquaponics systems.  I love them in theory, but it is rarely a "small amount of energy" to run a pump continuously or to make all the tubing and containers.  I have yet to find a way to make them cost effective in an off-grid situation.

Also, can soil-less produce be as healthy as soil-based produce?  What sort of trace minerals/symbiotic relationships are we missing out on when we eat from an artificial system?

I can't bring myself to invest much money in gardening, especially when the plants grow despite everything I do.  I can't justify the additional energy and pollution required to create a controlled system.

But that's me and my situation...
 
Tyler Ludens
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I think if one is in a situation where water tanks and storage of water is necessary anyway, using the water to grow food might be appropriate, as Murray Hallam points out - he feels aquaponics is appropriate in a dry place like Australia because it is such an efficient use of water compared to some other methods of food-growing.  (Not to say it is the MOST efficient use, just it may be more efficient than some.)    http://www.aquaponics.net.au/aqua1/
 
Abe Connally
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Yeah, I'm not sure it is a great saver of water, though.  If you compare aquaponics to say, square foot gardening or wicking beds, the water usage is about the same, or even higher do to evaporation in the aquaponics system.

So, I am not convinced on the water saving benefit.  Organic material stores water very well, and a bucket full of compost + water has less evaporation than water alone.

I worry more about lacking the natural and evolved relationships with fungi, soil microorganisms, trace minerals, and thousands of other effects that we don't even know about.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I think it might be more likely aquaponics could include more beneficial relationships than hydroponics.  Especially if additional creatures are added such as earthworms in the grow beds.

 
Emerson White
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Aquaponcs is a major water savings over regular fish farming.
 
Abe Connally
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Aquaponcs is a major water savings over regular fish farming.

How so?  And what form of regular fish farming are you comparing to?

Aquaponics definitely uses a lot more energy than traditional fish farming, so there might be a water savings/energy savings tradeoff there.
 
Emerson White
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I'm talking about the concrete tanks that they pump water through for growing fish like tilapia and catfish. You can grow phenomenal numbers of them in a little concrete box but you have to do a 30% water change every week. You also have to pump the water around. Aquaponics can't be done at quite that density but you don't throw the down the drain you just cycle it round again.
 
Abe Connally
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oh, I see.  I was thinking about a farm pond or traditional fish raising.

Why is the 30% change necessary?  Is it a filtering issue or dissolved O2 or what?  Would it be better to use that 30% flush for land crops (irrigation)?

Maybe fish farming at those densities is not such a good thing.  Putting in a biofilter (aquaponics) doesn't necessarily make it much better in my opinion.  It is still very energy intensive, and any time you are moving water around like that, evaporation is going to happen.
 
Emerson White
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It's mostly nitrate and dissolved organic compound (DOC) buildup. The water cannot handle an infinite amount of built up fish poo.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I'm not seeing any problem with aquaponics if the fish and plants are healthy.  Yes, it takes some energy but the return can be enormous on the energy invested compared to say plow farming or feedlots.  Evaporation is much less than typical industrial irrigated agriculture of vegetables.

I'm going to be experimenting with a system of aquaponics which does not use pumps.  Not sure this will work but it should in theory.  No way of knowing until I try it.

You might have seen this video posted here already, I think it shows a very efficient use of resources:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jV9CCxdkOng

Again if the plants and fish are healthy, I'm not seeing any drawbacks to this system.  Making sure micronutrients are provided is an issue but that might be an issue in one's garden as well.
 
                    
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It's a cool idea.....but who can survive on a bathtub of lettuce?  For growing crops that actually produce a significant number of calories, I don't see it as a realistic alternative to regular ol' soil.

The fish in aquaponics is a major harvest bonus, but how many fish can you eat out of a bathtub sized system?  Anything larger than a bathtub scale (and actually I like the idea of a couple bathtubs of growies - as a supplement to a regular garden) seems like it would start to require loads of time, knowledge, and energy to run specialized equipment. 

Outdoor systems are too sensitive to temperature swings to work in anything but the southern-most united states.  Or you add the energy of running a heater onto the energy of running a pump. 

I don't think that there are very many situations where there is a complete lack of access to soil (ok, maybe tokyo)  There are usually community gardens with available plots for those who look.

Obnoxious opinion alert -- but I'm going to type it anyway:

From what I've been able to observe about the kind of people who are really enthusiastic about indoor aquaponics, I think a major part of the appeal is definitely the lack of soil.....you can't get "dirty" if there's no dirt.  And killing a fish instead of something fluffy is way easier for a lot of people to handle.  I suspect these are the biggest appeals to sub/urban-types. 
 
