Protozoa, and Nematodes – Tonic for Aquaponics Systems.

The question is often asked if there is a need to add mineral and nutrient supplements to Aquaponics systems. The answer is yes if you want to have nutrient dense vegetables.


Seasol seaweed extract.

In the very beginning, I advocate the use of a seaweed extract such as Seasol for an initial boost in a new system.  It gives the new system something to work on and acts as a tonic for the Aquaponics system aiding in the establishment of the beneficial bacteria.  It is a very gentle and safe way to get your Aquaponics system started.

A new Aquaponics system needs time to develop all the bacteria and microbes that will convert and release the necessary nutrients for good plant growth.

Aquaponics systems closely mimic nature in the way they handle and provide nutrients for the plants. Eventually there is a myriad of bacteria and other microbes that do their job, just as they should in a mature Aquaponics system.

The job of the two main beneficial bacteria in converting the ammonia produced by the fish to nitrates is very obvious. They are established in a new Aquaponics system usually within a few weeks. It takes time for all the other natural processes to develop and establish.

This is the amazing thing about Aquaponics . The way it becomes so balanced and complete.  Never forget, the beauty of Aquaponics is that it is an ECO system. Aquaponics utilises natural processes. The beneficial bacteria, fungal hyphae, protozoa, and nematodes will take up residence in the gravel media beds and do their job of creating nutrients and having them distributed around the system by the moving water

I also advocate the use of “worm extract” or “worm juice or tea” as it is sometimes known. This is done to help “kick start’ the mineral and trace element build up in your new system. Worm tea is not always available to you so the Seaweed extract is a good thing to use in getting your new Aquaponics system up and running.
It should be applied at the rate of a CAP full a day.  This can be continued right up to and past when you add the new fish to your Aquaponics system.  Seasol will not harm the fish. We have tested and used Seasol for more than six years in our Aquaponics systems and are very satisfied with the results.  Natural organic mineral supplements like Seasol work slowly and are not like chemically derived fertilisers.

Seasol or Maxicrop in the USA if you cannot source my favorite product Seasol.  Seasol can be applied once every month or two to a mature system and as above for a new system.  This will assist in a balanced mineral load and as a tonic for the Aquaponics system. It is a good idea to add it at the grow bed water entry point and allow it to peculate down through the grow media and make it’s way around the system carried by the water.

You may find it a good idea to add a half a teaspoon of Chelated Iron to one of the grow beds once a month. Iron deficiency is often encountered in new systems. This is most often a symptom of “Nutrient Lock Out” caused by pH above 7. As pH stays above 7 nutrients are locked up and are not available to the plants even though they may actually be in the system.

Aquaponics systems run best at pH 6.2 to 7.0.

If adding Iron, just use a little water to wash the Iron down in amongst the grow bed media. The Chelated iron can also be added straight down into the water beside the auto siphon device.
This way the iron will be dispersed more slowly around the bed/s. Even though it is added to just one bed, it will find its way around through the entire system.

Potassium and Calcium are also needed in Aquaponics systems. If feeding your fish on commercially available pellets these two elements are often in short supply in your aquaponics system.  Once again, potassium is present in Seasol.

Another way to boost trace elements and particularly potassium and iron is to add some raw molasses to the system water.  Two tablespoons per 1000 ltr (250 gal) It will turn the water a little dark in colour but will clear after a few days.  Molasses is also a sugar so the beneficial bacteria will also get a boost because of the addition of molasses to your Aquaponics system.  It is perfectly safe for your fish

These two elements are easily supplied as part of pH control / adjustment.

Murray Hallam’s Practical Aquaponics.



Posted in Aquaponics Made Easy - How To | 1 Comment

The Four Hard Questions For Commercial Aquaponics.


Aquaponics Course

A student from Egypt receives his Certificate on completion of the February 2014 Practical Aquaponics Commercial and Small Farm course.

I have been most fortunate over the last few years in that I have travelled widely around the world and visited and consulted on many Aquaponics farms.  It is always on my mind to identify and clarify the most common reasons some farm projects succeed and some fail.   There is a multitude of reasons both ways, but here I am attempting to condense it down to the four most obvious.There are many many successful farms. For the most part they are quietly going about their business, doing business, expanding business and making money.  Bad news travels fast so it is not surprising that we hear the failure stories.   Almost all Aquaponics farms I have been involved in have either failed or succeeded based on how well or otherwise they have dealt with these four issues.

