The Most Compelling Reason

Food Purity

Food purity is one of the main reasons a lot of people get into aquaponics. Every time I run my 4-Day Aquaponics MasterClass, I ask students what their interest is in learning about aquaponics. And without fail, Food Purity is always one of the main reasons.

People are concerned about the grubby stuff that’s going into their food, these days! Pesticides and herbicides and preservatives and artificial colours. Even if the first dose won’t kill you, over time it can build up in your body and cause a whole lot of health issues.

Aquaponics grown salad greens
Pure clean food is grown at home.

Toxins

Take mercury in fish, for instance. Mercury is a natural substance, but through various processes – some of them natural, some of them industrial – it gets converted to a toxic chemical called methylmercury. This is really easily absorbed into living cells and it never goes away. Once you have it in your system, it’s there for life. It’s what’s called a ‘persistent’ toxin.

Not only is it persistent, but it ‘bioaccumulates’ or ‘biomagnifies’ as you go up the food-chain. That means that an animal higher up the food chain will contain more mercury than animals lower down the food chain because it now contains all the mercury from all the animals that it ate. For example, let’s say there’s a group of small fish in the ocean, each containing a small amount of mercury. If you eat one of those fish, you ingest a small amount of mercury. Now, let’s say a larger fish comes along and eats all of those smaller fish. All of the mercury in their bodies now takes up residence in its body. And then you eat it! So, what do you get? All the mercury from all the smaller fish! That’s what bioaccumulation means. The toxin builds up in the food-chain until eventually, you eat it at a dangerously high level.

Food Additives

But it’s not only major toxins like mercury that people are worried about when it comes to food purity. Food additives are also a concern for a lot of people. Pick up just about any pre-packed food and read the ingredients. It’s like a mad scientist’s shopping list!   Benzo this and butyl that, and a whole lot of numbers that only a chemist would recognise. At low levels, most of them are considered fairly safe, but so many people these days are eating so much packaged food that it is becoming a problem. Allergies and sensitivities abound.

Now, while we’ve come to expect additives in pre-packaged foods, it’s a real concern to know that you can find nasty chemicals even on fresh fruit and vegetables!   Producers cover them in a whole range of things to extend their shelf life or make harvesting and transporting easier. Unfortunately, this often means that you, the consumer, end up with flavourless, nutrient-poor food. In some cases, you’re better off buying frozen or canned – the ‘fresh’ produce may have been picked months ago, while the canned or frozen stuff was probably still in the ground the day before it was packed.

Nutrient Poor Food

Even the types of crops that are grown these days are chosen for their packageability rather than their nutritional value or flavour. And a lot of them are picked unripe before they’ve had time to develop their true flavour and full nutrient content. Again, this means we end up with lower-nutrient, lower-flavour food. This is why a lot of people are starting to grow their own – they can choose from a wider variety of crops and they can let them ripen properly before picking them. This means they end up with food that is flavoursome and nutrient dense. And I can tell you, there is just no comparison between biting into a soft, sweet, juicy strawberry that you’ve just picked from your own garden, and the bland, crisp, woody ones you so often find in the supermarket these days.

Genetically Modified Food

Another aspect of food purity that’s become an issue for many people is the use of genetically modified (GM) foods. This is a real hot button for some people. Like any argument, there are two sides, with some people saying GM food is the only way to feed the world, while others say it’s going to kill us all. But it is a major reason some people are starting to grow their own food.

Grow Your Own – Aquaponically!

Growing your own food is absolutely the best way to know that it’s going to be clean, fresh and nutrient rich. Farmers’ markets and buying organic are great and may be the only thing you can do if you don’t have the time or space to garden. But if you really want to make sure you know exactly what’s gone into your food, there is no substitute for growing it yourself.

And this is what attracts a lot of people to aquaponics. It’s a clean-food machine! You can’t add any nasties to it or you’ll kill your fish and the microbes that make the system run. So, because you have to take care of your system like that, it will take care of you by providing you with flavourful, nutrient-dense food, right in your own backyard. No more rubbery cucumbers or rock-hard tomatoes. Just fresh, clean food the way it was always meant to be. How good is that!

