The Cost of Commercial Aquaponics.

Is it possible to build your own small scale commercial aquaponics system without costing you an arm and a leg? How much should it cost to build it yourself? How much money can you expect to earn? Where do you sell your produce? Where do you go to learn more about all this stuff?

Aquaponics Farm

Aquaponics Farm.

We grab hold of Aquaponics kit builder and teacher Murray Hallam and get the low down on his training course and how much money a small DIY commercial Aquaponics system would cost you to set up. His answers may surprise you.

Harvesting lettuce in an Aquaponics Farm. Practical Aquaponics.

Harvesting assorted greens for a custom order in an Aquaponics farm.

Transcript of interview.  Edited and updated 25 Jan 2015

Ecofilms: Now you’re running a course about commercial Aquaponics. Tells all about the motivation behind it because you were doing workshops last year in backyard systems. Is this the new hot thing?

Murray Hallam: Well it certainly seems to be from our perspective because we get phone calls literally every day from people who are wanting to go into commercial Aquaponics.

Now the definition of what is commercial is quite elastic as you can imagine for some people. Probably the biggest group of people we talk to our people who are at retirement age or near retirement age, they discovered that their superannuation pension plan is not going to get as much income as they thought it would so they what about do something that will bring in a $500 or $1,000 a week and is not too stressful and they see aquaponics is a great way to go.

Of course behind all that is their desire to be able to produce good clean food. Food through security, food purity reasons. So that’s what motivates them. That’s what excites them about aquaponics and they want to learn to do at that level.

Then there is the next group of people who are actually into the idea of a sea-change or a tree-change as we call it. They want to move to the country. They want to change their lifestyle. They’re sick and tired of living in the city and they want to do something they see as sustainable. It’s a good thing to do that is going to provide good food and they can make a nice living out of it. That’s the next group of people and once again that’s not a massive great big farm.

Then you’ve got another group of people which is very small, who see it as a way to build a mega-farm.

I personally don’t think that’s the way Aquaponics will succeed.  I think it’s going to be small family farms. Small suburban farms. Local food distributed locally. Cut down food miles. Food purity. Food security. They are all good reasons to do Aquaponics.

Aquaponics ticks all the boxes in those areas. Aquaponics commercially.

This 3,000 square foot system can be expanded to cope with local demand for fresh aquaponically grown lettuce.

This 3,000 square foot system can be expanded to cope with local demand for fresh Aquaponically grown lettuce and greens.

Ecofilms:  Because a lot of people when you say commercial aquaponics immediately think of enormous farms. Some of the large hydroponic farms and so on. Is there a limit to how big you can go commercially with aquaponics in your view?

Murray Hallam: I don’t think there is a limit.  I think that anything is done on a hydroponic farm scale could also be done aquaponically.  One might ask why would you want to do it aquaponically when it already is proven to do it hydroponically?

Well the simple answer is aquaponics is an ecosystem. By combining the two disciplines of aquaculture and hydroponics the third brand-new discipline all of its own called aquaponics has evolved and the beautiful thing about it is – what makes it distinctly different from those of the two is that it is an ecosystem. It relies on natural processes in order to produce the nutrient for the plants, in order to keep the fish healthy and plants happy. You produce two products (fish and plants) out of the same system.

It’s very efficient and I see no reason why one day we will see great big farms. But personally I think the way the world is going – food miles need to be cut down. So it is no longer going to be economical to grow plants in one part of the country and transport them thousands of miles to somewhere else for sale. People are going to have to be to produce food locally much more locally. They are going t demand it to be delivered to them in a much fresher state. In a much purer state.  Aquaponics ticks all the boxes.

Ecofilms: So you are about to embark on a course teaching commercial aquaponics in Australia as well is in the US states in March and July of this year. (2015)  Can you tell us a little bit about what people will learn, will discover in that course? Will it be just a course to introduce them to that? Or will they be able to go home and have enough material in their hand to embark on a project?

