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Can aquaponics really be permaculture?  RSS feed

 
Stephen Cross
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Location: Sunny Valley, Oregon
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On this cool first day of October, I am sitting inside planning the interior of my passive solar green house and trying to justify (and heat) an aquaponics set up for raising talapia in Southern Oregon (Northern Jefferson). I need to state first that I hate the cheap throw away culture represented by plastic IBC totes. I was very fortunate to spend a summer working in Europe during my college years and really appreciate the way the farms were built to last many generations; stone fences, timberframe barns etc. It seems to me that a plastered tank would increase the thermal mass in the greenhouse and provide some thermal inertia necessary for stable water temperatures.
The question then becomes how to heat the water? I am planning to sink the green house 4 feet into the earth to take advantage of the mean average temperature here of 56 degrees. Talapia thrive 70 to 85 dgrees. I've seen Paul's video on rocket mass heaters in green houses since 2010. (still waiting to see how the build turned out and get performance data..)
My problem isn't extreme cold or deep snow, it is days with no sunshine.
More to the point.. it seems to me that hot compost is a more permie solution. You get long steady heat with little input once it is started, you get great weed seed free compost.
Aquaponics require pumps to circulate water and pump air to raise the O2 in the fish tank. I can see a solar panel working in the summer, and even running a swamp cooler, but what about the winter? We do not have reliable wind here, possibly micro hydro.
Any thoughts? Anyone done something similar?
 
David Livingston
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I must admit that too me the whole exersize has too many imputs vs too little return .
If I wanted fish ( and may be frogs as I live in france ) I would go with carp and an out door pond system .
 
Marcus Billings
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Hi Stephen,

My brother is getting into this tilapia/aquaponic thing and I've spoke with him many times about it.  I just can't get past the fact that it seems overly complex, and as said in David's post, the inputs versus the return on investment seem very low.  There's all the pump's and heating, etc.  It reminds me of something I heard someone say about deciding which species to plant in a food forest, the quote was something like "if you modify conditions enough, you can plant a lemon tree in the Rockies, but why would you?".  Using species, animal or plant, that are more adjusted to your geographic area just seems a better idea, to me any way.  It just seems like we're fighting "against" nature when we do some of these things. 

At one point I bred different varieties of tree frogs from around the world. All of them had to have their own special vivarium that was adjusted for humidity, temperature, and lighting, and although the energy output was relatively small, the complexity of the systems made the potential for a fatal error very real.  I see parallels in aquaponics in cold regions.  First, let me say I know that there are people in warmer climes that are doing great with aquaponics without supplemental heating.  But even most of those have a dependence on electricity that could potentially become a problem.  I'm sure there are systems that use solar and work very well, but I have not seen them.  There's always seems to be a fair amount of grid electricity being used.  When I asked my brother about this, he said that he was installing a back-up generator, to which I asked, "What happens if the grid goes away forever, or what if the cost of electricity goes up as resources become scarce?"He didn't have any enlightening answers.  Also, it seems that to raise large amounts of fish, you would need large amounts of food?  I think there are just too many natural laws at work here that keep this system from being sustainable.  

If I was to undertake this, I would try to develop pond/lake systems that take care of themselves, with fish that thrive in my area.  I've sort of done this with the ponds I have built.  I can fish them most of the time and the bass, bluegill, and crappie are very tasty.  Yes, you get less fish, but the inputs over time are much less. 

I haven't seen any traditional aquaponics systems that meet my definition of permaculture. Just my thoughts on this topic.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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There probably are ways to do it, permaculturally, but I can't come up with a sure fire trick that would work everywhere.  There is the heating and then there is the pumping.  You might be able to use a compost system to heat your pond system.  You might be able to use a solar panel to pump your water.  it would depend on your situation.  At my place, I would consider maybe a gravity feed system that runs creek water into a large compost system thus heating the water and at the same time dumping the water into a hot tank that cools slightly and drops it into the fish tank, the overflow from the fish pond going into aquatic plant tanks and then outside into other systems.  Feeding the fish might not be too big a problem permaculture style:  Black Soldier Fly, Compost Worms, meal worms...  there are options.
 
