Course in aquaponics on Bioaqua farm
I wanted to learn more about aquaponics on a commercial scale, so I went to the beautiful Summerset just outside Wales, a rolling landscape with hedgerows and meadows.
Along a small road has Bioaqua Farm with Antonio spearheaded set up their business with the cultivation of trout, they have four large swimming pools buried in the ground with two associated greenhouse. Two new greenhouse was about to be put up when I was there and there were even a couple of hives helped with pollination. I was the only “foreigner”, where although there were some who lived both in Brazil, South Africa and Greenland! Delightful mix of people of all ages but different amount of experience. The course was an intensive introductory course in two days alternating theory with practice.
Salad Aquaponics Began with the theory and history of aquaponics. The aquaponics is not at all new but already used thousands of years ago by various different peoples. We also went through different systems, pros and cons. Antonio claimed that Zipgrow Towers was equivalent to the NFT which I do not entirely agree with. The downside of NFT / zipgrow was under him that it acted as a major element, which heated the water, creating temperature fluctuations. It may well be that in certain situations with clean NFT, but it feels weird to Bright Agrotech not have pointed this out at all. Their system is much larger than Bioaqua farms.
After completing the theory that offered some interesting discussions, we went out and inspected greenhouses. They were solidly built with a wood frame and UV-protected plastic that covered too. They also had a good ventilation possibilities in hand, the plastic that you could cover for open depending on weather.
The ebb and flow / DWC / Aero
The water is fed out to the plant beds content spirit hydrograins using a distributor controlled by a timer. When the water in the planting beds reached a certain height started a siphon that began to empty down to a line of DWC beds. A special type of Styrofoam had holes drilled in with nätkrukor which mainly lettuce grew, but other major crops.
The abundance of these ran down into a sump which also acted as a large propagation system using sprinklers. To get the first root growth were planted cubes first in this aeroponics system for later transfer to a “nursing board” where the holes for nätkrukorna set more tightly. Finally, as they were moved over to the disk where the holes were further apart so that all the plants would get plenty of light.
Bioaqua farm had devised some clever ideas which nätkrukorna did not go all the way down the hole without sticking up a little bit. The reason for this was that when the plants get bigger and heavier so they weigh down the Styrofoam so much so that the water reaches the crowns which makes them rot. This was enough, however, a problem that was quite specific to their solution as they were very large and heavy plants in their DWC.
Another smart idea was to plant the seedlings in a zig zag pattern so that the water circulated better around the roots. They had also thoroughly with oxygenation with a large oxygen rock every meter in the summer and a little less in winter ( read the article on oxygen and plants ).
Something I have not thought of, but which was very logical was that the roots became host to microorganisms in DWC system, similar to that seen in the plant bed onto Leca balls. This meant that Bioaqua farm let the plants remain until they could replace them just because the microbes would continue to work. Had they removed all the plants at once, this had probably led to problems with the mineralization.
After the tour of the greenhouses, it was time to say hello to the fishermen. They were outside in the round and buried in the bottom conical tanks in a pattern number five in a dice where the sump was in the middle. They were well protected during both net and a tent. If I remember correctly, they held a total of 100,000 liters of water in the marshes. In each tank so swam a large amount of char in different plant stages which made it very easy to “reap” on various occasions. The variety was exclusively rainbow trout as this was both tasty, durable and quickly grew. They had tested other types of trout, but these grew half as fast resulting in significantly lower returns. The only thing that was different was the texture of the meat as Antonio. They were also GMO free which was unusual in the industry.
Bioaqua farm use only “organic” food, which means that the corn used is GMO-free. This is mixed with catches which vessels have raised. According to Antonio’s what the fish eat determines how it will taste. The trout is a predator and it is the fact that makes it taste just fish. The price of the GMO-free feed and the “organic” feed skilled not a lot in price, but when you go through a pallet of the day in large plantations begins suddenly felt. What was one of the reasons that GM feed is used more often in large plantations. If the water is not filtered properly so the fish have a slimy taste.
