[permaculture] pc aquaponics

KAKerby at aol.com KAKerby at aol.com
Sun Oct 7 22:32:12 EDT 2012


I've been debating whether to enter the fray, being a new member of the  
group and a relatively new farmer as well. But many of the questions about  
aquaponics raised so far, have been very well laid to rest by the research  
already done.  University of the Virgin Islands, under the direction of Dr.  
James Rakocy, has done a tremendous amount of research on building, running 
and  harvesting from an extensive aquaponics system that is used to feed the 
student  cafeterias.  University of Arizona is getting into various aspects 
of  aquaponics, and when I toured their facility a number of years ago, were 
making  some interesting progress growing Native American herbs which were 
in  danger of being harvested into extinction in the wild.  Nelson & Pade  
in Wisconsin are deeply involved with using aquaponics not only as a 
commercial  enterprise, but using aquaponics systems to teach kids about the 
connections  between food production, water quality, wildlife habitat and that 
nothing really  leaves Earth's own closed system.  So whatever you put into the 
"system",  whether it's a single tank or a planet, darn well better not have 
toxic results  downstream, because we're all ultimately eating whatever is 
downstream.   Colorado State University, University of Hawaii, University of 
Florida and at  least one university in Canada (can't remember who at the 
moment) are all  exploring how aquaponics can help answer local food 
production issues, such as  drought, heat, cold, high light, low light, high 
humidity, etc.  The amount  of research available out there on aquaponics 
performance is already impressive,  and steadily growing.
 
We have a small farm here, and we are renting land on a larger farm 10  
miles away.  We are definitely soil-based for the most part, and we  are still 
going through our first year of organic certification.  So I am  at least 
somewhat familiar with the ideas of managing farms for long-term soil  
fertility, carrying capacity, and building the farm to work with instead of  
against natural local systems and patterns.  I latched onto permaculture a  number 
of years ago because it just made so much sense to really go "deep" with  
natural systems that can be so amazingly productive and vibrant.  But we  
also live in the real world, with real bills and real limitations.  We rent  
land because we can't do everything we need to do here.  We have shallow,  
stony soils, lots of trees blocking the sun, an eastern aspect which means our  
soils are very slow to warm in springtime, and bedrock only 12"  down.   
Our rental land has wonderful deep alluvial plain soils, great  solar gain, 
easy access, and moderated temperature swings because it's close to  the 
water.  But it also reliably floods every year, and some years it  doesn't dry 
out until late spring.  We are currently debating where we  ultimately want to 
be.  I can tell you now that commuting between the two  is a serious drag, 
and I can't really call ourselves even slightly  sustainable having to 
shuttle between the two.  And while I am very in love  with soil-based 
agriculture, I can say that aquaponics would allow us to  condense our operations into 
a single site, either here or there, because that  approach would allow us 
to "backfill" all the production gaps or challenges that  each site has.  
 
Aquaponics is in part being promoted so heavily, and researched so heavily, 
 specifically because even prime agricultural areas like ours, still have  
production issues that need to be solved.  Not to mention a whole lot of  
folks who have no land at all.  Of course it would be wonderful if everyone  
had access to good solar exposure, nice deep soils without contamination, 
plenty  of good clean water, ample growing seasons and enough room to raise  
what they want to raise either for themselves or their community.  But I  
question the wisdom of insisting on soil-based agriculture, if aquaponics would  
allow families or communities in poor growing areas, to raise their own 
food  with a minimum of inputs, and without harsh chemicals.  I believe the  
politics, economics and ethics of food self reliance trumps the niceties of  
saying everyone needs to grow in soil.  I also question whether a farm that  
grows in soil, but trucks in all its supplies and trucks out all its 
produce, is  "better" than someone who raises food via aquaponics in their backyard 
with 1/10  the space, 1/10 the water, 1/1000 of the petroleum, and by the 
system  design, can't use pesticides or herbicides.  
 
I prefer to think of aquaponics as yet one more tool in the toolbox.   
Everyone has options, some have more options than others.  If it's a  question 
of a family having to go without food, or bring in food from distant  places 
because their place in the world is poorly situated for growing, then by  
all means encourage them to grow their own, using aquaponics.  We're headed  
towards 9 billion people on this little marble within most of our  lifetimes. 
 Expanses of rich fertile soil may become quite the luxury,  quite soon.
Kathryn Kerby
frogchorusfarm.com
Snohomish, WA USA
 
 
In a message dated 10/7/2012 6:53:04 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time,  
scott at permaculture.org writes:

I too  have serious misgivings about aquaponics.  It is always presented  as
some kind of perpetual motion machine that provides for all its needs  
within
the system, which I doubt.  I also do not believe that it could  possible
have the nutrients necessary for providing wholesome and  nutritious
foodstuff.  We are talking about the primary nutrient  source being fish 
dung
in this closed system, where does the selenium,  calcium and phosphorous 
come
from?  The co-evolution of plants with  soil organisms and minerals has
created the human nutrition story and  without soil I think the actual
nutrient content will be woefully  inadequate.  

I would love to see some data on nutrient content of  hydroponic vs soil
based vegetables.

I would also point out that  both the rice paddy system and chinampa systems
are soil based systems with  a lot of water to maintain growth they are not
by any means hydroponic or  aquaponic. You might also throw in the fast
disappearing mangroves as an  example of aquaponics but again you would be
wrong.

