Our Aquaponic’s Course is Fun and Easy – JOIN THE PORTABLE FARMS® FAMILY

Our Aquaponic’s Course is Fast, Fun, and Easy – JOIN THE PORTABLE FARMS® FAMILY

Feed 2 or 200 


The more Grow Tables you build, the more food you can grow and the more people you can feed.

Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems

A small back yard Portable Farms® Aquaponics System.

A small back yard Portable Farms Aquaponics System.

Aquaponics is easier and more productive than organic gardening or traditional agriculture and uses 95% less water. Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems also use less electricity and less labor than any other aquaponics system in the world.


To view photos of food commonly grow in Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems: 
CLICK HERE.

If you’re interested in owning your own aquaponics system, your first goal is to select the size aquaponics system you’d like to operate for your own unique purposes. We always suggest to our customers that they learn how to successfully operate an aquaponics system and if it fits their needs THEN expand to multiple aquaponics modules (the sky’s the limit).

There are literally thousands of websites that can show you how to set up a small workable open-source backyard hobby aquaponics systems without paying for the information. For those who are not able to purchase our systems, we suggest you START TODAY by working with online/open source information so you can learn about aquaponics and build your own farm. We also suggest you visit online aquaponics forums so you can ask questions you may have from other aquaponics enthusiasts. 

Take our email-correspondence course. It's fun. It's easy. It's GREAT information.

Take our email-correspondence course. It’s fun. It’s easy. It’s GREAT information.

Would you like a few aquaponics modules (each module feeds 8 people) so you can begin to sell the food you grow and then expand? If so, then take the Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems Course© and learn  everything there is to know about aquaponics and begin to build modules.

Or, are you interested in the commercial side of aquaponics that raises and sells vegetables and fish to local markets in your area? You can begin at the top and install multi-acre commercial systems by taking the Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems Course©.


The future of food production involves growing food in a controlled-environment greenhouse. By growing food in greenhouses, growers are no longer dependent on weather conditions (think climate change), and they can grow food year round, in any climate, and the grower doesn’t need to use harsh chemicals or pesticides to protect their plants.

A completed Portable Farms® Aquaponics System before the plants or the fish have been installed.

A completed Portable Farms® Aquaponics System before the seedlings or the small fish have been installed.

40 days after the fish and plants have been installed in a Portable Farms® Aquaponics System.

40 days after the seedlings and the small fish have been installed in a Portable Farms® Aquaponics System.


farm 8 18 2012

The next step up is almost too easy; yes, you can sell the food you grow. The desire to ‘sell the excess’ is almost too good to pass up. Your neighbors and friends will be delighted to receive your excess bounty for free and a few of them will offer to pay for it. TAKE THE MONEY. It is your reward for being smart and focused on your business. Building a larger installation to house two or more Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems’ Modules makes the adventure into a real commercial aquaponics business. Starting with about twice as much money as noted above, a person can become a millionaire is less than ten years.

  To view photos of food commonly grow in Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems:  CLICK HERE.


Cucumbers Are BIG MONEY When Grown in Portable Farms

Portable Farm Cucumbers Harvested February 9, 2012

Harvested cucumbers from a Portable Farm.

Cucumbers Are BIG MONEY When Grown in Portable Farms®
by Colle and Phyllis Davis

Cucumbers are delicious in salads, as a side dish garnished with vinegar and spices, as part of a refreshing addition to a relish tray or even sliced and served on a sandwich!

The cucumber has long been known as a summer ‘fruit.’ Yes, the cucumber is considered a fruit but used as a vegetable. When cucumbers are grown in a Portable Farms Aquaponics System, they can be grown YEAR ROUND and sold to local customers as organic food for top prices. In fact, (this surprised us as well) cucumbers grown in our Portable Farms are a better cash crop than even basil!

Since cucumbers are ‘blooming’ plants, they require:

— Warm temperatures in the greenhouse ranging from 70 to 95 degrees F

— Six to seven hour of direct light per day and LED or fluorescent grow lights from September to April (Northern Hemisphere) for another five hours per day. If direct sun is unavailable, the grow lights must be utilized 18 hours per day. 