Tyler Ludens
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I think aquaponics might work very well in an integrated system of greenhouse and living space in a northern climate.  For instance if it were included in the kind of systems Anna Eddey talks about in her book "Solviva."  Especially if one does not have much land.

http://www.solviva.com/designs_consulting.htm
 
Emerson White
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I'm not sure it works out to little energy when you consider the embodied energy of the food. You can easily hydroponically do tomatoes, strawberries, carrots, radishes, and peppers. All of them have decent calorie content.
 
Abe Connally
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Emerson - carrots and radishes are decent calorie producers (not great, but decent) but the rest of the veggies are not good sources of calories, they should be considered vitamin and mineral sources.

For calories, you need something that is not a fruit, like nuts, tubers, grains, etc. And I don't see those sorts of things being grown in a hydro or aquaponics system.

Peppers have very little calories, but tons of vitamins. Same with tomatoes.

 
Paula Edwards
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I want you see living on carrots. You'll starve. You need potatoes at least. But back to the system:
I don't like that there's no dirt and there might really be an issue with the lacking minerals. However, in big cities the soil might be heavily polluted or there is only a courtyard, or you rent then this system might be very good.
The interesting thing is that you can raise fish on a very small space. ( Is this type of fish yummy?)
I would like to have a system to raise the fish only and keep my veggies in the dirt.
Aquaponic is a very technical way of farming and you must  like this.
 
Tyler Ludens
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ediblescities, the idea behind aquaponics is the plants clean the water for the fish.  It's more difficult to grow fish just in a container with no plants because you have to change the water a lot to keep it fresh.  The idea is the plants and fish are mutually beneficial. 

http://www.aquaponics.net.au/aqua1/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=49:what-is-aquaponics&catid=47:aquaponic-basics&Itemid=58
 
Tyler Ludens
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As soon as I have something to show I will post a thread about my aquaponics project. 

 
Jordan Lowery
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aquaponics all the way, traditional hydro = waste of energy.
 
Emerson White
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velacreations wrote:
Emerson - carrots and radishes are decent calorie producers (not great, but decent) but the rest of the veggies are not good sources of calories, they should be considered vitamin and mineral sources.

For calories, you need something that is not a fruit, like nuts, tubers, grains, etc. And I don't see those sorts of things being grown in a hydro or aquaponics system.

Peppers have very little calories, but tons of vitamins. Same with tomatoes.


After they are out of season fruits and veggies aren't a good calorie source, but while they are producing they are just fine. There are legumes that you can grow aquaponically pretty quickly that I suppose could be dried and stored, maybe scarlet runner beans, because they also produce tubers. Squash can also be raised, butternuts and hubbards last for months.

On peppers and Toms, It depends on the variety as far as calorie content. The commercial varieties are all pretty bland, but some of the heirlooms have really high sugar content.

I suspect that perennials would be laying up a lot of your efforts as woody stalks and inedible biomass, but if you trail a vine out from a grow bed to a structure at a distance kiwi fruit might be a decent calorie pay out with out eating your bed space, and would in turn simply require a higher stocking density on the fish, and more of whatever you are feeding them.
 
Abe Connally
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sugar is empty calories, and even then, tomatoes and peppers are nothing compared to tubers and nuts.

You are going to need a lot of tomatoes to equal the same calories as a potato.
 
Emerson White
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Well sugar on it's own might be empty calories but when it's wrapped in vegetable that's no longer the case. Tomato's have much higher water content than roots and tubers and nuts and the like, but on a dry weight basis they are alright, and they are net calorie positive, and you can survive on them while they are producing. That was my point.
 
Abe Connally
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You might survive on them, but you won't thrive.

How many crops of tomatoes to be net calorie positive when you consider the calories that are in the containers, pumps, heaters, etc, and then the energy to run all of that?  I think it would be a lot of tomatoes.

18 calories for 100g of tomatoes
20 calories for 100g of squash
20 calories for 100g of peppers
42 calories for 100g of carrots
92 calories for 100g of potatoes
690 calories for 100g of pecans

If you need 2500 calories a day, you would need 13900 g (14kg) of tomatoes.  That's 30 lbs of tomatoes a day. That's also 5 times the amount of potatoes you would need.

 
Emerson White
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Game set and match. I concede the point.
 
                                  
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velacreations wrote:
sugar is empty calories, and even then, tomatoes and peppers are nothing compared to tubers and nuts.

You are going to need a lot of tomatoes to equal the same calories as a potato.


I'm sure this discussion has been had elsewhere in this forum, but man does not live on bread/potatoes/nuts/x alone. I like tomatoes. Tomatoes are a very versatile food and can greatly improve the variety and palatibility of more "efficient" diets. Since very few people are going to just grow potatoes and nuts, your point is true but not really that relevant.