Todd Parr
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I researched it quite a bit at one point but couldn't figure out a way it made sense in this climate.  There are plenty of animals that can be raised for food here more productively than fish. 
 
Michael Jay Anthony
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using a wind powered kinetic water heater in addition to a solar hot water heater, and hot water storage, could make for a more all around efficient and reliable system. i wouldn't depend entirely on either. rocket mass heaters are popular on this forum as well. those could just as well be used, although youl of course want to be carefull putting too much weight ontop of any underground heating ducts.
 
Cody DeBaun
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I doubt there is a way to make aquaponics work everywhere, and if there is it probably involves negating natural forces instead of working with them (which, in my view, isn't very permaculture).

I don't think that means that aquaponics can't have a place.

As someone mentioned aquaponics does much better in warmer climates, but it can certainly work in cooler climates. One thing that would be helpful would be to raise a fish more suited to your climate. Trout is the classic example of a cold system fish, but there are certainly others.

Will Allen's aquaponic operation Growing Power does very well through the winter raising tilapia in Wisconin. I believe he uses waste oil from local restaurants in heaters to heat the water and greenhouse, as well as compost heaps in the greenhouse. He uses already existing flows in the system he is part of (the economy of the Milwaukee area) to generate heat for his operation. I think adding worm/BSF/other detritivore systems to also incorporate those restaurant's food waste would be even better.

I like aquaponics as a permaculture solution, in part because it is intensive: I feel it's a very appropriate technology for the massive waste streams in our society. I think even if it would be unsustainable in a completely off grid situation, it is still very valuable for the situation so many of us are in. A well designed permaculture system takes into account the forces at play in their time and place, and that includes society and economy as much as sunlight and rainfall. A system that takes misused waste from a poorly designed system and produces food, compost and soil amendment in an efficient manner is in my mind very permaculture.

Maybe we should call aquaponics (and systems like it) 'permaculture transition technologies', or something like that.

 
Dale Hodgins
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I am often amazed at the quantity of plastics and other man-made materials, and reliance on electrically powered pumps and heaters. It doesn't have to be this way. Lower stocking rates and stocking appropriate species for the climate, can make aquaponics practical for anyone who has water. Of course, I call it a aquaponics, if any attempt is made to use fish waste in agriculture. This might mean cleaning out the pond with a trash pump every few months, and squirting it where plants are growing or are going to grow.
 
Dado Scooter
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In terms of defining aquaponics as a permaculture techniques, I agree with most of the posts.  I liked the idea of aquaponics, and have watched the Will Allen's YouTube on Growing Power.  I have a feeling that it's not something that is in the "scalable" definition because a bigger system might work better than a home scale system just by ease of keeping a larger mass of water at proper temperatures than a smaller mass of water.  Yes, too many inputs and too much plastic for my taste too.  I haven't even built my chicken coop yet, and I think chickens would add more to the permaculture system than an aquaponics system with less effort.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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There probably are ways to do it, permaculturally, but I can't come up with a sure fire trick that would work everywhere.  There is the heating and then there is the pumping.  You might be able to use a compost system to heat your pond system.  You might be able to use a solar panel to pump your water.  it would depend on your situation.  At my place, I would consider maybe a gravity feed system that runs creek water into a large compost system thus heating the water and at the same time dumping the water into a hot tank that cools slightly and drops it into the fish tank, the overflow from the fish pond going into aquatic plant tanks and then outside into other systems.  Feeding the fish might not be too big a problem permaculture style:  Black Soldier Fly, Compost Worms, meal worms...  there are options.


I think Roberto is onto something; flow through, instead of or alongside recirculation, could make things much easier. If plants are expected to get all their nutrients from the fish, and the fish are expected to get all their filtration from the plants, things get quite complicated and difficult to keep within the right parameters. Instead, if you have an outside growing area, use the waste water from the fish tank to irrigate them. The plants in the grow bed will still provide some filtration, and, more importantly, biofitration in the gravel to perform nitrogen conversions. Provide supplemental fertilization to the plants.

Of course, in a situation where water is extremely limited, or ground space is in extremely short supply, total closed system aquaponics might make sense. But the first condition does not apply if there is any irrigation happening elsewhere on the property that fish tank water can displace, and the second condition only occurs in dense inner cities.
 
paul wheaton
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This falls squarely into the space of "there are many schools of thought under the permaculture umbrella."

