We Will Grow On You!

Alberta Aquaponics - We Will Grow On You!

Fast Reminders In A Busy Week

I am sorry things have been a little slow on the website updating side for the last few weeks. I can assure you that will change shortly.

Just as a couple of reminders:

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Another meeting of the crazy people doing crazy stuff in the back yard! Hope to see you at the face to face meet up!

This Sunday is the Face to Face Meetup.

Come join us for some face to face time, conversation, idea exchange and general geekery in our Monthly Face to Face Meetup!

Word has it that we will be joined by a newly formed aquaponics club from the University of Calgary, so come out and meet some new folks as we find out what they are planning at the U of C.

As always we will have a great time, lots of laughs and someone will be taking home the door prize!

Don’t be shy, come join in the fun!

This is the last week to get in on our last aquaponics course for the year.

The Aquaponics Course is on Sunday, October 26, 2014. There are still a few seats left for the course, but the time is running short.

You can find details of the course in our events calendar, and you can sign up below.

  

Happy Thanksgiving!

happy-thanksgiving

We at Alberta Aquaponics have again been very fortunate in our success and the amount of produce we have grown in our little greenhouse and newly added wicking beds and are happy that we have been able to share the produce, lessons learned, smiles and laughs with friends, family and community.

We are thankful for our families and friends who have been there in some of our best times as well as in some of our most trying times. We are honored to have you in our lives and grateful for every moment we can share with you. Thank you for your support and love!

We are grateful for the new friends we have made and relationships we have forged over the year. From the newly found friends in our community and city to the new relationships we have established world wide, this has been an amazing year in global community building!

We are thankful for the opportunities that have been afforded us, the cooperation of other like minded businesses, interest and assistance we have received, the lessons we have learned and guidance and support we have been offered.

Thank you all for being a part of our journey, sharing our successes and failures along the way, joining us at the Face to Face Meet Ups, establishing community, attending our courses and events and listening to my bad jokes.

I wish that everyone could have a garden so they could feel as thankful as we are and know the true meaning behind Thanksgiving.

From everyone at Alberta Aquaponics, have a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving and thank you for being a part of our journey!

 

  

Motivation and ambition, two very different beasts!

Ok. So I have had this change over planned for a few months now, however I seemed to have fallen into a bit of a slump and couldn’t get motivated to do a thing. I spent days and weeks staring at my aquaponics system, as it slowly turned a bit yellow and plants didn’t develop quickly, or stopped growing all together. Plus my collection of grow beds was… Eclectic and hap hazard.

In walks the good old AA meeting. Alberta Aquaponics. Where I met some new people. Had some good conversations and became reinvigorated. That night, I went home and worked till it was to dark to see. It was messy, I couldn’t work in the house.

Anyway, I switched out my old grow beds and 45gallon barrel, over severaldays, because my new system was going right where my old one was.

I kept a 2’x3’x6″ grow bed from my outside system and moved it in. Then I built a second grow bed from 3/4″ ply wood and 2″x12″ boards. The grow bed is 2’x6′. I painted it with sharkskin paint. Then lined it with Duraskrim, food safe liner.

I upgraded my barrel to a 55gallon barrel, which I had cut the side out and installed a plexiglass window.

I set the whole system up as a constant height one pump system. The grow beds will drain into a 45 gallon sump and the water will be pumped up into my barrel via a Venturi jet. Which will then overflow back into my grow beds.

Right now, I don’t have a strong enough pump to make it run as well as I want, and I still have to run an air pump until I get a strong enough water pump to run the venturi. However, it’s all flowing, working and keeping the plants and fish alive!!! Plus the bonus that it’s not an eyesore like my last crazy setup.

if you have any questions, pleas feel free to ask. Or come down to the next AA meeting and hang out and discuss!!

Thanks everyone!

P.S. Well, I still can’t figure out these pictures into my blogs. I can do videos, but pictures…
I’ll have to figure it out one day.

 

  

Mycology (Mushroom Farming.)

As almost everyone knows, we have been doing some dabbling in mushrooms for a while. We have attempted a wide range of growing (with mixed results).

I am still a huge fan of mushrooms and the wide range of things they can be used for. I want to get that information out to everyone else as well.

I think we have now found a perfect resource for taking us to the next level.

I ran into the folks from Hamel’s Mushrooms a couple of weeks ago and started a conversation with them on carrying their mushroom boxes for growing your own Oyster Mushrooms.

