Monday, February 20, 2012

We've Only Just Begun

My husband and I are 54 and starting a brand new adventure - AQUAPONICS! Well, look at that, aquaponics is so new it's not in the spellchecker!  Now I really feel... brave? Oh well, we have nothing to lose, so here we go anyway - aquaponics or bust! We've been talking about it for a year or so now, ever since we were first introduced to the concept and immediately saw it was genius. Then last week Jeff found a greenhouse on Craig's list - not a cute little one to fit in our back yard - no of course not! A ginormous 20 by 100 foot hoophouse that we are fitting in our friend's back yard! Nice friends, I'll tell you! So our proof of concept aquaponics model is actually going to have to bring us PROFIT!

Just so you will be impressed by our "bravery," I'll tell you that we actually will have to cash out to do this. But our dreams are big - buy a piece of land, build a big barn with a living area on top, set up greenhouses and run aquaponics year round, offering tours and seminars and tastings, perhaps meals, internships, and of course sell lots and lots of tomatoes and tilapia! And basil and greens and zuchinni and peppers. All locally grown and organic. The genius part is, the fish will feed the plants and the plants will filter the fish water in a circular, symbiotic cycle of growth. Also genius - it's a self sufficient lifestyle we can support ourselves with in our old age without working for somebody else.

Back to the immediate reality though, we are trying this all out right now in the 20 by 100 hoophouse in our friend's back yard! Items are beginning to pile up on the ground beside the hoophouse, which is also still laying on the ground. Items on ground:

  • A wood boiler, to heat the water for the tilapia - they're going to like about 72 degree water all the time, and so will the tomatoes
  • A back-up propane heater 
  • 8- 4 by 4' tote thingies, whose first life was to transport some kind of soap - soon to be tilapia homes!
  • Soon to arrive - 14 plastic containers who also had a previous life as liners for something, and will soon be 5 by 6' grow beds, 12 " deep. The depth is very important, as I will explain later. Also very important is the ratio of fish tank volume to grow bed volume, which I will also explain later.
  • Soon to arrive - coarse expanded shale, the cheapest grow medium we can find that won't mess up our pH
  • Wood for tables - grow beds must be higher than fish tanks to gravity drain into fish tanks
  • Plumbing stuff of all kinds - sorry, only Jeff knows what exactly he is going to do here, but I'm sure he'd be happy to fill us in if we asked
  • Three pumps - just in case, says Jeff, because we'll probably only need one; it only has to pump water up into the grow beds for 15 minutes every 45 minutes.
  • Test kit, pH controller and ammonia, for "cycling" the fish tanks
Okay, those last two we probably won't pile on the ground. 

And coming to my front door, according to my confirmation email, is $180. worth of seeds, and millions of little rockwool blocks to plant them in. I ordered cucumber, lettuce, basil, peppers, zucchini, and you guessed it, TOMATO seeds! I love tomatoes! I'm going to grow all colors and sizes! 

Aquaponics or Bust! 
I'll keep you posted!