Seasoned gardeners and farmers know how to keep their plants thriving, but all growing methods have drawbacks. That’s why every for the growing season, seasonal growers need to reassess how they are going to approach their growing methods. Conversely, that’s why year-round growers (vegetable forcers) need to reassess their system’s growing methods for optimal outputs.
When it comes to growing, there are a lot of restrictions. There are environmental restrictions, space restrictions, and time restrictions. Any veteran grower knows that when it is time to start a new growing season or operation, they will inevitably be faced with a simple yet daunting question to answer – how?
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Traditional Growing Methods
Depending on how you grow, some restrictions will be more significant than others. If you grow in soil outside, environmental and time restrictions will dominate your growing experience. How much sun does your crop need? What about water? Are there animals or pests to worry about? How much space is available? The seasons completely dominate when and what you can grow, and don’t even get me started about the weeds.
Soil Forced Growing Methods
Okay, say you choose soil in a greenhouse; that eliminates a lot of restrictions from conventional out-door growing, but keeping consistent nutrient-rich soil while maintaining good turn over can be a pain. There are more efficient ways to grow in a greenhouse.
Hydroponic Growing Methods
Hydroponics solves the nutrient problem, and a pretty long list of other challenges that growing in the soil can bring, but it has its drawbacks too. Water needs to be consistently flushed from the system, and nutrients have to be added to the water regularly. It is highly productive, consistent, and calculated, but it is also wasteful. It’s a pricey setup, and it’s expensive to maintain. Hydroponic systems need a sterile environment, and small contaminations can ruin entire crops.
Aquaponics is an Effective Balance
Aquaponics lives between soil greenhouse growing, and hydroponics greenhouse growing. Like soil growing, it depends on naturally occurring nutrients gained from bacteria. Like hydroponic growing, it is soilless, and relies on nutrient-rich water that stimulates its roots and increases growth rate. However, it manages to grow plants while being affordable to maintain, and without being wasteful. Did I mention that it has a low carbon footprint?
Growing fish and plants together could very well save the world. At least, that’s what we at Garden City Aquaponics believe. That’s why Garden City Aquaponics exists. Four years before the company was founded, a cloud began to form in Steve McArthur’s mind. It was terrifying to think of the future of the human race. There are a lot of ways that life as we know it could spin out of control, but climate change and the food-insecurity that is likely to follow are the most undeniable. Aquaponic systems can grow anywhere with a low carbon footprint, unaffected by climate change.
However, not all aquaponic systems are created equal. Aquaponic systems can be made differently to suit the needs of the grower or community that rely on it. Garden City Aquaponics has extensively tested a variety of aquaponic methods and designs in order to best utilize them situationally.
If you put your mind to it, a lot can be learned in a few years. It’s the challenging moments that give the most learning, and Garden City Aquaponics has had its moments while designing its pilot facility.
It applied those lessons learned while designing four-to-six acre aquaponic farms for AFS Super Foods Ltd., and refined its design capabilities further when designing medium-to-large scale aquaponic facilities for Green Oasis Foods Ltd.
The list of unique aquaponic designs is growing long with more design projects on the go.
What if you want an aquaponics system? When it comes to designing specialized aquaponic systems, the unique outcome depends on the scale of the facility. How big of a system do you want? Are you trying to feed a family? A community? Are you going to make it a business?
It’s important to work from a budget and keep the system within that budget. The amount of real-estate available can greatly impact the aquaponic design. Once money and space have been accounted for, it’s important to ask, “how much money do I want this system to generate?” It is answering these questions that allows you to find the proper ratio of fish to plants, and how to house them all.
If you are interested in aquaponic growing, we recommend taking some aquaponics courses. Here are a few that we have good things to say about.
- 3-day Course offered by Noa Fisheries in Toronto, Ontario teaches you a lot about:
- Perfecting your fish-to-plants-to-bacteria ratio.
- Understanding plant physiology and growing techniques.
- What you need to know about food safety and aquaponics.
- Commercial aquaponics design.
- Principles of agro-ecology.
- Aerobic bio-reactor technologies.
- Fish disease.
- 3-day master class offered by Nelson and Paid Aquaponics in Wisconsin has an amazing facility:
- They use a University of Virgin Islands (UVI) aquaponic system, and have upgraded it with their own unique bio-digestion process.
- They are extremely knowledgeable in fish biology.
- The work flow and bio-security is very intelligently designed.
- 1-day course offered by You Grow Food in Hope, B.C. is informative about:
- Companion cropping.
- Pest management.
- Pant nurseries.
If you’d like to tour aquaponic facilities, here are a few that we enjoyed.
- Taste of BC Aquafarms
- 100 metric tonne farm that grows Steelhead trout up to two-years-old.
- Beautiful fish and very impressive filtration system.
- Raincoast Aquaponics
- Beautiful farm that is an adaptation of the UVI system.
- They have a focus on revolutionizing purge tank systems, and are doing great research on implementing UV and ozone technologies.
- Sunshine Coast Aquaponics
- They raise sturgeon fish, which is very unique.
- They use innovative lighting technologies.
- Mason Street Farm
- Small scale (400 sq ft).
- They were growing Coy fish and a lot of leafy greens.
Designing the perfect aquaponic system can be a daunting task – even after attending aquaponics courses, workshops, and doing extensive research. Design elements that are key to having a productive aquaponic system can be missed, and crop production could suffer. Garden City Aquaponic has the confidence and experience needed to build effective aquaponic systems. Having a facility professionally designed and built allows anyone who is looking to be a leader in sustainable food production to start their own aquaponic journey. We will even train new aquaponics growers on how to use their facility. Aquaponic systems (no matter how big or small) allow the growth of plants anywhere while also contributing to a more environmentally conscious future. So, next time you are faced with the daunting question of how – consider aquaponics as a smart growing choice.
Contact us if you have any questions about our design build and consulting services, or get a free consultation with our expert. If you want to know more about the essential technologies needed for an aquaponic system, click here.