— Adequate circulation to assure the blossoms set.

If cucumbers grown in a Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems are raised and sold as ‘locally grown and pesticide free,’ the grower can receive higher prices further reducing the ROI than stated in this article.

Cucumber production begins 60 to 70 days after seeding.  For good production, a temperature range of 75 degrees to 80 degrees F during the day is desirable.  While peak daytime temperatures of 85 degrees to 95 degrees F are tolerable, prolonged periods of high temperatures may adversely affect fruit quality.  Night temperatures no lower than 65 degrees F will allow a rapid growth rate and earliest fruit production.  At 55 degrees to 60 degrees F, savings in fuel costs will be significant, but growth rate will be slower and harvest will be delayed.

This is a simple diagram of a Portable Farms Aquaponics System

This is a simple diagram of one module a Portable Farms Aquaponics System

Fruit generally grows to market maturity 12 to 15 days after the flower opens.

Considering these variables, yields range from 1 – 1 ½ to 3 pounds of fruit per plant per week, during mid-harvest on an umbrella trained crop.  Twenty to twenty-five fruit may be expected over a 10 to 12 week harvest period.

 

Cucumber production from a single full size 5′ x 40′ (200sq ft) [1.5m x 12m (18m2) Grow Tray:

  • Each Grow Tray can hold 106 plants 18in x 12in (45cm x 30cm) centers and are planted twice a year
  • Production is normally over a 10 to 12 week period
  • Because the plants spread out so much they need to be trained in a V shape or directly vertical
  • Plants may require some pruning
  • The staking or trellising can be installed permanently
  • Cucumbers yield is between 1.5 and 3 lbs [0.7 and 1.3k] per plant per week depending on variety
  • Yield per plant is 20 to 25 cucumbers per plant depending on variety
  • No pesticides, fungicides or artificial fertilizers are ever used
  • Cucumbers can be harvested and used the same day for peak flavor and texture plus they store well
  • Yields 4,000 lbs to 4,500 lbs [1,800 to 2045kg] per year per Grow Tray
  • 85lbs [38kg] per week
  • 11.7lbs [5kg] per day

Colle Davis, Inventor, with fresh cucumbers from Portable Farms

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.

Labor costs are higher than with lettuce because of the training and harvesting of cucumbers. This is true for tomatoes, zucchini, peppers and any plant that requires extra time after planting. Lettuces does not, plant it and then a few weeks later harvest it and plant the same place again. Two people 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.

Make Money with Your Own Aquaponics’ Business

Make Money with Your Own Aquaponics’ Business
– by Colle and Phyllis Davis

Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems

Aquaponics is easier and more productive than organic gardening or traditional agriculture and uses 95% less water. Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems also use less electricity and less labor than any other aquaponics system in the world.

Start somewhere, at some level, now. Modern aquaponics is a brand new field because it encompasses recent technology and innovation along with successful techniques from the past. Aquaponics is evolving rapidly and slowly becoming main stream. The commercial side of aquaponics may take another ten or twenty years to accept on par with hydroponics, but it will happen.

It is the hobbyist, gardener, cook and home owner who are leading the charge on this ‘new’ technology, not the big companies, governments or NGO’s. Aquaponics is up close and personal as only eating can be and it is the opportunity to eat the best food on earth, every day, for a long as you live.

The important part is to get started NOW. Have fun, make mistakes and eat great food.

Another 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.

Aquaponics is an ideal business opportunity for young adults, men, women, those currently employed full time or part time, older adults, retired people, and those with disabilities. This is NOT a get-rich-scheme; it requires dedication, start-up capital and a sense of humor to grow any entrepreneurial venture to success. 

Portable Farms® customers say to us almost every day, “I want to start small with a backyard farm and then grow into a larger system, maybe even to a larger size commercial aquaponics operation fairly quickly. Can I do this using your system?”

QUESTION: Can a person or family or small group start really small (for example, one single Portable Farms Module in a greenhouse) and then grow into a commercial success in a reasonable amount of time?

