Aqua what? Aquaponics.
“You want to build what? An Aquaponics system? Sure. Go ahead. What is an aquaponics system?”
You see that’s what I love about Jaden. She is a totally supportive, massive action type of girl. Me on the other hand, I am more of the planning and research type. I will research, double check, learn as much as I can before starting a venture. So when I asked Jaden about building a system here on the homestead, she must have figured I had done all the research and was comfortable with it. And thus the positive support.
Or perhaps it’s been our track record on things plant related.
First there was a desire for creating a garden for vegetables and herbs. Our previous community prevented us from roto-tilling our backyard into a 20 square foot garden, which led us to Earthbox gardening. It was and is so successful, that when we moved to our new home, it was one of the first request for yard improvement. Read about our Earthbox Garden.
Followed shortly by our raised bed gardens.
Here is a classic example of the difference between Jaden and I.
Her thoughts on raised beds: Get some wood, build a box and fill it with dirt. Done.
My thoughts: What size beds? Where will they go? How will we get water to them? What type of wood will last in wet Florida conditions? Where can I get this wood? Should we use treated wood or untreated? Make sure there’s room for wheelbarrows and carts to go between. Has anyone else already built these that I can look at their plans? It goes on, but I think you get the idea.
Her style leads to more things getting done, usually by putting them on my list of things to do.
And then somewhere along this path, we got some chickens. So we’ll need a place to keep them.
So when it came time for the next addition to our homestead, things went a little differently. They started the same, but ended very differently. She bought the hydroponics kit form kick starter and in usual fashion had assembled it to a somewhat completed state despite leaving the instructions in the box. At which point I heard “Honey, this thing doesn’t work! And I have to photograph for a post!” Which when run through the Steamy Kitchen Translator translates to “Scott, can you read the instructions and set this up for me correctly…pretty please! I’ll even make you dinner!”
After setting up the unit and getting it to function correctly, I became curious as to how it is supposed to work. Engineer in me takes over.
Hmmm… Hydroponics is the growing of plants in water. That sounds cool. I remember seeing a demonstration garden at Epcot in Walt Disney World in like 1983. Of course then it seemed so futuristic especially to a teenager. Now it just seems a little unnatural. Adding chemicals to feed the plants and having to deal with waste water just didn’t sit well with me. So I researched more.
Eventually I came across aquaponics. Instantly I was hooked.
So what is aquaponics?
According to Google – Aquaponics is the symbiotic cultivation of plants and aquatic animals in a recirculating environment. Thanks Google for the flashback to high school biology class.
Sounds complicated doesn’t it?
Really it’s not. Think of it this way. Instead of using chemicals to feed plants in a hydroponic system, we are going to use fish to feed our plants. One of the by products of raising fish is ammonia. Ammonia is toxic to fish, if you let too much of it build up in the water, the fish die. Seems no one ever told me that when I had a fish tank when I was ten. Through a nitrification process aquaponic systems convert the ammonia into nitrates the plants can absorb. The plants also act as a filter to clean the water before returning it to the fish tank.
Really it’s about closing loops. The waste product from the fish become the nutrients for the plants. The plants clean the water for the fish. And the water goes round and round. Simple.
Some people have taken this idea of closing loops to the extreme. Here take a look.
Now all I have to do is convince Jaden we need a brewery…so we can feed the fish…that will feed the plants…that will clean the water and add oxygen to the air…that will help with the tea production….that will fill the biodigester…that will create methane…for power generation…so I can have a chilled beer while I sit in our steam heated jacuzzi.