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Podcast 120 - Aquaculture and Aquaponics

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Credit: Brian Walker

Paul and Jocelyn acknowledge an enthusiastic listener’s generosity with a spontaneous response to his email questions: First he requests more on podcast #111’s discussion of loneliness and integrity, and second, he asks for general advice on small-scale aquaculture.

Beginning with a look at dysfunctional group mentality, Paul cites the “evil banana” anecdote, wherein five gorillas in a room are collectively punished by drenching with a firehose whenever one of them attempts to procure a particular banana until no further attempts are dared. Successively, each original gorilla is substituted for a new one, and each is, in turn, ritualistically discouraged from attempting to procure the banana. This continues until no gorilla remains that had experienced the firehose, yet all participate in the ritual discouragement against the banana. The social implications are that, once ritual has set in, people neither know nor care why they discourage certain behaviors that may have once been healthy, and that things will only improve once the firehose has been exposed and understood.

Continuing with an example of highly functional group mentality, Paul recounts the implementation of “pair programming” in software design: A team of otherwise opinionated and contentious individuals is divided into pairs, each of which has a “driver” and a “partner.” The driver is exclusively responsible for decision-making and strategy, while the partner is limited to be his/her assistant. At regular time intervals, the people in a pair trade roles and after longer intervals, individuals rotate between different pairs. Initially, people are resentful of the burden of forced collaboration, but after time, everyone is able to experience first-hand the successes and failures of everyone else, resolution of problems is equally accessible to everyone, useful knowledge is distributed evenly and collectively understood and team-productivity accelerates rapidly.

While the firehose represents a tyrannical law that foments irrational behavior and poor communication, the paired-programming solution represents a rational law implemented to prevent contention and improve productivity. Paul adds that in any community, when standards of success, (succinctness in coding in programming communities, for example), are clear and collectively known between members of a structured collaboration, sub-standard work becomes an immediate opportunity for personal growth when corrected according to such standards. This is a real-world example of how consensus can occur naturally in a community through social structures designed not to resolve conflict, but to minimize it.

Continuing to the subject of aquaculture, Paul and Jocelyn distinguish aquaponics from aquaculture. While the former is a maintenance-based system of synthetic environments for raising fish, often with symbiotic biology added to simulate portions of natural systems but with unnaturally high densities of certain species, the latter is a study in low-maintenance ecological mimicry of ideal habitats for fish and their prey. As an example of aquaculture, Paul and Jocelyn offer several practical strategies for raising trout:

Dig a deep pond for the trout with a “finger” of increasingly shallow water radiating from the pond on countour. Thus, a cold-water trout habitat, and a gradually warmer habitat for a variety of other life, including trout food and its descending food chains, is created. Running water inlets aerate water, bringing oxygen and ecological vitality. Use stones in the bottoms of ponds to provide thermal inertia. Toss in woody materials like tree stumps generously to provide hiding places for all residents against predators, reducing stress and increasing diversity. Plant trees for shade around cold water habitats, but plant no trees or other deep-rooting plants on earthen dams, which may beperforated by roots, leak and collapse. Ensure culverts or drains are buried deeply enough to avoid frost heave and subsequent raising of water levels and dam stress.

Paul reminds us that the best way to get thorough responses to listener questions is to post them in the tinkering forum.

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