Scott  Pittman
Permaculture Institute USA



"Another world is  not only possible, she is on her way. 
On a quiet day, I can hear her  breathing." 
~Arundhati Roy

-----Original Message-----
From:  permaculture-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org
[mailto:permaculture-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org]  On Behalf Of christopher
nesbitt
Sent: Sunday, October 07, 2012 2:32  PM
To: permaculture
Subject: Re: [permaculture] pc aquaponics

Hi  Steve,

I have to disagree with your assessment that aquaponics is  "working against
nature". Perhaps you do not understand that aquaponics is  using hydroponic
grow beds to filter and oxygenate water in high stocking  density
aquaculture, in a recirculating system?  

The concept  of plants and water is not a new concept. While aquaponics uses
pumps and  pipes and electricity, it is not that different to the concept of
paddy  rice, or to the chinampa system practiced in Central Mexico by the
Aztecs,  which are both time honored and highly productive. Nobody would
consider  either of these systems to be "working against nature". Are
electric lights  working against nature? Should we return to oil lamps?

One of the  limiting factors in aquaculture is the stocking density. Putting
too much  fish in the water can result in build up of ammonia and a bloom of
algae,  resulting in depletion of oxygen and death of your fish. This is
called  eutrophication. Another problem is that veggies and herbs need
certain  conditions. Our rainy season here in Belize, for example, is too 
wet
to  grow cabbage, cucumbers, tomatoes, or the plants will get hammered by  
our
rain. We get over 160 inches of rain a year, with up to 8 inches of  rain in
a night during the intense rains of June, July and August. You can  apply
that to areas with hard freezes, too.

Aquaponics converts the  problem of too much nutrients in water into the
solution to how to grow  veggies and herbs in a small area. First, it allows
small holders to grow  fish in a small area, say a back yard, or a patio, 
and
it also allows the  production of vegetables. Coupled with a green house in 
a
temperate  climate, it would either increase your season for veggies, or 
make
it year  round.  

Aquaponics is definitely is a tool to keep in your tool  kit. While I would
never imagine aquaponics would replace soil based  agriculture, or pond 
based
aquaculture, aquaponics lends itself well on  places with any of the
following issues:
1. Poor soil
Much of the  world has poor soil, and soil based agriculture will give  
small
yields.
2. Contaminated soil
In places where the soil, itself,  is toxic, aquapnics allows the production
of fresh local veggies and herbs  while avoiding taking up toxins in soil
3. Lack of access to water for  irrigation 
Aquaponics is %90 more efficient with water than soil based  agriculture.
Israel is one of the leaders in aquaponics technology. 
4.  High population density areas, especially urban areas.
Aquaponics can have  a very small foot print, can be roof mounted, can be
part of school  programs, attached to hospitals. Working with industrial
ecologies toed to  surplus energy or nutrients, like day old bread and waste
heat from a  bakery, for example, or table scraps fed to vermiculture in a
cafeteria,  and the  earth worms giving nutrients for the fish, and yeilding
worm  castings for gardens, and aquaponics can be integrated into an  urban
landscape.

Aquaponics systems range in size from gold fish  tanks to many acres of
veggies with thousands of fish in tens of thousands  of gallons of water.
Some are expensive, built rom expensive parts, and  some are made from old
tanks and barrels. Joels system, in a space 4x8  meters in size, produced 
100
kilograms of veggies and over 50 kg of fich in  a 6 month period in suburban
Perth. Nobody can say it is not productive.  

We are working on an aquaponics system here, and expect it to be up  and
running by the end of the year. Limiting factors for us have been  having a
large enough photovoltaic system to run it. If anyone is  interested in
learning a LOT about aquaponics, check genius Aussie Joel  Malcolms web page
www.backyardaquaponics.com. He even has a forum where  hundred of people 
have
their systems on display. 

Best  wishes,

Christopher


_____________________________
Christopher  Nesbitt

Maya Mountain Research Farm
San Pedro Columbia, Toledo
PO  153 Punta Gorda Town, Toledo
BELIZE, 
Central America

Country  code  501-630-4386

www.mmrfbz.org
www.facebook.com/MayaMountainResearchFarm




On  Oct 7, 2012, at 12:06 PM, Steve Hart wrote:

> Permaculture  Aquaponics ?....thats doing sprouts. Interesting debate
Georg.
> I  recall a strong cliche and probably a well used principle  in
Permaculture
> that states " Work with Nature not Against Her" .  Any water plants that
> exist in that world in nature are surely part of  an aquaponic system. But
> when we call hydroponics organic and  Permaculture someone went to the
wrong
> course or had a very  deficient teacher. I like the connection with nature
> for it has so  many valuable realms that connect many of our critical
> functions to  the elements we receive from that connection. They are not
> simple  nutrition but many other levels of energy as well. Then of  course
we
> get into another huge debate about appropriate or non  -appropriate diets.
> Interesting to see the acceleration in Prana. I  look forward to the
> debate....Steve Hart
> 
> On 7 October  2012 16:06, georg parlow <g.parlow at gmx.at> wrote:
> 
>>  Hi there,
>> 
>> Being stuck in a city I recently started  pondering and researching the
>> idea of aquaponics. The web tells me  of Max Meyers doing aquaponics
>> the permaculture way. I am am pc  designer myself for almost 20 years
>> now, with moderate experience  in counselling, design and
>> implementation. I am wondering what he  does differently that any
>> decent permie would not think of my  himself? Any experiences? Any
>> reports or details of his approach  anywhere on the web?
>> 
>> thanks,
>>  Georg
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> 
>  
> -- 
> Kia ora
> 
> [image: Picture]
> *Steve  Hart*
> Ecology Architect
> skype: stevenlawrencehart
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