Bell Peppers Grow WELL in Portable Farms Aquaponics Systems
by Colle and Phyllis Davis
Bell peppers (green, red, yellow or orange) are a popular crop grown in Portable Farms Aquaponics Systems. They produce large, very flavorful and CRISP bell peppers that can be grown year round.
Pepper plants are easily trellised or stalked for vertical growing which allows for ample access to sunlight or grow lights (in winter or enclosed structures).
If bell peppers grown in a Portable Farms™ Aquaponics Systems are planted, raised and sold as ‘organic,’ the grower can receive higher prices based on their organic origins further reducing the ROI than stated in this article.
Pepper production from a single full size 5′ x 40′ (200sq ft) [1.5m x 12m (18m2)] Grow Tray:
- Each Grow Tray can hold 200 plants 12in x 12in (30cm x 30cm) centers and are usually planted once a year, a second planting can be initiated as plants begin to stop producing
- Production is normally over a 210 to 285 day period
- Because the plants are very small when initially planted there is a four month growing period before harvest
- Plants are pruned to have two to four main stems
- Staking or trellising is required and can be installed permanently
- Peppers yield is between 4 to 6 lbs [1.8 and 2.7k] per plant depending on variety
- Yield per plant is 20 to 37 peppers per plant depending on variety
- No pesticides, fungicides or artificial fertilizers are ever used
- Peppers can be harvested and used the same day for peak flavor and texture plus they store well
- Yields 1,000 lbs to 1,260 lbs [450 to 570kg] per year with a single crop
- Yield 2,000 lbs to 2,520lbs [900 to 1,140kg] per year for overlapped second cropping
- 17lbs [8kg] per week
- 2.4lbs [1kg] per day
Each Module contains one Grow Tray, one Fish Tank and one Clarifier. The components to make the Module functional also include a special pump and valve system, a control panel, air pumps and related hardware and wiring.
Each Module costs approximately US$4,000 completely installed/ The Modules must be housed in a climatically adapted structure/greenhouse with a translucent or transparent waterproof roof and walls and one or more thermostatically controlled exhaust fans. In the tropics the sidewalls can be screen or netting and the exhaust fans will still be needed.
Using the lowest yield with the shortest harvest season and three crops per space per year the Return On Investment will be approximately 1.13 years [17 lbs (8kg) x 52 weeks = 1,768 lbs (800kg) of peppers per year per module] and priced at $2.00 per pound = US$3,536]. In most cases this production number will be much higher and will continue to rise as the operators become more skilled and the system matures.
Labor costs are higher than with lettuce because of the pruning, training and harvesting of peppers. This is true for tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers and any plant that requires extra time after planting. Lettuces does not require pruning, training or trellising; in fact, you plant lettuce and then a 40 to 55 days later, you harvest lettuce and plant a new seed sprout in the same place again to grow another head of lettuce. One person can operate a 10,000 sq ft PFAS if they are only growing lettuce. With other bush or vine crops, two to four additional personnel are required to care for the plans.
Please note: The above numbers are based on the lowest expected yields from field grown crops, use the shortest possible harvest time plus the longest time from transplant to finish harvest. In other words, the lowest possible output from the Module for this crop is shown. The actual output from each Module can and probably will be from two to four times as high resulting in a much shorter ROI.