by Joanne Bell, Grow Lab Manager, The Aquaponic Source
We had an unfortunate invasion of planktonic algae (floating microscopic plants) in one of our grow lab systems. Unlike other forms of algae that cling to surfaces, this type is free-floating in the water. In lakes and ponds, some planktonic algae is considered beneficial. But too much can deplete oxygen and kill fish, according to Texas A&M’s Agrilife Extension.
Since, planktonic algae feeds on nitrates, it “bloomed” within days making it look as if pea soup were running through our system. A similar bloom in a tabletop aquaponic system appeared to cause the loss of a goldfish, so we didn’t want to take any chances with our tilapia and bass. Not to mention, depleted oxygen levels could alter future test results.
We discussed our options: bleach the system or run a UV sterilizer. Both would eliminate the algae (and the beneficial bacteria). UV sterilization would also deplete boron, manganese and…
Wouldn’t it be fun to involve your grandchild, your parent, or your child’s teacher in this life-giving obsession we call aquaponics? Sharing something you are passionate about with those you love (or in the case of the teacher those who are loved by those you love) is incredibly rewarding and affirming. Plus, your gift will probably be the only one under the tree like it, and who doesn’t want brownie points for giving unique, thoughtful gifts?
So here are my suggestions for the best gifts for getting someone involved in aquaponics this season.
- Aquaponicals – This is a full blown aquaponics system in miniature. It is a completely unintimidating way to bring someone into the magic of aquaponics with a system all their own. This beautiful system comes complete with a mini bell siphon and sump tank, and is perfect for children, schools, and anyone who is looking…
Five years ago today, I was sitting in our attorney’s office signing the documents that created the entity “The Aquaponic Source, Inc.” The idea was to create a company that served the aquaponic gardening community by sourcing and / or developing products and educational material the community needed to be successful. No one was doing this in the U.S., and it felt like a market with tremendous potential that needed to be served.
Now, five years later, I have the luxury of both looking back on the wild ride we’ve had so far, and the privilege of looking into what we think is a bright future for our still nascent field.
While profits are important because they are the fuel that keeps the lights on, the rent paid, and the employees fed, I think the best gauge of a business’s success is the community impact it has had. If you measure our impact by how many…
Last Friday, Alan took a call from a woman who needed help salvaging the aquaponic system that she had hired someone to build for her. Her media grow beds leaked at the point where her siphons were installed, her siphon media guards allowed her media to pass right through, the custom grow bed tables were not the correct size, some important plumbing elements were absent, the liner in her deep water culture beds leaked, and obviously she didn’t have the after-sales support she needed.
Just as more and more people have become interested in aquaponics and have started their own systems, so have more people decided to start their own aquaponics businesses. Many of them are honestly trying to create good products and services that help people to grow their own fish and vegetables aquaponically. But, as with any emerging industry, there are also the rotten fish.
A few years ago…
If you’ve visited our grow lab anytime since last spring, you would have noticed that we have been doing a lot of experimenting with growing in fabric bags. Our hypothesis was that they would be great for the following purposes:
- Transplanting from dirt – we thought that the bags would make it much easier to take nursery grown plants directly from their pots and put them into a fabric bag, soil and all, then place them directly into a media based aquaponic grow bed.
- Growing subterranean plants – we thought that we could fill the bags with coconut fiber (coir), which is far more permeable than expanded clay media or gravel, and grow root crops such as carrots, potatoes, beets, and more.
- Restraining the roots of large plants – we thought that if we could grow larger plants, like cucumbers and tomatoes,…
After five months of planning, the first annual Aquaponics Fest weekend has now come and gone. And what a weekend it was! Over 250 aquaponics enthusiasts from all around the country, and from as far away as Japan, came together to learn from the experts and from each other, see some cool new products, and celebrate this growing revolution we call aquaponics. Yes, there are many things we learned from this inaugural event, and yes, there is much that we will do differently next year But also yes, we feel – and attendees appear to agree – that this year’s Fest exceeded our goal to create a fun and educational annual gathering of aquaponic gardeners and educators.
Almost all attendees loved the Fest, rating the speakers a 4.5 overall on a scale of 1 – 5, and 94% said they would either definitely or probably come back again next year. They summed it up best with…
One of the experiments that we’ve been running lately was inspired by my friend, Vlad Jovanovich. I met Vlad through the Aquaponic Gardening Community site a few years ago, when he was still living in his home country of Serbia. He is a super smart guy with a love of aquaponics whose sense of curiosity is only surpassed by his warmth and his wickedly dry humor. We met in person for the first time at the 2013 Aquaponics Association conference in Tucson, and the following December he stayed at our house for a few days in Colorado. That is when he taught us about dual root zoning.
One of the main benefits of moving into our facility last year was that we finally have a grow lab. Back when we were working out of the basement we would experiment with plants and products in our backyard greenhouse system. The problem was that there was only one fish tank and all the water was circulating among the beds so we could never really set up an experiment that required isolating the water.
That all changed when we moved. Now we have three identical systems set up, side by side, each with a media bed, a raft bed, a sump tank and a 200 gallon fish tank. The three systems have a pipe running between them that can either be valved shut to prevent the water from mixing, or opened so that all the water across systems mixes together. We isolate the systems…
Aquaponics Fest 2014 on August 9 & 10 in Longmont, CO will be a fun, “grass roots” gathering for aquaponic gardeners, designed so that we can met each other, learn together, and share ideas. While there are other Aquaponics conferences, they are mostly, or exclusively, focused on commercial farming and academic research. They also happen to be much more expensive than Aquaponics Fest 2014 and we think more “stuffy” than backyard, community, and school gardeners want in a weekend event. The workshops, presentations, and contests at Aquaponics Fest will celebrate the DIY spirit of many aquaponic gardeners.
There will be two types of speakers scheduled every hour during the entire event. “Presentations” are speakers talking about a subject related to aquaponics, while “Workshops” will demonstrate how to actually build something or to perform specific task. We had many more speaker applicants than…
One of my greatest joys as a business owner is providing employment to wonderful people who truly love their jobs. One of those employees is Brent Evans, who moved from Pennsylvania to Colorado a year ago with his wife, Beth, to run shipping and receiving for us. Brent is both a devout Christian, and a perennial punster, who has a great sense of humor and optimism, and an unwavering dedication to aquaponics and to our company.
Over the past year Brent has developed wonderful relationships with some of our customers, one of whom is Charles Hendrix of Abundant Harvest. This past weekend, unbeknownst to any of us, Brent and his wife paid Charles a visit, and sent an email to the team describing what happened. It was such a wonderful letter about this inspiring man that I wanted to share it with you.