It was a fabulous weekend in San Jose, CA, where all the great minds of aquaponics met for the Aquaponics Association’s 4th Annual Conference. Never before have so many of the leaders and innovators been in one place!
Glenn Martinez is known for his innovations utilizing air lift pumps and alternative energy. He sets up systems worldwide.
Murray Hallam is a favorite on YouTube with his great beginner videos for aquaponic enthusiasts. Murray does projects all over the world.
Dr Nick Savidov is a senior research scientist in aquaponics in Alberta Canada. Currently, with Alberta Agriculture & Rural Dev, he was instrumental in developing the Canada GAPs for aquaponics. Dr Savidov has also done significant research with biochar.
Max Meyers is a leading permaculture and aquaponic consultant in California.
Jon Parr recently designed and operated a commercial aquaponics farm that produced over 6,000 heads of lettuce a day. He left there to pursue his passion, SchoolGrown, a non-profit dedicated to promoting sustainable agriculture through advocacy, education, research, and service by placing learning lab greenhouses in neighborhood schools.
The SchoolGrown L.E.A.F. greenhouse lab is constructed of a high-performance, sustainable, water-savvy greenhouse on school property that can provide healthy organic food to student families every day of the year! The spacious greenhouse is home to an aquaponic garden, complete with fish tanks, solar power, soilless planter beds, and climate control. Additionally, it provides 50-70 family-sized boxes of fruits and vegetables every week. The environment provides a project-based learning platform for teachers in many subjects, including: biology, chemistry, math, ecology, agriculture, business, and language arts. Lesson plans correlate to the new Common Core as well as the Next Generation Science standards, and STEM education. Additionally, SchoolGrown provides a vertical-market business plan that sells the produce grown in the greenhouse, thereby providing a revenue stream that could contribute to the school. This allows SchoolGrown to include a person with each L.E.A.F lab, and keep the program running.
Ken Armstrong and his team lead the way at Ourobouros Farm in live lettuce production. Thoroughly enjoyed their farm tour.
The first blue nile tilapia fry and it’s really, really hard to see…basically all you can see even at full zoom is the eyes.
The holes in the basket are smaller than my little finger to give an idea of scale and the fry is in the middle of each pic at the bottom of the hole in the basket.
Chicken antics in the nest boxes.
This week we had some visitors from Damascus, Oregon. Tried to make them farm hands, but they escaped after half a day!
Eggs every day now…yet only half of the girls have started laying.The green/olive and blue ones are from the Americauna and the various shades of brown/pink are from theRhode Island Reds.
There’s been a massive hatching of black soldier fly larvae in the biocomposter…never seen so many at one time before. They are consuming more than 2 pounds of food scraps per day.
Chickens are happy…they love to eat these and get about 100+/day of them (2-3 oz) along with the non-GMO feed.
Our dear friend, Christoph, from BioChar Central delivered a CharBot (BioChar stove) this weekend. We are soooo excited! Heat index was only 103F …smokin’ hot, but nothing stopped us from the test burn.
The DIY BioChar stove that we previously built is known as a retort style kiln. The new one is a TLUD (top lit up draft) gasifier. Both use pyrolysis to convert the biomass to char via the process of carbonization.
The retort process is anoxic (without oxygen) and essentially bakes the raw biomass to drive off the volatiles and tarry gasses. Due to this anoxic procedure, the biochar produced can vary significantly from batch to batch and even within the same batch due to temperature variations inside that cannot be controlled using the retort.
The TLUD is a gasifier in which the dry biomass is transformed into combustible gasses and charcoal in a zone that is distinctly and controllably separate from where the volatile gasses are combusted, which makes it a much more controlled burn and that’s important at 600C.
Yes, there’s a lot of technical minutia in the world of biochar. One last and most important thing to know is that when the material comes out of the stove, it is simply Char…this char must be charged with compost or other organic, microbe and nutrient rich materials for at least 30 days to become the beneficial biochar that’s raved about as a soil amendment.
But wait there’s more – over 50 uses for biochar! Now you know why we love this stuff!
In Florida, a beekeeper is required to register their colonies with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer, Division of Plant Industry in order to be protected by the apiary laws of the state and comply with the BMPs (Best Management Practices). Part of this registration process includes the inspection of your hives for pests and unwanted races of honeybees by a state apiary inspector. Our inspector, Freddy, was one of the nicest people you will meet and full of love for the European honeybees.