I, me, myself, just for my own gobble-dy-gook ....   prefer a flavor of aquaculture like what sepp holzer does over aquaponics.   But that's just me.  We created this "aquaponics" forum to facilitate those folks that are not me and their permaculture master plan includes aquaponics.

So, to answer the question "Can aquaponics really be permaculture?"  the answer is YES! Mostly because it has the word "can".

If the question was "Is aquaponics part of permaculture?" the answer would still be "yes" because for some folks it most definitely is. 

Clearly, aquaponics is not part of every permaculture design.   And I, for one, probably will not use aquaponics in my designs, but ....   I did used to have an aquarium once and I could see doing that again - and I could even see spiffing it out a bit to smell a bit more like aquaponics ...

 
Pearl Sutton
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Good topic!! My personal opinion is of the "find local fish" camp.

Something for the OP to consider: If you use rock etc sunk in the ground as thermal mass, it will take any heat you supply and put it into the surrounding earth. Which is not a serious problem in the long run, but in the short run, it is. My last house had 2 foot thick rock and concrete walls inside and out. It took three days of good solid heat to get the interior walls up to temperature, but then they would hold. The exterior walls would never hold well, the mass held for a bit, but the lack of insulation always moved the heat outside. I had plants outside on the exterior walls that loved it, but the comfort level of the inside of the house near those walls was a different issue.

So assume that when you bring that high thermal mass (sunk into the ground that wants to be 55 degrees) up to temperature, that you are also going to have to heat the surrounding soil and it will still lose heat to the soil that surrounds that. Not a problem in the long run, once you get it all up, it will hold a long time, but how hot for how long do you have to hold it to get it to stabilize? And what will your fish think of the process? How much soil you'd have to heat is dependent on soil type, and moisture levels etc, and I have no clue how to math it, but it's something to think on. You are fighting a good solid thermal mass (the earth) that wants badly to be 55 degrees...

I'd say WONDERFUL idea, but find a fish that likes 55F  and likes being in a pond
And tell us if you do, I'm probably not the only one who'd like to skim this idea off you :D

 
Kristal Cravener
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Check out Glenn Martinez from Olomana Gardens in Hawaii. He uses a single air pump to pump his water 20-30 feet in the air to his ponds and aquaponics systems.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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You can do aquaponics in ponds almost the same as you can do this method in tanks. The large setups usually have permanent (concrete or fiberglass) tanks with row after row of vegetables growing from each tank, this makes it viable for a production end.
I like the pond set ups since they would allow you to use a bicycle powered pump when needed and other than that the inputs by humans is practically nil.

Pond set ups also allow you to do a  pay to fish operation should you choose to do so, give you more fish species latitude and can even be used as water storage units. That makes the pond system sustainable and permanent agriculture.
 
Marty Mitchell
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I currently have my second small Aquaponic system going right now.

I see Aquaponics as nothing more than one tool in my kit to get me where I want to be.

These systems are great when used at the right place and time and the right way. The water in these systems has a great thermal mass and the larger the more stable. They are a complicated tool but very easy once you understand them. Like reading for instance. It just comes naturally after a while.

Build your first system small and simple to learn from and keep it. Use it later for experiments so you only mess up small. Little details will make the maintenance, reliability, and function greater.

Either local fish species or species that could become local (invade) are they way to go. Omnivorous fish are easier to feed if looking to produce it locally. I am going with simple goldfish and koi for this reason. They can overwinter under ice and are good up to around 95 degrees F. Not harvesting fish will ease my learning curve and help keep the nutrients more constant as I learn. If you harvest too many fish or plants the nutrients can swing one way or the other if the stocking density is high.

You are basically and literally growing food in compost tea.

For every 1 square meter of plants you want to feed about 60 to 100mg of feed per day to not add supplements. HOWEVER, you can go down to 13mg of feed per day and be able to keep the nitrates high enough. Just have to use gravel media and no filtering or swirl tanks so nothing is wasted. You can even brew compost tea and introduce it to the water! Sustainable.

Figure how many plants you want to grow and design your system from there.

