Here is a post by Dave Hart, an experienced Aquapon who works with me at Sahib’s Urban Aquaponics Hybrid Research Farm. The lady at Lowe’s Dave refers to below is a Master Gardener and gives classes on Botany. She want to bring her class students and those of some of her Seminole County based Master Gardeners for a Farm Tour.
“This past Saturday, we were like a couple of drug dealers in the hood…. …but we were ‘pushing’ Aquaponics at a Lowe’s in Fern Park, FL.
Sahib goes into this one often and has gotten to know the folks in the garden dept. The lady that runs the dept asked if we would be interested in setting up an aquaponics display for their ‘100 days of spring.’
We got to talk about AP to lots of folks. I tried to mention DIY, to everyone I talked to. Hopefully, a little taste, has created some new ‘addicts’…
On one end of the table, we had a small raft system set up. The pump was a little big, so I added a spray bar in the fish tank.
On the other end, we set up a small demo of a bell siphon. The stand pipe was pvc, but the ‘bell’, was part of a clear soda bottle. That way folks could see the siphon actually working.
In the 1st picture, the green pop up tent was the scotts vendors tent. Boy, did we get dirty looks when they heard us telling folks that with AP, you don’t need to buy fertilizers….
If you want to get the kid’s attention, just add a large gold fish or two. Lots of kids sat right there and watch them.
Hopefully, it’ll be a ‘seed’ for them, later on in life…
“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.” – President Ronald Reagan
Tomatoes – actually to be more precise – Heirloom Tomatoes
Let me tell you that I am just crazy about eating tomatoes – I mean real good quality tomatoes that actually have taste and flavor. I cannot usually find these in most supermarkets and if I do, they are quite pricey but still leave something lacking in flavor and taste, usually because they have been picked before they have had a chance to ripen and usually have sat in storage and coolers, probably shipped in from some far away place. There really is nothing better than local grown and vine ripened heirloom tomatoes so they have had time for the full flavor to develop. Growing tomatoes in Aquaponics is easy and ever one who has an Aquaponics System can certainly enjoy them fresh. However, to increase the taste and flavor of tomatoes grown in Aquaponics, I have concluded the following during my research over the last three years or so.
First and foremost, try to only grow “Heirloom” tomatoes. So what is “Heirloom”? Seeds of plants that have passed down by families over the years (usually over 50 years), and those that have preserved the unique taste, flavor and character are usually referred to as “Heirloom”, sometimes also called “open pollinated” or “Heritage” (in UK). The fruits may not all look uniform and be of different size and shapes. To those who are interested in actually tasting their food, these are sought after and command a higher market price. As awareness is growing of the associated additional health benefits of eating such food, their demand is on the rise. You as a grower can certainly benefit from this “Niche” section of the food market. Yes it will take time and patience to locate the consumers who will appreciate your unique “heirloom” produce grown locally and naturally. Let me assure you that once they have tasted the produce, they will not be going elsewhere and will become loyal customers so long as you continue to grow such wonderful tomatoes.
Growing heirloom tomatoes in Aquaponics to attain the full flavor and taste, I have found that the best results are obtained when I grow them in pots filled with my own “soil mix” and place them either in rafts or recirculating media wicking beds. This allows the tomato plants to always have the effluent rich re-circulating fish water that is high in Nitrogen as well as allow “top-side dressing” by adding very small amounts of natural and organic material such as vermicompost, high phosphorus bat guano, bone meal and rock salts such as Azomite. As there is not “top” watering other that the occasional spray of Vermicompost Tea, there is very little chance of any significant leaks of such into the Aquaponics System water so as to harm the fish. I have found that we have a significant increase in the fruit yield of each tomato plant as well as enhanced taste and flavor. Yes there is one major disadvantage than growing regular tomatoes. These heirloom tomatoes require very careful handling. Many of them have thin skins and a short shelf life once picked. They are thus ideally suited to the small urban farmer serving the local customer – that would be you.
“Is it profitable?”
So what is the average selling price of a pound of Heirloom Tomatoes? I “goggled” this and came across a range from $1.00 to a high of $5.50, the average being $3.50. I was recently informed of a nearby Hydroponic grower getting $7.50 per lb! Well it is early in the tomato season. You can command a higher price at either end of the season as other local growers may not have the produce available for market – here a controlled environment such as a greenhouse /hoop house will certainly make economic sense. Growing them in Aquaponics can help you command 50c to $1.00 lb more especially if you can allow ”u-pick” as well as “mix & match” the varieties. The yield per plant varies depending upon the heirloom tomato plant variety and growing environment. In independent studies the range that has been seen is a low of 9lbs to a high of 19lbs. For our example we will use a low yield of only 14lbs per plant. You should space your heirloom tomato plants at least 15 to 18 inches apart if using a staggered raft formation and vertical trellising – ideally 2 feet if you have the space. If they are to be placed in re-circulating media beds I recommend a minimum of 2 ft distance in each direction and vertical trellising. You will have to keep ahead of the heavy leaf growth and may occasionally have to prune (be careful not to over do this), and ensure proper support of the vertical trellising. I try to mix and match the heirloom tomato varieties as some plants are more prolific than others. I must confess I also enjoy seeing the different colors of the various heirloom tomatoes. You also need to ensure that there is plenty of air circulation.
