USDA Organic Certification For Your Aquaponic Farm:
We often hear: why bother? Doesn’t it cost money? Here’s some REALLY good reasons to do it:
Consumers are willing to pay 50-90% more for organically certified produce than conventionally grown produce; this means [Read more…]
Low Density Systems
“Low Density” refers to the relatively low density of fish required for excellent vegetable growth. Our Low Density (or LD) systems only require four major components: a fish tank, vegetable troughs, a water pump, and an air pump [Read more…]
Aeration, Air Pumps, Blowers, And Airstones
Aeration can be done in all kinds of ways using all kinds of equipment and methods: airlift pumps, water sprays, paddlewheels, rotors, blowers, compressors, etc. They all use MORE [Read more…]
Cheap Stuff And Value Engineering
When we got back from the UVI course in June 2007 we were excited about getting started in aquaponics, and immediately started pricing components. We were shocked to find that a 10′ fiberglass tank that cost $1,935 on the mainland had another $2,200 of shipping costs to get it to Hawaii. The smaller tanks we needed had similar painful price tags attached, along with everything else that had to get shipped in. The 2003 UVI “system cost” of $42,000 that they gave us during the 2007 course turned out to be $85,000 in Hawaii in 2007. This information forced us to rethink how we would build our systems, rather than just building identical systems to the ones UVI had. We started value engineering the systems instead of just shopping in catalogs.
(Below) Another pump that only costs $379 with shipping; it pumps 50 gallons per minute (that’s a little better than our blue pump above). It looks cheaper on the surface, BUT it uses $6,845 per year worth of electricity, which is unacceptable compared to our blue pump above!
Which pump would you buy? Thought so.
Value engineering is when you research and develop a system component or subsystem that works just as well but costs less than your first selection. Because we had to build these systems on a limited amount of loan money (while living on the loan at the same time!) we were forced to review every single system component and subsystem to determine if there was a better way to do things. Because we knew we would forever be paying for any inefficiencies we designed into these systems, we were particularly careful to be thorough and precise in our research and design work.
Don’t confuse “Value Engineering” with “Cheap”! Don’t waste your money buying cheap pumps, air pumps, airstones, or other aquaponics equipment! We are always hearing about “I got a good cheap sump pump (or Jacuzzi pump) at a yard sale for $25. Will it work?”. Yes, it will work. However, the pumps that are specified with the different sized systems are exactly the right size for those systems, and will not use any more energy than necessary to do the job right.
Here’s an example of this problem: you buy a $25 Jacuzzi pump at a yard sale for a 64-square-foot MicroSystem instead of spending $62 (plus shipping!) for the right pump as specified in the materials list. You think you saved money, right? That’s until you realize that the right $62 pump only uses $93 of electricity a year, and the cheap pump uses $1,294 of electricity a year. This “savings” cost you an extra $1,201 a year, but go right ahead if you still feel it’s a deal.
The point here is that energy cost can be far more than any difference in original equipment cost, so you want to buy the most energy-efficient piece of equipment that will do the job, even if it costs four times as much as the cheap one! What you need to do is educate yourself, and think about energy, labor, and other costs associated with a purchase of a system component before buying it. What’s best is to find someone who’s using the same thing and has had no problems with it; the aquaponics forums are good for this. In this blog, we ONLY mention equipment by name that WORKS!
An old farmer friend on the Big Island said it best: “Cheap no good. Good no cheap”. Any time you think you’ve got a “deal”, look twice. You may be the one paying an extra $1,200 a year.
Weed Mat Discussion
In our first three systems, we put down a non-woven commercial grade weed mat PLUS a woven weed mat on top between the troughs before building the troughs, then covered it with 3″ of gravel. This solution was expensive, [Read more…]
WARNING! There has been discussion among attendees of our courses about alternatives to the Styrofoam rafts we use (which were approved for organic certification by Oregon Tilth), [Read more…]
Trough Liner And Construction
The original liner material for the troughs that we used in our first systems in 2007 (which is already approved for organic certification by Oregon Tilth) is a 23-mil, 3-layer, 15-year laminated LDPE material [Read more…]
Property Selection And Approval Process For Organic Aquaponic Farms:
Why are you telling us this? Can’t we just buy a farm and get going? NO, DON’T DO IT! Here’s why: [Read more…]
System Catastrophes And Recovery Techniques
This section covers bad things that can happen in your system, how to prevent them, and how to recover from them if they do happen. [Read more…]
Why We Don’t Build The Troughs Off The Ground
This is why we don’t build the troughs “up off the ground to avoid bending over when working”. [Read more…]