We had the chance to visit Clive’s Aquaponics Systems situated in the Victorian countryside. Clive and Leslie made a recent life change, and choose to buy lands and be as much self-sufficient as possible. They are now raising all sorts of animals such as cheeps, cows, chickens, rabbits… They have a nice garden and built a descent Aquaponics greenhouse composed of 4 types of systems. The system is composed of 4 x 3000Litres fish tanks stocked with 750 Silverperch. The water is falling by gravity into a large decantation tank where the solids are separated to the water and are used as fertiliser for the garden. The water is then biologically purified (transformation of ammonia in nitrite and nitrite into nitrate) by going through different bacteria media. We note the use of different plastic supports, aquaculture plastic structures and plastic pearls. Some air is injected into the tanks.
Once biologically treated, the water falls into a sump tank composed of 4 IBC’s systems and the water is then dispatched into 4 types of Aquaponics growing systems:
Part of the water is supplying a Deep Water Culture also known as Raft Aquaponics System. This growing method consist of some water tanks of 30 to 50cm deep equipped with thin aeration system all along the tanks. The tanks are filled with water and floating polystyrene rafts are covering the whole water surface. The rafts are equipped with holes and plant pots are placed in the holes, the plants roots are in direct contact with the highly nutritive water. Clive is sharing his experience with different typed of floating rafts. He started his system by cutting his own boards from compressed polystyrene and drilling some holes into the boards. He found that the surface was very irregular and some algae where growing on the boards. Also the cut parts had tendance to loose polystyrene pearls into the system. He is currently testing new DWC raft boards and think the algae growth will be limited thanks to the very smooth surface, also it will avoid polystyrene pearls to float into the system.
NFT Nutrient Film Technique System
Leslie and Clive enjoy strawberries and built an entire NFT system dedicated to strawberries. Their NFT system is composed of pipes hanging on a light metal frame structure and placed in height above other DWC systems. Each NFT pipe is equipped with his own water inlet and a valve allow to regulate the quantity of water coming. Leslie and Clive are regularly cleaning the strawberries plants (cutting the old leaves), harvesting the fruits and trimming the roots back to avoid them to clog the pipes.
Vertical towers system
The sump tanks are also feeding water through some vertical towers where different types of vegetables can be grown. The towers where not running during our visit but will soon be part of the whole system.
Flood and drain growbeds
Finally part of the water pumped from the sump tank is going into some flood and drain growbeds where a multitude of vegetables and strawberries are grown on scoria media.
A creative touch!
Leslie and Clive have a very interesting way of adding minerals into the setup. They designed a tank full of sand (triple washed river sand) above the system. When they fill this special tank with water, the water slowly wash the sand and is charged with useful minerals for the plants. The water slowly gravitate to the bottom of the tank where it is slowly released into the aquaponics system.
Opportunity for improvement:
NFT: Working with larger pipes or gutters in order to allow the strawberries to develop their full potential without clogging the pipes.
Filtration: The filtration of this system is significant and probably overdesigned as the current quantity of fish (300kg) is very reasonable. Nevertheless it could be beneficial to increase the quantity of air injected into the bio filters and especially into the plastic pearls bio reactor as the pearls may not be aerated enough but also those plastic pearls are supposed to be in perpetual movement to avoid any organic matters accumulation. The choc between each pearls in movement is keeping them clean. If the pearls are sitting without any movement they will eventually be clogged with organic matters and large bacteria biofilm and some parts will turn anaerobic.
Congratulation to Leslie and Clive, they built a very nice and descent size aquaponics setup with a combination of different Aquaponics systems. The whole setup is powered with solar panels and batteries which makes it very sustainable. The setup has been well designed and will allow them to produce a very significant quantity of food. The world need more sustainable growers like them 🙂
Welcome here! If you are new, you will probably be interested to discover Jonathan’s six steps to build and manage an Aquaponics system. Click here to access for free! Thanks and good reading 🙂