There is nothing wrong or inherently bad about growing top quality produce. In fact, it is a business activity for this time, without doubt. We see everywhere an increasing demand for quality pure food.  People from all socioeconomic groups are seeking better food for their families.  I should not need to spell out all the bad things that are happening in our “normal” food supply chain. Instead we can concentrate in delivering the “good news” about Aquaponics;  nutrient dense, clean, tasty food.  People everywhere get excited about the possibilities Aquaponics offers, from a commercial business perspective and as a consumer.

It really is a “no brainer”. Good, pure, high nutrient density produce will sell for premium prices.

Aquaponics produce is a great product to sell and should be relatively easy to market in most parts of the world.

Many see the beauty and the opportunity Aquaponics offers and set out to create a business plan, a construction plan to “Go Commercial”.

The four big questions you must ask yourself and your business partner if planning to “Go Commercial” are:

Q1. Will I have a viable and vibrant Marketing strategy?
This is the most important aspect of any business and Aquaponics is no different. The old adage “Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door” is just not true, unfortunately. You will need to be very intentional in researching your particular location, identifying just who the clients are, then getting your message to them.   And this task will NEVER end.  It is not a “set and forget” type of thing.

Q2. Do I have enough capital?
Make sure your set up costs and earning projections are realistic.  Remember Murphy’s law? “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” Any form of farming is a risky business. Make sure you have enough cash to see your project into profit. Go over your cost projections over and over again. Be very conservative in your numbers.  Ignore the crazy claims made by some – “1100 vegetables and 400 pounds of fish per year” from a system about the size of a snooker table, and tens of thousands of pounds from something as big as a family tennis court.  Growing produce by the Aquaponic method is not some “dark art” that will produce magical harvests and truckloads of money.  Gather information from a reliable source, or two.

Q3. Do I have a good work ethic?
This may sound like a silly question, but many an “investor” type person’s idea of running a farm is sitting all day in an air conditioned office and expecting the “hired hands” to get it all done.  If you are going to be a successful farmer then you need to be a farmer. That means getting out there at daylight, harvesting the produce and getting it to your clients.  I have seen a couple of farm failures that have flopped for this very reason. The guy turns up at 10 am and is gone again by twelve.  Farming is farming.  Having said that, one very experienced and successful farmer says that Aquaponics farming is the easiest farming he has ever done, but it is still farming.

Q4. Do I have unrealistic expectations and have I set unrealistic pre conditions?
Some contact me and ask for advices and then place unrealistic conditions on their proposed project. The most common one I see of late is: “I expect to be introduced to a half dozen successful farms and I demand that these farms reveal their last two years profit and loss statements and that the farm only has one revenue stream”.   This attitude reveals an underlying desire to just copy someone else’s plan and be guaranteed success. If this was actually done it would almost guarantee failure.  Someone else’s plan can never be your plan.  Their marketing strategy can never be a perfect fit for your location. Their work ethic is most likely very different from your work ethic. Their capital availability is very likely to be different from yours and so on it goes.  It is just plain silly to demand such things.  People that are successful farmers are not very likely to open their books to any old Tom, Dick or Harry that demands to take a look.  You need to be first convinced that Aquaponics produce is a good and saleable product, then you need to have a plan to sell it for the highest possible price.  Having said that, it is good and worthwhile to be able to view some case studies. No one makes money from growing produce, money is made from selling the produce.

Never discount other revenue streams from your Aquaponics farm plan. Businesses everywhere and of every type strive to create and identify as many revenue streams as possible to incorporate into their business plan.  In my view it is a recipe for failure to place such revenue restrictions on your Aquaponics business model.   We see this idea of revenue only from one source being sprouted on forums and email groups, interestingly from people that do not even have a Aquaponics farm or, in some cases have not even had a small Aquaponics home system.  Most promoting these fanciful ideas have never even had and run their own business; of any type.

In creating your business plan it is prudent to be assured that you can ultimately make it pay from the core activity alone.  However, do not discount or exclude other possible revenue streams.   Other revenue streams are very useful in providing cash flow, especially during the development and bedding down phases of the business plan implementation. Every business has seasonal or circumstantial dips in revenue from the core activity. That is when the other smaller revenue stream activities carry the business through those down times.