Also, as a tip to save on the power bill(besides not having to heat the water due to having local fish)... a Bell siphon has a specific water flow to function properly. So a bed the size of a football field or a 50gal Rubbermaid Stock tank will need the same amount of water flow to function.

My 25W "ponics pump" can operate 3 to 4 bell syphons at a 3 - 4ft head height with the mods I made. It costs $21 a year (24/7) to operate here in Mobile Alabama. Learn it on the grid first and then go off grid later. That also adds a massive expense and complication. Totally doable though. My first system ran the same water flow on a 15W 12VDC pricy water pump... a large single deep cycle battery... and a 100W solar panel with a 10A charge controller. The deep cycle battery could run the pump for 3 days with clouds be for the battery died. Just took a few hours of sun to reset the clock. Would need a larger panel in your area.

Marty
 
Robbie Love
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Paul's response seems to most astutely answer the main question.

Seems Permaculture is a system for design based in ethics. Seems it's open to interpretation. Seems there are plenty of people who include aquaponics in their interpretation (especially in warmer climes).

As to the fine tuning, I have seen a few systems here in Wisconsin, Growing Power included, and I've yet to see anybody running a system that balances inputs and outputs. There are some VERY impressive systems. The most impressive I've seen was at the Montessori school in BayView, Mikwaukee, WI. That said, it is an education tool, and even its designer believes it isn't scaled to an economically viable size (energetic inputs and outputs aside...they are grid tied). In short, they are all education tools (the systems I've seen). This isn't to downplay them- they are fantastic teaching tools- showing a "closed loop" system in one room, one with which students can interact is super powerful. It can change the whole paradigm of thought. They just aren't viable food production systems as far as energy input/outputs are concerned (in this climate). I'd also like to say that the system at Growing Power has some significant issues. It is SUPER cool, and is the system that turned me on to aquaponics, but it's not a poster child for a viable temperate system in my eyes.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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The place that impresses me the most about the viability of aquaponics is Australia, many people living off grid there have created systems that are very sustainable and grow a majority of their food including fish and shrimp for higher protein availability for these "out back" folks.

In the US there are several commercial setups growing a decent variety of fish species, tilapia seems to be the species most of these companies start with.
 
S. G. Botsford
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Thoughts:

1.  A plaster tank is much harder to keep clean, keep sealed, etc.  Commercially indoor fish culture uses 3-4 foot high 12-16 foot across polyethylene tanks.  Easy to clean, and they will last for decades.

2.  A tank of water takes a long time to change temperature.  A tank of 4 x 16 has roughly 750 cubic feet, 45,000 pounds of water. To change the water temp by 1 degree takes 45,000 BTU.

Sunlight runs about 1000 W/m2 or about 100W/ft2.  That's about 2000 BTU/ft2/day.   A greenhouse 20x20 is 400 ft2 = 80,000 btu/day running through this.  So in theory if you were able to get all of the heat in the room into the tank you could raise the temp by 2 degrees a day.

3.  The exposed surface of the tank is roughly 250 square feet of water on the top, and 200 square feet for the sides.  (If you are wondering, I'm using pi = 3 for this rough work)  If we treat this as an R1 surface (good approximation for the layer of still air next to the surface) then when the greenhouse is 20 degrees different from the tank, you have 20 * 450 = 9000 BTU/hour.  It takes 5 hours of 20 degree difference to change the temp of the fish tank by 1 degree.    In practice you try to keep a greenhouse with a day/night fluctuation of about 10 degrees.  Which means about 10 hours per degree change.  Putting R4 insulation on the tank walls will drop the heat loss by about 40% (the 4's are coincidental)

This is only a back of hte envelope calc.  You don't fill tanks up to the brim.  My guess for the tank size is just a guess.  I've ignored evaporation off the surface of the water which will cool the water.  I think I have over estimated the heat flux coupling between the tank and the space, and the actual temp flux will be smaller than this.

Sanity check:  Once you have a greenhouse, take a 55 gallon plastic barrel, cut the end of it off, fill it with water and monitor the temperature.  Cheap test to see if the tank temp fluctuates.

4. Pilot plant:  Instead of buying an expensive hard to get rid of if it doesn't work plastic tank, use one of these inflatable back yard pools.  Make your mistakes cheaply.

