Science is an iterative process of approximations. This project follows that mantra in that it starts with a lot of imagination and results in useful information. My goal with this blog is to supply that information to others who are interested in the benefits provided by aquaponic systems.
Roughly three years ago I started experimenting with aquaponics as a way for our family farm to expand without using more water than we have available. Today it is still very much an experiment, but it is starting to prove its worth. We are now growing useful amounts of fruits and veggies with less water. We have found we can also grow a lot of plants that we could not grow in our ground.
Today we have three active aquaponic systems on site. Two are rather small, about the size I would expect the average 4.25 person home to have in their back yard. The third one is approaching farm scale and takes up a large part of a fairly big barn, a greenhouse, and a fair bit of square footage in front and behind the barn & greenhouse. Each of these systems teaches a lot in terms of what can be done, the costs involved, and how well it all scales.
Laying it all out
Here are a series of images showing the progression of aquaponics at Petit Teton Farm. You can see here how we started laying out the placement of the grow beds for the new farm scale system.
Things started growing almost immediately. Here we have some tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and the beginnings of what would become a giant zucchini plant.
The start of the greenhouse
We are beginning to plan out in front of the greenhouse now that we have some working plumbing. The greenhouse structure is going up using a custom design to fit the location.
Perhaps the most expensive part of this endeavor is the new digs for the fish. This tank holds up to 6,000 gallons of water at a five foot depth. The only thing holding all that water in is a thin liner and some weld wire. This is also the part of the system I would not repeat for many reasons, but the biggest is that it cost far more than necessary for this system.
The fish make an appearance
An image of the many giant goldfish, courtesy of a local lettuce operation that was shutting down. We have a number of other tanks with various types of fish, but the goldfish are by far the most photogenic and friendly. Of course you wouldn't want to forget to feed them; you might not make it out of the tank room otherwise.
Ouch - Quit pinching me!
I rather imagine the crawdads are a lot like my two girls. They seem to constantly be bickering and antagonizing each other. At least they do it quietly. A lot of folks ask why I have these, and usually I reply that I put them in and they started multiplying. And it is true, they are more prolific than bunnies. I suppose it is a good thing they are also cannibalistic, otherwise I would be overrun with crawdads.
Finally a few pictures of a mature system
The greenhouse is finished and covered for the summer to keep the heat down to reasonable. A wide variety of plants are growing in the rock beds as we figure out what works and what does not. This was last summer (2015), and since then things have only gotten bigger and more interesting.