So, the questions you need to answer very truthfully to yourself are:

1       Will I give due attention to my marketing plan?

2       Will I have enough cash to see the project through to profit?

3       Will I work like a farmer and do on a daily basis the work that needs to be done? and

4       Do I have very realistic expectations?

Murray Hallam’s Practical Aquaponics.

Truly excellent Commercial and Small Farm training delivered by Murray Hallam himself.  Find out how you can attend one of these 4 day or 1 day Aquaponics courses HERE.

Murray Hallams Practical Aquaponics – Aquaponics based on practical experience.

Posted in Aquaponics Secrets, CHOP System, Commercial Aquaponics | Tagged | 4 Comments

How Do Plants Get Nutrients in Aquaponics.

Students looking over lettuce in an Aquaponics system

Students looking over lettuce in an Aquaponics system

The primary source of plant nutrient in an Aquaponics system is the fish food.  The beautiful thing is that the fish food is a  one source of nutrient for the plants and the fish, a very important principle in working towards sustainability.|

Two uses from the same resource.

It is therefore important to choose a good quality fish food to feed your fish.   There is no magic happening in the body of the fish whereby it can mysteriously produce a full range of plant nutrient from a poor input for it’s own needs. It is basic logic that a good quality, balanced fish food pellet will serve the overall Aquaponics system very well.

However, there are three elements that do not come into the Aquaponics easily from the fish food input.
1 Potassium, 2 Calcium, 3 Iron.

Happily, we can supply the Potassium and Calcium to the system when adjusting the system pH upwards.  As you would know, the natural state of affairs in a well found Aquaponics system is that the pH is always slowly drifting downwards, so there is a need to adjust the system pH upwards periodically as required.

Iron is added in the form of Iron chelates as required when the plants exhibit some iron deficiency or on a regular basis , say once every three months.

A good way to provide all the micro nutrients the plants require is to make sure you are running your system with the incorporation of some media beds.  Media beds provide a wonderful environment for the development of what I like to term, a “Nutrient Bank”. Over time we find that there is a build up of fine solids in the media beds, we find that worms take up residence, or we add them. The worms do what worms do to all organic material. They move about in the media bed and process the solids collected there. The solids are reduced in volume by up to 80% by this process and locked up nutrients are released.

Additionally, and very importantly we make good use of our own home-grown compost teas. Every Aquaponics gardener should become a master composter.  The compost tea so produced provides a myriad of plant nutrients for the system.   Compost tea has other important uses in our Aquaponic garden…..but that is the subject of another post.

Find out more about these very important info pieces by attending one of our training programs.

See here for upcoming info and training events.

Posted in Tech Talk | 3 Comments

A Blast From The Past.

Aquaponics System Based on a 600 litre Fish Tank. (Oct 2006)

I decided it was time to upgrade my AP system. I have been running a small system based on a 200 Ltr fish tank and one strawberry tower.

My little Darling and I have had a number of very nice Strawberry and Cream desserts from the strawberry tower. The fruit was very sweet, not at all like the slightly tart strawberries one usually gets in the supermarket.
However the strawberry tower was becoming increasingly blocked. It needed some modifications to improve efficency, but that will be a project for some later time. Frequent tapping with a hammer to clear the blockages was not the way to go for a long term project.

The Fish Tank.

 It was a very quick job to transfer the 60 Jade Perch into the new 600 litre tank. I left it hooked up to the Strawberry tower while I set up a grow bed. The 12 volt pump from the old 200 litre system can be seen still hooked up to take water to the strawberry tower.

It was a very quick job to transfer the 60 Jade Perch into the new 600 litre tank.
I left it hooked up to the Strawberry tower while I set up a grow bed. The 12 volt pump from the old 200 litre system can be seen still hooked up to take water to the strawberry tower.

I had obtained some poly rectangular tanks that I thought would be good to sell on the website , for people who wanted a medium sized home system, but on testing one tank before sending it out, it proved to be a fizzer. It was just not strong enough to support the weight of the water once filled.
I could not waste the tank, so I figured I would use some old 1″ SHS I had lying in the paddock to make a support frame for the 600 ltr tub, and presto, a new Fish Tank.

Every once in a while some of the bigger fish can be seen swimming hard into the water flow that is coming back into the tank from the sump. They appear to be enjoying themselves holding station in the fast flowing water.

