Four levels of Knowledge –

Four levels of Knowledge -

Training class in progress. Practical hands on training.

A training class in progress. Practical hands on training.

The 4 day Master Class is a good mix of both introductory subjects and leading into and concentrating on commercial Aquaponics subjects. We have excellent material to share including some very extensive spreadsheets that will play well for your business plan development.

As you are most likely aware we have excellent credibility in this area. We have been delivering Master Classes in the USA and  Australia for more than 5 years. We are very fortunate having travelled around the world and consulted on many farm projects. Many of our students are running their own projects and some are building farms for others. Some are teaching and sharing with others as well as running their own Aquaponics farm.

Additionally, We are the holders of Australian Federal Gov approved 10427NAT - Certificate III in Aquaponics Organic Food Production. The only such course in the world at this time.  We are still finalising the teaching notes and training some staff to deliver this Cert III course.  We anticipate the first delivery of this course to commence in the first half of 2018.

So, we deliver Aquaponics knowledge in three levels;

1. Discover Aquaponics.  A one day course crafted, especially for the hobbyist. This gives a really good framework for the person wishing to grow their own chemical free healthy vegetables (and fish, don't forget the fish!) Dates to be announced for 2018 soon.

Aquaponics Greens

Salad greens growing in a home Aquaponics system

2. Aquaponics Master Class. A 4-day training course aimed at those who may be wishing to develop a commercial business in Aquaponics farming.  This course is by far our most attended and enthusiastically recommended by graduating students.

(Yes, we have many Aquaponics home hobbyists who complete this level of training because they want to be really good at producing their own food and move closer to a sustainable lifestyle.)
To secure your place in the Aquaponics Master Class, go here

3. Aquaponics Design Course.  This course is completely online. If you have an internet connection you can complete this course. This course has been undertaken by students from 40+ countries.
Over 100 videos in this course. The course now runs for 8 weeks,
Go here to read about this course.

4. 10427NAT - Certificate III in Aquaponics Organic Food Production. This is a 500 hour plus course that is designed to fit the student with in-depth knowledge of Aquaponics Farming.  This will produce qualified persons who can confidently enter into an Aquaponics farming venture. Further, it will produce qualified persons who an Aquaponics farmer can confidently hire as excellent, knowledgeable AP farm technicians.
This course will run for the first time in the first half of 2018.

Aquaponics Salad Greens

Aquaponics Salad Greens.  A farm built in the Middle East by one of our star students.

 

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.

 

 

Grow Bed Area Needed To Achieve Crop Yields.

The area needed is arbitrary because it depends very much on how well you manage your Aquaponics garden, the types of crop grown and so on. Also, efficiency 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 equation. Serious planning and attention is required to make it happen.

It is generally accepted, by working a regular soil 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 efficient 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 sqft) 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 sqft) 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 acquire the skills needed takes time and effort. Start to produce what you can in the time and space you have available to you. 

Take the time to acquire good sound knowledge. Frankly, watching a dozen or so You Tube clips made by people who started Aquaponics a few weeks before probably 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 "armchair 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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

 

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.

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.

Murray.

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.

Tuesday:
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.

Please donate.  You can be assured there will be full accounting to all those who donate and your funds will be doing some real good for people who deserve a helping hand.  No donation too small, none too big.  So please use the Paypal button provided.
Updates will be published on this blog site.

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.


Aquaponics Institute LLC

Aquaponics Institute LLC

The team at tha Aquaponics Institute have just completed a 200 + page manual for our 5 day training at Ouroboros Farm and Stillheart Institute.
The manual incorporates the very latest Commercial and Small Farm information covering all aspects right through to illustrated plans.
An excellent piece of work and each student will receive their own copy to take away.
There is still some spaces left for the training....it is worth coming just to get the manual apart from all the other benefits...
See you there...Murray

Too Many Feathers.

Chicken.

Chickens have too many feathers !

Yesterday I finished processing the last two meat chickens of a batch of ten that I have raised.

I won't be doing that again!

As I was plucking and cleaning (not to mention lopping off the head) it struck me just how much work there is in growing and processing my own poultry.  It is not a very pleasant task either.
Having grown up in a rural area I had processed plenty of chooks (Australian for chicken),  in my youth, so the process was not new to me, but I have to admit....I had forgotten just how "un-nice" the process is.  Comparing it to Aquaponics,  growing and harvesting my own fish, my vote is firmly for the fish.   So much easier to simply dive a net into the tank, retrieve one or two plate sized fish and process them.   From getting the net, right through to sitting down to a delightful fish dinner, is less than one hour.

How easy is that?

The process is easier, cleaner and much more efficient.

Work;  It took much more effort to deliver a kilo of home grown chicken to my table than to get a kilo of fish on the plate.  Delivering feed and water to the chickens  every day, finding suitable green feed and putting up with their noise.
Expense;  Chicken meal is expensive these days.  By my calculations the Feed Conversion Ratio (FCR) for my batch of chickens was 3.5 to 1.0  In other words it took 3.5 Kg of feed to produce 1.0 Kg of chicken. By contrast my Jade Perch have a FCR of around 1.5 to 1.0, more than twice as efficient in converting feed to bodyweight.

The chickens took 14 weeks to grow out, my fish take approx one year, so the fish take a lot longer but that is ok.  That can be taken care of by having enough fish on the go to ensure a constant supply of fish dinners.

In a commercial Aquaponics farm setting, the fish costs less to produce per kilo and sells for a higher price per kilo,  so it is a good deal from all perspectives.

For long term sustainability fish win the contest no risk.

Murray Hallam Practical Aquaponics

Murray Hallam ..A Food Freedom Rebel. A pure, secure food system.

Learn about Aquaponics for Profit for both home and business.  There is loads of information on my regular website, here on this blog site and in my discussion Forum.

If you want to take a class see here for upcoming events