ANSWER: ABSOLUTELY, YES! Let us teach you what we know.

 

Launching your own aquaponics business involves leveraging the most efficient aquaponics system in the world into a money-making business plan for personal wealth and security. PLEASE NOTE: aquaponics is NOT a get-rich-quick plan for creating wealth. In fact, it requires a capital outlay and the return on investment is dependent on your ability to grow, market and SELL the food you raise. Growing vegetables and fish is the easy part.
 
There are several distinct steps for making a nice living with aquaponics and maybe even becoming wealthy after a few years of focus and hard work. The best part is that the Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems installations are doing most of the work with the owner planting, harvesting and selling their healthy food to eager markets.

Launching your own aquaponics business involves leveraging the most efficient aquaponics system in the world into a money-making  business plan for personal wealth and security.

There are several distinct steps for making a nice living with aquaponics and maybe even becoming wealthy after a few years of focus and hard work. The best part is that the Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems installations are doing most of the work with the owner planting, harvesting and selling their healthy food to eager markets.

Basil – A High-Value Crop for Aquaponics

Basil – A High-Value Crop for Aquaponics
 by Colle and Phyllis Davis

Phyllis Davis harvesting fresh delicious basil from Portable Farms Aquaponics System.

Basil is enjoyed as a fresh-leaf herb on meats and vegetables, prepared in sauces such as pesto, or dried and used in many recipes in cultures throughout the world. Basil grows well in aquaponics systems because of the ideal growing conditions created with warm water and ample sunlight.

When basil is grown in traditional in-ground growing, it is a ‘summer crop,’ but when grown year round in aquaponics systems, it is considered a ‘high value crop,’ especially when sold locally in cold climates when basil would normally be normally be considered ‘out of season.’

 

Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems are ideal for growing green leafy herbs and vegetables because:

  • The normal pH of the water in Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems ranges from 6.5 to 7.2 for ideal growing.

  • Basil enjoys a very wide pH range between 5.1 (strongly acidic) and 8.5 (alkaline) with a preferred range of 5.5 (strongly acidic) to 6.5 (mildly acidic).

  • The roots of herbs enjoy being well-drained between watering cycles.

  • Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems allow for full sun or the option of grow lights so herbs and vegetables can be grown year round which is ‘out of season’ in many areas and owners may collect top dollar for crops from local customers.

  • Basil seeds grow well in rockwool or Oasis Horticubes.

  • Basil plants may be placed on 8 inch centers and planted off-set in each row within a grow tray allowing for ample room for lush growth for each plant.

  • The root systems for basil do not spread out and are not complex root systems which makes for consistent and easy water flow throughout the grow bed during watering cycles.

  • The basil plant usually grows to a height of 18 to 24 inches and produces many offshoots for harvest per plant.

    You can cut back basil two-thirds of the entire basil plant twice before replanting the basil to begin the process again. This extends the harvest of the basil leaves and provides more cash-value crops instead of a one-time ‘grow and harvest cycle’ like lettuce. Basil can also be raised in batches and sold to customers as entire plants.

  • Since one plant will produce for four months (after a two-month initial growth), you would only replant new basil plants every six months and be continually harvesting during each four-month harvest cycle.

  • Each 40′ tray will grow 450 basil plants (on 8″ centers) which allows for 900 basil plants per year grown in a single tray. These 900 plants allow two cuttings each which can be sold to local consumers at wholesale or retail prices in your area.

Bonus – Pesto Recipe We Use When We Harvest our own Fresh Basil

We cannot count times the many times that we’ve invited friends to sit with us to enjoy an entire meal of fresh pesto sauce made from our own basil that was spread thick on hot homemade whole-wheat bread and served with sliced, freshly-harvested tomatoes from our own vines in our Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems. It’s a real pleasure to share healthy and simple food with friends. This is our definition of ‘the good life.’

Portable Farms® Pesto Sauce – Fresh off the Vine

This recipe makes about 2 cups. If you plan to freeze the excess pesto, avoid adding the crushed garlic to the recipe and wait to add it until you thaw and serve the pesto because the garlic can taste bitter after freezing.