Every once in a while some of the bigger fish can be seen swimming hard into the water flow that is coming back into the tank from the sump. They appear to be enjoying themselves holding station in the fast flowing water.

The next job was to hook up the mains power submersible pump to move water out from the fish tank to the Grow Bed. I decided I would try one of the, Stainless Steel no brand made in China pumps, for this purpose. I like to try each product sold on our site.
The photo below shows the new China Stainless submersible pump all plumed in to the tank and the end of the water return from the sump can be seen…
I am using two of these Stainless pumps and they are going well.
One pump is used to take the water from the fish tank to the grow bed and the other to return the water from the sump to the fish tank.

The return water seen here enters the fish tank with some force, so the flow is throttled back using a plastic ball valve to reduce this effect and to prolong the cycle time a little. It should be noted that centrifugal type pumps can be throttled back to the flow required by the use of a tap or ball valve without harm to the pump. The red handled ball valve can be seen set at about half open regulating the flow of water to the fish tank.

Returning the water in this way serves to aerate the water for the fish, and does this task very well.

Below is a series of photos taken in 2006 showing the quick growth in a new grow bed attached to the 600 liter (150 gallon) tank shown above.

ABOVE:- 3 September 2006 Lettuce, Silver Beet, Zucchini and Tomatos planted. Gravel is "10mm Drainage Gravel"

ABOVE:- 3 September 2006
Lettuce, Silver Beet, Zucchini and Tomatos planted. Gravel is “20mm Drainage Gravel”

ABOVE:- 12 September 2006

ABOVE:- 12 September 2006

ABOVE:- 22 September 2006

ABOVE:- 22 September 2006


ABOVE:- 29 September 2006

ABOVE:- 29 September 2006


ABOVE:- 30 September 2006 6:am

ABOVE:- 30 September 2006 6:am

ABOVE:- 8 October 2006

ABOVE:- 8 October 2006





ABOVE :- 8 October 2006

ABOVE :- 8 October 2006

ABOVE :- 15 October 2006 - Note that lettuce in the front left hand corner have been harvested and replaced with Bok Choi seedlings.

ABOVE :- 15 October 2006 – Note that lettuce in the front left hand corner have been harvested and replaced with Bok Choi seedlings.

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Aphids in Aquaponics – Control Methods.

Pest Management Methods.


Striped Lady Beetle at work on a Komatsuna leaf. Komatsuna is an Asian style leafy green used in salads and stir fry dishes.

Striped Lady Beetle at work on a Komatsuna leaf. Komatsuna is an Asian style leafy green used in salads and stir fry dishes. See the large aphid to the left bottom of the photo

Aphids are one of the more difficult plant pests to deal with in an Aquaponics fish garden. How do they get into the garden? Usually they are brought in on plants, seedlings that you purchase from a nursery, or carried there by ants from some nearby garden.

Evidently there are around 4000 different types of aphid and at times I am sure most of them have been in my garden at some time!

Controlling them is a little difficult in Aquaponics because we do not have available to us sprayable material such as insecticides that would be commonly used on the regular farm or garden.  We really don’t want to use that kind of pest management for a couple of reasons.
1… We want to get away from using dangerous chemicals on our food supply.
2… If we spray that kind of poison we will most likely kill the fish.
3… Poisonous sprays kill beneficial insects as well as destructive insects.

One spray able solution is Neem Oil. This product is an oil extracted from the neem tree which is native to India.  Neem oil is considered to be a non toxic solution and is used as one insect control mechanism on some organic farms.  Neem oil is not very fish friendly so if it is intended to spray this material on your aphid infected plants then great care must be taken to prevent the oil spray drift getting into contact with the water.  This is, in practice, very difficult to do. We spray garlic concentrate, chilli spray, molasses spray regularly in summer but find that these methods help but are not nearly as effective as the use of beneficial insects.


Aphids can be seen on the leaf (white insects) and in the middle the predatory wasp Aphidius ervi can be seen.

The best way to control aphids is by the use of “IPM” or Integrated Pest Management. IPM aims to suppress pest populations below the economic injury level (EIL)[i]
Seen here is an aphid infestation that is under attack by parasitic wasps Aphidius ervi
These wasps are multiplying rapidly to cope with the aphid infestation.