Murray Hallam:  Yes the training course we’re doing in Brisbane starting 2nd March will actually have hands-on building of troughs and fish tanks to show people exactly how to do it so that people can go away and build it themselves or employ a contractor and know exactly what the contractor ought to be doing so they get the result they want. They will also have training in our legal requirements. What are the legal requirements at the moment in Australia for running an Aquaponics farm?  We will touch on business marketing. All that kind of thing because really the key to making it successful is being able to sell the product, because if you can’t sell the product at a good price then the whole thing goes up in smoke. So we’ll have a lot of discussions about how to sell the product. How to gain a premium price of your premium product and then of course will be the theory of the whole thing. How does Aquaponics work? How does that bacteria convert the material? How does it make it all work?

People need to understand that and that’s a general outline of what will be covered in a very broad way.

Ecofilms: What would be the upfront costs for someone who wanted to set up a small commercial Aquaponics system? Say they had are some acreage and wanted to perhaps sell (produce) off the road or go to a farmers market. What would their costs be to run something that could earn them $500 to $1000 a week?

Murray Hallam: Well at that level, if you going to build it all yourself and do it all yourself you could build it for a minimum of say, $20,000.  That’s my guess. Buying new materials and providing all your own labour and buying a decent greenhouse or greenhouse materials and that kind of thing. Once again that depends on where you live in the world. For example here in south-east Queensland where we enjoy a fairly good climate all year round, it’s cheaper to build here obviously than it would be in one of the northern states of the USA where they have really cold winters and they might require heating in the winter.

So that would add additional cost for what they do. Or in the southern states of Australia for example right down in Tasmania and Victoria, your building costs will be different there than what it will be in a place like south-east Queensland or for example in Texas or Florida USA.

So those figures at pretty hard to be definite about but you’d be looking around about $20,000. If you wanted to get someone to come and build that for you, that same kind of thing, as a turnkey option, it might cost you $50,000 to $100,000.00. It’s a very difficult thing to put a price on it, I have to be honest, without proper assessment of the particular project.

Ecofilms: It would be a floating a floating raft, deep water cultures system?

Murray Hallam:  That would be a part of it. We have what we call our FloMedia system which is a combination of both floating raft technology and also media bed technology and one of two other little things began to throw in the people really enjoy finding out about when the course runs, that will help you grow all sorts of things in your systems and grow very well and make sure that you utilize every little bit of that beautiful natural ecosystem nutrient that is produced by the system. That’s very important I think. To get a good cross-section of all the different crops that you can grow and grow in your local area. We’ve had some experience with some farmers now in the USA particularly, that are told us that they can sell all they can grow but the difficulty they have is that the customers want more than just lettuce or just tomatoes or just carrots.

They want to be able to buy a variety of things that are grown in the Aquaponics system. So it has become very obvious to me that we need to be able to produce a whole lot of variety of quality vegetables if we’re going to successfully sell locally and produce and run a truly local business.

Ecofilms: So just getting back to FlowMedia at this is the a lot of interest in what it is exactly because it’s a combination as I understand it of floating raft and gravel media systems so that you can run different sorts of crops. Is it two systems split or are they somehow joined together and work off one pump?

Murray Hallam: No they are joined together and work with one pump. We spent quite a long time working out the parameters of how to do the plumbing so that the water distribution is done correctly and that the nutrient distribution is done correctly so that everything works really nicely in one harmonious system and can be run of just one very small low wattage pump.

That is the key to the whole thing. Keeps a running cost right down, but make sure we have maximum efficiency running through the whole system.

Ecofilms: And will you be teaching people FlowMedia in your Courses?

Murray Hallam: Absolutely yes.

Ecofilms: So this is something that really nobody has cracked yet. Would that be right to say?

