Aquaponic Tomatoes, Lettuce and EC.

A run through our greenhouse where we are in the process of building out a new section .  The growth of the tomatoes and lettuce is remarkable.   This was filmed early April 2012. Feel free to share on your Facebook page.

Are YOU Ready to Join the Farm Revolution?

Today’s health conscious consumers hunger for good, clean, locally grown food. On April 21 – 24, and April 26 – 29, Green Acre Organics, in partnership with The Aquaponic Source and Practical Aquaponics, will offer a comprehensive aquaponic farming course titled “Green Acre Farming – The Complete Course”. This course, taught in Brooksville, Florida, will teach entrepreneur farmers how to meet those needs through both classroom and hands-on instruction.

Green Acre Organics

Quote startOur approach is that Aquaponics is a balanced ecosystem.... through a family farm. Ordinary people can do it. You do not need a million dollars, or highly mechanized components to grow your own food for yourself and your community.Quote end

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Will Anyone Buy My Lettuce – Green Acre Organics.

Practical Aquaponics Murray Hallam - Farmers market.

How can I best market my premium Aquaponically grown produce?

How can I be sure I will be able to market my produce and make my Aquaponics business profitable?   Why do I need a website .  Do I really have to go to all that trouble, after all I am just going to be growing some vegetables .
These are some of the areas explored by Murray Hallam and Sylvia Bernstein in a recent conversation about the Green Acres Farm training course coming up in April at Gina's farm, Florida.

Listen to the Podcast .

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Hello, I’m Murray Hallam from Practical Aquaponics, and talking today to Sylvia Bernstein from The Aquaponic Source. Hi Sylvia, how are you?

Sylvia Bernstein. Hey Murray, I’m doing great Murray, and how are you?

Murray Hallam.
Fantastic, Sylvia, I just wanted to talk to you about this training that is coming up in Florida in April. I am getting really excited about it because I am coming over there with you to Gina’s place and I just wanted to ask you a few questions about what you're doing there. I notice that your section of it’s going to be, a lot of it's going to be about “Marketing” and “How do we sell the product that we grow” and, I was just wondering if you could tell me a bit, in a broad way, about what you’re going to be teaching.

Sylvia Bernstein. You bet Murray; So my emphasis is on really, taking the produce that we all know how to grow, and that you and Gina are going to take the class through how to grow optimally, and now we‘ve got to get it into the hands of our customers and we need to make the most money possible doing it …you know there is nothing wrong with making money and the way that your farm, (should you sign up for this class), the way that your farm is going to become successful and profitable, is for getting the most out of the produce that you’re going to work so hard to create, to grow. So, my whole emphasis is on the business side of Aquaponic farming.

Murray Hallam.  You know what Sylvia, I think that's probably the most important side, because if the business doesn't sell their product in a sensible way, then you can grow the finest lettuce or tomatoes under the sun, but if you can't sell them for a good price it’s a waste of time isn’t it?

Sylvia Bernstein.  Well, the bottom line is, you can think about lettuce and tomatoes as a commodity, right, you can think about it in terms of – it's just a head of lettuce, just like, I can just run down to the grocery store and pick up - or we can think about it as something that has been really specially raised organically and in an incredibly sustainable way by a local farmer, and this is the farmer, and this is their family, and this is how they’re growing food for your family and make that connection… and that connection is going to take what would otherwise be a commodity and really make it a valuable product.

Murray Hallam. It’s fantastic isn’t it? I really see that’s where it's got to go really, because there are so many people out there today that want clean chemical free food don’t they?  They are sick of buying the supermarket rubbish.  Look, I noticed in the list of subject matter you've got listed down there “Why do I need a website”. Now, why do you think we need a website?

Sylvia Bernstein. You know, the reality today is that we connect to each other in many ways through the internet. If somebody is going to find you, chances are they’re going to do it through the internet. Even if they go, let’s take the scenario, they go to the farmers market and they see you there at your table, and they think “wow, Aquaponics, what’s that? Maybe I want to learn more about these people” .They’re going to go home and they’re going to look for you on the internet.

So the internet has really become the common store front for all of us, and your website is very much the front door. It’s your business on line, and that is where people get an impression of you, and so, their impression is either going to be “ooh” or “these people don’t know what they’re doing” or “they sell too hard” or “they’re very amateurish. Gosh, I’m not sure that I want to trust them with my food “, which is a pretty important thing…..Or, you’re going to get the impression that these are people that I can really relate to and that I want to do business with them. I want to really support them as local farmers.  And the difference between website number one and website number two can really be some very minor differences, and we’re going to go into some of that in this class.

Murray Hallam. Sylvia, I can really relate to what you're saying there because I know I do that, I tend to look at the website, you know, get the internet up when I’m looking for anything at all, even if I am about to go down the road to the Mall, I tend to look up the internet first, to get an idea of what I want…So true.

Sylvia Bernstein. You bet, and God forbid you can’t find them on the internet.