It's an extra bonus that tomatoes are perhaps the produce that is most improved in taste and perceived quality by home growing over storebought, are very productive (produce/area), and can be preserved in many ways. They also thrive in aquaponic systems.

The way i see it, a small aquaponics setup can provide some luxury foods that greatly enhance a diet in a very small space by taking some permie principles and adding a few teaspoons of indulgence that most people are going to want, anyway.

With that said...
The main drawback of aquaponics in most parts of US is that there aren't any species of fish suited for low-input operation (meaning no need to restock or buy/prepare high-protein feed) to get reasonable production of edible fish. After a lot of study about the process, i concluded that the only setup that i would consider worthwhile would be one that uses tilapia.

Tilapia are almost perfect, really: they are omnivorous but do best on algae and high protein vegetable matter, they breed and defend their young around the calendar, they grow to a nice size for fileting or just preparing for the plate, they are very efficient at converting feed to edible mass, and they are very lean, tasty, and good for you when raised on greens. You could grow duckweed for feed in a shallow pool that you fertilize with your urine (duckweed is said to be able to use the urea or ammonia directly), thus providing almost the perfect protein content for optimal growth, and supplement with mulberry leaves and scraps. For those who can't or won't raise chickens, tilapia can in many ways fill a similar niche.

The main drawback is that tilapia perish at 50F and need 70F or better to thrive. That means that a little aquaponics setup in a small heated greenhouse providing other "luxury" foods makes a lot of sense (the aquaponics grow bed could provide ideal growing conditions for your luxury plants), and they could also do well in southern Florida (where they have actually naturalized in the canals... but i wouldn't think eating those would be a good idea).
 
Tyler Ludens
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Pouletic wrote:

The main drawback of aquaponics in most parts of US is that there aren't any species of fish suited for low-input operation (meaning no need to restock or buy/prepare high-protein feed) to get reasonable production of edible fish. After a lot of study about the process, i concluded that the only setup that i would consider worthwhile would be one that uses tilapia.


How do you feel about Bluegill?  Feed could be homegrown earthworms and black soldier fly larvae, which are easy to raise at home (they raise themselves, basically).

I like your point about aquaponics being worthwhile for luxury food items one might like to supplement a basic diet.  That's my plan for it. 

 
                                  
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Ludi Ludi wrote:
How do you feel about Bluegill?  Feed could be homegrown earthworms and black soldier fly larvae, which are easy to raise at home (they raise themselves, basically).


I have to say i'm not familiar with bluegill. Where i grew up (and fished), rainbow and brown trout were the catch and carp was the bycatch. I do hear that bluegill are slower growers than tilapia but i haven't investigated them as an option. My preference is to a fish that doesn't depend on a steady supply of worm or maggots, thus removing one step of potential for me to screw up. BSF colonies aren't likely to be successful in the more northern parts of the US.

Unfortunately, in my current location in Boston, i haven't been able to actually implement any aquaponics system yet. I hope to move soon to somewhere with more space and a more amenable climate to try out some of my theories.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Thanks for your thoughts.    I guess one has to weigh the difficulty of keeping the Tilapia at the proper warm temperature versus the difficulty of providing food for a carnivorous fish.  I'm looking at Bluegill because they live in both warm and cold water, and will breed in captivity.  My other choice was Channel Catfish but they are hard to breed in captivity.  Neither of these grows as fast as Tilapia, to my knowledge.
 
                                  
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Ludi Ludi wrote:I guess one has to weigh the difficulty of keeping the Tilapia at the proper warm temperature versus the difficulty of providing food for a carnivorous fish.  I'm looking at Bluegill because they live in both warm and cold water, and will breed in captivity. 


Oh, i agree completely. I am going to look into bluegill more to see if there are any other issues i missed just to be better informed. My own design decisions are motivated by the plan to either live in southern Florida or have a small hothouse for tropicals.

I only had catfish once and didn't care for it. If it was self-perpetuating in captivity i would probably give it another go.

This site has a forum with a lot of useful discussion of aquaponics. Plus, most of the posters are from the land down under, and thus use entertaining idioms.
http://www.backyardaquaponics.com
 
Tyler Ludens
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I think a greenhouse integrated into the living space, with tropical edible plants and aquaponics would be about the perfect thing for a cold climate.  A mini-paradise! 
 
Emerson White
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Oh it takes so much to heat a greenhouse though.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Emerson White wrote:
Oh it takes so much to heat a greenhouse though.


That might be an issue, but Anna Edey seemed to be able to heat hers with a combination of animals and wood heat.  If it were part of the house, the heating could be augmented with wood heat for the house (since one might not want animals like chickens and sheep in the house).

I can't find a link to anything specifically about the greenhouse and house she actually built, but here's a link mentioning some of her ideas:  http://www.solviva.com/Greyburg_Greendale.htm

 
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