Well, there are lots of people that are dabbling in it right now. There’s a lot of interest around. Just fascinates me. We’ve been playing around with it for more than five years and working out – making sure we know exactly how it should and shouldn’t work and just in the last 18 – 24 months, I guess, there’s been an explosion of interest in what some are terming hybrid systems because people are beginning to realize that to take all the nutrient out, to take all the waste material out, the fish poo, take it out of the system and basically discarding it, it’s not very smart.

Because there’s a whole lot of great nutrient and minerals locked up in that fish poop. To take it out and throw it away is pretty silly – which is what happens in a typical floating raft system. It’s taken away. Some people are a bit more clever, will treat it and try reintroduced nutrients back into the system but that is another job you have to do. Another process you have to do.  Whereas the way we do FlowMedia is it’s all done in the system and there’s no waste and the nutrients are retained in the system and the system just works absolutely beautifully.

Ecofilms: Tell us about your Australian Course. When is that happening and how long is it run for?

Murray Hallam: Our Australian course will happen on the 2nd March through to the fifth, 2015. It’s four days and it’s pretty intensive actually. We’re going to have a difficult job keeping it down to four days. I reckon we could do six days really. But four days is what it is, and we going to cover all subjects we talked about earlier. The ones we’re doing in the USA in Oregon and Texas in July we actually are going to run two sessions.  Two identical four-day sessions because we’re anticipating the number of bookings will be quite high

Ecofilms: Well thank you Murray I think the fact that you’ve given us that little tip about how much people can spend on building their own small-scale commercial aquaponics system is a tremendous incentive. I think most people can find that sum of money if they were close to retirement age. I’ve always thought one of the beauties of Aquaponics is that all the food is almost at waist level. I always like the fact that I don’t have to bend over and pick things and it’s just an easy stroll. I feel lazy saying that, but it’s one of the advantages I think.

Murray Hallam: Well is another little advantage that comes with that as well. We’ve noticed that food is grown at waist height has a much lower pest problem than food grown on the ground, believe it or not. Now I’m not quite sure why that is, but it’s a much cleaner food, much better food and it’s just fun to work with.

Just backtracking a little bit to the cost of doing an Aquaponics system, we must stress that that’s assuming you already have some land and you already would have a place to do it in. If you have to go and buy land then obviously it’s a whole different kettle of fish. (no pun intended)

Ecofilms: When it comes to selling your produce as a general rule what should people be focused on? What advice would you tell most people who are considering doing a commercial Aquaponics course?

Murray Hallam: The first thing we say to people who contact us, the first thing you need to do is work out where and how you’re going to sell your produce. It’s not good enough to say, “Oh, Uncle Fred has a fruit and vegetable shop and he said he’ll buy it from me.”

You’ll probably find Uncle Fred won’t when the crunch comes.

You can’t go into this with just some loose idea that because you’ve grown a better product that people rush to your door and buy it. They may not necessarily. You have to have a good plan which we can help you formulate that plan in these courses. We will help you formulate that plan. Something will work for you in your area and you really need to sort that out long before you start worrying about how big the greenhouse is going to be or how big the pumps going to be. Those are all easy things to solve.

The big issue is where and how am I going to sell it, because this is a premium product and you must obtain for it a premium price. If you’re just going to send it off to a local bulk wholesale place you’ll get very poor prices and you won’t make a living.

Further Information

Murray will present his Australian Aquaponics Master Class in March 2-5, 2015 in Brisbane Australia.  See course outline here.

NB, please check the links above for current dates and times.

This article edited and updated January 25, 2015.

 

 

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Aquaponics Book of Plans. Tried and Proven Plans to Build.

Do you want to build your own home Aquaponics system but not too sure where to start?  What materials to get or even what tools you will need.

Book of Plans available in hard copy or as an instant download.

This book of system plans is just what you are looking for.

 All plans, drawings and material lists have metric and imperial measurements.