Murray Hallam. I think “What’s going on here?”

Sylvia Bernstein. Exactly; “What’s going on here? These people aren’t real. You know, they must be just slack, or whatever.” But all sorts of bad things happen!!! So, it’s very important. You know, it’s funny to think, that even as a farmer, you really do need to have a good internet presence that represents who you really are.

Murray Hallam.  So Gina has got a good website I notice…Look, there is something else on the list I notice you have got there….SEO Basics.  What in the world is SEO basics?

Sylvia Bernstein. Well, it’s one of those TLA’s or three letter acronyms. SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimisation”. So, it is essentially where you come up in Google or Bing or whatever search engine is out there, when somebody types in key words, into the search bar, where they might be looking for you. So let’s say that you have a farm in Kansas City Missouri, and you are growing aquaponically, and you specialise in Heirloom Tomatoes.  You want to make sure that if somebody in Kansas City, types in “Heirloom Tomatoes Kansas City”, that you are going to come up on the first page of those results, because over 80% of the websites that will actually be clicked on, based on that search, are going to be the ones on that first page. So being on the first page for the searches that are critical to you, is extremely important. You can have the best website in the world, but if you can’t be found, it doesn’t matter. So that is what SEO is about.

Murray Hallam. That is so true, that's good.  I'm going to be listening very carefully to that part I can tell you.  Now just stepping back a little bit, we were talking earlier about the need to have a website and selling our produce.  What about pricing theory?  How are we going to get more money for this produce,  because my idea is that if this is a premium product,( which it is)…We are growing a premium product and how do we make sure we get a premium price for it?

Sylvia Bernstein Well, and I'm going to be going into this quite a bit in the class, so I won’t divulge the secrets too much now, but I will tell you that we will be dissecting , “what does that mean to be a premium product, and how do you know how to price within being a premium product?  Again it gets back to, “you’re not a commodity”.  This is not about looking at every other head of lettuce that is being sold around you. How do you get into channels, meaning, how do you get into farmer’s markets, or restaurants, or places where you can distribute or sell your product, where they truly appreciate the premium nature of what you’re selling.  You can have the best, most premium product in the world out there, and if you’re just selling it to a produce distributor, they’re not going to care. They’re going to look at you and say “What’s the price?”

Murray Hallam. It’s just another lettuce.

Sylvia Bernstein. It’s just another lettuce…exactly! They don’t have buyers that are really worried about that premium nature. Now you take it to all the way to the other end of the spectrum and where you’re selling directly to the consumer. The consumer cares a whole lot about that lettuce because they’re about to eat it. So it is about the quality of the lettuce. It’s about how it was raised, it’s about the people who raised it, it’s about the sustainability of the techniques that were used to raise it, you know.  Did it harm the earth in the process, and all of those are things that can be bundled into the premium-ness of your head of lettuce.,

Murray Hallam. Fantastic; hey listen, when we were over at Gina’s farm back in September, I was talking to her and she sells to restaurants doesn’t she, and hasn’t she got something called a “buying club”?

Sylvia Bernstein. She does, yes.

Murray Hallam. Are you going to be covering that and how that can be done and how that can be formulated?

Sylvia Bernstein. I am, and definitely in partnership with Gina because, she is the uh, queen or the goddess of the buying club. Boy, I am so impressed with what she does with her buying club.  It’s just incredible. She has gotten together with other local farms, local organic farms in her community, and she has become the defacto organic distribution centre for her area. People, customers, end customers, are actually buying baskets of produce and every week they are able to say what they want in their basket and those get delivered.  So Gina, you know, she makes a nice profit on this and so, the key to that is that she very much has her ear to the ground on what her market is looking for. And that is one of the keys to making money as a farmer, is really understanding your market and what they are looking for, and that is what Gina does so well.

Murray Hallam.  Fantastic.Anyway we better cut this off now I guess and speak again a bit later on Sylvia, but I just want to end cap for people, that we are going to be running this training program at Gina’s farm in Florida in April 21 – 24. We will be having two sessions 21 – 24 and 26 - 29 and Sylvia, you might like to tell them the address where they can go to see all the details.

 Sylvia Bernstein. You bet. Actually Murray, any one of our websites has the details, yours at

Murray Hallam.  Fantastic. Thanks Sylvia.

Sylvia Bernstein. Thanks so much Murray. It was fun!

Murray Hallam.See you. ‘Bye.

Green Acre Organics – Gina Talks About Her AP Farm

Gina Cavaliero is expanding her 1,000 square foot floating raft system to cater for demand Murray Hallam Practical Aquaponics.

Gina Cavaliero is expanding her 1,000 square foot floating raft system to cater for demand

Gina Cavaliero of Green Acre Organics who is expanding her system from a 1000 square foot DWC “floating raft” system to a mix of NFT and Media Bed systems to take advantage of different plants and their growing requirements.

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Listen to the Podcast.

