Open Source Aquaponics
~ Reconnecting with Food
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Here’s the background and basic overview of
Open Source Aquaponics!


I’ve put together this site to share information and my experience in development of sustainable, personal food production for better health as well as my passion for living things.  I’ve always enjoyed gardening, but have struggled with the extremely short growing season here in Minnesota.


So I decided I would do something about that (besides complain) and I built a “lean-to type”  of greenhouse (at left) alongside my home over my garden. But that quickly evolved into a much more ambitious project… a geodesic aquaponic dome.  Although it’s a more complicated structure to develop, I chose the geodesic design because of it’s inherent strength, high efficiency for heating and cooling, and aesthetics (I find sacred geometry fascinating and beautiful.  Sacred geometry describes the geometry of creation… literally.  It is very apparent in the natural world and worth taking the time to learn and understand as it is related to ALL things.

 So, what is AQUAPONICS?

Aquaponics is the integration of aquaculture (growing fish in captivity for food) with hydroponics (growing plants without soil).  Conventional aquaculture practices require management of fish waste products (primarily ammonia in the form of poop, pee, uneaten food, etc.) to remove those wastes before they build up and chemically poison the fish.  Nature, however, has solved the problem for us by creating bacteria (Nitrosomonas sp. and Nitrobacter sp.) which convert those wastes into chemicals (nitrites then nitrates) which plants can absorb and transform into highly nutritious food.  This is called the nitrogen cycle which you can learn more about here.


Figure 1


The beautiful thing about aquaponics is that it merges these two agricultural methods and turns problems into opportunities.  The fish provide food for the plants which we would otherwise have to provide and the plants filter and clean the water for the fish.  To make things even better, there are a variety of plants that can be grown and fed back to the fish so food input can be supplemented to reduce costs even further.  High protein plants such as comfrey and duckweed can be grown and fed to the fish to minimize external inputs into the system beyond solar energy and labor.  Figure 1 shows a simplified diagram of how aquaponics typically works but there are many variations to how these types of systems can be set up and the requirements vary depending on a number of different variables.

Project Goals

This project is a culmination of my passion for developing self-sufficient methods and means to grow fresh organic plants and fish. I am documenting the process as much as time permits and plan to do a more formal write-up after I get it up and running so others may duplicate if they wish and grow their own fresh fruits, vegetables and fish in a temperate climate.
The end goal is to provide significant control over food production for my family, learn about sustainable building and growing methods along the way and teach others how to do the same.



This past Winter (2011-2012) I spent working on the aquaponics system design and learned a new programming language for the Arduino micro-controller board so I can automate as many processes as possible (e.g. valves, ventilation, etc.) as well as remote monitoring of temperature, pH and other parameters of the system.  So far I have the script set up to monitor 6 temperature probes and a light sensor and have been collecting data for several months.  I have had great success so far in using the temperature sensors and light sensor to determine if my design parameters and experiments are actually working as I intend or simply neat ideas in theory.  I’ve learned a ton already and will be sharing experimental data as time permits.

Beyond the primary goals of the project are secondary goals such as:


1. Minimized cost ~ (through the re-sourcing/re-using of disgarded materials. For example, all 2x6 lumber and some of the 2x4's are used from discarded pallets from a local business in Ramsey.  This has been tremendously successful so far as I’ve kept my costs way way down and still have a beautiful end product.  I estimate that I have saved 1000’s of $ so far in wood by using resourced pallets alone!

  1. 2.Easy replication ~ (I hope to have this submitted and accepted to the Open Source Ecology organization so that other's may increase independence in their food production and show other's that it is not only possible, but exactly how they can do it themselves if they wish)
    Here’s an introduction to this concept by the founder of Open Source Ecology,
    Marcin Jakubowski...














 

3. Maximized efficiency (using efficient building design such as geodesic structure for strength; thermal mass storage systems to store and equalize temperature gradients)


  1. 4.Aesthetics ~ This will be as much a sanctuary for myself as it is a building for food productivity. The two need not be mutually exclusive IMO and I hope to instill a desire to be in this place and inspire rather than viewing it as a utilitarian place I have to go to and "work." It will also be a great place to simply relax or meditate and pray, hang out with friends, etc.





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