Ingredients List:

  • 8 cups fresh basil leaves, torn off vine (discard the stem/vine)

  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese from a deli or fine store (don’t use the powdered Parmesan you shake out a canister for pasta)

  • 3 cups of pine nuts – slightly oiled and then toasted brown in an oven for 20 or 25 minutes

  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed

  • ¾ to 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil (depending on how thick you like your pesto sauce). If you plan to freeze your pesto for later use, do NOT add olive oil until you defrost.

    1 teaspoon sea salt

  • ½ teaspoon fresh black pepper

Directions:

  • Place basil, ½ of oil, cheese, pine nuts, and garlic in a food processor. Pulse several times, until well chopped.

  • With machine running, quickly add olive oil in a steady stream, allowing pesto to mix blend and become cohesive but don’t over blend. Process until desired consistency is reached, season with salt and pepper, and serve. Again, if you plan to freeze your pesto for later use, do NOT add olive oil until you defrost.

Cost of An Aquaponics System and Operating Tasks

Cost of An Aquaponics System and Operating Tasks
by Colle and Phyllis Davis

READ THE ENTIRE AQUAPONICS COURSE OUTLINE: CLICK HERE.

The majority of daily tasks include planting, harvesting and feeding the fish. Repeat the next day.

aug 20 interior2There are two assumptions that will be made here regarding the operations for a backyard aquaponics system:

1) your installation is, or is similar to, a Portable Farms® Aquaponics System.

2) You have built a medium/media based (not a raft based) aquaponics system. Operations include the steps that are necessary for you to keep the fish and plants alive and healthy.

A backyard farm that feeds 8 people generally takes about ten to fifteen minutes per day to maintain. This includes feeding the fish, planting seedlings and harvesting. Operations are NOT time consuming but they are DAILY operations that cannot and should NOT be skipped.

When you’re dealing with living aquatic animals, they require daily care, attention and yes, even affection to remain healthy and grow to their full size. If your fish are ‘stressed’ for any reason, they won’t eat – – – – and if they don’t eat – – – – they don’t poop – – – – and if they don’t poop, your plants will not be healthy.  So, if you’re going to be gone for longer than a day or so, ask a friend or neighbor (that you trust) that will take care of your aquaponics system.

Here’s the full cost breakdown of a backyard aquaponics system: READ ON . . . 

  • Greenhouse: Must be able to keep the interior temperature between 40 and 104° F. The costs are dependent on your choice of design
  • Wooden or concrete floor/slab – from $100 to $300
  • Insulated stem wall to set the greenhouse on top of for more height – 2×4’s and plywood – $250 to $350
  • Fish tank – sometimes known of as a livestock watering trough  – $150
  • Lumber for the Grow Tray – 2×4’s, 2×6’s, plywood, etc – between $800 and $1,200
  • PVC pipe and fittings  – $100
  • Misc – $250

You may even have some of the materials on hand or have access to recycled materials at a reduced cost. Even if you have to pay full retail price for everything, an operating aquaponics farm is a fantastically good deal. Plus, a Portable Farms® Aquaponics System is infinitely expandable because of it modular design. You can expand it and begin selling the excess to create a small income.

tilapia Oreochromis mossambicusOperational tasks include:

1. Maintaining adequate levels of water in the fish tank at all times
2. Feeding your fish a high protein fish feed each day (singing to your fish is optional but they do enjoy human contact and they do enjoy the sound of talking and singing)
3. Always wear disposable gloves when preforming tasks in the building
4. Keeping the pH balanced in the fish tank
5. Stocking the appropriate number of fish in the fish tank that is in balance with the area of the grow tray

6. 24/7 aeration provided for the fish at all times (bubbles).


Cheap Aquaponics “Startup Fish”

Cheap Aquaponics “Startup Fish”
– by Colle and Phyllis Davis

“Can we use goldfish or crayfish or something besides tilapia in our backyard aquaponics system?”

gowithflowThis is a frequently asked question and prompted a conversation with a new ‘aquaponist’ at my local Home Depot store which has prompted me to make a list of the fish that can be used in aquaponics for new aquaponics farmers to get started with because of choice or local regulations or restrictions.

