What’s The Splash With Aquaponics?

by Julie Buisson 

Aquaponics is a term that most of us are familiar with. It refers to the closed-loop hydroponics method that uses fish waste as a natural fertilizer for plants. While aquaponics is a method that has been around for centuries and has been lauded for its sustainability, it is still very rarely seen in vertical farming practices. Why? After all, there are successful examples of the technology being used. Verticulture in Brooklyn, NY has a beautiful aquaponics operation in an old Pfizer warehouse where they grow barges of fresh basil alongside their tilapia. Edenworks also has a small greenhouse in Brooklyn that grows a variety of produce using aquaponics. Bustan aquaponics in Egypt is also a shinning example of the symbiotic system at work. Aquaponics as a closed-loop system can be extremely efficient but various challenges with the technique have prevented it from being more widely adopted. 

In order to find out more about this issue, I went to visit the Cylburn Arboretum in Baltimore, MD. It was a Tuesday during open house hours when I walked into “The Foods System Lab” a small urban farm run by Johns Hopkins Center for a Living Future as a teaching and research farm. I was the only visitor and was able to spend time with Laura Genello, the farm manager, who patiently answered all my questions. Laura has a B.A in Environment Science from Brown University and developed an interest in farming when she spent a couple of seasons as an apprentice in Rhode Island learning about small-scale, soil-based vertical farming. Having worked at the Food Systems Lab for the past 3.5 years, she now is an expert at growing in water as well.  

Laura and I walk around the greenhouse where she shows me the different set-ups they have to test various media and growing systems. They have a flood and drain system where they grow root vegetables in gravel. They also have a large water culture system where leafy greens can be seen emerging from containers nestled in styrofoam panels. Finally a couple of PVC pipes lining the side demonstrate the nutrient film technique. We spend most of our time, however, around a large plastic barrel containing some fifteen tilapia fish. Tilapia is the go-to fish for aquaponics operation because they are easy to care for and can be consumed. Standing there, watching the produce flourishing and the fish splashing along, it seems easy, I ask her we aren’t seeing more of this in the vertical farming industry.

“I think economics are at the heart of the slow take-off of aquaponics. These systems are infrastructure and cost intensive to start-up, and depending on costs of various inputs, cannot easily outcompete hydroponic, or soil-based growers. Moreover, aquaponics is really knowledge intensive, requiring an understanding of both the fish and the plants. There’s a steep learning curve, and too many entrepreneurs discount that learning curve when considering how quickly they can expect to recoup their investment. Energy costs are a big issue. How can renewable energy be integrated into aquaponics systems?”

Keep reading

UN Report Says Small-Scale Organic Farming Only Way to Feed the World

External image

Nick Meyer | AltHealthWORKS

Even as the United States government continues to push for the use of more chemically-intensive and corporate-dominated farming methods such as GMOs and monoculture-based crops, the United Nations is once against sounding the alarm about the urgent need to return to (and develop) a more sustainable, natural and organic system.

That was the key point of a new publication from the UN Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) titled“Trade and Environment Review 2013: Wake Up Before It’s Too Late,” which included contributions from more than 60 experts around the world.

Keep reading


Chipotle ad

Talk about seeing the future of their own brand and their target market. Fantastic, heartwarming ad. Love it. (Could have done without the Coldplay song though…)

Medicinal Herb Garden: Cold and Flu

Grow a medicinal herb garden to help alleviate cold and flu symptoms.

By Dorie Byers

llustration by Beverly Duncan


Interesting Grammys side-story of the night: The Verge's Joshua Topolsky made a couple of spare comments about Chipotle’s anti-factory-farming ad, which has been online for months but played during tonight’s Grammy Awards. What’s fascinating is the anger Topolsky drew for his animal-rights views and the fact that he didn’t take kindly to the fact that the ad glossed over the fact that Chipotle kills animals. The reaction to Topolsky’s pro-animal-rights comments brought out the trolls on Facebook and Twitter, with one commenter saying, “You are way out of your depth on this one! I’m having steak for dinner just to piss you off…” What do you think on sustainable farming and animal rights? And does the ad make you want to eat at Chipotle because they don’t use factory farming?

Caviar: The Best Eggs I've Ever Had for Breakfast

Katy Andersen, Gourmet Food Specialist, Lot18

I haven’t eaten eggs for breakfast in twenty years. It’s ironic, given that I grew up on a farm with free-to-roam chickens whose grub-and-worm diet produces some of the most luscious orange yolks in Pennsylvania (or so I’m told). Yes, I’ll eat eggs in things like cake batter, but even crème brûlée is a stretch.

Hypocrite or hedonist, I recently found reason to eat some eggs for breakfast. Two freshly packed tins of Tsar Nicoulai California Osetra Estate Caviar arrived one morning at our office via airmail, and I couldn’t wait to open them.

When I was able to source California caviar for our members, I spent a lot of time learning about this delicacy. Though I adore caviar, I didn’t know as much about it as I thought – the names alone sounded like Greek to me. While I savored spoonful by tiny spoonful, I jotted down some notes to share about this fascinating food.