Ecofilms: Today, small scale commercial Aquaponics system. Can you make any money from them? We speak with Gina Cavaliero from Green Acre Organics and Murray Hallam. Gina, tell us about your system. You’ve got one system already established. A 1000 square foot floating raft system and you’re building and expanding your system. Tell us a bit about that?

Gina Cavaliero: Sure. We started out with a 1,000 square foot DWC (Deep Water Culture) raft type system and we just expanded it to include an additional 1024 square feet. So we’re just right at 2000 square feet of DWC growth space. Its still being powered by the same amount of fish density fish space so we didn’t have to add on anything additionally to our tank area – but just more grow beds.

Murray Hallam: That’s just great Gina, isn’t it.

Gina Cavaliero: It is. We’re looking at trying to optimize how much we can grow with as little bit of fish as possible.

Murray Hallam: Why have you got that approach Gina about keeping the fish at a low density?

Gina Cavaliero: Well the reason is we didn’t really start out with that intention. We thought we would have a better market for our fish products. But what we found is that it’s just not a really competitive type of product – the tilapia here, because they can get it cheap elsewhere. It comes in imported at ridiculous per pound prices. Also for the fact that we don’t process (the fish) We would have to provide our restaurants and chefs is a whole fish on ice. They love the flavor. They love the texture. They didn’t like the labor and the comparison of getting a few servings out of a tilapia as opposed to fifteen out of a grouper of salmon. So it just wasn’t cost effective enough for them.

So what that meant to us is that we had to look at our fish as just our fertilizer generator.  They are part of the cost of growing our produce. So we want to minimize how many we have so we have the least amount of overhead to raise and rear them and we can produce as much product as possible.

Murray Hallam: Of course you want to do that with fish because Aquaponics is an ecosystem. You’re dealing with a non-chemical growing method.

Gina Cavaliero: Absolutely. We get everything we need out of the fertilizer, out of the bacterial conversion that occurs as a result of the fish and the ecosystem. So we don’t need to do anything else other than keep those fish happy, keep them fed and they do what they need for us.

Ecofilms: Gina, a lot of people have problems with the word “commercial.” You are selling your produce. How big do you have to be before you would classify an Aquaponics operation to be commercial?

Gina Cavaliero: That’s a great question Frank. In my opinion I think if you’re producing a product and selling it, you’re essentially commercial.  You’re putting a product out for sale. So we have this concept of mega-farms which is pretty much what’s dominating the landscape of agriculture these days. That’s kind of far removed from what in my opinion we need. We need small family sized farms where we can really concentrate on delivering to the community. Because that’s what people are desiring. They don’t want this commercialized, processed product.  They want to know their farmer. They’d like to have that relationship and knowing their farmer and knowing their food. There’s so much security and sense of comfort that they receive from that. So, you know, you can start out as a very small sized farm and go to your farmers market and sell to your community, your neighbors. In my opinion that’s commercial. Your selling what you are doing.

Ecofilms: But is it viable?

Gina Cavaliero: It is definitely viable depending upon size. Depending upon how much one needs to generate. I get that question a lot. Can I make a living off it? Well I can’t answer that because I don’t know what each individual needs to make a living. That’s a variable number.  Can it support two people? I believe so.  I think if you have the land, the space to do it. Its definitely viable.  I think if you have to incorporate any kind of additional mortgage or lease – I think it will definitely be more challenging. I don’t think its impossible, but I think it escalates you into a larger category where you are looking at paid labor. Ideally what we’re trying to do is to do this with two people. Not to have that addition of paid labor.

Murray Hallam: That applies to any business though really. Any small business that you run, once you start employing people and taking out leases on vehicles or equipment or whatever. It’s the same. Its no different to any other business.

Hey Gina, I’m getting excited about April. I’ll be over at your place in April and for me that’s a bit of a long trip across the big wide ocean but I’m just looking forward to getting over there because you are running a training program. Do you want to tell us a bit about that?

Gina Cavaliero: Sure. We’re really excited about it too. We can’t wait to have you back over here to our side of the pond. What we’re doing is a four day intensive course and we teach everything. Its not just the nuts and bolts. It’s the pen and paper too. We’re going to cover business aspects. SEO management. Why would a farm need a website? Things as intricate as that. As well as managing day to day operations. How to construct a system. How to manage the system. Dealing with fish, planting, harvesting. You name it. Everything you need to do to replicate what we do – we’re going to teach.

Murray Hallam: Fantastic.

Ecofilms: And Murray what’s your involvement in the course? What will you be teaching?

Murray Hallam: I will be talking about media grow beds. That kind of thing, more of the hands on practical kind of stuff. That’s what Gina has asked me to do so I’ll be excited about doing that and of course to meet a lot of my USA friends. But look there’s another thing that’s going on there, that I’m excited to see and listen to and that is Penn and Cord Parmenter are coming down. Can you tell me a bit about that please?

