Aquaponics in COLD Climates
– by Colle and Phyllis Davis
In tropical and warm climate installation, less planning and careful construction are required for success, but even in very cold climates, aquaponics can be very productive. It is the extra attention to details including insulation, heating, ventilation and backup or duplication of the electrical power that ensure success.
First, here’s some information regarding insulation. It is much easier to HEAT up space than to COOL it off. The laws of physics are in play here. Heat moves to areas where there is less heat or lack of heat. To create an insulated space and keep the air temperature inside that space at a reasonable level is easily accomplished and has been done for centuries. Today, the use of high R factor insulation, excellent sealing, and wind-proofing can produce a space with a very high R factor which means very little additional energy is needed to heat the space.
The other benefit of the Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems is their wide range of temperature tolerance. Space at the Grow Table level needs to stay in the range of 45 to 104° F (6 to 40° C). The Fish Tank is heated to a constant temperature and helps maintain the temperature inside through the timing of the water cycles.
Heating the space can be as simple as adding a small space heater that is placed on the floor. It can be electrical, propane, city gas or even fuel oil powered. Exhaust from combustion needs to be vented as in living space. There are installations measuring 20’ x 36’ (6 x 11m) in Minnesota that only require a small thermostatically controlled electrical heater to keep the space above 45 degrees. There are larger installations in Wisconsin, Oregon and New York heated with wood-burning stoves. These stoves are a lot more work, but work they do in producing great vegetables.
Even in cold climate installations, ventilation of the space must be addressed to reduce humidity and pockets of stale air. Every installation requires a small circulating fan to mix the air and ensure the air is moving. This air movement helps the pollination of the flowering plants (for example, tomatoes) and keeps any dampness at bay. Venting the air to the outside in very cold weather is seldom necessary. The smart method of having a growing space in cold climates is to attach the greenhouse to your house. The heat from the house helps temper the air in the greenhouse, and the plants give much-needed moisture to the winter air in the house.
Cold climate aquaponics does require more planning, better and more careful construction and the added expense of the backup heating and power requirements. Now is the time to plan, construct and begin to enjoy aquaponics no matter where you live.