The gentleman in the plumbing section of Home Depot had to help me find a component we use to manufacture the PFAS Kits and he asked me what I was using so many, I told him they were used in our manufacturing process. He said, (you will not believe this), ‘Oh, are you doing aquaponics?’

I nearly fell down from surprise. He explained that he had a small aquaponics system in his backyard and was using goldfish poop to raise the most amazing basil and peppers he had ever seen. It’s a small world to meet someone with an aquaponics system that actually guessed what I was building. His explanation was that another fellow builds hydroponic systems for people and uses the same item in a very different way. But back on topic. . .

The list of aquatic animals below includes enough species so you can get started today with a tiny aquaponics system to learn and grow with to see how amazing the technology really is at growing vegetables and fish. My original setup was a dishpan with aquarium gravel laid across an aquarium. The fish happened to be tilapia because it was my job at UC Davis (back in the early 1970’s) to clean the fish tanks, a nasty smelly job.

Each species has different requirements and are more or less hardy and easy to maintain. The list below is not all-inclusive, but is meant to be a basis for an inexpensive beginner aquaponics setup so you can get your hands wet.

Species Positive Cost Negative
Goldfish Hardy, readily available, poop a lot Cheap Tough to find a constant market – not for eating
Koi Hardy, readily salable as ornamentals, can be fed cheap dog food, do not have to replace very often Relatively cheap No one eats them, limited market
Catfish Hardy, grow fast, seasonally available, chow is commercially available Relatively cheap Seasonal availability of fry and depressed markets
Carp Really hardy, fast growing, will eat almost anything May be tricky to obtain fry No food market in US
Crayfish/Prawns Can be raised in conjunction with any other fin fish or by themselves. Relatively inexpensive to obtain Most are cannibalistic and must be provided housing (short sections of PVC pipe) to keep any number to harvest size.
Perch New candidate – Feed just becoming available Not cheap Regional markets only
Bass Not recommended because you have to feed them live bait Relatively inexpensive Fish and Wildlife regulations on sale for food

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By providing these fish with a clean water supply, aeration and food, you are ensuring a constant supply of the finest poop your system can handle.

Two caveats here:

  1. You will lose fish – this means some of them will die. Get used to it, its farming.
  2. Unless you are using the PFAS, you will have problems with sediment in the gravel so you will have to clean the gravel occasionally. Get used to it, its farming.

With the PFAS the #2 above is not true. Oh, and to use the PFAS you will need to complete the Aquaponics University Portable Farms Aquaponics Systems Course©.


Origins of Aquaponics

Origins of Aquaponics
– by Colle and Phyllis Davis

WATERBLUEFISH2

 

Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems are easier and more productive than dirt gardening or traditional agriculture and uses less water, less electricity and less labor than any other aquaponics system in the world.

Please note that aquaponics does not grow ‘field crops’ such as rice, wheat, corn or root vegetables, but it DOES grow table greens and many blooming plants (not all, but some) such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and beans.

Aquaponics with Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems 

— Build, own and operate your own backyard aquaponics system.

— Feed a family of eight year round with one module of Portable Farms® Aquaponics System.

— Start a commercial aquaponics installation by installing
twenty to thirty modules and sell the food you grow.

The Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems duplicate what nature has been doing for billions of years. The water, containing the fish waste, is pumped out of the fish tanks to a settling tank, where the solids settle to the bottom of the tank while the nutrient-rich water then flows, by gravity, through a series of trays where the plants are growing, and then back into the fish tanks. The small amount of separated fish-waste water in the settling tank is drained off at regular intervals, and can be used to fertilize crops such as trees, ornamentals or lawns. The cycle of the water flowing through the system repeats itself several times each day. Some make-up water has to be added at regular intervals to compensate for the water used in the settling tank cleaning, and for the water used by the plants for growth (transpiration). And, that’s how the system works. Simple, elegant and with very little energy to produce high quantities of locally grown food.

