Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Aquaponics Combines Fish and Vegetables

One thing that we ignore at our peril is the stunning productivity possible with this enhanced form of hydroponics.  It is really an artificial extension to the ditch and bank protocol used by the Mayans in particular and throughout the Americas in general.

Greenhouse culture has been steadily evolving and it appears that this will be the next phase.  Additional add-ons are also likely feasible in this living platform.  In fact one hundred pounds of fish and 1400 heads of lettuce equivalent on essentially thirty square feet of floor space is pretty suggestive.  What it indicates is that a hundred square feet is able to support one human easily.

We can take this knowledge and model and add energy to occupy both deep space and deep earth habitats.  Even the core options provide pretty fine rations.

The integration of fish and plants provides a superior protocol allowing nutrients to be shared and constantly recycled. 

This technology could well lead to the abandonment of a great deal of surface agriculture and the restoration of gentler protocols there.

Aquaponics new facet of agriculture, combines fish, vegetables

Posted: Thursday, July 11, 2013 3:24 pm
By Jane Fyksen

The first International Aquaponics Conference was held last month in Stevens Point. As a type of agriculture, aquaponics is still in its infancy, but gauging from the attendance, it’s generating lots of interest, both in this country and abroad.

In aquaponics, plants and fish grow together in one integrated system – without soil. Fish waste feeds the plants; plants filter water so fish thrive. The result is a continuous supply of fresh, organic food that can be grown in minimal space – anywhere – with almost no impact on the environment. Aquaponics is indoor “farming” in a greenhouse-type environment. With the right science, aquaponics is both economically and environmentally sustainable.

Aquaponics can be used to raise vegetables and fresh fish year-round by an individual family, to feed a village in a third-world country or as a profit-generating, commercial-farming enterprise.

As the fledgling aquaponics industry grows, the need for trained greenhouse-system managers has emerged. UW-Stevens Point has responded by becoming a leader in aquaponics education. In partnership with Nelson and Pade Aquaponics, a Montello-based provider of aquaponics systems, supplies and training, UW-Stevens Point has become the first accredited university to offer semester-long aquaponics classes.

Aquaponics was first offered in the spring 2012 semester. Since then, more than 80 students from roughly a dozen states and three foreign countries have completed it. UW-Stevens Point hosted the first International Aquaponics Conference last month as a resource for growers, educators, government representatives, organizations working in food-short foreign countries and even Upper Midwest homeowners seeking to grow more of their own food year-round on a smaller scale.

Chris Hartleb, UW-Stevens Point professor of fisheries biology and co-director of the University’s Northern Aquaculture Demonstration Facility at Bayfield, tells Agri-View that the first year aquaponics was offered, 27 students enrolled. The second year (i.e., this year), there are 54 students. That kind of popularity and growth is “unheard of for a brand new course,” he says.

UW-Stevens Point is keying on on-line lectures as well as hands-on laboratory sessions at Nelson and Pad Aquaponics.

Within the next 12 months, according to Hartleb, UW-Stevens Point will have a professional certificate in aquaponics to offer students. This, too, will be something brand new in the U.S.

Hartleb says probably six to eight courses will be needed to earn this professional certificate, which is apt to take two years to complete, though courses elsewhere than UW-Stevens Point will probably transfer. He sees students needing classes like water chemistry, horticulture, aquaculture (i.e., fish farming) and the highly specialized study of aquaponics (coexisting fish and vegetable production).

During last month’s conference, the International Aquaponic Society – a UW-Stevens Point Foundation organization – was launched. This professional society is specifically dedicated to aquaponics research and education.

As noted Nelson and Pade, owned by Rebecca Nelson and her husband, John Pade, is a company specializing in aquaponics, and partner with UW-Stevens Point in aquaponics education. This Marquette County business has a 5,000-square-foot demonstration greenhouse, in which fish (tilapia) swim in tanks; lettuce, herbs and other vegetables and fruits grow on “floating rafts.”

Nelson and Pade offers complete aquaponic systems and growing supplies, training and workshops, consulting, information on aquaponics and tours of their aquaponics greenhouse. Earlier this year, they were even visited by Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection secretary Ben Brancel.

Their patented Clear Flow Aquaponic Systems is named such because water flowing through the system for the plants is nutrient-rich but clear, providing biosecurity and food safety. According to Pade, the plant roots are bright white and clean, and the fish are raised in fresh clear water. Further, Nelson and Pade’s ZDEP (Near Zero Discharge Extra Production) system, available with all commercial systems beefs up vegetable production compared with the raft system alone. Plus, nearly all water and waste from the system can be fully used, virtually eliminating any discharge. Further, media beds can be added for more diverse crop production. This allows the grower to use all fish waste from the ZDEP filter to grow more plants and a more diverse selection. In the media beds, beans, peas, broccoli, beets, radishes, carrots, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes and other crops can be produced; it’s a good option for farm-market sales, which demand a variety of crops.

Pade, who grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin, sees aquaponics as the future of agriculture.

“An aquaponic greenhouse can produce a substantial amount of fish and vegetables in a relatively small space. Therefore, you can feed people locally…,” says Pade.

The “local foods” movement is growing within Wisconsin agriculture and beyond.

In addition to the aquaponics course in partnership with UW-Stevens Point, Nelson and Pade offers its own three-day aquaponics and “controlled environment agriculture” workshops on a regular basis.

For more information, contact the company at 608-297-8708 or www.aquaponics.com.

Agri-View spoke to Pade at last month’s conference in Stevens Point about their system. Each commercial system uses multiple fish tanks for staggered harvests. With fast-growing tilapia, a tank full of fish can be harvested every six weeks, or more often depending on the number of modules. In the smallest commercial system (a one-bay greenhouse that is 2,880 square feet or 30 by 96 feet), upwards of 17,000 heads of lettuce can be produced annually, along with 1,200 pounds of fish; however, size and configuration of Nelson and Pade commercial aquaponics systems vary greatly. Further, while tilapia and lettuce are used as examples of production numbers, growers are by no means limited to those crops.

The company also offers smaller home food-production systems. According to Pade, the F5 (which stands for “Fantastically Fun Fresh Food Factory”) is well-suited for the beginner to annually produce 110 pounds of fish and upwards of 1,400 heads of lettuce (or other vegetables). It includes a single 110-gallon fish tank and two 3 by 5 feet plant growing beds. It doubles as a classroom aquaponic system, too, for high school ag classes. Home systems, however, come in various sizes including the largest Family Farm Market system, which provides 860 pounds of fish and upwards of 11,500 heads of lettuce (or other veggies) to feed a family and have extra to sell at a farm stand or local farm market.

Nelson and Pade’s Living Food Bank is a complete aquaponic system designed for local climate conditions and crop choices, plus a complete energy system (solar panels, battery bank and generator back-up). It can be set up anywhere in the world to provide fresh fish and vegetables to those in need, including at mission sites and even in urban centers here in the U.S.

Janeil Owen of the Northwest Haiti Christina Mission near St. Louis Du Nord operates an aquaponics system to provide fish and vegetables, as well as eventually even corn and potatoes, for feeding programs there (one of the poorest areas in the world). Owen, who is collaborating with Nelson and Pade to expand aquaponics throughout Haiti, also spoke at last month’s conference at UW-Stevens Point.

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