Sprouting Table System In Aquaponics’ Side Flow
For our smaller backyard systems, we use a waterproof 4-foot by 8-foot sprouting table for germinating and growing out the sprouts. A sprouting table is a simple plywood and lumber-framed table with a fiberglass coating in the bottom and 2 inches up the sides, with a drain fitting at one end to drain the water back to the aquaponics troughs. For this small a table, you can just bring a 5-gallon bucket of water or two over from the aquaponics trough and dump it slowly and carefully into the uphill end of the table. We put the slit pots in nursery trays that hold 32 pots and they go on top of this table.
For our commercial operation, we use bigger 24-foot (or longer) sprouting tables. They are even less work than the small backyard tables, because these larger tables are plumbed so their water supply gravity flows from the fish tank, then back to a trough. All one has to do is turn on a valve at one end of each table and come back 15 minutes later: all the pots in the table have been nicely watered from the water flowing past underneath them and wicking up through the potting mix in the pots. I can water 60,000 sprouts in 12 sprouting tables in a total of about 8 minutes a day in our sprouting tables.
If you’re interested in building a sprouting table, here’s a free manual (with no photos) that describes the processes involved (we charge $49.99 for the same manual including all the photos).
The idea is to just keep the potting media medium damp without soaking it or letting it dry out. This germinates and starts seeds really well, because of the nutrients contained in the system water you are using to keep the potting media moist with. And the best part? Seeds that used to take 3 weeks now sprout in ten days using this method.
This is hugely important for a commercial operation, since this technique cut our sprouting time in half, meaning more production. It also meant that we only needed half as many sprouting tables, since the sprouts came off the tables in half the time!
(Below) Our 24-foot sprouting tables for commercial-scale operations are the most labor efficient way we know to water tens of thousands of baby plants in only minutes. They also keep the plants moist for a long time; you usually only have to water once a day even in tropical heat.