Learn more about owning your own Portable Farms® Aquaponics System

Aquaponics has been explored for several decades as a possible solution to the foregoing environmental, energy and food shortage problems.  Aquaponics combines the art of growing aquatic animals (fish), known as aquaculture, with the modern technology of hydroponics in which plants are grown without soil. In aquaponics, fish and plants are grown together in an integrated closed loop re-circulating system with a very low rate of water usage or water loss due to evaporation. This symbiotic relationship between the fish and the growing plants is the goal of aquaponics by creating a sustainable ecosystem in which both fish and plants can thrive and as a result, produces safe, fresh protein and healthy vegetables.

To work efficiently, Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems require ‘warm water, fresh water fish’ of some kind to provide the essential waste and their nutrients for your plants. Generally, aquaponics systems use warm-water fish instead of cold-water fish (like trout) because the plants don’t like the cold water.

Aquaponics is the growing of fish, or other water-based animals, along with land plants in a controlled environment, to maximize the use of the energy and nutrients in the system in order to harvest the greatest amount of vegetables and fish protein from the system.

The word aquaponics comes from words aquaculture, which is the cultivation of fish or other `water- based animals, and the word hydroponics, where plants are grown in a sterile medium or completely in water.

By combining the fish, water and plants, Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems use an integrated environment to produce vegetables and fish in very small space, with very little water.

Aquaponics has its roots in ancient China and parts of the aquaponics system were developed in other areas of the world where high concentrations of people lived who were observant of the relationships that existed naturally in their environment.

In China, farmers knew that land livestock waste could be added to their fields or ponds to increase production of vegetables and fruit bearing plants. They also noticed that different fish had different tolerances to the level of land-animal waste in their water. For example too much pig or chicken waste caused many fish to die (the modern explanation for this is lack of oxygen) so they were careful about balancing their system for maximum yield and minimum fish loss.These Chinese farmers were able to refine their systems so they could grow chickens in pens above pigs, (with the waste dropping through along with any spilled food) who were in a pen over a pond with carp in it, and then the water flowed to another pond with other less tolerant fish such as catfish, and perhaps other aquatic animals and certainly other water plants were grown and harvested. These systems were so called flow-through systems, meaning that water was used once through the ponds, and then released to the local paddies, streams, lakes or ocean. The sludge from the bottom of the ponds was used on the fields and some of the water was used in the paddies for fertilizer before it was released.

dry-riverbedIn the twenty-first century, the world faces an environmental crisis, issues related to climate change (drought and flooding as well as record-setting heat waves) and an energy crisis. In addition, many parts of the world face severe food shortages. Twentieth century agricultural techniques have harmed the environment and consume an inordinate amount of energy and water. Many countries lack the large amounts of arable land and water needed to sustain growing human populations. Developed nations use large amounts of pesticides and artificial fertilizers to grow their grains, fruits, and vegetables. At the same time, they use huge amounts of gasoline and diesel fuel to power their farm machinery, large amounts of electricity to process their food, and enormous amounts of fuel to deliver the processed food to grocery stores. The raising of farm animals, particularly cattle and swine, is notoriously inefficient in terms of the amount of land and energy required to raise corn and other animal feed for each pound of protein produced.

Many areas of the world, such as California, require elaborate and expensive aqueducts and irrigation systems to deliver potable water to farming regions. A tremendous amount of fresh water evaporates or is otherwise wasted with conventional farming methods. Third world countries often lack the financial resources, arable land and technology to produce sufficient food, and in particular enough protein to maintain the health of their human populations. There are also health concerns raised by humans consuming pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables and hormones in chicken, pork and beef. Wild birds and animals are adversely affected by pesticide and fertilizer. Local waters (ponds, rivers, and streams) are also polluted by the runoff from the pesticides and fertilizers used for local growing.

Therefore, there is a need to promote a new “green” method of farming around the world for ‘locally grown food’ in any region to produce healthier food that requires far less land and water, and at the same time, is environmentally friendly:

•             Eliminates the need or use of artificial chemicals

•             Provides sustainability for people locally

•             Substantially reduces energy consumption for planting, harvesting and shipping food, and greenhouse gas emissions.