I am now taking pre-orders for the Mushroom boxes for Hamel’s Mushrooms. They are selling for $20.00 each (shipping is extra if you do not want to pick them up). The orders will be done as a pre-pay order where you will be given a date for pickup of the product seeing as they have to be produced in mass. If you are interested, please send me an e-mail and I will get you on the list.

Image of an Oyster Mushroom Box

Oyster Mushroom box.

Oyster mushrooms after 5 days growth

After 5 days I have a good start on the mushrooms

The mushroom boxes make awesome gifts as well as for growing our own fresh mushrooms.

The conversation on the product quickly migrated over to putting on a full course on Mycology as an entry level that includes how to build your own mushroom boxes.

We are now looking at the possibilities and interest levels of people in getting involved in a mycology course. If you are interested, please let me know and we will start working on getting one put together as soon as possible.

For those following us on the Alberta Aquaponics Facebook Group page, we have asked a poll question on this curse and some others we are thinking of putting on in the near future. Please give us some feedback on the ones you would be interested in.

  

The Solar Concentrator Array : Free Green House Heating

As most of your are aware Alberta Aquaponics has been able to grow through the winter for the last 3 years with at least marginal success. We are able to accomplish this by taking advantage of many different techniques that range from meat rabbits being moved into the greenhouse to act as 8 BTU bunny heaters through to the creation of a popcan solar furnace (some of the videos of the creations can be found here)

Over the last year (which was shelved for the summer) and again over the last few weeks I have been working in a new project to heat the greenhouse over the winter that uses a solar concentrator.

The solar concentrator is little more than a satellite dish, something that is available pretty much anywhere in the world, and regularly disposed of as a waste  product.

The satellite dish has a parabolic shape (curve) that works as a means of focusing energy, (in this case the suns radiant energy), to a focal point.

Image of how a focal point works

The energy is collected by the parabolic curve which focuses the energy to a focal point

To start with, I have taken the satellite dish and applied standard reflective tin tape (see video for my progression of the build) to the dish to create a reflective surface that allows for the solar radiation to be reflected back to the focal point to generate heat.

As you can see from the video this has been a process in getting things working and the bugs worked out.

I now have several of the concentrators created and have collected a basketball backboard and pole from Kijiji (picked up for free) and a used bicycle (also free) that I have put into play for the mount and tracker for the array.

I started off by taking off the backboard from the pole and put the pole in the ground.

I then cut off the front forks of the bicycle from the frame, removed the tire and brake assembly, inverted them and (with the help of Sam Skogen) got the unit welded to the top of the pole.

The front forks act as my two axis points for being able to follow the sun across the sky. The backboard fits into the axel mounts giving my my North – South axis and the pivot of the steering bearing gives me the East – West axis.

Image of the inverted front forks of a bike used as a mounth for the concentrator.

Inverted front forks from the bicycle

For the tracking system I opted for purchasing a premade unit rather than doing a DIY build simply due to cost. I purchased a dual axis Suntracker from Windy Nation and got it set up and put in play. This took a little more design than I had hoped for and in the end became a little bit of a chore to get worked out for putting together.

Components from the solar tracking kit

Solar controller with two axis actuator and solar sensor.

In the end I used the gear from the bicycle attached to the East – West actuator for the pivot and the North – South actuator bolted directly to the backboard for its axis movement.

Image of the mechanism used for the East West Actuator arm

This is the gear system using the bike chain and gear to work with the actuator.

The focal point is now an aluminum block as compared to the copper that I was using last year. I found that the heat I was getting was melting out the solder and then burning holes in the copper pipe even when water was running through it. The blocks, although not perfect, are better able to handle the heat of the concentrator and should hold up better (fingers crossed). In the even that I need to change them out, I have been able to source the replacements for a relatively cheap cost.

Aluminum block as a focal point with plumbing parts.

Focal point that the water passes through with plumbing on either side.

With that the array was put in place and plumbed into the greenhouse via a circulating pump to the barrels of water to act as a battery for the hot water. The water is cycled from the barrels to the focal points of each of the dishes on the array and then brought back to the barrels in the green house where they passively radiate the heat to the ambient air inside.

Backboard with the satellite dishes

The array on the pole.

