System Improvements at IDEA Charter School

James and William are retro-fitting an existing aquaponic system to improve water flow in the media bed. Without the extended pipes, one side of the bed would not have adequate water circulation. This could lead to poor water conditions.

In the background we see a hydroponic media bed already growing large amounts of basil and tomatoes. This is because we are still far from an adequate stock of fish to produce enough waste/fertilizer in the aquaponic system, whereas in hydroponics the appropriate nutrients can be dosed immediately.

In the hydroponic system, James’ and William’s improved water circulation is not as important because there is not nearly as much organic material to risk foul conditions. It’s important to understand the trade-offs between aquaponics, hydroponics, traditional soil agriculture, and other growing methods.

For IDEA Public Charter School, the aquaponic system is an invaluable STEM education tool to teach students about the ecosystem of fish, plants and bacteria. But it is important to note that depending on circumstances, aquaponics is not the answer for every growing situation.

Rooting DC this Saturday!

Who: Everyone
What: Rooting DC Urban Agriculture Expo
When: Saturday, March 3, 9:00am – 4:00pm
Where: Wilson HS, 3950 Chesapeake St NW, Washington, DC
Why: Sustaining a happy life on Earth!
Price: FREE

Anacostia Aquaponics will have our Hootie 2.0 Indoor Aquaponic System set up and running in the Vendor Showroom, goldfish and all. [Barring any technical catastrophes]

Anacostia Aquaponics Director Brian Filipowich will present “Aquaponics in Washington DC” at 10:00am in Room 205. There are many many GREAT presentations all day long! See Rooting DC Schedule

It’s always a great time, and there’s lots of foodtrucks, hope to see you there!

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]

 

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!