Seasonal Aquaponics – and watch out for the deer!

I arrived in Denver on Frontier Airlines Saturday night.. great flight.   I found my way to the baggage collection via a driver-less electric train that takes you from one side of the terminal complex to the other.

Driverless train to baggage collection.

What a novel idea.  I imagined these devices in my home city of Brisbane.   A great public transport method.

I had not made definite arrangements with Sylvia Bernstein for a meeting point, so the inevitable happened.  Sylvia was waiting for me in one place while I was somewhere else. My mobile (cell) phone, that I had been assured by Telstra would work USA wide, worked well in California but not in Denver.
I was about to catch a cab to a hotel somewhere for the night when Sylvia located me.  Good work Sylvia!
Imagine how much that cab ride would have cost, a foreigner at an airport asking to be taken to a hotel somewhere.  The cabbie would have thought he had struck gold!

Next morning up early to get to the Denver Botanical Gardens venue for the seminar 9:00am start.  A wonderful group of people had assembled from Denver, Boulder and nearby towns.  Some folk had travelled in from out of state.    I must say that I found everyone I met to be warm and friendly.  A very enjoyable experience.

During Q & A the issue of seasonal/climate variations in operating Aquaponics systems was frequently raised.

I have to admit, I had no idea as to the difficulty of year round gardening in climates where there are severe winters and very definite seasonality. (compared to our Australian climate)  Only our most southern island state of Tasmania would have similar winter temperatures and climate, as is experienced in much of central and northern USA.

Here in Southern Queensland we can grow all year round, and we can run our Aquaponics systems outdoors if we wish.  I must add that better results are obtained when the system is in a greenhouse of some sort.  It protects the system from heavy downpours and assists in pest and bug control.

In much of the US gardens need to be protected from deer, raccoons, and even bears.

Deer in the streets

(I spotted deer wandering the streets of Boulder)
Some participants talked of an inner wire fence around their garden with an electric fence perimeter to keep the animals at bay.

As is always the case, I came away from the seminar having gained much new knowledge from the participants.

In order to have a year round Aquaponics garden Sylvia has designed her AquaBundance

The Aquabundance Aquaponics System

system to be able to be easily moved indoors in winter.  The system will wheel through a standard home door, out onto the patio for summer and indoors for winter.
This is a very important design criteria.  The cost of building a suitable greenhouse in those colder climes is very high and in many cases put a productive Aquaponics system out of the reach of many folk.

Indoors the system is operated under suitable grow lights.  Sylvia gave a very informative lecture on grow lights at our Denver seminar.  She demonstrated several types of grow lights even including the latest in LED lighting.  Sylvia explained how supplemental lighting can be used to good effect during the transition months of Fall and Spring.   The ability of the light type to penetrate and provide the correct light spectrum, are important considerations.

To build a suitable greenhouse that is capable of providing winter grow conditions is a very expensive exercise.  This expense limits the entry of many folk into home food production.

The AquaBundance moveable system provides a meaningful entry into Aquaponic

Aquabundance on show.

gardening.  Sylvia Bernstein has come up with a real winner here.  There has been a lot of very thoughtful design in this very functional kit.

In Denver I met with the folk from Colorado Aquaponics.  They are putting together a facility in an abandoned warehouse to provide food and employment in some of the less privileged areas o town.

Colorado Aquaponics group.

A very enthusiastic group . I really admire people who get involved in this type of community activity.   Take a look at the Colorado Aquaponics Blog.

Here is another blog about our seminar in Denver. “The Expensive Tomato

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Aquaponics – 12 minute DVD – view now…

Please view a trailer introduction to my full length DVD “Aquaponics Made Easy”.

(this trailer runs for 12 minutes)

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The full length DVD runs for 90 minutes and is packed with Aquaponics information.