Here is where I am not at a bit of a stumbling block. I started having problems at this point with power getting to the solar tracker. At first I thought that it was because the power of the single 30 Watt panel was too low for the task, but upgrading that to a 50 and then to a 90 Watt panel did not resolve the issues. I then connected it directly to a battery (twin 6 volt deep cycle batteries) connected to the solar array on the garage and I have the same issues. I am getting 12 volt to the unit, but the unit is unable to transfer that power to the actuators.

At this point I am awaiting technical information back from Windy Nation on the problem and most likely will be using the warranty return to get it all up and functional.

Stay tuned for more updates as I go along and with luck a new video of the entire unit when it is functional.

  

Basic Aquaponics Course With Build

how it works
Aquaponics is a sustainable food production system that combines a traditional aquaculture (raising aquatic animals such as fish) with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in a symbiotic environment. In aquaculture, effluents accumulate in the water, increasing toxicity for the fish. This water is led to a hydroponic system where the by-products from the aquaculture are filtered out by the plants as vital nutrients, after which the cleansed water is recirculated back to the fish.

Aquaponics is:

Up to 95% more water efficient than traditional farming.
Better than Organic (it uses no pesticides or chemicals that can be used in organic farming).
Able to produce more in a smaller footprint than traditional farming.
Sustainable.
Safe.
Easy to Maintain.

Alberta Aquaponics is putting on an aquaponics course with a build component October 26, 2014 at the SAIT main campus. This course and build component will work for small and large scale systems and will give you a full understanding of scaling for each.

If you have ever wanted to get into aquaponics or wanted to expand you knowledge, this is going to be the course to take. You will get a solid core knowledge of the base principals so that you can confidently put together and maintain long term an aquaponic garden.

This is a one day course with a lot to offer!

Throughout this course we will be doing a build of an aquaponic system. This course will give you the knowledge to assemble all of the parts required for practical application of the build and the ability to make it scaleable and workable system for a 55 gallon aquarium build through to a full IBC tote application.

You will receive a Flash Drive with a PDF of the course slides, A copy of the Aquaponic monitor sheets (Water, Fish, Plants, Lighting, Electrical) as well as full build parts lists for putting everything together.

  

Post Snow And Away We Go!

We still have a lot going on here but I wanted to take a few minutes and at least put in a post with a fast text and picture update.

Last weekend was Makers Faire and it was awesome!

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We got to meet so many very cool people doing so many interesting project it was unbelievable.

As you may already know we had a good dump of snow already and some pretty cool temperatures which have put us well in panic mode on getting things setup for the winter months. Luckily we did a bit of prep the weekend before Makers Faire and got end walls back up and started harvesting out some of the larger plants that would not have survived the cold snap.

With that said, we still have a ways to go in getting everything ready for the colder months and keeping us growing.

On the short list we have the plants int he greenhouse to move and transfer around, the bunnies to move in, the water battery to build and about 300 other tasks to take care of that I want to get on as soon as it dries out a little more. (fingers crossed on that)

We have started working on getting the greenhouse setup with our fall crop and have several jars on the counter where we are attempting a new sprouting technique for pre-planting that I will be talking about once we figure out if it works well or not.

We have started more work on the solar concentrator and have our order in for the solar tracker which I have hopes will be here next week. I have in my possession, four dishes to be turned into concentrators, a pole in the ground, a backboard mounted and ready to go and all of the tubing and barrels ready for the tie in.

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With luck I will have heat going in the greenhouse within a couple of weeks and with more luck the weather will back off a little and let me get the project completed before I actually need it!

We still have a bunch of work to do in the house moving in the pepper plants in the buckets into the basement and attaching them to another small aquaponic system.

I have hopes on getting a video of this as all of this happens.

In short we have a lot to do around here.

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Another meeting of the crazy people doing crazy stuff in the back yard! Hope to see you at the face to face meet up!

In the near future, we have a Face to Face Meet Up next Sunday that should have a bunch of new people from Makers Faire attending as well as a few folks from the upcoming aquaponics course.

Over all it should be an awesome gathering with great idea and information exchanges. I have hopes of getting a conversation going as a round table to find out what everyone has learned over this last year, advise they would give to new people starting out and things that they would do and would not do again based off their success and failures.

(If you would like to share your year, please feel free to bring pictures and video via a flash drive and we will set up the laptop to show everyone.)

It should be a good learning experience for everyone.

Speaking of courses, we are again about to do another Verge PDC tour and course where we will be teaching Aquaculture and aquaponics as wella s giving everyone a tour of our setup here in the back yard. Check out Verge Permacultures Permaculture Design Certificate course to take your growing and understanding to the next level! The course is amazing and a lot of fun!