If you had a fifty foot long by 4 foot wide grow bed area (raft or media), so 200 sq. ft. space, and the heirloom plants were spaced at 2ft staggered, you should be able to plant at least 50 plants per growing season. Assuming that we receive an average of 14lbs heirloom tomatoes per plant and just the average price of $3.50 per lb, each growing season should provide you with a gross return of around $2,500. Now if you have a controlled growing environment, you may be able to command much higher prices at the start and out of the normal growing season. Here in Central Florida we experience at least two growing seasons, so could earn around $5,000 from the 200 sq foot of growing area allocated to heirloom tomatoes. In a controlled growing environment you may be able to stagger the planting so as to have virtually continuous growing thus substantially increase your revenue form the sale of heirloom tomatoes. Remember that you should grow multi crops to the niche market that you identify for your area and climate so as to maximize your revenues. There are other products you can grow in Aquaponics other than leafy greens and still make a profit – remember Okra, Eggplant, Hot Peppers, culinary herbs and so on.
I will request my daughter to include some Heirloom Tomato recipes on her Blog www.lovelaughmirch.com
As to whether it is “profitable” from a health point of you, this is going to be your decision. Let me help you a little. Growing them by aquaponics means ensures that you are assured the best natural taste. As I was quoted in the recent article in Cornell University Small farm Program Newsletter – the Urban Gardening section “This was a far superior way to grow it locally, grow it naturally, without having to resort to harmful pesticides and fertilizers and such, because if I did, my fish would die.”
I have listed just some of the health benefits of eating heirloom tomatoes in the following link: http://jenubouka.hubpages.com/hub/Heirloom-Tomato-Beginners-Guide
In future “What shall we grow today?” article’s I will write about some of the vegetables and culinary herbs that you can grow in Aquaponics. Please let me know if there are any vegetables you would like to grow in Aquaponics and know more about them.
Using Soil in Aquaponics – Sahib’s Urban Hybrid Aquaponics Systems Update
Sahib introduces you to his version of Sustainable Urban Aquaponics – using Soil and vastly increasing the range of what we can grow. I am always adding different growing methods and researching new and better ways to utilize our Aquaponics knowledge so as to increase the range of what we can grow. I also want to try to develop different Hybrid Aquaponics systems that can be used in numerous locations throughout the world and those that do not require a huge capital outlay. In the previous post that was written by David Hart who works with me, I highlighted some of the methods by which we are using soil in Aquaponics. I have taken three short videos of Sahib’s Aquaponics Research Farm so that you can see for yourself the results so far.
I am thrilled that I can now grow numerous root vegetables including potatoes in Aquaponics. This growing method also gives me the possibility of adding side dressing of organic based natural fertilizers (such as Bat Iguana), from the top for those plants requiring such. This will enable me to control the nutrient requirements of the numerous vegetables on an individual basis. I hope that what I am doing and my style of Hybrid Urban Aquaponics will help you grow your own food locally, naturally and without the need of harmful pesticides and chemical fertilizers
The Soil we are using in our Aquaponics systems mainly comprises of Coir, Vermicompost, Peat Humus, Perlite, Pine Bark, and aged quality compost (we have purchased some that is four years and seven years old). I supplements that mix with a very small amount (half a cup for 3 cubic foot). I will share with you our findings. We teach such in our Aquaponics training Workshops – I will be posting next years schedule soon. Hopefully you can attend some of them. You are welcome to share your ideas and designs by submitting them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are always adding different growing methods and researching new and better ways to utilize our Aquaponics knowledge so as to increase the range of what we can grow. I wanted to be able to use some soil in Aquaponics and be able to grow root vegetables while re-circulating the water. In future posts, I will highlight some of our methods and components as to one step we have taken towards this. Here I am sharing a article by my good friend and fellow Aquapon David Hart.
God bless, Sahib
Hi guys and aquapon ladies…
We’re trying something new. If you’ve tried growing any root crops in aquaponics, this might be of interest. This way, we might just end up with ‘staight carrots’…
We removed some shallow water culture troughs from one of the systems. Not because they didn’t work, they actually worked very well. The problem was, that they were above a deep water culture bed. As the sun went higher in the sky during the summer, they started to cast too much shadow onto the lower bed.
This wouldn’t of been a problem ‘if’ the beds ran North and South, but they don’t, ours are set East to West. Since we are using wasted space in a shopping center, we don’t have a lot of options on our lay out.
