We Will Grow On You!

Alberta Aquaponics - We Will Grow On You!

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.


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.


The Circular Course

Things have been awesome the last few weeks with so much going on and so many new people I am getting to meet!

I had the fortune of teaching a bit of aquaponics and aquaculture for Rob and Michelle Avis and Verge Permaculture during the Permaculture Development Course (PDC). The PDC tour had about 25 folks from the course going around Calgary seeing all kinds of permaculture folks ranging from the Leaf Ninjas, Rob and Michelles incredible location through to our little back yard.

In our yard, we started on the wicking growbeds in the front yard and then moved around back and went over a bit on aquaponics, solar and alternative energy, vermacomposting and even cunnyculture.

Although I am sure I did my usual and talked way too much and went over my allotted time, The folks from the tour said they got a lot of good information and that our yard was pretty cool.

Donna and I decided to roast up a couple of rabbits for people to try and gave out some of the produce from the gardens. All of which seemed to be appreciated and enjoyed.

For me it was awesome just hearing that what we are doing is something that other people are interested in and believe is a model that they should follow in their own lives and designs.

My ego is more than stroked as a result! I cant wait to do it all over again later this month for the next PDC course and tour.

I strongly suggest the Permaculture Design Course to everyone wanting to take their lives and yards to a totally new level.

The people I have met through the PDC course have been amazing and I even had some reconnections that I never expected.

We had a couple of folks from the course ask about meeting a person in Medicine Hat who had a solar concentrator that looked a lot like mine and was doing aquaponics there. They said he was doing some amazing stuff in his back yard and was showing kids all of it in the area.

From the description they started out with I could not place the person until they made a comment about how amazing he was and how he even has a son that is an Olympian figure skater.

It was at that point that the penny dropped and I figured out who it was.

Rian, from Medicine Hat met up with me a couple of months ago to purchase fish and to have a look around. We went through everything in the back yard including the solar concentrator which he even went as far as creating his own based off of my design.

Its amazing to me how many people travel in the same circles and meet people all over the place and how interconnected we all actually are and how far a simple idea can go.

Funny enough Rian called me again a couple of days after the course and then came back to Calgary the following day to pick up some uniseals for his build expansion and to go over more build ideas.

He is just as amazed by the folks who took the PDC course and how connected we all are.

In my mind, it is all very cool.

On the subject of connecting, we have been asked again to participate in the Makers Faire this year on September 6 and 7. We have been confirmed to have a table again showing aquaponics at this very cool event!

For those who have never been to the Makers Faire, I strongly suggest making it out to the event. The number of creative people and projects ranging from low tech to high tech in Calgary is amazing and this is a true showcase for all of it. Please put it on your calendar and come down to the Telus Science Centre for the event and say “hi”!

On the subject of saying hi, we have been talking to a few folks in Edmonton who are looking at setting up a face to face meet up of sorts up there getting the aquaponics community together and going. If you are in the Edmonton area, please get in contact with them on our Facebook group page or in the forums on our website and get involved.

We are working behind the scenes here very hard on getting some new things up and going. Big things are brewing.

Expect that at the next Alberta Aquaponics Face To Face Meet up here in Calgary, we will have a bunch of cool new news to drop and possibly even a deal or two that you may be interested in. (As if you need another reason to want to come to the face to face meet up.)

On the update side, I have a fairly lengthy update and some answers to questions that have been sent in over the last while. I suggest getting a drink and a snack before playing this one.

Please keep those questions and comments coming.

More to come soon!



New to the game. Sorta.

Hello everyone,

Hmm, how to start?

First with an apology. I was meaning to begin my blog here on Alberta Aquaponics, last week. However in that time I have had technical difficulties aplenty. Even now I’m writing from my phone. Hopefully all these issues will be resolved by the end of next week and I can write a proper blog with pictures, bells and shiny objects.

For today though, a brief introduction.