Gina Cavaliero: Yes. We’re excited about the addition of a one day workshop that is in between the four day courses that we’re running simultaneously. Penn and Cord are going to teach their practical application of a passive solar greenhouse. What these folks have done is enable themselves to grow year round at 8,000 feet in Colorado. Incredibly cold non forgiving environment and they grow year round. So what they’re going to do is teach folks how to replicate their green house. A passive solar design. They are also going to do a segment on seed-saving. Its so relevant to what we need here. The vast majority of growers in the US really have to deal with inclement weather and cold temps.  We actually had an experience with really bad freezing temps for a prolonged period of time and a passive solar greenhouse would have done wonders for us.

Murray Hallam: Where I live in south east Queensland, we’ve got a fairly good climate. Our worst winter day is a frost that’s just freezing for a couple of hours and that’s it. I’m frequently asked about growing Aquaponics in inclement or cold environments.  So that’s really interesting because going back to what you said earlier about the farms you see for the future being small family and mom and dad kind of operations, in selling their stuff locally, its really important for people to be able to grow Aquaponics anywhere. As you say, cold weather climates make it challenging. Imagine if you had to build a greenhouse and you had to have the gas fitted and the big electricity bill and on and on it would go. That’s why I’m so interested in what Penn and Cord have to say. Its going to be really interesting.

Gina Cavaliero: I agree. I’m excited by it. Our partner in this Sylvia Bernstein has actually taken Penn and Cords class and is quite familiar in what they do.  So for me its going to be a treat to sit in on this workshop as well.

Ecofilms: Gina just before we finish up, your expanding your Aquaponics system. Can you tell us in which direction you’re going? You’re making a demonstration Aquaponics site that covers all the different aspects. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

 Gina Cavaliero: Yes. We started out as deep water culture. Raft type. And that is absolutely the prevalent type of growing system for commercial. That’s what’s taught elsewhere with good reason. It has its pluses for commercial type growing. What we discovered doing this for some time is that we really needed to diversify our crops and we needed to optimize where those crops grew. We can get some great growth out of herbs for instance in our DWC. But what we found is that they take up quite a bit of space over a long period of time. When in that same bit of space we could have turned over lettuce perhaps three to four times in the same time span and generated quite a bit more money. We want to take those herbs and put them in a more conducive growing environment which for them means a NFT system. So what we’re doing, we’re tieing in NFT, media, vertical all in together with our DWC. So we can take different crops, put them in the best place where they’ll grow most optimally. Perhaps that means not taking up space. Perhaps that means being mobile in a DWC system and we’ll have a great example of different systems and how you can incorporate those systems together.

Murray Hallam: Actually Gina you’ve also found with supplying your chefs and customers that they don’t want just lettuce every week. They want other things.

Gina Cavaliero: They want anything and everything. I can probably say we have still not satisfied our chefs. They are ravenous for anything. They want different things. They want unique items. They want us to grow certain things specifically for them so they can have something that no one else has.  They love our lettuce products. We hear all the time how its so much better than anything else. Its sweeter. Its more tender. The colours are more vibrant. They love it. They want more of it. They want different things.

Ecofilms: Wilting. I’ve heard stories of people having problems selling their produce because once they pick it they take it out of water and the plant just flops over and wilts. Do you have that problem?

Gina Cavaliero: That is usually indicative of the time that you are harvesting. We harvest specifically lettuce and greens very early before daylight. It has a lot to do with the stomata opening and how it affects the plant as well as temperature which is very relevant for harvesting. So there are some keys and tips of the trade so to speak that we are going to share in our training so people will not have that issue.

Ecofilms: Fantastic. I wanted to ask you what plants are the most profitable but maybe we should keep that for the course.

Gina Cavaliero: (laughing) Yeah we can keep that for the course, but its really market specific. I stay away from making statements about what might be really great here might not be really great in Louisiana or California or Colorado. Research your market. Become very familiar with it. Know who your clientele is.

Ecofilms: So how do people find out? What days are the courses? You got two groups, April 21-24 as well as April 26-29. Why are there two sessions?

Gina Cavaliero: We decided to go with two sessions because we anticipated a really good response. We know that we are offering something that really is not being offered elsewhere like some of the other commercial trainings. There’s something unique about ours. It involves the fact that we’ve been doing this. We do it everyday. We have some incredible industry leaders like Murray and Sylvia joining us. And its comprehensive. There’s everything you need to know.

Ecofilms: Where do you book it? Where do you sign up?

Gina Cavaliero: You can go to my website which is I always tell people  there is an “s” on organics, not on “acre”. It will link you though to the registration page. All the information you need to know is right there at our website.




Jade Perch for Aquaponics.

Today we road test the vegetarian loving  Jade Perch with Murray Hallam. He’s always grabbing one out of his tank to show visitors. Whats so good about them? Should you consider growing Jade Perch if you live in a warm climate? What are the health benefits of eating Jade Perch and will it eat the food grown in your aquaponics system? Even the green stuff growing in your fish tank like algae?