In keeping with the underlying mantra of our Aquaponics Garden being an ECO system it would be counterproductive to find some poison to kill the aphids for example, because at the same time we would very likely also despatch any beneficial insects. Particularly threatened by these “poison” approaches is the honey bee, and all would agree that would be disastrous.

The most “all purpose” beneficial insect is the Green Lacewing.


Green Lacewing. Photo by Wikimedia

As the common name implies, adult green lacewings are green, with four clear wings. Adult female lacewings live for approximately three or four weeks and lay up to 600 eggs. The eggs hatch and the insect goes about its task of dealing with a variety of garden pests such as,
Aphids (various species)
Twospotted mite Tetranychus urticae
Greenhouse whitefly Trialeurodes vaporariorum
Scales (various species)
Mealybugs (various species)
Moth eggs and small caterpillars


Lacewing Larva doing a job on an aphid.
Photo “Bugs for Bugs”

So they are pretty handy to have around the greenhouse.

These can be purchased fairly inexpensively and do a great job.   Visit the “Bugs for Us” website for detailed information on how to purchase these little critters and release them in your garden or farm.


Striped Ladybird Beetle - Micraspis frenata

Striped Ladybird Beetle – Micraspis frenata

Here is another insect that we have in our Indy 23 greenhouse doing its share of work on the resident aphid population.
The Striped Ladybird Beetle.

There are 27 main groups of this little beauty that are a very important part of our Integrated Pest Management approach in Aquaponics gardening either for home or in a commercial farm setting.

Striped Ladybird Beetle Photo by Brisbane Insects

Striped Ladybird Beetle
Photo by Brisbane Insects


See more info about these wonderful little creatures at Brisbane Insects.





[i] “AGP – Integrated Pest Management”. Retrieved 21 August 2013.


Posted in Aquaponics Made Easy - How To, General News, Tech Talk | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Discover Aquaponics Extended – a Premier Event in Texas.

A premier Aquaponics event will be held in Spring Texas, Sat – Sun 9/14/13 – 9/15/13  and Mon – Tue 9/16/13 – 9/17/13

Discover Aquaponics Extended.  Spring Texas.

Discover Aquaponics Extended. Spring Texas.

Aquaponics Institute team with Murray Hallam will present Home Aquaponics instruction at its best. There will be two x two day sessions.   Choose the two day session that suits you best.

Discover AQUAPONICS Extended -

Course content. – Day #1

Discover Aquaponics –

Includes;  What is Aquaponics. Aquaponics description/history. What you can grow. Plants. Fish. The Aquaponic advantage. Comparison, Hydroponics, Aquaculture.  Is Aquaponics Organic.

Cycling a new system –
The nitrogen cycle. Cycling without fish. Cycling with fish.
Recycling nutrients. Environmental parameters.

System Parameters –
pH. Dissolved oxygen. Temperature. Conductivity (EC)

Water Chemistry –
Managing system chemistry.  Nutrient origins.

Protected Aquaponics –
Why protect. Protection criteria. Climate control. Structure types. Geodesic domes. Hoop houses.  Heating and cooling methodologies.  Layout and planning.

Dragon Heaters –
Wood burning combustion chamber technology.

Practical Workshops –
Dragon heaters.  Greenhouse system inspections. Backup systems.

 Discover AQUAPONICS Extended -

Course content – Day #2

Types Of Aquaponic Systems-
Media Grow Beds. Nutrient Film Technique. Deep Water Culture. Wicking Beds.

System Design-
Pumps. Plumbing. Siphons. Timers.   CHOP. CHOP 2. FloMedia. Filters. Clarifiers.
Swirl filters.  Canister Filters.

Fish and Plants-
Fish diseases. Treatment.
Integrated pest management. Common plant diseases.
Nutrients balance/shortfall. Compost. Vermiculture. Grow bed health.
Which species of fish. Fish food.

Practical Workshops –
Home system build. Plans. Liner. Specifications.
Water testing. Aeration devices. Fish handling.
Seed raising. Planting. Pruning. Buffering the system.

Aquaponics Institute team with Murray Hallam will present Home Aquaponics instruction at its best. There will be two x two day sessions.   Choose the two day session that suits you best.

Posted in Aquaponics Made Easy - How To, Aquaponics Secrets, Aquaponics systems | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Farm Finance & Modeling

This is the simple spreadsheet that can form the base model for your farm calculations. This will download into your download folder on your computer, then open it with Excel.
Here is the Financial Cash Flow Spreadsheet in XLS format for download….HERE


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Burn/Heat with Low Emissions, High efficiency!