[references for the mercury, food-additives and GMO section]

https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/mercury-exposure-and-poisoning

https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/pollutants/mercury-environment/health-concerns/food-chain.html

https://www.choice.com.au/shopping/everyday-shopping/supermarkets/articles/fresh-food-tricks

https://www.choice.com.au/food-and-drink/food-warnings-and-safety/food-additives/articles/food-additives-you-should-avoid

http://www.who.int/foodsafety/areas_work/food-technology/faq-genetically-modified-food/en/

Fish on Trial.

What will be the verdict?

We have started a feed trial with Jade Perch. The idea behind the 12-month trial is to see just how well the Jade Parch will grow being fed anything they will eat that can come off the land rather than use fish feed pellets that contain ocean derived fish meal.
With a view toward long-term sustainability, I feel we need to discover and refine feeding methods that are not dependent on ocean fish stocks. Seems elementary, but I really want to see just how well it will or will not work.

Aquaponics policemen.

Aquaponics policemen.

Expectations: I believe we will get the fish through to the 12-month point in a healthy state, after all, Jade Perch in the wild eat plant material and algae etc. I imagine that we will see slower growth in the plant fed fish but I believe they will be very healthy.

Time will tell.

In my INDY 23 system I have 2 x IBC tanks that are all part of the same system. Same water same pump system etc. I feel it is an ideal setup to test two identical batches of fish that share the same conditions except fo the feed they get.
There are 65 Jades in each tank. The fish are supplied by Ausyfish at Childers.
They have been in the tanks for one month. The trial feeding started 1st March.
Weigh in on 1st April.

Method:
The batch of 130 fish were evenly divided as to size as near as we could. Very difficult when they are so small approx 10g each fish; so we started with 650g of fish density in each tank.

Tank "A" is been getting up to 50g of 2mm pellets per day.
The pellets are as below
Crude Analysis
Protein Min 35 %
Fat Max 10 %
Moisture Max 10%
Ash Max 11%
Ingredients =
Chilean Fishmeal, Wheatflour, Soybean Meal, Shrimp meal, Squid, Aquamix,

Tank "B" is getting a diet of lettuce, cooked carrot, cooked pumpkin, Kang kong leaves, honeydew melon, eggplant, cucumber. It is difficult to know just how much to give tank "B" every day but we are getting better at keeping the feed up to them.

This is a piece of eggplant that they demolished overnight.

This is a piece of eggplant that they demolished overnight.

First weigh in on 1st April.
Sample of 20 randomly caught fish from each tank gave the following results.
The fish were weighed as a batch.

Group "A" = 30g
Group "B" = 23g

Group "B" have not put on much weight at all; 3g over 20 fish. So we need to up their feed somewhat.

 

This is the lettuce when they have stripped it of the green leaves.

This is the lettuce when they have stripped it of the green leaves.

Discover Aquaponics Secrets Extended – A Premier On-Line Event.

This premier Aquaponics event will commence shortly and will be in the form of 26 x videos plus downloadable PDF files. Lessons Delivered every week over a sixteen-week period.

You will have ongoing access to the members area where each video will be posted for your review, reference and further study. You will have ongoing access to the members area as new updated material is added.
The members area will also have PDF files of interesting and very useful information for the committed home Aquaponics practitioner.

Murray Hallam of Practical Aquaponics will present Discover Home Aquaponics Secrets Extended instruction at its best.
See Below our standard Discover Aquaponics Extended two full day seminar content. This together with extended content will be available in the members area.

Instead of having to spend money on airfares, food and accommodation in addition to the normal Discover Aquaponics Extended class fees, you will be able to access all this gold standard information on-line.

You will be able to become more self-sufficient by growing Aquaponically.   Better than Organic fresh vegetables and fish.

Learn from the best!

Course content. – Section #1

Discover Aquaponics Extended–

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.

Wicking Beds- Other appropriate technology.

Course content – Section #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. Decoupled Aquaponics, FloMedia. Filters. Clarifiers.
Swirl filters.  Canister Filters.

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

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

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Murray Hallam will present Home Discover Aquaponics Extended instruction at its very best.
Murray Hallam regularly teaches Aquaponics at both Home Aquaponics Level and Commercial Farm level in Australia and overseas. Just returned from teaching tour in Hungary and Portugal in Europe and Oregon USA.