The sturgeon is practically a dinosaur. Caviar is the name reserved for the roe – or eggs – found in the sturgeon, the common name used for roughly 27 species of fish. Long associated with feasts for Russian royalty, who consumed it with vodka and blinis, these caviar-producing fish actually predate the human race by about 250 million years. The sturgeon outlived dinosaurs. Literally.

Caviar names are not as mysterious as they seem. Sterlet. Osetra. Sevruga. No, this isn’t a Harry Potter spell. These names found on caviar tins refer to the type of sturgeon – the roe harvested from these female fish are named after their species. Beluga is the most expensive, sometimes reaching thousands of dollars per ounce.

You don’t need a castle to enjoy caviar at home. Throughout epicurean history, wild-harvested caviar has largely been reserved for those who could afford its extraordinarily extravagant price. Genghis Khan is recorded as having enjoyed it in 1280, as have Austrian emperors, Turkish khans, Russian tsars, and even Iranian shahs. Caviar still seems like one of those impossible foods, like foie gras, consumed in restaurants or not at all. I dream about eating these luxuries, but these imaginings have never taken place in the comfort of my own kitchen. However, due to American caviar pioneers like Tsar Nicoulai, caviar is now produced domestically and sold at a relatively attainable price. With the proper mother of pearl spoon and an icy glass dish, you can enjoy this delicacy at home.

Caviar can be a guilt-free food. While 27 species of foreign wild sturgeon are now endangered, the farmed, domestic American White Sturgeon is thriving. Fisheries in central California now harvest eggs from sturgeon raised in spring-filled ponds on vegetarian feed, without growth hormones or antibiotics. As the Wall Street Journal reported in the “The Great California Caviar Rush” in May, the breed is actually native to the Pacific Northwest for millions of years. It’s not only sustainably farmed, but also local!


Farmed caviar is delicious. Most farmed fish lacks the color and flavor of a wild, line-caught filet. And most culinary experiences with fish eggs involve tiny exploding tobiko or ikura atop special sushi rolls. Fortunately, farmed caviar is different from both experiences. Its creamy, oceanic flavor is absolutely delicious, and it is far richer and more intense than the brightly colored roe in sushi bars. Though the classic pairing is vodka, it’s also remarkable with Champagne

“Although organic agriculture often produces lower yields on land that has recently been farmed conventionally, it can outperform conventional practices—especially in times of drought—when the land has been farmed organically for a longer time,” said Reynolds, a researcher with Worldwatch’s Food and Agriculture Program. “Conventional agricultural practices often degrade the environment over both the long and short term through soil erosion, excessive water extraction, and biodiversity loss.” … Organic agriculture uses up to 50 percent less fossil fuel energy than conventional farming, and common organic practices—including rotating crops, applying mulch to empty fields, and maintaining perennial shrubs and trees on farms—also stabilize soils and improve water retention, thus reducing vulnerability to harsh weather patterns. On average, organic farms have 30 percent higher biodiversity, including birds, insects, and plants, than conventional farms do.

Hi Solarpunks! 

I just watched a documentary called “to make a farm” highlighting a few small, sustainable farms that run in Canada. It’s an independent film that was decently popular when it came out. I thought it presented an interesting reaction to industrial farming.

Some thoughts I had in relation to Solarpunk writing after watching it is that these smaller farms sometimes seemed isolated, and they faced immense difficulties as independent farms heavily relying on the grace of nature for a crop that would allow them to sustain themselves – I think Solarpunk farming would work better in a communal setting. Farmers could form clusters where they could help and support one another, both by sharing skills sets and knowledge, and by emotionally supporting one another.

It showed a really peaceful and practical reaction to industrial farming, which I liked. Some of the farmers featured in the film talked about how farming gave them peace and hope, and I think peace and hope should play big parts in the Solarpunk movement.

I would recommend giving it a watch – the cinematography is beautiful:


Aquaponics: Fish Farming & Water Gardening. 💧🌱💧🐟💧

Hydroculture (water gardening) may date back to as early as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the ancient Aztec chinampas, and the ancient Chinese floating gardens. Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture (raising fish) and hydroponic agriculture (growing plants in water without soil). Plants naturally filter water for the fish, and fish waste provides organic food for growing plants. Some popular fish choices are trout, catfish, bluegill, and tilapia. Plant choices are nearly limitless, except for plants that require an acidic environment. A backyard greenhouse is ideal for sunlight and natural climate control. Aquaponic gardening uses 90% less water than traditional soil gardening, because the water is re-circulated. Aquaponic gardening yields two foods for one input (fish feed). Plants also grow 2 to 3 times faster in aquaponic systems. Start-up costs are completely worth it once balance is established to gain the renewable rewards and self-reliance. What are your thoughts? Would you try aquaponic gardening?

#Survival #Homesteading #SHTF #Gardening #WaterGardening #Aquaponics #Aquaculture #Hydroculture #Agriculture #Horticulture #Botany #Hydroponics #Farming #Fish #Fishing #FishFarm #Sustainable

Use Cover Crops to Improve Soil

Cover crops solar-charge your soil and improve soil nutrients. Here is what you need to know about cover crop planting methods and reliable cover crop options for your region.

By Barbara Pleasant 


Via Perennial Plate (some suggested ways to help here).