“Aquaponics Made Easy” is my first DVD on growing fish and vegetables in your own backyard. If you are new to Aquaponics, this DVD will explain it all for you. From building your own cheap bathtub system to watching a kit being installed, “Aquaponics Made Easy” will guide you into the wonderful world of Aquaponics.

What fish to get? What plants to grow? How to keep the whole thing balanced and working well in your backyard. From Nitrogen cycles to pH test kits – its all explained in this fascinating DVD.

Murray Hallam’s Aquaponics Made Easy DVD
PAL 90 mins of excellent information can be obtained here +

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Aloe Vera in Aquaponics.

Here is yet another plant that does well in Aquaponics flood and drain media based systems.
I planted this group of Aloe Vera around 9 months ago as small suckers I obtained from a neighbour. Several visitors and friends have told me that Aloe Vera will not do well in Aquaponics because it is a plant from arid regions.

Aloe Vera leaves cut showing the jelly like core.

Aloe Vera is believed to have originated in the southern half of the Arabian peninsula, Northern Africa, the Canary islands and Cape Verde.
Aloe Vera
grows in arid climates and is widely distributed in Africa, India and other arid areas.

Aloe Vera is frequently used in herbal medicine. Many scientific studies of the use of Aloe Vera have been undertaken, some of them conflicting.  Despite these limitations, there is some good evidence that Aloe Vera extracts may be useful in the treatment of wound and burn healing, minor skin infections, Sebaceous cyst, diabetes and elevated blood lipids in humans. These positive effects are thought to be due to the presence of compounds such as polysaccharides, mannans, anthraquinones and lectins.

One of my plants has produced a flower stem and is looking very well indeed.

Aloe Vera as a refreshing drink is widely available in supermarkets and health food stores.
Aloe Vera is particularly good for the immediate treatment of burns.
Aloe Vera juice is used for consumption and relief of digestive issues such as heartburn and irritable bowel syndrome. It is common practice for cosmetic companies to add the gel like sap or other derivatives from Aloe Vera to products such as makeup, tissues, moisturizers, soaps, sunscreens, and shampoos.
Other uses for extracts of Aloe Vera include use as fresh food preservative.

Those interested in natural medicine have good reason to grow your own very healthy Aloe Vera, at home in your Aquaponics System.
Imagine having your very own Aloe Vera plant available at any time.

Aloe Vera in Aquaponics

Aloe Vera plants in my Aquaponics system. There are three plants growing in the bed. They are a little obscured by the salad greens.

Yet another plant that does extremely well in media based Aquaponics Systems.

Resident little green frog on the Aloe Vera plant.

Aloe Vera leaves.

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The World Food Supply….Best Justification for Aquaponics Yet!

The food crisis goes far deeper than the latest crop of droughts and floods and rising prices.
Wheat crops are in real danger of being wiped out.

Wheat field

Wheat field.

New outbreak of a deadly “Rust” that depletes and destroys wheat crops known as Ug99, so named because it first emerged in Uganda in 1999. At first it was thought to have been controlled within a limited area but it seems to be spreading inexorably. First it hit crops in Kenya, then Ethiopia. Then it jumped across the Red Sea to Yemen and has now been found in Iran. This year it was found in South Africa.
Read on….

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Afternoon in the Greenhouse. August 29.

The afternoon in the greenhouse for August was a great success.  The session was fully booked.  People came from all over, as far south as Shepparton, north from Hervey Bay and two attendees from Malaysia.

Greenhouse session. See the lush greens. We made a delicious salad , everything freshly picked from the greenhouse.

Initially there is combined session covering an explanation re Aquaponics and how it works.  An early afternoon tea, then we break into two groups, one group goes to the bathtub assembly and auto siphon demonstration while the other group goes to the greenhouse.   Later the the two groups swap to complete the training.

Some feedback form comments,

Perfect day, very informative.
Need to get my system going ASAP.
Smoked Jade Perch..yummy.
Loved seeing new plant types…excellent lettuce.

Participating in the auto siphon demonstration.