We are also putting on an Aquaponics Course with Build Component AKA our introduction class to aquaponics on October 26. This is a full step up from the Verge introduction to aquaponics and actually gets into the fish and vegetables of the matter, giving you a full understanding on how to setup and maintain an aquaponic system.

Sign up and take advantage of the early bird prices and start your aquaponics garden off in the best possible manner!

  

Prelude to greatness!! No, really, I swear….

I wrote this post last week, but due to me vs. technology, problems… I didn’t manage to get it up.

Ok, so I’m a slow runner with my blog, and this may be a weird one cause I’m gonna try and put a pic in it.

A lot of things have happened outside of aquaponics that have kept me busy. So I haven’t had anytime to play.

But here’s the gist.

my outside system went bat crazy. Through much fiddle and farting around and mucho advice from gord and Donna, I determined that temperature fluctuations were the  culprit. My system was too small and too black, the holding tank that is, was black and absorbed too much heat in the day, hence temp fluctuations. It slaughtered my poor fishies before their time. Despite that, I managed to get two spaghetti squash, several small jars of pickles and a strawberry out of it. Doesn’t seem like much, but they were my first aquaponics harvest that wasn’t just leafy greens. Not that leafy greens are bad. Haha.

My inside system has taken a small beating, as I knew it would after attending the course that Gord and Donna taught. Everything was going well, but my six inch deep grow beds caught up to me and are cause all sorts of problems.

Also, an invasion of spider mites tore through my carrots. No losses on my side, the spider mites weren’t so lucky.

So, with the help of Gord and Donna, I am devising a new aquaponics system for in my home. Bigger, better, stronger, faster, more awesomer!!! Er?! Yeah!

Hopefully work will give me some time to relax in the soonish future so I can put it all together. Including custom shaped grow beds made with food and fishy friendly duraskrim, 12″ deep of course, and a little window to view my fishies from the side!

But first!!! The makers fair tomorrow! Should be a blast! Hope to see everyone there.

oh yeah. And now the pictures.

 

Ok. I got nothing. I’ll have to get another tutorial from Gord on the weekend. I used to be so good with computers. Bit then I stopped using them, more or less, two years ago.

anyway, peace out!

  

Seasons Over

Lost one fish this morning; found him floating upside down on my second check of the morning (might have missed him on my first check). I assume the water got a smidge too cool for him. Checking the 7 day forecast tells me that today they are all coming inside. The greenhouse will be left for the next few days, to cycle the remainder of the water for the plants to finish cleaning.  Wasn’t a huge haul this year, but now I have plans to get started earlier than June 1st next year.  (More water and a solar popcan heater will help).

My original fall plan was to buy a grow tent for an indoor area that is currently unused, but mammoth can’t seem to tell me if the have an appropriate tent available that I can use. The area is 6′ tall, 7′ wide, and 5′ deep.  Anything that goes bigger that 3’x3′ seems to jump to 6’6″ tall; I did find an larger mammoth tent that stayed 6′ tall (still wasnt 7×5 though), but it was on a british website and no one could tell me if it was available in Canada. Oh well, next fall maybe. (and maybe it’ll be inside with IBC Totes!).

So we’ll pull what we can off the plants before the weekend, and cleanup the greenhouse, moving the fish inside today.

 

  

I Am Falling And I Cant Catch Up!

Fall is here and there is just so much going on and things needing done it is almost impossible for us to keep up!

Lets do some catch up:

We just completed working with Rob and Michelle Avis from Verge Permaculture where we were showing our yard, talking food security and food safety and teaching aquaculture and aquaponics.

The course was absolutely amazing and we got to meet a lot of very cool and interesting people from all over Canada taking steps in the Permaculture Design world.

Just prior to the course, we also had the opportunity to meet and greet Geoff Lawton as he was here with Verge Permaculture to put on a seminar. Michell and Rob had Geoff come by to take a look at our yard and ended up shooting some video and doing an interview with me on aquaponics.

This was one heck on an honor in more ways than one seeing as the man shooting the video is none other than Frank Gapinski from EcoFilms Australia, who not only shoots all of the videos for Geoff, but also has done up all of the videos for Murray Hallam.

Picture of Frank, Gord and Geoff

From Left to Right, Frank Gapinski, Gord Hayes, Geoff Lawton

 

I still cant thank the folks (Rob and Michelle) from Verge Permaculture enough for the cool opportunities and awesome experiences!