If you can't make it to one of Murray's face to face Discover Aquaponics sessions then this series of Webinars is directly suitable for you.

Please indicate your interest in being kept informed of when the Webinar Series will open for enrolments.
Go HERE. (Please note, this is not an order or obligation, just an indication of interest in the program)

GroPockets – A Better Way To Grow.

GroPocket.  This is fitted to a standard 100mm (4") PVC pipe to make a very functional GroTower.

GroPocket. This is fitted to a standard 100mm (4") PVC pipe to make a very functional GroTower.

GroPockets are used to turn PVC pipe into the ideal vertical GroTower growing system. GroPockets are glued over holes drilled into PVC pipe and hold the plant crowns above the wet root zone. Special low volume sprinklers are used to distribute the nutrient solution for hydroponic and aquaponic systems.

It is faster, easier, and cheaper to eliminate the growing media inside the pipe. Plants are easier to harvest without having to untangle roots from media. This design facilitates the lowest operating cost of any vertical growing system. Commercial Aquaponics and hydroponics growers can now have the advantages of higher plant densities in greenhouses with low labor cost.
GroPockets are sold individually or in sets. Quantity discounts for commercial aquaponics and hydroponics users are also available.
Go HERE to purchase your GroPockets

 

GroPockets. from Murray Hallam on Vimeo.

Solar Powered Aquaponics GroPockets. from Murray Hallam on Vimeo.

Cycling a New Aquaponics System. Quick Guide.

How to Cycle a new Aquaponics System.
Have your system built and the water circulating, the auto siphons are functioning and adjusted well. If you have decided to use a timer system for flood and drain, then your timed cycles should be functioning well. You have run the system long enough for the water to be clearing.  The water can be a bit dirty from loose dust on the clay pebbles or gravel, but it should start to clear after a few days.

Barra in a basket

Small Barramundi contained in a plastic laundry basket within the fish tank. This makes it easy to take the fish out and treat them in a salt bath if necessary.

Small Barramundi contained in a plastic laundry basket within the fish tank.  This makes it easy to take the fish out and treat them in a salt bath if necessary.

Adjust the pH to just below pH 7. Adjust using pool acid to bring pH down or hydrated lime to adjust pH up. Get some plants in there right away.  The plants will soon tell you if there is not enough nutrients.  Use some Maxicrop or Seasol seaweed extract to provide some nutrient for the plants.  It will not harm the fish once you have them in the system.
There are very small amounts of ammonia in these products, so the process of building a suitable colony of beneficial bacteria will be slow, but it is a very safe and gentle way of cycling your system. Be patient.  These are natural processes and they take time. If you feel you must  speed the process, then, in addition to the seaweed extract, add a VERY SMALL amount of Urea.  No more than 1 teaspoon per 1000 litres of water.
If you can obtain some pure ammonia then use that in preference to Urea.  Once again, very a small amount like 1 tablespoon per 1000 litres (250 gallons). I stress that my preference is not to use Urea.  It can be vicious and cause lots of problems if overused.

The beneficial bacteria are naturally occurring, and they will begin to multiply once there is ammonia present. One option t ensure you have a good number of the beneficial bacteria present is to add some water , 3 or 4 liters (1 gallon) from a disease free freshwater aquarium, or a friends Aquaponics system.  The beneficial bacteria will be in this water and will take up residence in your new system and begin to multiply and use/process the ammonia. After your system has been running for about two weeks and everything is going nicely…..add the fish of your choice.

Stock lightly for your first batch of fish. Don’t be tempted to have a lot of fish in the beginning. Remember , loads of aeration and a backup system. Conduct your usual tests for Ammonia, Nitrites,  Nitrates at the following frequency. Daily for pH and Ammonia. Every second day for Nitrites. When the Nitrites appear you will know that the beneficial bacteria are on the increase. A short period of time after that Nitrates should start to appear. Test for Nitrates every second day until you see them appearing.  Once you see Nitrates you know that your system has cycled. All the while test for Ammonia.  If it goes beyond 1.0 mg/L then carry out a one-third water change.
The good thing about having the plants in is they are capable of taking up some of the ammonia.  Once the system has completed the "cycling" process tests for ammonia should reveal very small amounts or even none at all on occasion. All the while test pH.  Try to keep it just below pH 7.   It is not uncommon to observe swings in pH during this early period.   Don’t panic and start chasing the pH.   Only adjust when you see a firm pattern developing, for example, if it stays at say, 8.0 for 3 days, adjust gradually down using pool acid or similar…….be gentle, adjust in small increments, until you get it steady just below pH 7.