Murray Hallam roadtests the Australian Jade Perch a fish suitable for Aquaponics. Practical Aquaponics

Murray Hallam roadtests the Australian Jade Perch a fish suitable for Aquaponics.









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Ecofilms: Now Jade perch tell us little bit about this fish that has got people raving about growing it in Aquaponics?

Murray Hallam: Well Jade Perch is an Australian native and its from central North Queensland, the Barcoo river system where it is native to and so is the fish that’s not really tropical but almost tropical.

One of the things we must realize when we’re raising it is we cannot let the water go below 15° C because if we do the fish don’t like that and will probably die. Will actually stop feeding and may die, so that’s where they come from and they are just an amazing fish. I believe they are the fish of the future personally. There are a few reasons for that.

One is their ease of raising. They are so easy to raise in tanks. They just fit well into tank culture.

They grow quite rapidly. You’ll get the fish of table size, plate size within 12 months. Some fish sooner than that. If your growing a batch they tend to grow pretty much all at the same rate. You will get some size differences obviously but they are good for batch growing like that and the other thing about them that is truly amazing is that they are extremely high in Omega 3 fatty acids.

Ecofilms: The CSIRO, the Australian scientific authority did a test on Jade perch and they tested 200 fish including Atlantic salmon and sawfish and silver perch and other fish, sea fish and so on and came out with this figure that the Queensland Jade perch contained an incredible 2483 mg of Omega three fatty oils in their flesh per 100 g of flesh and this was an extraordinary high quality. They are an oily fish aren’t they?

Murray Hallam: They really are. The fascinating about that test is that it’s a freshwater fish from warm water, now the general knowledge is, the generally accepted belief is that to have Omega three fatty acids in it –  the fish must be a cold water fish from the ocean and this is the general knowledge that is out there and everyone assumes that but I must be getting old because I yell at the TV. When you see these health shows and they say you must have a cold water sea fish to get the omega-3 fatty acids and here right in Queensland – right under our noses is a freshwater fish from the Barcoo River system that is so very high in Omega three fatty acids and do you know why? Because the Jade Perch is basically a vegetable eater. It wants to eat vegetable matter. It’s natural diet is algae and riverbed weeds and that kind of thing and of course as we know the building blocks for Omega three fatty acids comes from plant matter.

The fish are just great at processing and converting it and turn it into the omega-3 fatty acids but the building blocks come from plant matter which is a fascinating thing. So in North Queensland, The James Cook University in fact in North Queensland has identified over 200 different types of unique algaes in Australia They are not found anywhere else. This is what the Jade Perch live on in their natural habitat. They eat this kind of thing.

Ecofilms: Now that brings us to the next question, whether the Jade perch living in your aquaponics tank will have the same level of Omega 3 when fed on just a boring diet of fish pellets?

Omega 3 Chart and Jade Perch

Omega 3 Chart and Jade Perch

Murray Hallam: Well probably not. Nobody really knows that yet because no one has done the tests that we know of that we are able to identify. The CSIRO did the tests on wild caught fish and straight out of the river, the Barcoo river system, but no one has done any tests or growing tests on Jade Perch to test their oil content.  I would suspect that the omega-3 fatty acids are not as high in fish tank reared unless we make sure we give them a diet of plant matter as well. Now Jade Perch just love eating plant matter you can keep my pellets, the do very well on commercially available pellets but if you throw a lettuce head in that was left over or gone to from your Aquaponics tank, they just rip it apart, they just go for it. They love it, so much. We frequently do that to give them a varied diet.

Ecofilms:  And you can feed Jade perch a variety of different green feed stock. I’m just thinking of some of the algae that you could grow or duckweed. Tell us a little bit about that?

Murray Hallam: Well of course they love duckweed. Frequently if I need to go away from weekend, I have a daughter that is in Coffs Harbour so we go down there for a three or four day weekend and I just simply put a couple of handfuls of duckweed in each tank and I know that the Jade perch are very happy for the weekend. When I come back there not much duckweed left if any and they’ve been taken care of. They love eating that kind of thing.

Ecofilms: I’m very interested in fish that eat algae. In one of your videos you use a broom to scrape the inside of your tanks to keep the whole system free of algae because algae robs the system of oxygen. Just wondering whether you could encourage algae in a tank for the Jade perch to suck the stuff off the side of the tank?

Murray Hallam: They will do. I have observed them doing that but of course if you’re going to feed them pellets then that’s an easy option to the fish as well, so I think to get them to eat that on a regular basis you would have to have another feeding regime. We need to have someone do a study on Jade perch and the feed that is required to produce this Omega three in their oils. Nobody really knows exactly how much they really need and how you produce the right kind of a home system.