The sessions will be a monthly event so watch our website to make your EARLY booking.
Avoid disappointment …book early.
So many folk left it until Saturday evening to attempt a booking.
Looking forward to the next session.
Murray and the team.

Greenhouse session. "Lost in the jungle"

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Sylvia Bernstein: America’s Aquaponics Dynamo!

A guest post by ECO Films.

“Don’t trust anyone who tells you that aquaponics isn’t addictive. It is.
It’s like a drug habit where you just have to keep getting more and more to be satisfied.

Silvia Bernstein

If you don’t believe me, prowl around on the Australian forums and see what is happening….” wrote Sylvia Bernstein in her first blog post on Aquaponics.
Continue reading…..

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Pest Control and Aquaponics

A warning for anyone considering growing fish in any backyard pond or aquaponics system is to be very cautious when dealing with pest control people spraying chemicals in and around your home.

Pest control and aquaponics

Pest Control and Aquaponics

Recently Rod from Queensland got a reminder phone call from his pest control man.

“I got a phone call early in the week that house was due for annual spider and cockroach spray.” said Rod, “I Thought nothing about it until the same chap arrived on Thursday. Rod even showed the Pest Control guy his aquaponics setup.

“It was windy so I asked him – what about my fish?” said Rod. Will they be safe?

“Not a problem.” said the pest control guy, “The fish are far enough away from the main house.”

Rod was satisfied that this guy was an expert and knew what he was talking about. So he let the pest control guy do his thing – spray around the house and do the regular “treatment.”

Saturday morning came. Rod uncovered his main fish tank and looked inside to inspect the fish. He noticed something odd floating at the bottom of his tank.

“What are the white lines on the bottom of the tank?” He thought to himself. Looking further into the tank he saw the pile of dead fish resting on the bottom.

“Yep! The whole lot of my Silver Perch and Yellow Belly fish. Forty odd fish in total. All dead!” he said.

“I had one fish frozen and I buried the rest.” said Rod. The frozen fish he would test for lethal chemicals.

Rod inspected the water in the tank and noticed something strange.

“It looked like couple of oil slicks on top of water About size of a 5c piece.” he said, so Rod took a sample of that as well.

“Sure makes you wonder what in hell is being sprayed around the place by these so called professionals.” said Rod.

Dead Fish

Rod's poisoned fish.

“I think the problem was that the spray got onto the Grow Bed which is only about 4 meters from the house.” he said.

It was a windy day. The chemical spray wafted and landed on his grow-bed and then seeped into his fish tank.

Rod has another aquaponics system that was located on the other side of his house.

The Jade Perch in it are okay.” he said because they were located in separate systems.

“Funny I had no floaters,” said Rod. All the poisoned fish rested on the bottom of the tank.

More dead fish.

Rod contacted the pest control people who apologized about the incident and offered to compensate Rod for his nine month old dead fish. The manager said that the sprays used are similar to chemical sprays used in commercial agriculture. It certainly makes you wonder about the degree of chemicals that still adhere to the surface of store bought broccoli and strawberries?

Rod intends to wash and clean his poisoned aquaponics system, replace his vegetables and start again but using sacrificial goldfish this time to make sure everything is okay before introducing another batch of fish.

The moral of this story is to be very cautious when allowing anyone to enter your house and applying any form of chemical spray in and around your home. Aquaponics by its very nature creates 100% clean food. Even a small amount of chemical spraying – no matter how “food safe” the authorities tell you – can have disastrous results as Rod’s dead fish clearly display.
Our DVD’s are produced by ECO films.

Dead Fish

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Australian Stingless Bees in your Garden.

Bees are an important part of maintaining an eco friendly backyard.
They play a significant roll in pollinating flowering plants and it is estimated that one third of our food supply depends on insect pollination, most of which is accomplished by bees.
You can have sting-less bees, the size of an ant or small fly harmlessly collecting pollen from your vegetable and fruit flowers in your garden.  They will also produce small quantities of honey which can be harvested for family consumption.