•             Also, provides jobs for local people strengthening the local economy.

farmnewsletter aquaponicsAquaponics has been explored for several decades as a possible solution to the foregoing environmental, energy and food shortage problems.  Aquaponics combines the art of growing aquatic animals (fish), known as aquaculture, with the modern technology of hydroponics in which plants are grown without soil. In aquaponics, fish and plants are grown together in an integrated closed loop re-circulating system with a very low rate of water usage or water loss due to evaporation. The fish waste (effluent) produced by the fish is delivered from the fish tank to a settling tank to remove the heavy ‘waste’ and then sent to the grow trays to provide a food source for growing plants in the gravel and the plants provide a natural filter for the water that keeps the fish healthy. This symbiotic relationship between the fish and the growing plants is the goal of aquaponics by creating a sustainable ecosystem in which both fish and plants can thrive and as a result, produces safe, fresh protein and healthy vegetables.

Aquaponics systems heretofore developed have not met with widespread success. Previously, aquaponics systems have been complex and labor intensive to operate, difficult to construct because to date, there has been no standard design that has proven itself to be easy to operate, and they are often poorly constructed with inferior materials requiring constant attention to leaks, challenges for disposal of the fish waste, and careful maintenance of pH levels, micronutrient depletion and water temperature. They have also been expensive in terms of the pumps and other electrical equipment required. In addition, prior aquaponics systems have been difficult to maintain and are prone to catastrophic system failures such as death of the fish and plants due to design flaws in the actual aquaponics system.

PFAS LLC and Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems have evaluated and resolved the major stumbling blocks (mentioned above) to such a degree that they can be successfully operated by semi-skilled labor to produce healthy vegetables and fish to sustain families, communities and countries.

 

Solar Aquaponics – The Future of Growing

Solar Aquaponics, – The Future of Growing
– by Colle and Phyllis Davis

solar system

Heat and light are the heart-and-soul of aquaponics after the water, plants and fish are in place.

Here we have to make a couple of assumptions about your current or planned solar powered aquaponics system: 1) the constant aeration pump and the circulation pump requirements have already been planned for and 2) calibrated against the output of the system.

Now let’s bring the other two CEA (Controlled Environment Agriculture) elements to your aquaponics system by adding:

  1. Grow lights – not expensive, easily available and need more power than a single deep cycle battery can supply
  2. Heat for the fish tank – less expensive, easy to install and, yes that second battery is necessary.

The grow lights require a converter to up the voltage from 12vdc to 110 or 220vac and this step takes power and additional components. (There are 12v florescent lights, but they have a long way to go to be effective.) You may already use a converter to run you water pump and if so make sure you upgrade to enough watts to handle all of the current draw on your system.

sun symbol from color splashes and line brushesThe rule of thumb (green or not) is that plants need to have full spectrum lighting or special growing lights in a density sufficient to grow and be healthy. We have successfully used the guideline of one, four tube 4’ T8 Super-sunlight fixture per 2m or 6’ of grow tray length. These fixtures, including bulbs, are less than US$80 almost everywhere in the world. The 32watt tubes times 4 tubes means each fixture requires 128watts of power per hour for up to 4 hours per day. (Indoor growing has a very different time frame and cost.) To translate this to power usage: There needs to be 128watts x hours of use = watts per hour requirements from your solar electrical system. We started with one deep cycle marine battery and found very quickly that a second matching battery was needed to operate the grow lights for three hours per day over the six months of short days.

Here are the components you will need (assuming you are using an existing solar electrical system) to ‘go solar’ with your grow lights:

  1. A second matching battery
  2. An 800watt converter – 12vdc to 110 or 220vac (this is for one grow light fixture)
  3. One Super-sunlight T8 four tube fixture or similar per 2m (6’) of grow tray length
  4. Mounting hardware for above the trellises

These will cost in the range of US$300 to US$400.