The trouble is if you feed them commercially available pellets, that’s very convenient and its convenient for the fish too. They get a feed very quickly and very easily and so they become a bit lazy I guess they go to the pellets first. That’s why I like to give my fish duckweed and lettuce and sometimes I give them nothing else but that three or four or five days, just to save money on pellets to start with and give them a varied diet of their natural thing I think. The other thing I do, I tried all sorts of different vegetables out of the garden and the thing they definitely have a preference of what they like, for example, Cos Lettuce is their favorite, without a shadow of a doubt. They’ll eat that before anything else. Then they’ll go through a variety of lettuce and the last one which is quite funny I think is silver beet or Swiss Chard as some people call it. They’ll eat that only if they had nothing else for a whole day. So that tells you something, doesn’t it.

A couple of years ago when I was in California, I met a very interesting man down there in Southern Californian who has a huge greenhouse and he is doing a lot of experiments on trying to come up with a feed that is made of natural products like duckweed and a few other plants that he had there. Coming up with a feed that is totally balanced and the idea being that you can grow everything you need to feed your fish on your own property.  I think that’s a very laudable program to be involved in and I think thats something that needs to be pursued.

Ecofilms: What about black soldier fly larvae? Some people have said that they’ve tried to grow the things, those little grubs and the fish won’t eat them?

Murray Hallam: I had the same experience with Jade Perch in particular. My experience has been if I harvest black soldier flies by hand before they become mature, when they are still in a white condition rather than going the hard outer shell then the fish will eat them quite readily. So once again, a lot of interesting things we need to explore.

Ecofilms: Where do you get Jade perch from? If you wanted to get a bunch of fingerlings and you live in Australia, where you get them from?

Murray Hallam: There are several hatcheries in south-east Queensland here that produce Jade perch every summer. They hatch them out by the thousands and sell them around. Generally speaking they cost about a dollar. S1.20 per fingerling and there’s a number of hatcheries on Internet that you can find that sell Jade perch.

Ecofilms: What about if I was living in America and I wanted Jade perch. How do I get them?

Murray Hallam: I think at this time it might be a bit impossible really until some person over there, some hatchery type company brings them into the country, goes through all the legal process that they’ll have to go through to bring into America and then make them available.

I think the USA is a bit like Australia state-by-state you have to fight the regulations in order to be able to use them that but I really believe they are the fish of the future. I really do because the other interesting thing about Jade Perch that I forgot to mention is that they would be a very good thing for the commercial industry who might want to grow fish for the fillet market. High recovery of fillets in the body.

Ecofilms: Murray what do they actually taste like?

Jade Perch in the smoker ready for cooking Murray Hallam Aquaponics.

Jade Perch in the smoker read for cooking.

Murray Hallam: They taste great! When we cook them, we have two ways we cook them. We either steam them and then serve them up with the usual veggies you might eat with a fish dinner. Or we smoke them. Just a simple smoker that you might take camping or hunting. When smoked, an average plate sized Jade perch will smoke really well at about 25 minutes. Beautiful.  Because they’re so oily, they smoke absolutely beautifully and because they’re oily once again if you steam them, their just beautiful on the plate. Lovely white flesh. Not too many bones. No more or less bones than in any ordinary fish.  Very, very easy to get a whole lot of good meat off! Fantastic.

Ecofilms: How big do they grow in aquaponics system? I have people over yesterday who couldn’t believe that the fish will grow big in a tank. They think they’re like goldfish. That they’ll only grow to the size of your fish tank (and stay stunted).

Murray Hallam: Well I’ve had some fish that have grown well past two kilos. What I found with a lot of fish, if they get too big then they lose their niceness of flavor. They become a bit tough to eat so the perfect size fish are around about one or two pounds or 1 kg, Half a kilo to one kilo. Beautiful to eat, and they grow quite rapidly to that size. You’ll get one pound or 500 gram fish, Jade perch in 12 to 15 months in a home Aquaponics system. Fantastic.

Ecofilms: Can you breed them?

Murray Hallam: You could but Australian Native fish traditionally are very difficult to breed and that is because their natural habitat, the way that they have evolved is that they might be in a muddy creek – because in Australia we have droughts, long droughts, they might be in a muddy river or lagoon, for three, four, five years. No fresh water flying through and that’s where they exist. Of course they do not breed when that’s going on. Then the rains come and there is a fresh flush of water through the rivers – they breed. The hatcheries have tried to replicate that. Sometimes it works and sometime it doesn’t.  A number of years ago the CSIRO in Australia synthesized the hormones that are needed and of course what happens now the hatcheries do, they get a mummy and daddy at the right time of the year and they give them a hormone injection and a few weeks later a few days later they do their thing and we get thousands and thousands of little hatchlings. So that’s how its done in modern day times. Some people might find that objectionable and say its not natural but we’re yet to discover what that sequence is to be to get them to breed naturally.

Ecofilms: And growing them in aquaponics is the main thing. I must agree we have about 30 of them and they are an excellent fish to grow in aquaponics and power the system. Their poop is quite transparent. They don’t pollute the water as much as other fish like barramundi do.