Shawn Cornish and his lovely wife Sharron came to our last face to face meet up and dropped some interesting news on a group deal for plasma lighting. They are putting together a package deal based on the number of lights that people sign up to get, so the numbers are a bit of a floating target at this point but if you are looking for supplemental lighting for this fall and winter, this may be your chance to jump in at a good price point.

You can find out more on the lights by going to www.switchgrow.com

Shawn also showed us some cool new LED Christmas and accent lighting that is low energy in more ways than one. The lighting that he is offering not only uses low levels of electricity for power but also come in a housing that makes the lights virtually invisible when not in use and gives you the ability to leave them up year round.

The lights are totally programmable and give you the ability to change colours and program display patterns and have the options of basic controls through to hooking up to a full DMX system to music synch and more.

For more info on the LED accent and Christmas Lights, check out www.mota-works.com

If you want to see any of these in action and in person, come check out the Face To Face Meetup Sunday September 21 where you can also talk to some of the other folks in the Aquaponic Community.

Now that the temperatures are starting to go down and the plants have started to run their course, we have started up our preparation for fall and winter. We did a massive harvest of the greenhouse (although we still have a lot more to go) and put the walls back up to protect things from the temperature drops.

We have also started taking a few more steps in getting the solar concentrator up and running for heating the greenhouse this winter with the addition of the pole erected in the back yard and the mount for the unit being welded on.

A huge thank you to Tim Skoger (a member of the Verge Permaculture Course) and his dad Sam Skoger (Who happens to be a welder) for getting the mount welded tot he pole for me!

I hope to have more progress to report on the concentrator soon as time and finances allow!

Latest update video:

If you want to check it out however, we will have it and a few other items as well as an aquaponic display at the Calgary Makers Faire next weekend!

Calgary Mini Maker Faire

Calgary Mini Maker Faire

We will again be at the Calgary Makers Faire for the weekend of September 6 and 7 presenting aquaponics along with some of the coolest creations, inventions and projects you have ever seen.

Come down and say hi as you look around the Makers Faire and the interactive Spark Science Centre exhibits, This is a show that should not be missed out on. There is honestly something for everyone at this event!

We are also about to start up our 2014 Alberta Aquaponics Sustainable Communities Initiative Campaign

We are about to step up our efforts in getting the community involved in helping us attain our goal of an Aquaponic Garden implemented at Prince of Peace.

I am asking for your help.

We are in need to $50,000.00 to implement a safe and reliable turnkey aquaponic system for the Prince of Peace Community.

$50,000.00 seems like a lot of money but the returns are well worth the investment.

With this investment we are attempting to:

1) Offset the costs of produce for the seniors in the community.

– At this point the estimated costs of produce for the community are around $5,000.00 a week. We believe that we can offset these costs
by up to 80% with the gardens growing the best and healthiest fresh produce for the people there.

** If we are successful, this alone will cover the costs of implementation within two years.

2) Create physiotherapy

– The turnkey gardens are a raised bed design allowing for wheelchair access. There is no stooping or bending that can be problematic on the joints.

With the gardens being available to the seniors to tend, it gives them the ability to move and interact with in a garden environment where they are able to get excessive. Over this they are producing their own food giving them all a sense of self worth an accomplishment that should also convert to be a cost savings for everyone living there.

3) Preventative Health Care

– Inadequate intake of nutrition affects up to 40% of individuals over 65 years of age (Ryan et al., 1992). In addition, the vast majority of older North Americans have chronic conditions in which nutrition interventions have been demonstrated to be effective in improving health and quality-of-life outcomes. 87% of older North Americans have nutrition related issues such as diabetes and hypertension, dyslipidemia, or a combination of these chronic diseases (NCHS, 1997). These conditions all have adverse outcomes that can be controlled or reduced and in some cases reversed with appropriate nutrition intervention.

Nutrition is an ever increasing issue with the elderly, even in residential care facilities. Factors such as economic bottom lines, access to quality produce and even what is on the produce can all have an impact on the health and well being of the residents.

Offering up pure food choices of healthy produce can have substantial cost savings and be a proactive methodology in health service provision within a care facility.

** The bottom line of this comes to a cost savings not just for the person in the care facility, but for everyone who is paying into the health care system.

You can help by donating to the cause at the right of the page, and by getting involved in spreading the word and getting others involved.

You can find out more information on the project in our Project Page.

  
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