Open Source Aquaponics
~ Reconnecting with Food
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What’s New at OSA...


6/25/13

Happy Spring? Summer?... Let’s say “Happy no more Winter!” lol :)  I hope 2013 is bringing increased joy, peace and prosperity to you and your loved ones.

It’s been a very busy Spring whipping the greenhouse back into shape after a long Winter and I have several new projects to report on regarding dense, versatile and simple growing methods as well as some interesting new developments with the fish and plants.  I’ve had social inquiries from a local group interested in replicating some of my project methods and have almost completed the dome estimation software for beta testing.  I have also developed and am currently building a new open-source low-cost, single-axis solar concentrator and light transport system for inside grow systems as well as a potential energy source for heating cooking and possibly even generating electricity with a sterling engine.  More on that later...


6/25/13 - Aquaculture

Fish are doing incredibly well!  They are growing quickly and many are already in breeding mode.  Currently I have 7 males across three tanks defending breeding space within the tanks.  Over the past 2 months I’ve found fry in two of the tanks on three different occasions.  Unfortunately, I made terrible errors in caring for the young the first two times and they were all eaten. :( 
The first batch of five I found I was caught off-guard and wanted to get them out of the big tank asap as the larger tilapia will gladly snack on fry that are not their own.  So I moved the 5 small fry (basically eggs with tails) inside and put them in our 55 gallon indoor tropical aquarium with the fairly “docile” fish thinking they could hide in the cracks and crevices of the grotto rocks I have in there eating algae and tiny food particles until they got big enough to venture out.  They all disappeared after the first day so I presume they were somebody’s snack. :(  The second batch I found (only 5) I put in a special baby rearing container that floats at the top of the tank.  Unfortunately I learned that this apparatus will sink if tipped over so within hours after putting it in the tank, one of the big fish probably attacked the babies through the glass or simply bumped into it hard enough to knock it over.  I found it at the bottom of the tank empty a few hours later. :( 
The most recent fry (baby fish) find was last week and I was able to get approximately 2 dozen or so babies out of the shallow tank.  I tried a different strategy by moving them into the very shallow trough system with the hopes that they would live off the copious amount of food available from the flowing stream/marsh-like environment.  I’m pleased to say that I have about 15-20 fry living in four separate locations and they seem to be doing very well!  I’ve watched them feed on small particles running down the stream on many occasions and they are very alert and aware of my presence at times.  I will try to get some good video of this when time permits. 

I’ve also been experimenting to see what the fish will eat and it turns out that they will eat brussels sprout leaves and particularly love italian broccoli leaves!  So having broccoli go to flower isn’t entirely a bummer as I can still use the leaves to supplement the fish food.  Below is  a video of them attacking the broccoli leaves like vegetarian piranhas and a before/after picture of the italian broccoli leaves.









Direct Link... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nAmWztUJJEI


6/25/13 - Hydroponics

I’ve been super busy with the hydroponics aspect of my system!  I added two new troughs to completely wrap the trough system around both insides of the greenhouse with an added waterfall for additional aeration as well as aesthetics.  I had to repair/rebuild one of the troughs due to leakage from using tarps that were not thick enough.  Even the smallest hole will leak so I don't recommend using tarps that are less than 10 mil in thickness. 
I'm rapidly learning what conditions are optimal for growing amazingly huge and delicious goldenberries!  I'm also learning how to know when they are ripe for sweetness vs. tartness depending on ones taste. 

Flowing water seems to be one key common denominator for growing robust plants and large berries.  Flowing water keeps the water oxygenated which the roots need.  In multiple shaded places the roots are growing thickly around the surface of the sand and have lots of root hairs soaking up the humidity just above the sand surface.  Another method that I've found works very well is to have the base plants in some type of potting soil which is then embedded in the sand along the streams of flowing water.  My thinking here is that the soil provides a myriad of nutrients that the water alone may not and allows the plant to find it's own "sweet spot" for optimal growth as well as providing a way to augment nutritional needs to individual plants.  All of my most robust goldenberry plants are in small or medium-size pots with organic compost mixed with soil.

Goldenberries have been my primary botanical interest as I wish to learn everything I can about these superfood berries.  One of the aspects I've been experimenting with is propagation.  I've tried a whole range of different ways to propagate them from seed to cuttings in various media.  Here's what I've found works best:  Seeds work well.  They are very easy to sprout as they don't mind the wet and humid conditions (compared to many other plants) however they are slow to get going. 
I've found cuttings wetted and dipped in rooting hormone and then simply put into a pot with soil and compost works very well.  After the roots get hold they explode in rapid growth and will even begin producing berries fairly quickly.  I've found that pruning the plants back in a manner similar to tomatoes is helpful not only for getting cuttings but also aids in keeping mature plants from spreading themselves too thin.  Goldenberry plants use biparous branching meaning that every so often they divide into two stems and each new stem continues to do so indefinitely.  It is at these branching points that I will prune back the smaller of the two stems and trim it to manageable length for planting.  I've also tried to get cuttings to begin rooting by simply placing the cut stems in the flowing streams.  This works but takes much longer and then they still require planting anyway so I've found the rooting hormone + immediate planting is preferred.

Due to the success I’ve been having with goldenberry and strawberry propagation, I quickly ran out of space in the greenhouse so I decided I would build an outdoor trough system using the same water flow mechanics employed inside the greenhouse.  The outdoor trough system gives me a ton more space (at least until Winter!) for growing and testing all kinds of plants.  The trough circulates water from inside the greenhouse which flows from one end to the other and then drains back into a collection pail that drains back into the sump of the greenhouse.  In the Winter I will simply shut off the water to the outdoor trough and plants will have to moved indoors wherever possible.  A flowing trough system is simple to build and cost me next to nothing as most of it was built from a small section of fence I had removed last Fall.  I still need to add a few sections of lattice to improve the aesthetics, but so far it’s been working very well.  I plan to add a couple more of these when time permits.



I’ve been having a lot of issues with the software I’m using for this website so it has caused me a few delays and a lot of head-banging (not the fun kind... lol).  I’m exploring options for building a new site that can better handle the rapid flow of information that this project is generating.  That being said, I will do my best to continue sharing what I can with all who are interested.


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