When you see an aquaponics system, the equipment looks very technical. It is technical, but don’t be afraid of that technicality. There is elegant simplicity in the design. The simple part of the sciences is really the fun part. I am Adam Harwood. I can tell you that I don’t carry PHD’s or carry letters on my back. I have a very simple and real approach, and, if you want the truth about the future of aquaponics and the truth as we know it for the last three years running a commerical aquaponics system at Lilypad Farm, just stay tuned. I believe I can really help you with that.
The question is: What is aquaponics?
My Version of the History of Aquaponics
In a broad overview, aquaponics has been around for at least a thousand years. There’s real evidence that the Inca indians grew fish in the same closed loop water cycle in a terrace on the side of a mountain. Other countries today still use similar versions that are naturally occurring.
What we do here at Lilypad Farm is deep water raft culture which is based upon thirty years of research from the UVI system in Saint Croix. That’s the system I use here that was invented by Dr. Rakocy. Now there are many citations with his name. Also, Charles Schultz and Don Bailey and I apologize if I miss other really important people in the industry.
There are five or six different varieties of ways to grow with aquaponics. These are usually some combination of the following:
- Various media types such as shale, gravel or clay bio balls
- Ebb and flow or timed flow methods
- Raft or constant flow methods
- Deep water raft culture
Commercial Aquaponics at Lilypad Farm
Here, at Lilypad Farm, we use something called the deep water raft system, and I like to just abbreviate it calling it the UVI system. It’s not in its infancy. It’s been around for thirty years. What we stand on in the authority that I talk about is production, production, production. You can raise food in gravel beds with the ebb and flow approach, but the production is never the same as we have with deep water raft beds.
Let me explain a little about deep water raft aquaponics. What that really means is that the water is a minimum of twelve inches deep and your raft can be an inch thick, an inch and a half thick, even two inches thick. This allows a tremendous root structure. At the base of these plants is this amazing filter, and they need that kind of room to grow.
We have forty eight pieces on a four-foot by eight-foot sheet. I see other systems that have one-inch cups peat pot. Some even have two inch cups. We’ve come to find out that three inches is really the answer, and we use a three inch net pot throughout the entire system. Along with this, we have a significant number of fish in a compact situation. So, I’ll use the words unnatural and abnormal
To explain, things that happen unnaturally would be that so many fish would be put into such a small area and then the results become abnormal that the results are so giant that its beyond normal.
I have a tremendous amount of fish, and I have a tremendous amount of plant production. It can be scaled back having less fish and still have some comparable plant production.
Part of being sustainable and having a commercial farm is exactly this. We are the largest of the residential systems and the smallest of commercial systems. It’s very sustainable. We pay our bills. We can save a little money, and we’ve taken it to a pinnacle. There is an intense amount of fish that we can take-out on a daily basis, and there is still a tremendous amount of plant production.
We rival and encourage people in general to use deep water raft culture as the optimal choice for aquaponics systems. So in its present form, aquaponics can be scaled down to a very manageable home system that runs on a scant amount of electricity and evaporative loss only. Even to a system size that I have which is a very large residential system that makes a commercial amount of money, it still runs on a scant amount of electricity and not a lot of water.
I’m connected to water, but I’m not a water user. I have three three-thousand square foot buildings and room for a couple more. It’s complicated to manage that much affair, and it’s not for everybody. I live where I work. I think that is critical in aquaponics. That’s why backyard systems are really, really important.
I think that anybody who sees the equipment thinks it’s highly scientific, but, once you get into it, you’ll realize that the science is incredibly simple. It’s really taken me close to a lifetime of experience to amass the amount of information that I can impart on people in a short period of time. I’ve managed to, in over twenty-two years, culminate a lot of skill sets. There are numerous skill sets involved in having a large residential, small commercial operation such as interfacing with the local and city people and then all the way to interfacing with the marketing and office end on how to collect and distribute the money.
Being Part of the Future of Aquaponics
So the future of aquaponics is vast. And, it can be amplified anywhere in the world that does not require a lot of electricity. Also, you can be connected to water and not be water user. You will grow ten times more on ten times less. Aquaponics is not a household word, but we’re hoping that it will be. It’s not a craze. It’s really here to stay. It’s no longer in its infancy.
Aquaponics is at a point where it’s going to amplify, so if you tell two and they tell two, interest is growing exponentially.
Our goal is to foster and educate…we help develop other people. Literally, I have some people come and stay and work for a while. I have people come for two days. People come for one-on-one sessions.
We have grown a business. We didn’t buy a business. Anybody can buy an aquaponics company, but, growing an aquaponics company, that’s the future of aquaponics.
The future of aquaponics really requires you to start by figuring out your own scale and size, and then take it to what I believe here is it’s most conventional and biggest and wise portion.
We sense that we’re starting to become an authority on exactly a two-point-two acre system where a family can live and work. It’s sustainable. You can earn a living. It can also be scaled down to a smaller system for your backyard that’s bigger than a hobby. It can feed you and the people around you providing food security and safety.
Just the the brilliance of it all will excite you. There’s nothing finer than having superior, high quality, super nutritious food at your access all the time.
The past in aquaponics even if we go back a couple centuries people used native species fish that were available to them, and, in its present form, I bring in fish that are table food. In the future, people can revert back to what’s available to them locally. They can use ornamental fish. There are varieties and super varieties of fish that can be used for aquaponics.
If you’ve ever had a fish tank, and you’ve ever wanted to grow plants, then aquaponics is for you. There is a whole new world for y’all out there. And together – you, we, all – we can take small amounts of fish then use and utilize every portion of their action to make glorious plants with it.
Aquaponics simply put is the sharing of fish and plants together. That may be one of the easiest ways to say it ladies and gentlemen.
Aquaponics is not a new science. It’s been around a long time. It’s not in its infancy. It’s blowing and going, and, if you want to be a part of it, come on board. We’ll help you any way we can.
Have additional insight on aquaponics? We’d love to hear it.