Now for the heating system:

In most aquaponics systems, the fish tank is or can be plastic or a heavy rubberized food-grade material. (Please do not use galvanized steel because the zinc will leach into the water and is harmful to both fish and plants.) With a fish tank made of these materials you can add a thermostatically controlled heating system for under US$100, extra battery not included. Most warm water, fresh water fish do very well at between 75 and 80° F (25 to 27° C).

solar panelUsing a 12vdc heating element and a thermostat to keep the water in the fish tank within a desired range will contribute both to your production and your peace of mind. In colder climates the fish tank needs to be heavily insulated, especially the bottom and top. Placing the heating element near the aerators also helps to distribute the heat within the tank.

Here is the list of components to ‘go solar’ with the fish tank heater:

  1. 300 watt 12vdc heater element
  2. Thermostat/relay to control the heating element
  3. Adapter to mount heating element into side of fish tank (may not be necessary)

Yes, that is the list of components. Please note the adaptor, if needed, is a multipart component that may require some slight modifications to work in your situation.

The heating element is mounted in a hole you have cut in the side of the fish tank. (please drain the tank to below the hole FIRST.) The components for the adaptor are available at hardware and home centers in the plumbing section.

solar panel and clarThe thermostat is mounted near or on the top of outside of the tank and the sensor is fastened to the OUTSIDE of the tank about half way up the side and covered with insulating material. The sensor does not need to be in the water and fastening it to the outside of the tank reduces its exposure to the water and fish.

Here’s information about the wiring: The positive (+) wiring is from the battery bank (+) terminal to the thermostat then to the heating element. The negative or neutral wire goes from the battery bank (-) terminal to the heating element.

With the lights and/or the heating element(s) in place your solar electric system may or may not carry the load. Keep a close eye on its performance. Suggestion: The solar panel needs to be at least a 100w panel and the MPPT (charge controller) able to handle 20 amp loads. Upgrading either component will increase the cost. If you have not yet purchased your solar panels, opt for a minimum of 100watts and better 200watts.

A solar power system with a 200w panel, an MPPT that can handle 20amps and two deep cycle batteries will normally support a properly constructed and insulated single fish tank system including the grow lights even in extreme climates.

Send us pictures of your installations so we can brag on you.

Warehouse Aquaponics? Yes, Here’s How . . .

Warehouse Aquaponics with Portable Farms®? Yes, Here’s How . . .
– by Colle and Phyllis Davis

We cracked the code so you make money faster and easier and with LOWER ELECTRICAL COSTS to increase your ROI for warehouse aquaponics! You’re welcome.

Those huge empty warehouses seem to be begging to be repurposed again in some productive and sustainable way. The enclosed space runs from tens of thousands to millions of square feet of usable space. There must be some way to turn that empty space into a money maker.

How about making this available warehouse space into a huge aquaponics setup using some special grow lights to grow plants? It sounds so reasonable and straightforward. Every week PFAS LLC receives requests from all over the world from those interested in making use of abandoned warehouses in their area. They dream of converting the interior space of warehouses into a high-intensity food production facility to grow, sell and distribute food locally and make lots of money. 

Below is the process that nearly all warehouses must go through in order to be ready for Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems:

  1. Obtain the use of the building through leasing or purchase or whatever means of legal transfer is required to secure the right to use the space.
  2. Obtain the necessary permits to make changes to the electrical, HVAC, surface water diversion, sewage hook ups and security systems. This may also require a zoning change.
  3. Permission from Fish and Wildlife Department in the local jurisdiction.
  4. Permission from the electrical utility to ‘up the load coverage’ to keep the grow lights on.
  5. A thorough cleaning. Steam cleaning and even sand blasting walls and floors may be necessary to make the space clean and usable for growing plants and fish.
  6. Painting all surfaces and using an epoxy coating on the floors.
  7. Replacing or updating the entire HVAC system.
  8. Installing an effective grow light system first before installing the aquaponics’ Modules.

 

Aquaponics in COLD Climates WORKS GREAT!

Aquaponics in COLD Climates
– by Colle and Phyllis Davis

greenhouse snowThe key to the success of aquaponics in cold climates is the climatically adapted structure housing the installation.

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.

farm 8 18 2012The 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.