Open Source Aquaponics
~ Reconnecting with Food
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( Beginning ~ 7/31/12 )
( 8/1/12~ Present )


Here’s a short video update showing the status of the greenhouse in operation with a few comments from me...

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1/27/13 - Vermiculture

Wouldn’t it be cool if we had micro-machines that could transmute our organic wastes into valuable resources we could use or perhaps even sell?  Well, we do ...  they’re called red worms! ( Yeah I know they’re more macro machines, but the babies are pretty small!  lol ).  Today I opened up the worm composting bins in the greenhouse to see how they were doing and was stunned by what I saw.  Only a few short weeks ago I had put so many pruned clippings into the bins from the plants in the greenhouse that they would barely close.  Today, they were HALF empty and had worms of all sizes crawling everywhere inside!  Nature already has done so much of the work for us that we only need to discover and work with it.  These little “micro-machines” were also self-replicating and at a surprising rate!  Baby worms EVERYWHERE! 


If you have not looked into red-worm composting, I encourage you to do it!  It is surprisingly simple and the composting rate is remarkably increased by these little workers.  The composting rate is remarkably faster than other composting methods I’ve used.  Another interesting observation is that there was no “compost smell” at all from decaying proteins.  When I dug up the bottom and put some of the more “mature” compost on my hand spade up to my nose it smelled just like fresh soil!  What’s even better is knowing how amazing this “black gold” is for growing plants and from what, for the most part, it is composed.  I don’t feel that knowing what you’re consuming can be overstated in today’s overly-synthetic simplified agricultural system we live in today.  If you have a greenhouse or a garden but are not composting, you’re throwing away the best fertilizer you can get!  Additionally, the compost tea that drains out the bottom is a excellent fertilizer that can be directly applied to many garden plants.  I let mine drain directly into my aquaponics system to help boost the nutrient loading for the plants.  Even with that I can’t get a Nitrate reading!

Regular earthworms can also be excellent for maintaining proper soil aeration, enabling fast root propagation and creating local compost for the plants right in their beds (or  pots in my case).  I placed a bunch in various pots throughout my greenhouse and recently discovered their “presents” on the surface of one of my hanging strawberry plants (at left).  Here’s a link to some great resources for starting your own worm compost bin...
Also, if you’re local, I’m more than willing to share a few worms to get you started on your own bins if you like.  Simply contact me through this website or Facebook. :)

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1/20/13 - Hydroponics
Well, December was the first month of challenges for the project.  Over Christmas the waterline to the greenhouse froze up which means hauling buckets of make-up water from the house!  Fortunately we had a warm spell and the line unfroze, but it did show me where I made an error.  I had installed some heat-tape on the line to prevent this but placed the thermostat too close to the greenhouse.  The radiant heat from the greenhouse prevented the heat-tape from turning on before a colder section near the house froze up.  So, until Spring I will be closely monitoring the temperatures and running an trickle of hot water through the line on extremely cold days/nights. 
The other major challenge last month was humidity.  The dense foliage of out-of-control plant growth combined with high humidity levels made it easy for mildew to begin covering my plants... primarily the tomatoes.  Running a dehumidifier helped a lot but I ended up employing a fan pointed upward on the base of the pedestal in the center of the greenhouse to circulate air throughout the structure.  I also pruned back all the plants that were severely affected by the mildew.  In doing so I discovered I had a lot of fruit in development and many of them have recently started to ripen!

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1/20/13 - Aquaculture

Tilapia are doing extremely well although they have shown highly variable growth rates.  Some of them are well over 5 inches and very robust (i.e. fat) while some are still only 1.5 inches or so.  They seem to eat almost anything I throw in there including goldenberry plant leaves and strawberries.  During feeding time they really go to town on their fish food and today I noticed that some of the larger ones are beginning to display more territorial behavior which could be a sign that they are ready to begin breeding. 

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1/20/13 - Automation

The acoustic sensor I’m using as a sump depth gauge has met with limited success.  It is quite the fickle sensor and is probably a result of the humid environment it is in.  Periodically it decides to quit working with no apparent reason or indication of cause.  Given this unreliable nature, I wouldn’t recommend this type of setup for others and will likely move this sensor to another project or to storage for a future project.  Update 1/27/13 ~ Sensor is done.  I looked at it closely today and noticed that it is starting to corrode from the high humidity.  Oh well,... lesson learned.

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1/20/13 - Structure

We got a nice blanket of snow last month as well which didn’t last long on the dome.  Most of the snow had melted off within a day so snow loads don’t look to be a problem.  Structure is holding up well and hasn’t shifted noticeably at all.  The closed in foyer and split doorway entry into the dome has worked exceptionally well at keeping the warm air inside the dome from spilling out any time someone enters or leaves the dome.  Temperatures inside the dome remain minimally affected by outside air temperatures due to the high thermal mass stored in the water, sand and biomass within the greenhouse.

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