Here’s a shot of the troughs new location….
You can see we have them up on one set of blocks. This helps to get the drain back to the sump. The sump is to the right of the picture. It’s about 20 feet to the sump.
The pipe on the fence is the supply line.
Here’s a few shots of the new set up…
In the fore ground above….That’s five different kinds of carrots, beets and radishes.
We ran a supply line to each one, with a ball valve to control the flow. Each bed has a drain, which ties into a common header.
The bags are poly grow bags. I think they are a 5 gallon size (Maybe 4 gallons ?) They come with holes already in the bottom and part way up the sides. The bags are filled with a potting mix. Regular soil wouldn’t ‘wick up’ as well and the roots wouldn’t get as much oxygen.
The water in the troughs, is just less then an inch.
The system feeding the grow bag troughs, is our catfish system. It only has 1 IBC with about 18 very large channel cats. You can see the tank in the background of the next picture.
The 3 bell siphon tubs are fairly new too. The water exits the IBC, by the way of a SLO drain. The tubs drain back to the sump.
I hope this gives everyone some ideas…..
Your aquaponic carrots really can be straight…..
Recirculating farms – systems that use naturally cleaned, recycled water – are growing fresh vegetables, fruits, herbs and fish for Florida families, so they can eat well, even in tough economic times.
Winter Park, Florida (PRWEB) August 08, 2012
The paved alley behind the Winter Park Commerce Center strip mall does not look like fertile farmland. But there, urban gardener Sahib Punjabi grows an abundance of lettuce, peppers, tomatoes, and more, all with the help of water and fish, instead of soil. Sahib’s Aquaponics Research Farm — or as he calls it, his “living food jungle” — is one of many new farms and training centers cropping up, literally, in central Florida. These innovative operations provide not only fresh, local produce but also economic opportunities for Floridians affected by the financial crisis.
Aquaponics is a type of recirculating agriculture, an eco-friendly method of farming that uses naturally cleaned, recycled water in place of soil. It combines aquaculture, or fish farming, with hydroponics, where plants grow in nutrient-rich water. Fish waste provide organic nutrients for the plants, and the plants in turn clean the water for the fish. The result is a closed-loop, symbiotic system that grows food without depending on pesticides or other chemicals. Aquaponic farms can range in size from large, commercial ventures to small, desktop systems that grow herbs, lettuces or certain vegetables
Another Florida resident turned aquaponic farmer is Gina Cavaliero, former co-owner of a once-successful contracting business that foundered when the housing market collapsed. “The faucet just turned off,” Cavaliero remembered. “We’d recently been introduced to aquaponics, and thought that growing food would be recession-proof — people have to eat.” Today, Green Acre Aquaponics, a commercial farm and consulting company located in Brooksville, is thriving. According to Cavaliero, more than a hundred people participated in their most recent aquaponics training sessions, eager to learn how to grow food for their own use and for sale to local restaurants and markets.
What is attracting so many new people to this way of farming? “One big advantage of an aquaponic farm or garden is that it can be built virtually anywhere — indoors, on rooftops, or in urban lots where soil is paved or otherwise not fit for growing food.” noted Marianne Cufone, Executive Director of the Recirculating Farms Coalition, a collaborative group that supports farms and farmers. “That means just about anyone can have an aquaponics system and enjoy fresh, sustainably grown food.”
Helping families grow their own food is the mission of Aquaponic Lynx in Yalaha. Owner Aleece Landis provides equipment, consulting services, and training to individuals who want an aquaponic system at home. She sees aquaponics as a great benefit to families. “It’s an easy way to garden and grow your own food,” Landis explained. “You don’t have to remember to water or fertilize the plants. You just have to feed the fish, and you’ll have fresh, healthy food available when you want it.”
Sahib Punjabi believes that home-growing food helps save on grocery bills and improve health. “There are health benefits to adding vegetables to your diet, and to not eating pesticides,” he said. “There is also the pleasure of working with nature and seeing something grow — it’s a wonderful stress relief.” He feels a healthier diet and less stress means a substantial savings in health-care costs over the long term.
For Gina Cavaliero, individual health benefits and savings are just part of aquaponics’ potential benefits. She sees aquaponics as part of a revolution. “If we can get a decent resurgence of the small family farm, we can feed more people local, clean, chemical-free food — and create jobs in the process.” For Florida families affected by diet-related health problems and the economic downturn, that is a win–win proposition.