Four plan sets that will give you an excellent choice of where is best to start for you.
A large home system that will supply all your fresh vegetables for a family of two.  A wonderful fish dinner every two weeks or so.(very conservative estimates) This INDY system looks good and is a serious food producer.
Ever wondered just how to build a wicking bed?  The instructions are all there. A very small wicking bed, say of 1 sqm (10 sqf)  or as large as 6 sqm (65 sqf approx).
Use recycled Totes (IBC’s) to build a well proven three bed design…..or
Build a very low cost system from two recycled bathtubs.

Over 180 photographs, illustrations and diagrams.
Bill of quantities for each of the four projects.
Plumbing mysteries unravelled.

Go HERE to get your hard copy

Or go here to get your Kindle or eReader copy.  Instant download.
Or download it instantly from Amazon.com

Rosemary Charlotte Appleton says,
Very useful book-essential reading for the DIY backyard aquaponics system prospective owner.
Kate Wildrick says,
I am so excited to see that Murray Hallam has made his plans available by Kindle. I absolutely love this book!! The easy to understand step-by-step instructions have helped us build our own abundant aquaponic system. After spending several months doing research on what type of systems and plans would work best, we decided Murray Hallam had put together the most thoughtful and practical approach. He has a great way of explaining what you need to know every step of the way. Plus, the easy to understand diagrams and pictures provide a rich visual source of information. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is curious or serious about aquaponics. It is an excellent and super affordable resource that is guaranteed to save you a lot of time and costly mistakes.
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Fish Food – How Much Do I Give Them Per Feed.

Fish Food—Feeding your fish using commercially available sinking or floating pellets. The fish food we supply is suitable for all Australian Natives. The fish food has NO land animal content.  This is a very important consideration. Land animal content is … Continue reading

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Plants With Wet Feet.

Aquaponics Ripe pawpaws on tree

An Aquaponics Papaya or Pawpaw tree heavily laden with fruit.

Plants with wet feet

I want to be able to grow fruit trees as well vegetables.  As you can see, I am having wonderful success with the Paw Paw (papaya) trees.

Aquaponics pawpaw.

Look at these beauties. Yes…grown in Aquaponics media beds 300mm (1′) deep.
Amazing.

I’ve got a good friend who is a retired Paw Paw (papaya) grower from way up in North Queensland and he came and told me that we simply could not grow Paw Paws (papaya) in this environment because, evidently, Paw Paws (papaya) don’t like wet feet.

Have you heard that expression, “you can’t grow that plant in those conditions as it doesn’t like wet feet”?

It would be more correct to say that the plant does not like lack of oxygen around its roots!

If we are running a flood and drain system, where we flood the bed and then drain the bed, we flood the bed, we drain the bed, over and over, continuously.

What we are actually doing is delivering water and nutrients every time we flood the bed, and loads of fresh oxygen is being delivered every time we  drain the bed.  The plants that just should not grow in a very moist environment actually grow extremely well, why?  Because they are getting all the nutrients that they want, all the water they want, and they are actually getting all the oxygen they want around their roots.  That’s how we have been able to grow Paw Paws (papaya) so successfully.

 

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Aquaponics System Biology…1

SCOPE: To discover the important parameters and better understand the role of natural processes in an Aquaponic System.

Aquaponics System Biology…1

We understand that in Aquaponics system produces fish and plants together in one symbiotic system, and we now know that there are two major bacteria that convert the primary waste of the fish, Ammonia to Nitrates, that is, plant food.

Just to recap on those two Bacteria families are …
1. Nitrosomonas bacteria
2. Nitrobacter bacteria
Bacteria of various types is all around us and in our own bodies. There are simply millions of different bacteria. In nature bacteria perform many complex tasks taking one compound and by extracting energy from it for themselves convert it to another compound. These two bacteria groups listed above are particularly important to our needs and given the right conditions will work for us around the clock.

Bacteria needs a food source, water, and be housed within a temperature and pH range conducive to their happy survival.

Temperature.