Many beehives are now being lost to land clearing and pesticides.

You can help reverse the decline and increase the survival of the species while helping your garden.
You do not need a lot of space or time to set up your own Australian native bee hive.
It will be a talking point of your backyard and children are fascinated and love learning about Australian sting-less bees.

Find out more about stingless bees at My City Garden

RIGHT:- Australian Stingless Bees working an onion flower.

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How does Aquaponics compare with Soil Gardening?

by Frank C  at ECO FILMS
Although we do produce both Permaculture and Aquaponics videos we were asked recently to compare the two methods and which one we preferred using ourselves – in our garden? Notice the caveat – in our garden! Its a difficult question to answer as each method has its strengths and weaknesses. There are some things that grow best in soil like potatoes, pumpkin and other root vegetables like carrots that perform very well in a humus rich no dig well mulched and manured soil garden.
Then there are other things that are particularly well suited for aquaponics. Its just a matter of picking the right method that works best for you. We live close to the sea so our soil is mostly white silica sand. There is hardly any nutrients and whatever nutrients we do add tends to leach away very quickly. Imagine growing something on a sand dune? We do have a vegetable garden where we grow mainly root crops like potatoes in a no dig garden that has plenty of straw and horse manure applied. It works quite well until the chickens jump over the fence and start digging everything up. But watering it in the summer months is a nuisance as the warm winds tend to dry things out very quickly.

Soil and Aquaponics compared

When we first installed our aquaponics system we had a lot of seedlings left over that we also put in the soil garden and as an experiment watched how the two systems compared as the weeks rolled on.

This was in the summer months and pests like grasshoppers were at their peak. The Pak Choi in the Aquaponics system was identical in size and shape to the seedling we also planted in the soil garden. The Pak Choi in the aquaponics system performed best as you can see from the photos. It didn’t seem to get attacked by pests and looked a darker richer green colour.
I wouldn’t say these tests are conclusive by any means or indeed scientific. The plants in the soil garden were planted at ground level where insects would have an easier target. The plants in the aquaponics system were planted at waist level and maybe out of reach of some insects. The aquaponics plants are not stressed due to the fact that they have a constant stream of nutrients at their disposal. Their roots are always moist.

Not so the soil plant. Although it was mulched, soil conditions can dry out stressing the plant somewhat. But both plants were in a sunny position and only a short distance from one another. The plant in the aquaponics system grew very well. The stalks snapped with a rich crunchy sound and made an excellent stir-fry. We couldn’t use the plant from the soil garden because of the condition it was in and it was eventually discarded. So much for the test.

Soil Gardens where we live constantly produces vegetables with ease when conditions are ripe and with little energy overheads. Aquaponics is a mechanical system and prone to failure if plumbing and pumps break down. But having said that, for growing salad vegetables like tomatoes and greens – we cannot compare how well an aquaponics system performs and our tomatoes will keep producing ripe fruit for over six months at a stretch. For a small family who need fresh green salads picked right before the evening meal – its a no brainer. Aquaponics rules!

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Aquaponic grown Jade Perch at the EKKA.

The annual Exhibition or EKKA as it is fondly known is on again.
We are exhibiting a Aquaponics system with one part a traditional media based grow bed and also a floating raft bed filled with lettuce.
Once a day there is a cooking demonstration and the Chef is cooking (steaming)  Jade Perch in a wok .
Fantastic with a salad and a special sauce she makes up.  Recipe for the sauce can be seen HERE
It is really great that people are being introduced to Jade Perch for the first time.
The reaction is fantastic.
Most folk are a little suspicious of the Jades as they have not heard of them before, but once they have a taste they are won…

We are part of the Signature Brisbane Pavilion which is an initiative of BCC.
The pavilion can be found on the map at coordinates 16 x S

EKKA map

Plan of the EKKA grounds.

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