Once your system is up and running and everything is just fine, if you want to introduce more new fish always quarantine them in a salt bath for a week before putting them into your main system.  Don’t risk bringing sick or infected fish into your working Aquaponics system.
Happy Aquaponics Murray.

Is Aquaponics Worth The Effort?

The question has been asked countless times and I guess will continue to be.  Why do Aquaponics and is it worth it?  Is Aquaponically grown produce and fish all that different?

Some claim no!  Some say that the nutritional value or density, is not much different between produce grown in a regular dirt farm or garden, a hydroponics system or an Aquaponics system.  I suppose that comparison is something to be documented, but let's suppose that the comparison is correct.   Why then bother with growing Aquaponically?

Aquaponics fish

Fish dinner. Home grown and home cooking.  How good is this!

In this short piece so far, we have not mentioned the fish.  Regular dirt gardens/ farms, or hydroponics at any level can't deliver a fish dinner.

So what other reasons might there be to engage in Aquaponics.  I will list some. The list is not exhaustive but a good start.
1. Freedom from dangerous pesticides and synthetic fertilizers.
2. Aquaponics can be truly "Organic" (none of that midnight spraying of poisons. If you do, you will kill those little policemen, the fish.)
3. Use of natural processes for the production of plant nutrients.
4. Most efficient use of water. (that one is a big one, especially now in SoCal, Aussie and other places)
5. Can be done anywhere. Especially significant in desert areas, places of poor, degraded or polluted soil. Inner city areas that are food deserts. At village level where resources are very limited.
6. Pure food. This sums up many of the above reasons.

Aquaponics produce

Wonderful pure food. Aquaponics produce at it's best. Your body will thank you for this meal.

Food purity is the overriding consideration.  Many, if not most other food production methodologies, are pure food failures.

Perhaps you can add some reasons that are important to you.   Please comment below.

Let’s Consider the Two Principle Workers:

Aquaponics utilizes natural processes. We rely on these natural processes to produce a truly organic nutrient bank.

- Nitrosomonas Bacteria
- Nitrobacter Bacteria

These two bacteria are naturally occurring. They are in the soil and water all
around us.

When we provide the starter compound, ammonia, the bacteria
swing into action and grow and multiply according to their food source.

The nitrogen cycle

The nitrogen cycle

TheNitrosomonas bacteria
convert the ammonia to Nitrite, and when Nitrite is present, then
theNitrobacter Bacteria convert the Nitrite to Nitrate.

Nitrate is, of course, the principal plant food for all plants, in particular leafy green plants such as vegetables.

To reiterate - it is important to understand that there is a myriad of microbes and bacteria at work in an Aquaponics system and eventually as the system matures many naturally occurring
nutrients become available to the plants.

Ammonia is the major waste product of the Kish.
released across the gills as a gas, and immediately dissolved in
the system water. Ammonia is TOXIC to fish at low levels and therefore, needs to be made
non-toxic as quickly as possible.

This is where the Bacteria play their role. The Bacteria convert the Ammonia (NH3) to Nitrite (NO2), then to Nitrate (NO3) Nitrate is non-toxic to the fish at small to medium levels ( This bacterial conversion of Ammonia to non-toxic Nitrate occurs in the bio-filter and on all the wetted surfaces of the system.

The breakdown, or mineralisation of solids in other areas eg, media beds and mineralisation tank, or sludge tank. This process occurs on all wetted surfaces. Grow media, underside of rafts, sides and bottom of raft beds, walls of fish tank and inside vertical towers.

So we have a system that is home to many, many forms of beneficial oxygen dependant microorganisms that perform very valuable tasks for us, providing the necessary ingredients for nutrient dense produce and healthy fish.

Aquaponics Courses.  Go HERE