  • The temperature for optimum growth of nitrifying bacteria is between 77-86° F (25-30°C).
  • Growth rate is decreased by 50% at 64° F (18° C).
  • Growth rate is decreased by 75% at 46-50° F. (8 to 10 C)
  • No activity will occur at 39° F (4° C)
  • Nitrifying bacteria will die at 32° F (0° C).
  • Nitrifying bacteria will die at 120° F (49° C)  (1)

Nitrobacter bacteria is less tolerant of low temperatures than Nitrosomonas bacteria. In Aquaponics systems, care must be taken to monitor the accumulation of nitrites especially when there is a change in water temperature of the system.

pH range.

  • The optimum pH range for Nitrosomonas is between 7.8-8.0.
  • The optimum pH range for Nitrobacter is between 7.3-7.5

Nitrobacter will grow more slowly at the high pH levels . At high pH Nitrosomonas will grow more slowly and increases in ammonia may become evident. On the low end Nitrosomonas growth is inhibited at a pH of 6.5. All nitrification is inhibited if the pH drops to 6.0 or less.

Care must be taken to monitor ammonia if the pH begins to drop close to 6.5 as it may not be being processed as quickly as it is at higher pH levels.
This information has been taken from standard texts on the subject and we have observed that the tolerance range is most likely wider than most texts suggest. (2)

Beneficial Bacteria have four main benefits for areas like fish intestine lining and plant root tissue.

  • Beneficial bacteria help the balance of a system by: (Fungi help as well but that is another discussion)
  • Preventing harmful bacteria from taking hold. If the system is already occupied by a beneficial bacteria then the harmful bacteria has difficulty in taking hold. The microbes make Aquaculture and Aquaponics possible.
  • Promoting system health. Beneficial bacteria play an integral part in breakdown of organic material and actively assist plant and fish tissue health.
  • Being antagonistic to harmful bacteria. Beneficial bacteria inhibit harmful bacteria taking hold. By actively antagonising harmful bacteria the harmful bacteria are held in check in the Aquaponics system.
  • Improving nutrient uptake and general system health.

Aquaponics Microbes:-
It is most important to understand that many more things other than just the two bacteria groups discussed above. Many more are at work in the natural ECO system that we have pulled together in building an Aquaponics system. Fungi, algae, zooplankton, phytoplankton, protozoa, nematodes, just to list some. All of these microbes are the “work horses” of the system. Bacteria process the fish wastes into products that are non-toxic to the fish and make these products available to the plants as food.
———————————————————————————

Learn more about the actual numbers and parameters by attending the Practical Aquaponics Master Class

(1) Nitrifying Bacteria Facts – Bio-Con Labs. (n.d.).
Retrieved from http://bioconlabs.com/nitribactfacts.html

(2) Bhaskar Vijaya , E?ect of environmental factors on nitrifying bacteria isolated from the rhizosphere of Setaria italica : Department of Microbiology, Sri Krishnadevaraya University, Anantapur 515003, AP, India. 2005.

 

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Jade Perch, Tilapia and Lettuce…Common Requirements.

Keeping fish and plants together has some basic requirements and important parameters.

Digital thermometer in an Aquaponics system used to switch electric heaters on and off in a 2 degree range. Temp shown is centigrade.

Digital thermometer in an Aquaponics system used to switch electric heaters on and off in a 2 degree range. Temp shown is centigrade.

Water temperature is a very important parameter. If the water temperature gets too high it will knock the plant performance back. The ideal temp for both plants, Jade Perch and Tilapia is 23C ( 73F) as it goes higher or lower the performance of both plants and fish drops off.  Tilapia will still be fine in water up to 30C (86F) and a little way beyond.  Plants will also survive but do much less well, particularly lettuce and the like.

The system water temps do not necessarily follow exactly the outside air temp although they will gradually trend upwards in a succession of hot days. We see weeks of 33 -35C (90 – 95F) here in our South Queensland summer, our nights are usually average around 21C (70F) so over the summer the water temp gradually climbs to level out around 28 – 30C (83 – 86F) Not so bad. Everything works just fine in that temperature range.

