We have had a hectic, but very productive last week! The team heading up the aquaponics project (Jim Swan, Glynn Barber, and Mike Dunn) was here over the weekend and we were able to get things really moving on the system. It is so exciting to have more than just tubs of water in the greenhouse! But, all of this made me realize you may not all really understand the aquaponics system. So, I thought I would take a minute and try to explain this system that will produce fish and vegetables for food without taking any soil and using very little space….
There are 2 large tanks that hold fish. We just put tilapia in the system and they will be ready to harvest and eat in about a year. Theses fish are only in one tank, so we will stock the second tank in 6 months for a staggered harvest. We feed the fish and they, of course, produce waste.
Water is pumped from the fish tanks through a long set of troughs that will soon hold plants.
Individual seeds are planted in a small amount of growing medium.
As soon as these seed sprout, each plant is placed in a hole of one of the growing trays in the troughs. The water full of fish waste is great fertilizer for the plants. The roots growing through the holes of the growing trays will absorb all of these nutrients and clean the water. Clean water is then pumped back into the fish tanks.
The heart of the system is the pump that circulates all of the water, and therefore nutrients and allows for filtration.
With all the added nutrition, plants grow very quickly and we plan to have our first vegetable harvest in about 5 weeks. We have planted green beans, lima beans, beefsteak tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, large watermelon, sweet baby watermelon, cantaloupe, kohlrabi, swiss chard, cabbage, and lettuce. Soon we hope to be able to plant strawberries, herbs, and vanilla. We also hope to add to the system to accommodate rooting vegetables, such as carrots, potatoes, and onions.
The overall goals of this system are to provide food and extra income for the orphanage, as well as determine if this system will work well in Haiti so that more like it can be started.