This is the claim made about the very sophisticated wood burning multi purpose heater produced in Texas by “Dragon Heaters”.

Dragon Heaters

Dragon Heaters. State of the art, extremely efficient combustion system.

The “Dragon Heater” design closely resembles the well known “Rocket Stove” However the design has enhancements and innovations in a number of important ways that collectively, yield results not possible with traditional rocket stoves.

The secret of the Dragon Heaters wonderful performance lies in the design of the combustion chamber.

Dragon Heaters use state of the art wood burning combustion chambers for a wide variety heating appliances. They provide a smokeless burn at an extremely high temperature that is extraordinarily efficient and results in virtually no ash. They require no electricity and do not utilize catalytic converters, so offer the ultimate in reliable low cost off-grid heating.

This design opens up a whole new class of wood burning heaters and appliances. One of the more exciting design features is the ability to have a hybrid heater that includes the elements of both a traditional wood burning cast iron stove and a masonry heater.

This is a very exciting development for the world of Aquaponics. Those who practice Aquaponics in cold climates can easily adapt this “Dragon Heater” technology for low cost greenhouse space heating and system water heating. The “Dragon Heater” uses renewable wood as a fuel source so it is a technology for this time.

Dragon Heaters will be on show and demonstrated at the upcoming Aquaponics Institute event in Spring Texas.
See here for more details about the Aquaponics Institute event in Spring Texas September 14, 2013.
See the Dragon Heaters website for more Product Information.

Posted in General News | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Tools Arrive at Proto Village.

Recently I have returned from India where I participated in a program at Proto Village.  Proto Village is located approx. 120 km outside of Bangalore in a very arid region.  Kalyan has moved himself there and has taken on the task of helping the locals to secure their food supply and therefore their economic and health improvement.

The Proto Village team pictured here with the newly arrived tools.Darryl, (second from left) Kalyan (fifth from left) A comprehensive list of tools with an assortment of screws nails and the like.

The Proto Village team pictured here with the newly arrived tools.Darryl, (second from left) Kalyan (fifth from left) A comprehensive list of tools with an assortment of screws nails and the like.

There are just so many needs in the village that can be so easily satisfied with just a little outside help.  Kalyan and his team do a fantastic job but are restricted because he lacks equipment and funding.
There were just no tools in the village. Things like hammers, drills, hand saws and the like, basic stuff needed for us to construct garden beds carry out simple plumbing and the like.  Darryl, one of the guys who attended the Aquaponics training course saw the need and decided to do something about it.  On his return to Goa (another city in India) he contacted his business associates and raised funds to buy tool sets and had them sent into Proto Village.  This simple acquisition is making such a massive difference for Proto Village team.

Many have donated for the purchase of a shredder / mulching machine. We are in the process of purchasing that and having it sent in to the village.  This machine will be used to shred palm fronds and the like which will be composted for use in gardens and general soil improvement. Thanks so much to those who have donated. Your generosity is making so much possible.

Some small test Wicking Beds have been constructed and are planted out with

Kalyan with the new small test wicking beds.

Kalyan with the new small test wicking beds.

vegetables.  These Wicking Beds are an amazing improvement and these initial beds will yield some excellent vegetables on a bare minimum of water usage.  The beds are located close to the cow shed and pond, so it will be easy to attend to the gardening of the beds.

Darryl obtained these containers and had them sent into the village then travelled over from Goa to help Kalyan set them up and get them running.  There is an urgent need to start producing compost so we can construct much larger Wicking Beds o greatly increase vegetable production. An area is being prepared for the construction of larger wicking beds.


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Indiaponics – Proto Village – Aquaponics in India.

Sho is part of the Proto Village team.

Shobitha is part of the Proto Village team.

On Sunday March 24 I boarded the big bird at Brisbane;  flew to Singapore then on to Bangalore India for the start of the Aquaponics  project in Proto Village.  Arrived in Bangalore just before midnight (Bangalore time) and was picked up by Shobitha one of the Proto Village team members.

It was a long day, on the road for around 18 hours.
Spent Monday in Bangalore recovering and doing a few necessary things.

The traffic.  The traffic.  Never seen anything like it before. The interesting thing is, it works.