The system water in our Aquaponics garden is the nutrient and dissolved oxygen transport vehicle as well as providing moisture for the plants and fish.  In a well designed Aquaponics garden nutrient and dissolved oxygen are continuously moved around and made available throughout the Aquaponics system.  Obviously both plants and fish will do much better when both dissolved oxygen and temperature are at or close to ideal levels.

This last summer we had one week of temps above 40C (104F) with one Saturday to 46C (115F) which was just an unbelievable day.

Hot mate, you could fry an egg on the footpath!

Fried egg.

That day my water temps got to 34C ( 95F) and I lost a number of fish. All big guys too which was very upsetting. I was away for the day so could not do anything about it till I got home just before dark to find fish gasping at the surface and a number of dead fish.

Above 30C (86F) the ability of the water to hold dissolved oxygen drops off rapidly so, result equals fish deaths and plant destruction. Water will only hold half the saturation of oxygen at 30C (86F) that can be held at 0C (32F).

Interestingly, if you can maintain reasonable root zone temps the plants may wilt a bit during a very hot day but will recover rapidly once the evening comes and will still grow and bear fruit in the case of tomatoes and cucumber for example.

So….root zone temperature control is the holy grail of delivering excellent results in your Aquaponics system.

Temperature control is equally important in cold climates, winter conditions.  Depending on where you are in the world this can be challenging or not so bad.   We will deal with that in another post.

I hope this is helpful to you.

Murray

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Grow Bed Area Needed To Achieve Crop Yields.

The area needed is arbitary because it depends very much on how well you manage your Aquaponics garden, the types of crop grown and so on. Also efficency improves as the garden gets bigger. What crop to grow, how many to plant, when, how often? Your local climatic conditions play a major part in the equasion. Serious planning and attention is required to make it happen.

It is generally accepted , by working a regular dirt garden you will need 30 sqm (320 sqf) to feed a typical family of 4. That will then be 7.5 sqm (80 sqf) per person. I believe that an Aquaponic garden is much more efficent than a regular garden so the growing area required will be less.

We have spent a long time thinking about this question and observing what we can and have achieved over the last 8 years and we believe 23 sqm (250 sqf) of AP gardening space is needed to feed a family of 4…..with all the skill and attention needed to make the garden sing. So, that is approx 6 sqm (62 sqf) per person.

Aquaponics is still a garden, and successful gardening requires time and dedication. 

Aquaponics INDY 23 fish garden.

Indy 23 Fish Garden.

This INDY 23 plan set is the result of 8 years of practical AP, full time 7 days a week. 23 sqm (250 sqf) of growing area spread over three different growing methodologies to produce a wide variety of produce and a realistic number of fish dinners.

If you want to be serious about food production for your family this is the minimum required…..sorry.  And if you seriously do want to produce a really big chunk of your family food needs, a few other things like a half dozen egg laying chickens, some space for fruit trees and so on will need to be added to the project. Let’s take a realistic approach to home grown, chemical free, nutrient dense food.

But, to move toward this goal step by step, and to produce what you can, to aquire the skills needed takes time and effort. Start to produce what you can in the time and space you have available to you. The INDY 11.5 is an excellent smaller system for this purpose. 

Take the time to aquire good sound knowledge. Frankly, watching a dozen or so You Tube clips made by people who started Aquaponics a few weeks before probibly won’t cut it…sorry.  Buy a book or a DVD from a good reliable experienced source. Trouble is we see on the internet people making crazy claims, no doubt we have all seen them, “10 times the vegetables, in half the time, twice as big.” 2000 lbs of vegetables from a kit made out of a couple of old IBC’s, a few bits of pipe all held together with string…..;) 

The “amchair generals”….:frustrated:

The magic about Aquaponics is,
#1 Aquaponics is an ECO system and the veggies and fish produced are clean nutritionally rich family food. Much, much better than “Organic”.
#2 It is more efficient than a regular garden because the plants have delivered to them water and nutrients continuously 24/7. The fish grow up in a healthy protected environment.