Okra – aka “Ladies Fingers”, “Kingombo”, “Gumbo” and “Bhindi”
During the last two years or so, I have found that you can grow almost any vegetable and plants that you choose to in Aquaponics. You may need to adapt the grow beds and practice hybrid aquaponics as I do to increase your range of products. I have successfully grown broccoli, carrots, eggplants, daikon and radishes, fennel, fruit trees, kohlrabi, herbs, okra, onions, pumpkins, marrows, gourds, tomatoes, strawberries, peppers – hot & sweet just to name some. I have also seen others grow corn and some even sweet potatoes via wicking beds. One really needs to expand their horizon and realize that there are really very few items that will not grow well in Aquaponics systems. Yes there are a few items that are just not cost effective at present such as grains and rice. There is research being done on these products and I am sure that very soon these too will become economic to grow via Aquaponics means.
Today I am going to write about one of my wife’s favorite items that we grow at Sahib Aquaponics, Okra. We call it by the Hindi/Urdu Name Bhindi. This much loved vegetable is a favorite of many and is usually grown in hot weather, one of the few that does not wilt and die as the temperatures rise. The green pods when cooked release a “goo” or slime which is considered by many to be beneficial to health. Okra can be eaten raw, boiled, fried, sautéed, stir fried, stuffed, and included in stews. The leaves can also be eaten, usually in salads.
Okra plants can grow up to 9 feet tall and with uncut Okra fruit, can weigh a lot hence they are not good candidates for “raft” Aquaponics. They are better suited to deep media beds preferably containing 3/4inch rocks. Grow them direct from seed and avoid the transplant shock. Although I have grown a hybrid variety from saved seeds, I do prefer to grow the “Clemson Spineless”. Each plant may only have one or two Okra pods maturing at any one time and you should pick these often. Try to pick the pods when they are 3 to 5 inches, although I must confess that in Aquaponics, they tend to grow that almost every day! If I forget to pick them for a couple of days, they have grown to 10 to 11 inches tall and fat as a cucumber. Hat is not always a good idea as letting them grow to a larger size tends to make them woody and lose their taste. My Aquaponically grown Okra are honestly the very best tasting “Bhindi” that I have ever eaten. When planting Okra you do need a lot of room as you should plant a number of plants if you would like to be able to harvest enough pods for a meal once or twice a week.
You can eat Okra right off the plants or cook them in numerous ways. They can also be frozen or pickled. You can cut them in ¼” to ½” pieces and stir fry then with onions and spices, or coat them with seasoned corn meal and deep fry them. They can be stuffed with spices, other stuffing or even cooked ground meat and then stir fried. Gumbo is another way to eat Okra. In order to get the maximum health benefits of Okra, try to avoid over cooking it and avoid deep frying. Okra is an excellent source of many nutrients such as Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Calcium, Copper, Iron, Potassium, Magnesium, Niacin, Zinc as well as containing Folic Acid. It is considered a weight loss food with optimum health benefits. The fibers found in Okra are supposed to help stabilize bold sugar, improve the functioning of the intestinal tract and help provide the body with good bacteria for the digestive system.
In Pure Economics 101 terms, it all depends! If you live in very hot climates like Central Florida, your choice of produce to grow for market is limited during the hot summer. If you have the space and the appropriate Aquaponics set-up, growing Okra during the hot season and provide you with a stream of income that was non-existent during this hot period of the year. If you had a fifty foot long by 4 foot wide media filled grow bed area, so 200 sq. ft. space, you should be able to plant at least 120 plants – spacing them 12” to 15” apart. Once they start to produce fruit, you should be able to harvest approx. 30lbs to 40lbs weekly. Organic Okra, if available (and you know as you will hopefully educate your customer that Aquaponically grown is much superior), was selling for $2.99-$3.50/lb at the local farmer’s market. Say if you have a 20 week production harvest that could result in $3,000.00 plus additional income. Not as much as one could earn if growing tomatoes or green leafy veggies. However you could not grow them in this hot climate without some serious climate control environment! By the way, you can still grow basil, mint, hot peppers and gourds / melons in the open space of the media grow beds thus further add to you farm income.
As to whether it is “profitable” from a health point of you, this is going to be your decision. Let me help you a little. Growing them by aquaponics means ensures that you are assured the best natural taste. As I was quoted in the recent article in Cornell University Small farm Program Newsletter – the Urban Gardening section “This was a far superior way to grow it locally, grow it naturally, without having to resort to harmful pesticides and fertilizers and such, because if I did, my fish would die.” I have listed just some of the health benefits of Okra. Do you know, this is one vegetable that is so valued in Indian cuisine that had resulted in India becoming the largest grower of Okra. Ayurvedic medicine states numerous health benefits of eating Okra. Here is another link detailing information on Okra as a “Body Cleanser” http://www.ehow.com/about_5471466_information-okra-body-cleanser.html
In future “What shall we grow today?” article’s I will write about some of the vegetables mentioned above as well some other less known such as Bitter Melon (Kerela), Fenugreek (Methi), Malabar Spinach and Moringa (Drumsticks). Please let me know if there are any vegetables you would like to grow in Aquaponics and know more about them.