The Traffic. Somehow, it works.

The Traffic. Somehow, it works.

Proto Village is approx 120 kms outside Bangalore in a part of India that is extremely dry and barren.  The farmers there grow mostly peanuts (ground nuts) and run one or two cows and have a herd of goats.  Life is difficult.  There is no surface water of any description.
I cannot express strongly enough the sincerity and good will of the people I met in the village, including those that came to the training. Some of the participants travelled from across India and others were from nearby Bangalore. Wonderful people.

Kalyan.  The founder of the village project.

Kalyan. The founder of the village project.

The Proto Village project is the brain child of Kalyan. Kalyan is a most interesting person. He has given up city life to go live in this remote village because he wants to make a difference. It is just that simple.

The plight of the common people/farmers in this part of India is staggering. Difficult for the Western mind to take in. There is a large number of suicides, daily,  because of debt; debt incurred buying GM seed, insecticides and artificial fertilisers; borrowing from money lenders (loan sharks) to buy all of these things that promise a better life.

In most cases it is only a few hundred dollars but in the local farming economy that debt is insurmountable. Like all loan sharks the world over the interest rates are extraordinary. These farmers are often totally uneducated and have no idea how to calculate the interest or understand why or how extra money is being added to their debt. The rains do not come and the crop of promise fails to materialise. Faced with threats from loan sharks and a hungry family the shame is just to great to bear.

The favoured method of suicide is to drink a cup of insecticide which brings death, but only after several hours, sometimes days of indescribable agony. There is no available medical assistance.

Arrived at the village late afternoon after a 120 km drive from Bangalore. After sun set we were greeted by a full moon which was handy, because there was no power for lighting.  It was still very hot, no breeze. There was a lot of activity in continuing work on the 24 volt power supply coming off the new wind power generator that had just been completed this afternoon.
The wind gen set has been made from scratch. The alternator was wound by hand and made from a set of plans that came out of Scotland.  Excellent work. Such a device is very appropriate for this village situation.

A guy had come to the Village from a nearby sustainability organization to complete the final set up of the turbine.  He completed the final wiring down from the turbine and into the little concrete building that housed the rectifier control box.  The turbine is expected to produce power when the wind speed is at 10 kph or more.

wind turbine

Wind powered turbine producing 24 volts DC power.

That evening the breeze kicked in at 9 pm and the wind driven turbine sprang into action as expected.  Evidently the previous night wind came up at 9 pm also.  It would appear by all accounts to be a regular occurrence. If this proves to be the case a good quantity of power will be produced.

Pankaj, the film maker is busy running a wire off the 24 volt battery bank to the DC pump for the aquaponics system.  The mains power is only available between 10 and 12 pm every day…  The power has just come on.  This is the time to charge phones etc. There is an inverter charger that can put battery charge into the battery bank when the mains power is available.  As it turns out the mains power is very unreliable and of low voltage.  Something has gone wrong with the inverter/charger and it has caused the rectifier box for the wind turbine to malfunction.  Now there is no power at all.  It is apparent that the rectifier box has been badly damaged somehow and will need to go for repair.

The fish were picked up on our way here today, 300 common carp.  Perhaps it was a day or two too soon. We still do not have a fish tank and more importantly we do not have any way of aerating the fish water.  After getting the fish to the village, we placed the fish in two separate buckets of about 25 litres each.  One bucket has water from the pond and the other has the water that the fish came in plus 10 or so litres of drinking water. This is done to test the pond water by seeing if the fish so divided survive. If they do die it will not be conclusive, because of totally inadequate aeration. We do not know, at this point if the pond water will be suitable for the fish.

To be continued………….

PS.   I wish to raise funds to purchase a wood chipper machine similar to the one shown.woodChipper
It is difficult to decide which piece of equipment is most urgent, but the need to make good quality compost for gardening, soil improvement, aquaponics nutrient is urgent to get the project off and running.
The only readily available carbon source is palm fronds. These can not be used for cattle fodder so we can utilize these together with cow manure, cow urine to make excellent compost.
We hope to source this machine in India to save funds but will import if necessary.  This machine in Australia costs around 800.00 plus freight.

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Other items are necessary, such as a reliable small diesel gen set to supplement the wind turbine.
Prior to that,  solar panels with regulator and battery bank to be hooked into the wind turbine system.

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