Murray Hallam: No their poop is – I don’t know how best to describe it. Their poop comes out like suspended solids. It is not great big lumps of poop at the bottom of the tank with Jade perch or silver perch for that matter, another Australian native, so the solids of the fish they produce are very easily picked up and carried away by the pump and sent through the system to be caught by your wonderful gravel grow beds or if you have a filter in your system, by the filter.

So they are a very easy fish to raise in a home system. They are very tolerant of not so good water conditions. They are very tolerant if being spooked or being upset. They settle down quickly. Just a great all-round fish.

Ecofilms: Aggression. Someone was saying that they can be quite territorial and chase one another around in the tank.

Murray Hallam: Yes, we see that in our tanks. We have seen fish with bite marks on the sides of them. They have been getting some kind of picking order discussions with each other. We don’t know what brings that on. Maybe its a pre-mating thing? Like all fish if you’re able to sex them easily you’d be better off with one male in the tank with several females because it’s the males who fight over territory. But by and large that doesn’t happen all that often. They’re not an aggressive fish like barramundi are for example or Murray cod are – no way. Jade Perch have got a very small mouth so they tend not to try and eat other fish. We’ve actually done experiments and got small mosquito fish out of the dam which we got down the back which a little tiny tiny fish, half an inch long. Five millimeters at the most and we put them in the tank with the Jade Perch. Not fed the Jade Perch for several days to see what would happen. The little fish swim around, the Jades won’t touch them. They’re just not interested in them.

They’d rather eat your lettuce out of your sandwich.

Ecofilms: Vegetarians! Vegans.

Murray Hallam: There you go.

Ecofilms: Thank you very much Murray. That was a wonderful discussion and we’ll have more next time.











Okra Aquaponics.

Another excellent result in growing food the Aquaponic way. Take a look at this beautiful Okra flower and fruit.  This is one of four Okra bushes I have growing in my Aquaponics system that are just beginning to flower and develop seed pods.

Okra in flower. See the ready-to-harvest pods to the side and back.

Okra in flower. See the ready-to-harvest pods to the side and back.

Okra  is a flowering plant in the mallow family.  It is highly valued for its edible green seed pods.  It can be grown outdoors from the tropics to the warm temperate zones and is a very hardy plant able to withstand a wide variety of weather conditions.  It is also relatively pest free, which makes it a good candidate for organic growing methods such as Aquaponics.
Okra is thought to originate in Africa although some claim in comes from southern Asia. Its use as a food is widespread throughout the world.

It is said to have some really wonderful health benefits.  Apart from the obvious benefit of eating green vegetables, one of the more valuable health benefits may well be the "goo"or stickiness of the internals of the seed pod.
The products of the Okra plant are mucilaginous, resulting in the characteristic "goo" when the seed pods are cooked; the mucilage contains a usable form of soluble fibre.
This soluble fibre is very beneficial to our intestinal system.  Modern western diets are, most often, very short on good fibre.  Soluble fibre is especially good,  helping our lower intestinal tract to operate as nature intended.

Toilet blues. A modern dilemma Practical Aquaponics.

Toilet blues, A modern day diet related problem.

There is an epidemic of bowel cancer in the western world. Many nutritionists believe there is a strong link between the incidence of bowel cancer and lack of dietary fibre. See the Bowel Cancer Foundation here.

There are loads of very interesting ways to make use of Okra in our meal preparation.
Many recipes show ways to prepare Okra in order to minimise the slimy feel and taste that some find objectionable.  I don't mind it at all actually having first being introduced to Okra when I lived in Papua New Guinea.  The pods were readily available in the local markets at Port Moresby and we found it to be a good idea to use as much of the locally available produce as possible.
Keeping the pods intact, and brief cooking, for example stir-frying, help to achieve this. Cooking with acidic ingredients such as a few drops of lemon juice, tomatoes, or vinegar is helpful. Alternatively, the pods can be sliced thinly and cooked for a long time so the mucilage dissolves. The cooked leaves can also be used as a powerful soup thickener.  The immature pods may also be pickled and used.  Here is a web link to a dozen or so very useful recipes for the preparation of Okra.  Okra Recipes

Okra seed pods to the lower left and right of the beautiful flower. Practical Aquaponics

Okra seed pods to the lower left and right of the beautiful flower. It is worth growing Okra just to look at the beautiful flower.

Grow a bush or two of Okra in your Aquaponics garden and learn to use it regularly in your diet.  Your lower intestines will thank you for it.


Aquaponics floating raft systems an Aquaponics media based bed systems have been successfully combined by Practical Aquaponics to form an even more dynamic AP growing system.  Now you can grow a large variety of vegetable crops in your Aquaponics system.

