I was just asked to outline the relative benefits of vertical aquaponic growing so I whizzed this together but it might be useful to other journalists or just for interest. Anyway. I broke it down as follows:
This gives a far more efficient use of space in as much as in the foot print of one of our growing tubes which is approximately 150 x 120 mm we can grow a 1, 2 or 3 metre row of fruit, veg or flowers for cutting. Essentially we are turning acreage into volume.
It also allows us to mount this vertical allotment onto a Fence or wall so that the plants can use previously untapped space in gardens, on allotments, in greenhouses or grow very efficiently in poly tunnels on light, airy and easy to assemble frames.
It means that they are ergonomic to work on at waist level without bending constantly. It is also worth noting that the tubes can be removed for working with to harvest, plant and deal with any problems that might arise if needs be. They can be mounted lower down so that people in wheel chairs can truly enjoy gardening again and because there is no digging and weeding and no heavy lifting or bulky materials, and this is something that they can do in a totally independent way.
This method also raises the plants off of the ground to eliminate pests like rabbits, dogs, children etc from damaging the plants. In an elevated position, they are not being affected by soil based pathogens either, in fact it does mean that we can grow in town centres on contaminated land if we want to as we do not touch the soil at all. This allows super productive farms in town where local people can be employed to tend high return crops in normal clothing and the fruit and vegetables are used where they are produced which massively reduces transportation.
In an aquaponic system you can achieve two crops of fish and greenery with relative ease. The Soil association have now agreed that this can also be classified as an organic process so the final quality of the crop is outstanding.
Combining the filter medium and the grow tubes creates a series of ‘trickle towers’ which in terms of biological waste digesting are a bit of a holy grail as they dissolve massive amounts of oxygen into the water which benefits the useful bacteria that turns the fish waste into Nitrates and also ensures the health and wellbeing of the fish in the system.
While this method pretty straightforward to existing fish keepers, it can be a lot of husbandry and a little daunting to someone with limited time so we also make a version of our product that allows for straight forward nutrient solutions to be used to remove the need for the constant care of the fish.
What it does do is reduce the inputs into the system as essentially all you really have to do is feed the fish.
We chose to design our system for many reasons but this method is the most efficient, sustainable, non-labour intensive and repeatable method we know of, I will try to outline some of the major advantages for you:
1. Water saving – as we constantly recirculate the water in our system, we save up to 90% of the water usually used when growing in traditional soils based methods. The energy saving of this alone is amazing but the use of water in the very near future will become a critical issue.
2. Adjustable – we can set up systems to grow plants that like very specific pH levels or nutrient densities that can otherwise only be grown in particular places in the world.
3. Organic – This is a truly organic way to grow, the fish waste method works beautifully, in fact when you add some ordinary worms to the growing media, the quality and yields grow exponentially.
4. Sustainable – this is genuinely sustainable horticulture, the efficiencies built into our systems mean they can very easily be run on solar power so you just have to catch the rain water to start the process off.
5. Modular – you can use the grow tubes individually at home or in huge arrays commercially, we have been asked to supply a customer to grow 450 acres of strawberry growing grow tubes. They are all the same grow tubes and still work in exactly the same way.
6. Achievable – people of almost any physical ability, people with very little space, people with very busy lives can all achieve perfect and plentiful results using this method of growing.
7. Non Polluting – as everything is recirculated, nothing ends up leaching into our rivers and aquafers. The targeted nature of circulating the nutrients straight through the roots means that all of the nutrient is used and very much smaller amounts have to be added to achieve spectacular growth.
8. Quality – we regularly hold blind taste tests and almost without fail, our aquaponic crops are identified as very noticeably more flavoursome.
9. Controllable – we can grow all year round when growing under cover using super efficient LED lighting to supplement the light in the autumn / winter time. We can determine when the crop fruits chemically if we need to and we can precisely meet the needs of our plants.
10. Future proof – we are increasing being told about the importance of water prudence and that we are finding it more difficult to grow enough food to meet an ever swelling population. As an individual, when you ask what is being done about this, the answer is usually that ‘someone’ is doing huge research and massive companies are working on new chemicals. I found this totally disempowering so I designed something that we all can do as individuals that can really make a difference on the demands made on our environment that are currently damaging it forever. If only three of four families in every street grew produce for themselves, and maybe shared it with neighbours, we could make a real difference for ourselves and future generations.
Over all, we have created a way to banish the hard graft that has held most people back from sustainably producing their food. Now even children can do this, in fact many do, and they are learning that they can feed themselves with real food with real flavour with just a few minutes work a week and they are totally loving the results.