The Great Pizza Aquaponic Challenge

Last week we challenged the IDEA PCS garden club students:

If you can move this entire aquaponic system upstairs to the green room during your 1-hour lunch break, we upgrade to pizza for lunch next week. By the way: all the fish have to survive the move; the system has to be back up and running; and you have to move all the water too (we wouldn’t want to shock our bacteria with new water!)

The students succeeded, great teamwork.

Now onto the next goal: grow $200 of produce with this same aquaponic system by the end of the school year… we’re gonna need some bigger fishies than these goldfish, not to be koi 😉  [foreshadowing]

 

Mayor Bowser Signs the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact

 

Today, January 25, Mayor Bowser will announce that the District and other American cities will sign on to the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact (MUFPP), a cooperative international agreement to improve food and sustainability in cities all over the world. Mayor Bowser will sign on to the Pact to “build a more sustainable and equitable food system, shaping future patterns of food production and consumption in the District and America.”

Learn more: Milan Urban Food Policy Pact

Aquaponic Stringbean

The Hootie 1.0 Indoor Aquaponic System was able to grow a string bean with only about 100 grams of ornamental goldfish powering the train.

 

This string bean was just a test to see if we could grow a decent fruiting vegetable with this 29-gallon system. (Fruiting plants like string beans require more nutrients and are generally harder to grow well). Ultimately, this system is best suited to grow seven or eight quick-growing herbs and lettuces at a time because of the small-ish fish tank and wide media growbed.

 

 

We were happy to see that – despite its diminutive size – it was a crunchy and tasty little bean!

The Hootie 2.0 Indoor Aquaponic System is equipped with lighting and improved water circulation. Once that system gets to decent fish capacity maybe we’ll try another fruiting veggie… any requests?

Drum Filter Fun with Tavon and Bill

Here are some pics from a few months ago of Tavon and Bill performing drum filter maintenance on one of UDC’s aquaponic systems.

A drum filter allows an aquaponic system to divert solid fish waste to a separate tank. In this separate tank the fish waste is able to safely break down and gradually release the bound-up nutrients back into the system.

Fish tank water enters into the center of the drum and must pass through the screen mesh to outside the drum. All solid waste larger than 100 microns is trapped within the drum.

A sensor detects when the drum is to capacity with waste. The drum starts to spin rapidly. Four spray nozzles (which we see Tavon installing below) spray the solid waste off the mesh and flush it to the solids-diversion tank.

Differences of opinion exist within the aquaponics community whether it’s better to break down the solid fish waste aerobically or anaerobically (with or without oxygen). Each process involves a different set of bacteria and different costs and benefits. We shall see how the debate evolves…

Eating Fresh Backyard Fish in NE DC!

Here are two pics from our backyard aquaponic harvest event last month.

Above, Scott is pictured “cleaning” fish we just harvested from his 270 “IBC-tote” fish tank. We ate bullhead catfish, bluegill, and trout.

Below is the finished product, the bluegill were the tastiest! We also ate Baba Ganoush made from eggplants grown in the same aquaponic system; meaning that the eggplants were fertilized from the waste of the very same fish pictured below!

Wow, what a useful ecosystem!!! Here’s a link to his forum thread for more info: Scott’s aquaponic forum thread.

2 Dans Toiling at Twilight; Thankfulness

Dan and Dan were recently improving the insulation on one of Cultivate the City‘s rooftop greenhouses ahead of the winter.

This greenhouse hosts a hydroponic system with 25 vertical zipgrow towers; stacked-pot drip-line vertical hydroponic systems; and an aquaponic system we will be overhauling in the months ahead.

Controlled environment agriculture gives us the ability to produce food in the middle of Washington, DC in the middle of winter — as opposed to shipping all of our fresh produce thousands of miles for half the year. And vertical growing gives us the ability to produce large quantities of food relative to square land area.

The problem: our nation’s economic structure. We do not charge the true cost of carbon. Big companies have an implicit subsidy to use as much carbon as they want to get their food here from across the planet and compete against efficient local growers. Sad.

So this year I’m thankful for Dan, Dan, and the rest of the Washington, DC urban agriculture community!

Hydroponics at Anacostia Highschool

Jajuan and Ms. Mus just finished setting up this hydroponic system at Anacostia Highschool.

They plan to stock the top grow bed with small pots filled with hydroton clay media (pictured in the buckets below). They also plan to feed the plants with liquid hydroponic nutrients.

We’ll check in with them in a few months to see how it’s going. Maybe we’ll even get an aquaponic system going! 😉

NOSB Gives Organic Aquaponics the GREEN Light!

From the Aquaponics Association-
The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) voted 8 to 7 last week to reject proposals that would have banned aquaponics and hydroponics from organic eligibility. The Board did vote to ban aeroponics.

The Aquaponics Association applauds the NOSB’s decision. Aquaponics embodies exactly what consumers expect in their organic produce:

  1. No synthetic pesticides or chemicals;
  2. Resource-efficient and planet-friendly; and
  3. A thriving, diverse microbial root ecosystem.

The NOSB’s decision will usher in a host of benefits to our food system. Aquaponics gives us the ability to eat fresh, local produce even in dense urban areas and arid climates. The organic label will allow commercial aquaponic growers to supply retailers the most local organic food possible.

Aquaponics employs closed-loop, recirculating systems of fish and plants. These systems use over 90% less water than soil farming; do not emit harmful agriculture discharge; and use the minimum resources necessary to grow vibrant, healthy crops.

For consumers, the NOSB’s decision will lead to more accessible, affordable produce as more aquaponic growers enter the organic market. Aquaponics will also foster local economic growth with year-round food production jobs that can never be outsourced.

In short, the NOSB’s decision is a big WIN for our environment, our health, and our economy.