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C.H.O.P Aquaponics Operating System.

CHOP System.

The CHOP system is an acronym for   “Constant Height One Pump”. This is the most efficient way to run an Aquaponics system.

The basic principal is to use the force of gravity to assist us where possible. This brings high efficiency in electric power consumption and plumbing design.

The CHOP system is also better for the health and wellbeing of the fish, as it means there is more water in circulation that brings stability in both temperature and pH.  Because the fish tank is always full of water, the fish are safe if something goes wrong with plumbing or pump.  The auto siphon system is an automatic way to flood and drain the media beds without the need to employ float switches or timers.  The system is lower maintenance than older system designs that required float switches, timers and a second pump.

CHOP or Constant Height One Pump has been adopted by Aquaponics enthusiasts around the world and its popularity has demonstrated the methodology’s effectiveness.  The other variant CHIFT PIST (Constant Height In Fish Tank. Pump In Sump Tank) runs in a similar way.  In fact CHOP as an acronym was coined because the acronym CHIFT PIST was thought to be a little clumsy and crude.

Constant height in the fish tank is important in that we want to have a system design that ensure that the fish tank cannot be run or pumped dry should something go wrong, such as a pipe failure somewhere in the system.  If something goes wrong and the sump is pumped dry and or the media beds run dry, it is not desirable but it is not a disaster as would be the case if the fish tank is pumped or drained dry.

One pump is important from an economical operation point of view. So, our plumbing design is such that all the water can be moved around to all parts, in the volumes we require for each section of the system, by the one pump.

The pump resides in the sump. All pumping is done from here. I like to call the sump “Grand Central Station”. It is the central meeting point of all the water flow in the system. The water is pumped from the sump to the fish tank, and from the fish tank the water runs by gravity to the media beds.  The auto siphon or timer allows the bed to fill then drain back down to the sump.   In this way there is only one regulated flow around the entire system and that flow rate is dictated by the auto siphon/s.

CHOP system methodology allows us to use the absolute minimum of power to move the water around.  Aquaponics systems are perfectly natural systems except we have to move the water, and we can only do that with pumps of some sort or another.  So, over a period of time we have strived to get our pump size down and enjoy a very minimum of power usage.  In CHOP systems the water flow in one direction is done by gravity and in the other direction it is removed from the sumps back to the fish tank by the most efficient pump possible.

Originally, our systems had two pumps in them all the time, one was required to move the water out from the fish tank and one to move it back and we quickly discovered that that was just a waste of energy. This is another advantage of the CHOP system.

CHOP 2 System.

Chop #2 is a further and much improved variant to the standard CHOP methodology.  We noticed a problem with water levels whilst working on a small commercial CHOP system we were commissioning.  Running the feed water from the fish tank via a filter then on to be distributed to each media bed by gravity flow was problematic.  If all the beds were not precisely level with each other the lower bed/s would receive more water than the others. This could be regulated with valves on each bed water inlet.  This works fine on small systems, but the larger the system the larger the pipe work needs to be in order to accommodate sufficient water flow by gravity. Evenly distributing water by gravity to six beds that together were 30 meters (98’) long was near impossible.

We needed to refine the process for our client, so we came up with a solution that has been working well for several years, and now on many thousands of home systems and a good number of commercial systems. Pumping the water to the media beds, positive pressure delivery instead of gravity delivery.  It is relatively easy to ensure even distribution to each bed and also to the most distant bed delivering the water by positive pumped, or header tank pressure. The system water is delivered to all points under pressure, either by pump or from a header tank. The pump is located in the common collection and distribution point; the sump.  All the water arrives from the various parts of the Aquaponics system into the sump, all water leaves from the sump to the various parts of the Aquaponics system.

