Vertical Vegetable Aquaponics
Florafelt Pro System aquaponic test garden growing lettuce from seed in Sonoma, California.
What is Aquaponics?
The system is based on aquaponic growing methods that use live fish that create waste to be used as fertilizer for the plants. Water is circulated over a growing medium that supports roots and plant materials. Plants absorb the nutrients from the fish and produce purified water that is returned to the fish tank. The ‘closed loop’ system is water efficient and can provide food sources from both the fish and plants.
For our aquaponics installation we grew a variety of leafy greens from sprouted from seeds. We used a hearty breed of goldfish to keep it easy for our initial runs. The goal was to build up the natural biology in the system to create a balanced ecosystem for both the plants and fish. The water system runs continuously to keep the plant materials irrigated and the water oxygenated for the fish. A pump that is always on is more reliable because it prevents pump cycling and extends pump life.
The aquaponic system is prepared for another year of planting. Florafelt Pro system units are mounted above 100 gallon tanks. This siThe Florafelt aquaponic growing system is prepared for another year of planting. Florafelt Pro system units are mounted above 100 gallon tanks. This simple system provides a copious amount of vegetable and fish harvests.
Supports and Grids
Struts are mounted to the building facade. Bent wire stainless steel grids are clipped to the struts using strut clamps.
Plastic water shields are inserted into the grids to provide waterproofing.
Water Tanks and Protective Covers
Large 100 gallon tanks are placed below each set of grids that cover an area 8 feet wide by 4 feet tall. A gutter directs water into the tank. A section of grid is hinged and locked on the top of the tank for child safety and to keep rodents out. Built-out tank surrounds would make this a much more attractive installation. For this test garden, these were adequate.
Standard 5/8″ irrigation tubing is used to circulate water through the system. Large holes are placed above each felted column. Only one line of tubing across the top. Tubing ends are stopped using the folded method.
Florafelt Grow Buns are pre-folded and held together with rubber bands. Each bun creates a plantable furrow for seeds.
A simple pump sits in the tank and tubing is run up and through the gutter downspout.
Automatic Water Filler
Water levels are maintained with a toilet filler.
Continuous Water Flow
Water flows through the system and back into the tank. This simple installation uses minimal drain trays and tubing.
Water Filter Balances pH
An inline water filter is used to remove most of the calcium carbonate from the municipal water system. This helps to keep calcium deposits low and water pH in balance. Simple hose connections keeps the installation simple and easy to modify.
Fish are Added
Goldfish are added to the tank after the system ran for a month.
A water flow meter is added to determine how much water was added to the system. Green plastic was used to wrap the main valve to prevent accidental water shutoff. The combined systems of 32 square feet of high density planting area used on average 17 gallons per week. This includes the evaporation from both of the 100 gallon tanks. There were a total of 128 plants in this system.
A wide variety of lettuce and kale are tested in the system. Labels are made for each test section.
Seeds are planted in the Grow Bun furrows and labels are added.
Loads of Greens
After a couple months the seeds sprouted and grew into healthy plants.
The system is very easy to maintain. Very little maintenance is required to keep it going. The fish need to be fed daily and the greens harvested. At the end of the season large plants are removed at the stem. The roots are allowed to remain in the felt. These decay and begin to build organic matter in the system. The following season new seed are added to the system to repeat the cycle.
Questions and Comments
More notes will be added to this article as time permits. Feel free to reach out and contact us if you have any questions about this project.