In Britain controlled all fish farms regularly and tests taken by the water. Bioaqua farm has very good values compared to traditional fish farms, probably due to the effective filtering with aquaponics, and that they do not fill their tanks.
To fish would taste as good as possible, it was important to filter the water properly. Therefore had Bioaqua farm set up filters between the plant bed and DWC system. Because the holes were so small they were filled quickly back and Antonio emptied them several times a day.
Time to build
After lunch it was time to get practical. We would put up our own aquaponicssystem (without fish). An IBC 1000 liter acted as the fish tank. These are cheap and easy to get started, but needs to be covered over when the resin is UV-resistant and temperature would shift too much if you let it stand in the sun.
It would then build a “radial flow” filter so that solid substances would sink to the bottom. The water here would lose a plant bed filled with hydrograins and a siphon would drain the water into a DWC system. A pump with T-cross was supposed to fill in both the IBC and the NFT system on the other side. Much to do, lets go!
Radial flow filters
We were divided into two groups where one group built a radial-flow filter, while the other began to cobble together a plant bed. To build the filter was very simple, and it is difficult enough to find the right material, rather than putting it together. What was important was that the filter tank corresponding to approximately 1/4 of the large tank volume.
Finding a plant bed of the right size is very difficult, so instead they built Bioaqua their farm with the help of wooden planks that were painted on the outside and the inside covered with plastic, very smooth. Antonio used exclusively Torx screw, and when it was time to drill holes through the plastic began his first anticlockwise not the plastic would stick in the hole saw.
Building the plant bed
It was about what we he with on a day which was not a little.
We banged us again in the classroom and now we went into more rules about fish and how to get hold of their first fry. The rules for the UK probably differ somewhat from Sweden which meant that this part did not give as much. It was very interesting to listen to the section on water dynamics and how to build fish tanks that performed better than others. Around and tapered at the bottom seems to be the way to go.
After the theory we were treated to lunch with fish from own cultivation. Very juicy and tasty, but it apparently took 20min to peel. Take it times 10 fish then you have some work to do. For the most part so smoked the fish and made a pâté of it was very tasty. The question came up about how the fish were raised and killed.
For single fish, a large landing net, but then there were different types of networks that mattered. The fewer the fish that were in the tank, the smarter they became, and the more easily escaped the all fishing effort. Finally covered the entire bottom of a net which drew up the final bottom.
An important point that Antonio took up was to use gloves when the fish’s body temperature is much lower than ours. The large difference in temperature burn otherwise the fish skin and create unnecessary suffering.
Once up, he took a firm hold of the tail and with a finger in his mouth, he broke the fast neck of the fish. The whole thing took no more than three seconds without any suffering.
Now it was time to complete the system. New beds were built, but this time they were filled with water instead. Styrofoamskivor (polystyrene) normally used for floor became a “floating raft” Once the holes were drilled. To avoid having to measure out the holes each time had Bioaqua farm made a smart template with screws that formed a perfect impression when pressed together with another disc.
The second group began working with a siphon that turned out to be a real headache, but eventually began to suck water. Personally, I am not eager to build when there are many parameters to fiddle with the width of the pipe, the amount of holes in the ground and how much water is entering the bed.
The bed was filled with three sacks hydrograins, oxygen stones placed in DWC system and NFT troughs that were completed since the previous placed so that it had to tilt the DWC. All that remained now was to get some power to the pump and then everything started to circulate. A little leaks here and there, but to have put the system on two afternoons, we can be quite satisfied. Speaking of leaks as Antonio had tried everything and wanted to be absolutely sure it is not leaking so he recommended something called PU-40 is a super silicone. No idea if you can get the equivalent in Sweden but it might be worth checking out.
A rewarding course in beautiful surroundings. For Bioaqua farm as the fish was the main income which is different from what I have seen and are used to. This meant that the farm was better attended than the greenhouse where some defects appeared on the plants, probably when the pH was too high in my opinion. Being aquaponicsbonde however, is a right reserved plot and sometimes lonely job where the greatest social contact occurs at the farmer’s market. Pushing for the product you have is better is also a challenge, but the only way to go if you want to get paid for what you do.
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