Water is delivered, as necessary, in various loops to the media beds, the raft beds, the fish tank and if included, to the mechanical filter.  The water is collected from each loop or system segment back to the sump.  The water is delivered to each loop or system segment from the sump under pressure either by pump or header tank.  The water flow is regulated to each part of the overall system by the use of a simple valve or tap.  Very accurate flows can therefore be achieved.  CHOP 2 allows the operation of each element of our Aquaponics system at its ideal flow rate. This multi loop arrangement allows much more flexibility in plumbing design and precise flow control through the various elements of the overall Aquaponics system.

Happy Aquaponics.

 

 

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It’s Like The African Jungle – Indy 23

Prue and Andrew decided to build an Indy 23 Aquaponics system after completing one of our 4 day Aquaponics Future Farm courses.

Well, without too much text we will show the photos.  These were taken just two months after the system was planted out.

The system is cycled although there are still some lingering pH issues that will settle down soon.

Seasol seaweed extract.

Seasol seaweed extract.

The system is regularly dosed with Seasol seaweed extract as per what we recommend for new systems.

The growth is remarkable from a new system that has 100 Jade Perch fingerlings and 25 x 1 year old Jade Perch in the second fish tank.

Beneficial bacteria are establishing their presence in the system processing the ammonia from the fish waste. This together with the action of the Seasol, myriads of microbes are at work building up a wonderful nutrient base that is in turn delivering excellent plants for food.

Indy 23 system builds are currently underway in Australia, USA, Spain, Cyprus, South Africa, Singapore, Indonesia, Israel, Philippines, Namibia, Thailand, Great Britain, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Austria.

So as the photos that follow testify…the shocking truth is that the INDY 23 Aquaponics system produces extraordinarily well.

Large healthy plant leaves.

Large healthy plant leaves.

 

Cucumber and Climbing Beans Aquaponics Indy 23 system

Cucumber and Climbing Beans





 

 

 

 

 

Climbing plants.

Climbing plants.

Zucchini in flower

Zucchini in flower

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

passion fruit

Passion fruit.

Lettuce

Lettuce. Many varieties.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More details about the Indy 23 Plan set can be found here.

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Aquaponics Water Supply – Municipal or Town Water – Tech Tip.

Top up water for your Aquaponics system can come from several sources.

In this Tech Tip we will discuss Town or Municipal water.

Aquaponics water tower Aquaponics

Municipal Water Supply contains all sorts of chemicals.

Town or Municipal water should not need testing. Chemical analysis of your local municipal water is usually obtainable from your municipal water supply authority.  A phone call to your water authority will often be enough for you to discover the important parameters.

Municipal water will contain chlorine or chloramine. These are added to kill bacteria and other living organisms, including fish, that may be present in the water supply.

Chlorine is easily gassed off by putting it into a holding tank, applying vigorous aeration for 24 hours.

Chloramine (NH2Cl) is commonly used in municipal water as an alternative to chlorine.  Chloramine is much more stable and does not dissipate as rapidly as free chlorine. Chloramine is formed by ammonia and chlorine being combined. Some chloramines could readily form in Aquaponics system water if you were to add chlorinated water straight from the tap to an Aquaponics system tank that already carried some free ammonia. If you cannot get a report from your water authority and you strongly suspect the presence of chloramines, obtain a test kit that is able to test for “total chlorine” or “combined chlorine,” not for “free chlorine.” A test for “free chlorine” would misleadingly read zero in chloraminated water.  (Skepticalaquarist.com 2014)

Chloramines can be removed from your source water by,

  • Boiling and degassing. (not very practical for large quantities)
  • Ultraviolet light. (Well established method of removal). (Adelstein, B 2013)
  • Activated carbon filter. (pass the water through slowly)
  • Commercially available de-chloramination products (some simply remove the chlorine, while others ‘lock up’ or detoxify remaining ammonia) (Skepticalaquarist.com 2014)

It is best to treat any suspect water in a holding tank before using for top up in the Aquaponics system proper.

More Teck Tips on water supply in following blogs.

See our training courses Here

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