Click here for more information about beekeeping in FL, including classes, BMPs, state forms & requirements and professional associations.
GreenView Aquaponics Family Farm and Apiary gets a clean honeybee bill of health.
Just finished building the next boxes…curious but not sure she wants to go in yet! Instead they all busied themselves with pulling all the hay out of each nesting bin, one piece at a time….silly girls!
First egg EVER!
So, I dropped it as I was putting it away and it cracked….what a surprise – first egg was a double yoker (and now dinner)!
So a while back, we had made a DIY Black Soldier Fly Biocomposter and posted the DIY part here. We chose the Black Soldier Fly (BSF) because they are insatiable composters and we have more to compost than our small worm population can handle at the moment. We have weekly harvested microgreen flats, add to that the lower lettuce leaves, bolted lettuce or herbs, damaged plants from the wind or rain storms… meaning we have lots of vegetative compostables that we certainly don’t want to add to any landfill! So, we have recruited more composters that are native to Florida. Who doesn’t like free? Just as a reminder, this is what the DIY BSF Biocomposter looked like.
At the end of June, we finally layered in charcoal (up to the top of the horizontal part of the drain pipe) and chunky coco coir (a couple inches) and then some spoiled papaya and other food scraps. Afterwards it was set outside to do it’s thing.
On July 20th, we had our first migration and collection of the pre-pupae from this small biocomposter. We did not buy any BSF larvae or eggs, just set the container outside in the shade near a bush with some fruit and food scraps where the adult Black Soldier Fly (Hermetia illucens) found it and layed eggs.
Success so far! Looking to build 2 larger sized ones for outside the harvest end of the hoophouse and maybe even a hatchery and propagation station! This would allow some of the larvae to pupate into mature flies and keep that cycle going. Once our chickens and tilapia have had their fill, we may even try to sell them to other BSF enthusiasts that live in short season climates, as well as exotic pet or other livestock owners looking for a sustainable high protein feed (up to 42%).
Although the larvae are also edible for humans, we will not be producing any for human consumption 😉
Some interesting tidbits:
On to the next crawlies….though none are truly creepy!
In mid-April, we picked up one pound of African Nightcrawlers (Eudrilus eugeniae) to start composting our harvested microgreen trays (now relegated to the BSFs, they are faster). These composting worms are being used to transform a waste product (our vegetative farm scraps) into a nutrient rich vermicompost to use again to amend of our soil-less soil. The bag pictured above was bed run, so there were cocoons (worm eggs) and worms of all sizes in there (along with a few BSFs that snuck their way in). The BSFs are commonly found in the same environment as the ANC when they are raised outdoors in Florida.
These pictures are our DIY worm bins we are currently using. The worms migrate from the bottom to the top as you fill with peat and feed. These bins have 1/4″ holes drilled in the bottom to allow for drainage and migration of the worms. When the bin is full almost to the top, you add a new bin on top of the old and they keep migrating up to where the food is, while you harvest the compost and worm castings in the lower bin. This keeps repeating by stacking the bins. We have found that this a quick and simple system that is great for DIY at a home scale. However, we don’t feel it would be practical on a farm scale. So, as soon as we make a couple sifters and some special buckets, we will be repurposing this worm bin for staging worms for sale. We are switching to a bucket methodology to get a better handle on inventory and purposeful production, which is difficult to do with bedrun and the current stacking bins.
Here’s some links for building your own worm bin:
First and foremost to Rob Hartman of the Bee’s Choice Farms, for giving a fellow farmer a hand and helping to get 8 greenhouse endwall posts up and prepped for concrete over 2 days with lots of rain delays. Thanks again!
To Richard, for stopping by at the right time and pitching in on prepping the last 3 posts for before the scheduled concrete arrived.
To Willie at Arnold Brothers, for bringing yet another on-time ready mix delivery!
To Dale at Lamar Outdoor Advertising, for a surprise visit and special delivery!
To Global Fence for recycling with us by bringing a used fence that we can repurpose. The chickens, earthworms and future rabbits will be grateful for the structures we can build with the wood. One less truckload to the landfill 🙂
Alas…then came the rains again….poor Farmer Tim! Tidying up the pours on the last 8 posts and clean up in a torrential down pour 😦
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