Practical Aquaponics Clontarf HS FloMedia educational system

Large Educational FloMedia system being installed at Clontarf High School in December 2010

For over a two years we have been running combination systems here at our test facility and out in the field. Several very large domestic and educational systems have been running and showing excellent results.
This marrying together of both styles of growing methods gives us the best of both worlds in an Aquaponics system. We have coined the term FloMedia to describe this hybrid technology.
Floating raft systems are particularly suited to growing green leafy vegetables such as lettuce, cabbage and the like, whereas media based beds give better results for fruiting plants such as tomato , eggplant, okra, and the like.  Some root crops such as Taro give excellent results in media based grow beds.

Taro grown in Practical Aquaponics system. This Taro "corm or tuba" went 2 kg.

Taro grown in an Aquaponics system. This Taro "corm or tuba" went 2 kg in weight.

At Practical Aquaponics we have refined the connection methodologies, the flow rates and nutrient distribution to make these FloMedia systems work to the optimum.
As per our normal practice we have  thoroughly tested and run FloMedia systems before we release information, specifications and build systems for our clients.  Each install is different, the site, the size and the proportions of each technology to be married together to form a wonderfully robust and productive FloMedia system.

Murray Hallam says "We anticipate FloMedia technology to be the mainstay of small to medium Aquaponic farms into the future".   "The small scale farmer will have the ability to effectively use all the nutrient produced in the fish side of the system, and the versatility of being able to grow a variety of crops in order to satisfy the needs of their restaurant and private clients".

Murray Hallam will be revealing the detail of FloMedia technology at the upcoming Practical Aquaponics May 5-8 2014 x 4 day training session near Brisbane Queensland.

FloMedia Aquaponics systems

FloMedia Aquaponics Technology.


Aquaponics Made Easy – On-Line viewing – The complete DVD.

View the complete DVD right here on-line.

Aquaponics Made Easy - The Complete DVD.

The full length DVD runs for 1 hour 34 minutes and is packed with Aquaponics information.

“Aquaponics Made Easy” is my first DVD on growing fish and vegetables in your own backyard. If you are new to Aquaponics, this DVD will explain it all for you. From building your own cheap bathtub system to watching a kit being installed, “Aquaponics Made Easy” will guide you into the wonderful world of Aquaponics.

What fish to get? What plants to grow? How to keep the whole thing balanced and working well in your backyard. From Nitrogen cycles to pH test kits – its all explained in this fascinating DVD.

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Or if you prefer Murray Hallam’s Aquaponics Made Easy DVD in hard copy disk
PAL 90 mins of excellent information can be purchased here +


CHOP Mark2 TotePonics (IBC) Powers On.

The TotePonics (IBC) kit we built for the recent photo shoot is just powering along. The growth is just amazing.
The Fish:
We have in the 1000 litre tank 103 Jade Perch. Right now we have in the system 4.93 kg of Jade Perch fingerlings, plus one bigger

Jade Perch. These fish are around 600g each. Ready for the plate!

Jade Perch. These fish are around 600g each. Ready for the plate!

Jade Perch weighing 0.525 kg and 3 x Sleepie Cod weighing a total of 1.3 kg. So the total is 6.75 kg of fish in the tank. Well under the very safe level of 20 to 30 kg per M3 of water.
They are being fed twice a day with 4mm floating pellets. We use the usual method of feeding until they begin to lose interest. This turns out to be 3.3% of body weight for the day. They are hungry little mongrels!
We have circulating in the system approx 1300 litres of water.
The Water:
Water quality is excellent. The 3 beds are doing a fine job of filtering the water and capturing the nutrients as the water is circulated around the system. The grow beds are controlled by a bell siphon each that drains back to the sump. The volume of water being pumped through the grow beds is determined by the capacity of the three auto siphons, all the rest is sent back to the fish tank. This results in a much higher water throughput for the fish tank and the grow beds get to filter as much water as they possibly can in any given hour. The water is crystal clear except when we give the insides of the fish tank a scrub to remove a light build up of bio film. The water is soon clear again, the grow beds doing an excellent job of capturing the solid material.
The Plants
The corn is doing exceptionally well. The striping in the leaves is gradually going indication that the nutrient levels in the system are rising. We last added seaweed extract two weeks ago. At that time we also gave the system a shot of powered mineral complex containing all trace minerals including chelate iron.
The lettuce are growing well. Yesterday we harvested out lettuce and some Asian greens from the left hand front bed as it was getting overcrowded. The right hand front bed really needs a thinning out too, but we are having a photo shoot here on Friday and I want to leave them there till then. The Water Mellon seedling we planted in that bed is a little overwhelmed so after Friday it can have some room to get going. Our intention is to allow it to grow down over the side and spread onto the ground in front of the system. Time will tell how well it does.
Just look at those strawberry towers. (photos below) It is just so exciting to see the growth. As can be seen, there are five towers from Nate in the US. We really like them. Then there is the one home made tower. It is doing very well.
“The proof is in the pudding” as the saying goes. Aquaponics really works.   (This story was first posted December 2010)

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