I’m Sean, some people call me Cloud or Cloudish. I answer all. I’m a humble carpenter who was born in Canada, raised in Australia, and returned to Canada to start anew. I love aquaponics and obsess over it constantly. I’m also fairly new to the game though I did start off with a barramundi and some tomatoes in Australia. I’m a big fan of creating new and interesting way to work my systems, often failing in a hilarious fashion. But I have a lot of fun doing it.

I do like to be stubborn and often believe that, just because someone else tried it and failed, doesn’t mean I will. I like to try new things even if someone tells me it won’t work. This has paid off almost as much as it has failed, but hey, you can fail a hundred times, you only need to succeed once.

So, my disclaimer. Everything I will write and post here will be my jumble of experiments and learning experiences. I hope it helps you along your journey as you learn from both my failures and successes. Just as I hope to learn from others. My opinions, will be from my experiences and should in no way be construed as anything other than the ravings of a madman, who may just be right!

hopefully this will be fun for everyone.

Please, join me next time to learn about my current struggle with salt in my tap water and also I will add some diagrams of my current set ups, as well as the “blueprints” for my next one.



Always do more research

Upon further research and looking at more pictures, it appears that my “dark spots” may be Early Blight (which are now all gone).  and upon further inspection and picture comparison (and re-reading forums posts, etc), I now think the cucumber plants are sucking all the potassium out of the grow bed as Gord suggested.  Textual descriptions of the early stages of Early Blight described it a lot like potassium deficiency, however looking at more pictures I see the dark spots I had were probably early blight, and the leaf edges going brown is possibly -K.

However, Aquaponics is multi-factored.  My pH is a smidge high at 7.2,  so I’m going to wait for my pH to come down a little more before looking at adding any micronutrients.  In the mean time any leaves showing deficiencies or diseases get trimmed to help the plant focus its energies on growing the fruit.


Illuminating The World With Info..

This video update is a little on the strange side considering what we normally put up, but I had to post this anyway.

Last night we had Shawn and Sharron Cornish come over from Switch Advanced Lighting. They brought with them a couple of the plasma lights that they sell for us to have a look at while we babbled.

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This is a bit of video from the demo of the lights:

Sadly, the video did not pick up on the 1000 Watt powering up and show the plasma kicking it as I had hoped. Trust me, it was pretty darned cool.

I know that there have been a bunch of people interested in plasma lighting, wanting more information and wanting to see the units live and in person. I am going to see if I can get a group together and see if Shawn and Sharron are willing to do another demo of the unit for everyone after the next Face to Face Meet up.

I am sure there will be a ton of questions after this one, but Sharron and Shawn are both on the Facebook Group Page for Alberta Aquaponics, so feel free to hit them with the questions there.

I am also going to see if I can get some prices and product information to add to the website on everything they have to offer.


My first Horticulture/Botany/Ecology lesson

I am an IT guy. I am definitely not a horticulturist, or botanist, or ecologist, or farmer or anything to do with nature, other than enjoy it when I can. So when I noticed that my a few of my plants started have brown leave edges, and it was spreading and some brown spots and some blotchiness on a lot of leaves, I had to go hit the Internet and do some research.  I found that the tomato plant may have had the beginning stage of “Early Blight”, a fungus.  This was causing the leaf edges to brown and after that things get real bad. Short of using a fungicide, cutting the leaves off appears to be the only way to “nip it in the bud”.  I didn’t see anything that resembled my brown spots or my “blotchiness”, but I cut those leaves off as well.

Lesson #1:  Prevention of Fungus’s (Fungi’s?).  Keep leaves off the soil or grow media.  The leaves should be kept dry, well ventilated with sun exposure.  (What did I know?  I liked to splash water all over the leaves when topping up my AP system :(  )


Kevin’s Blog Area

Kevin is yet another person who has worked hard on getting his aquaponic system together and has started doing video updates on his journey.

He needed a place to post up all of his hard work, so he now has an area on the site to show the work he is doing.

Please help me in welcome Kevin to the site and cheering him on in his updates and successes!

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