5.  Usually with greenhouses the problem isn't heating them, but cooling them.

6.  Fish don't need light.  Why is the tank in the green house?  Why not a well insulated shed? 

7.  Why tilapia?  This is a subtropical fish.  Consider an outdoor pond. You can get a track hoe with operator for a couple thousand a day.    In a day, a good operator can make a pretty big dugout.  You'll need  cat to spread the dirt.  They're cheaper, but you will probably need 2 days of cat work for each day of trackhoe work.  (A big trackhoe has a 2 cubic yard bucket, and can move 10 to 15 bucket loads a minute.  A 6000 cubic yard dugout is about 1.2 million gallons.  Grow bass or trout, perch, or sunfish.  Plant edible aquatic vegetation on the margin:  cattail is the only one I know.
 
Wes Hunter
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Just thinking out loud here.

Perhaps seasonality could or should play a role.  Raise tilapia during the warm growing season, when extra heat is unnecessary.  Either take the cool season off, or grow something that likes cold water (such as trout, though if I'm not mistaken they require even more oxygen/moving water).  Of course, this is all dependent on grow-out periods of various species.

Around here, the Amish use windmills to pump water into large (thousands of gallons) above-ground cisterns.  Perhaps you could do something similar, gravity feeding the water from the cistern down through the system, where it is filtered and pumped back up.  These windmills don't move quickly, and seem to pump slowly (hence the particularly large cisterns), so it seems strong steady winds are less important.
 
Marty Mitchell
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In the mini 6' x 8' greenhouse my first system  was installed in the greenhouse temps would go from say 50s in the morning to upper 70s by the time the sun set. Before adding the thermal mass of all the gravel and water the greenhouse would start off in say the 30s and hit the upper 90s within an hour or two of sunrise. So the added thermal mass will both heat and cool the greenhouse in a way. That was my first system that was poorly designed too.

Be sure to go around 200 to 300 gallon or more for more temp stable water. The fish prefer to feel protected/covered so you can mostly cover the tank with grow beds so as to not waste that valuable space.

Raising the beds is easier on your back and enables growing vertical easier... by just growing down.

Marty
 
stephen lowe
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It occurs to me that most people are responding to the question with the notion that the system will be used in a rural or off grid situation.  However in an urban setting aquaponics would seem to really find it's stride permaculturally. You could recycle/scrap together most of the materials for a home system and commercial systems could make good use of the existing resources (grid power, commercial structures, larger and wealthier market for outputs, etc...) to make a more resilient urban system. For most people on this forum I'd imagine aquaponics in the more technical sense (self contained, recirculating, run by pumps) won't ever hold much appeal beyond a hobby type thing like Paul mentioned, a fancy fish tank that also makes you basil. But I think that it could be a great way to add resiliency to urban systems as it benefits greatly from economies of scale that would never make sense on a homestead.

One other note, I have a friend that runs a small aquaponics consulting business and keeps a minimal maintenance system in his back yard. He only raises Koi. They are super cold hardy and require no heated water here in zone 9b, and they sell for a much better price than any realistic food species you would grow. It helps to have a large Asian population nearby because they tend to value them the most. Less permie in some ways, more permie in others (if the Koi sales pay for all the inputs then all of the produce is profit!). Another note about his system, it has been running continualy uncovered outside for 6 years and the original foam matt has been entirely consumed by a massive root mass that has begun to gather detritus and build soil and there are now earthworms and these gameris shrimp that appeared without human introduction along with a couple other macroarthropods that we haven't identified. Pretty neat.
 
Maxime Thiffault
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I wanted to try aquaponics and i read a lot and watch videos on how to setup and maintain etc.
It seem tricky to start and make it run by itself but you have to deal with two system: plants and fishes.

I watched videos at the Home Grown Food Summit and one of those was James Fry talking about permaponics.
I understand it can also be called bioponics and does not need fishes for inputs.

Here is a video about it not by James Fry but he compared hydroponics, aquaponics and bioponics.


 
Roberto pokachinni
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It occurs to me that most people are responding to the question with the notion that the system will be used in a rural or off grid situation.
I can conceive of a system that, like Sepp's, looks more like aquaculture than aquaponics, but has some characteristics of the latter and could certainly be called aquaponics.   Since Aquaponics can be broken down to hydroponics and aquaculture combined, and hydroponics can simply be defined as growing plants in nutrient rich water, there is no reason that aquaponics need be constrained to systems which involve high tech pumps, plastics, or grid electricity, which seem to be things that permaculturalists might want to minimize if they plan to follow the ethics. 

The way that I conceive of that is through chinampas, through wild rice, through cattails,through horsetails, through mint, through comfrey, through yarrow, through nettles, while involving ducks, geese, goldfish, trout, crayfish, clams, and snails---perhaps many other species.  The entire system could be run with a single windmill, and it would require very little inputs once it was established. 

Even without a windmill, since I am lucky enough to have a small gravity creek, I could trickle gravity feed (so as not to be much of a drain on the small creek at all) the whole system starting in a pond that has a toilet style float valve that flush releases a certain amount down the monk once the pond is full without fully draining it.  The rush of water would go into the fish ponds, blasting off rocks to dissipate the energy a bit, and then pulse through the system, over waterfalls between ponds and eventually ending in a cattail chinampa swamp.  The last cattails would then be harvested for compost/biomass/mulch and carted to the uphill chinampa systems, returning the nutrient surplus, or used to mulch an area that is growing rocket stove fuel.  At this point, a windmill could bring the water back up to the trickle pond, or the cattail filtered water could go back to the creek, or be feeding into a willow and birch area for crafts, or rocket stove fuel.  Part of the system could run through a shallow warm duck pond before entering a chinampa hydroponic area with large stones, and large berms  which create a microclimate allowing for cucumbers and tomatoes and peppers to be grown outdoors in zone 3.  So that's not only off grid, there's no power at all.

This system would not need high energy inputs, would fit the category of aquaponics without the heavy use of plastics and /or reliance on too much modern tech or urban "civilization".  Even the pipes could be made of wood, and yet I think that aquaponics, in this regard would quite 'hit it's stride' permaculturally without missing a beat, ethically.

However in an urban setting aquaponics would seem to really find it's stride permaculturally. You could recycle/scrap together most of the materials for a home system and commercial systems could make good use of the existing resources (grid power, commercial structures, larger and wealthier market for outputs, etc...) to make a more resilient urban system. For most people on this forum I'd imagine aquaponics in the more technical sense (self contained, recirculating, run by pumps) won't ever hold much appeal beyond a hobby type thing


While there is potential for urban permaculture to utilize the existing tech, the grid power, the waste streams, the endless alley scavenging for bits, I find those thoughts do not go far in my mind permaculturally thinking that is.  While these potentials might be great for now, and for this current epoch of great extravagant waste and heavy reliance on extracting resources, I would hope that all of that at some point soon goes by the wayside itself, for the sake of the planet... and then what? Where does all of that stuff come from?

Certainly grid power is not going to reduce in price, and all of the plastics and tech are not cheap on the budget or the planet, especially if none of it is coming from the waste stream anymore.  While I might be able to dream up an urban aquaponic system that does not lean too heavy on the planet, these systems at this time tend to do just that.  Perhaps there is some balance to be struck... some deal with the devil so to speak...  in order to do more good than harm, by producing such a vast quantity of food in a small area that it is worth the damage to the planet, but it seems to me to be a kind of catch 22, where we make excuses for our use of such products because we are aiming for the greater good, but who decides what's ethical? ---> Care For The Earth.  Time will tell if this is the case.  

Another reason is that the urban system is one that will be hit the hardest any time there is a crisis (be it economic, epidemic, or natural catastrophic), and with that, all of those flows of energy cease, or become very suddenly scarce, or they potentially become commodities of people who choose power over generosity be they corporations or warlord thugs. 

While the dream of creating ecological cities might pop up in my mind from time to time, I find upon further meditation that these places contain too many people moving in that direction which extracts, exploits, and otherwise does not connect with the Earth; and they are doing so completely unconsciously.    We might be able to raise this consciousness, but to do so while relying on the excess wasteful culture for it's energy and waste streams seems to me to be somewhat contradicting in itself, and not a long term strategy. Permaculture= Permanent + Culture.  Even without this intense culture of global scale exploitation, all civilizations have collapsed.  There's probably a reason for this. 

Anyway, it's not that I would ever think badly of someone who is utilizing the waste streams (I do so myself, often:: bio-deisel, pallets, waste lumber, plastics, steel, a broken down refridgerated semi truck trailer...so yeah... I'm a hypocrite) or small scale appropriate tech, or who is trying to do urban permaculture, or who are choosing to be there to make a difference, or who is building a aquaponic system in the city to try to turn the loops back in on themselves while producing food...  Far from it, but in the end, if even half of the people in the city decided they wanted to build a high tech recirculating aquaponic system, think of how scarce the products would be, and how prohibitively expensive, and how much of a drain on the resources of the planet there would be.  The way I see it, it is-and only will be-sustainable on the small scale for any amount of time, unless there is a massive paradigm shift in the established culture, such as has happened in Holland with it's agricultural greenhouse industry, and even then, what happens to all that stuff as it breaks down over time, like say a thousand or two years from now?       

To each his or her own, but I prefer to dream of decentralizing the cities, building an organic society, and re-inhabiting the countryside while reinvigorating small local economies in a permacultural ethical rural utopia.    Yeah, I know, dream on.   But that's just me and the way my brain works.  If someone can steer me to thinking that we can create a permanent agricultural system with high tech recirculating aquaponic systems that also care for the Earth then I'd enjoy being enlightened toward that end.   

it has been running continualy uncovered outside for 6 years and the original foam matt has been entirely consumed by a massive root mass that has begun to gather detritus and build soil and there are now earthworms and these gameris shrimp that appeared without human introduction along with a couple other macroarthropods that we haven't identified. Pretty neat. 
  Freaky neat, actually, in my humble opinion.
 
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Certainly grid power is not going to reduce in price


Maybe.

I suspect that grid power pricing is going to become variable, and you will have programmable devices that go with it.

E.g. when the wind is blowing on a sunny day, and the windmills are spinning fast, power goes down to 3c/kWh.  On a cold still winter night it may be 20c/kWh

At 3c/kWh it becomes economical to electrolyze hydrogen from water, and store it, then later burn it in combine cycle MHD/gas turbine to generate power.  You lose about half the energy doing this, so power has to down to half the price to make it worth while.

Similarly the generating equipment doesn't get used much, so you have to amortize that out over fewer kWh's So the sales price will tend to be higher.  As more devices are made, the gap between times of surplus and times of deficit get smaller.

Even now, at the utility level, companies are putting in industrial sized batteries.  (Move with a crane...)   At present they are used where by putting in a 100 MWh (megawatt hours) battery they can save rebuilding a powerline.  The existing line can cope with the average power demeand, but not the peak.

Battery and remote small plants along with smart monitoring are stabilizing forces on the grid.
 
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Maybe.

I suspect that grid power pricing is going to become variable, and you will have programmable devices that go with it.

E.g. when the wind is blowing on a sunny day, and the windmills are spinning fast, power goes down to 3c/kWh.  On a cold still winter night it may be 20c/kWh

At 3c/kWh it becomes economical to electrolyze hydrogen from water, and store it, then later burn it in combine cycle MHD/gas turbine to generate power.  You lose about half the energy doing this, so power has to down to half the price to make it worth while.

Similarly the generating equipment doesn't get used much, so you have to amortize that out over fewer kWh's So the sales price will tend to be higher.  As more devices are made, the gap between times of surplus and times of deficit get smaller.

Even now, at the utility level, companies are putting in industrial sized batteries.  (Move with a crane...)   At present they are used where by putting in a 100 MWh (megawatt hours) battery they can save rebuilding a powerline.  The existing line can cope with the average power demeand, but not the peak.

Battery and remote small plants along with smart monitoring are stabilizing forces on the grid.


I would be interested to know more about this.  What you seem to be saying is that the large utility companies are actually scaling up alternative systems in order to balance conventional grid sources such as nuclear, coal, and mega hydro with certain parts of the alternative grid sources being 'fired up' when the climate is optimum for producing energy from that source at a minimum cost and adding batteries to deal with peak demand.  Is that right?  Not sure if this is the right thread to have this discussion.  I don't want to hijack the thread. 
 
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