Alberta Aquaponics

We Will Grow On You!

Alberta Aquaponics - We Will Grow On You!

2017 Alberta Climate Summit

I am happy to announce that I have just confirmed our involvement with the 2017 Pembina Climate Summit on Thursday September 28, 2017 and acting as a representative for the EVAA and for the EVAAB.ca.

Image result for pembina climate summit 2017We will be not only attending the climate summit this year, but will also have our 2016 Nissan Leaf on display and answering questions on electric vehicles and electric vehicle ownership during the event breaks! If you are attending the event, please stop by and say “Hi”!

This year is the 3rd annual Alberta Climate Summit — the event for innovative thinking and knowledge sharing on energy and climate in Alberta. This year’s event will showcase the innovation and opportunities around clean energy that are already underway in Alberta.

The event will bring together 500+ thought leaders from industry, government, environmental NGOs, and community stakeholders to learn from success stories, identify opportunities and challenges, and explore solutions related to Alberta’s clean energy future.

This year, areas of focus will include energy efficiency, renewable energy, clean technology and innovation, methane control, climate finance, and Indigenous energy solutions. Read more about the sessions and focus areas here

Return Of Ramblings And Reasons

It has been just about a year since I last posted on the website.

I would like to say I am sorry for the absence, but that would be a lie. In fact, I think I needed to take that break and distance myself for a while, gather some head space and resolve some things out. 

Last year had a bunch of things happen on the aquaponic related side that left me somewhat gutted and had me questioning why I was doing anything.

This may sound a bit bemoaning, but I think after a year of being silent on the website I owe at least some kind of explanation. 

We attempted to grow Alberta Aqauaponics and possibly take a different tact that would create a sustaining income rather than funding everything out of pocket.

We wanted to keep the Ubuntu process and mentality as we went along and attempted to bring some others in to work together with us, sadly, we discovered there are some people out there that let greed and ego bleed into good intentions and for some reason believe the only means of success is the failure of someone else.

We lost a bit on the attempt and decided to go back to where we were prior, which was a bit disheartening, but a learning lesson.

The frustration we felt was then compounded shortly there after when YouTube killed all of our aquaponic videos. The history of everything we had done over the years, good and bad and the lessons learned being lost left me gutted. (We never did get an answer as to why it happened and could not get them restored.)

During this we were doing the greenhouse rebuild where I had some failures on the physical side where I let myself down with not being able to do the tasks that needed to be done. The inability to take on the project myself, lack of progress and looming winter deadlines took their toll.

My frustration in myself was definitely having an impact on both Donna and I, making the build even harder. What should have been a fun project and bonding for the two of us more often than not concluded with me being angry at myself, being in pain and sadly unfairly taking it out on Donna (Sorry for being a cranky jerk face <I can’t use the words I should use on here> I appreciate everything you have done in my life and cant begin to show you how much.).  

In short, our attempts to make Alberta Aquaponics bigger and better put me in a head space that I did not want to be in, so as a result, I just backed away from the website, the meets and even talking about what we were doing. 

That brings me to now.

A year out, and I am looking back at the break and believing it was a good thing. I have had some time to digest what happened, rethink where I want to go with Alberta Aquaponics and maybe start looking at the greenhouse as being my refuge again rather than my chore and failing.

So here is what I have decided.

I still have no means of making Alberta Aquaponics financially sustainable, so I am going to limit the investment in attempting to make it so.  I am going to do stuff that makes me happy and get rid of all the crap that is not.

That means a bit of a change up.

I have always said that aquaponics is but one piece of a very much larger of puzzle picture for overall sustainability, so as of today, Alberta Aquaponics may be a bit misleading for a name. I have taken flack on being off topic of aquaponics in past from a few people, so if you are only about aquaponics, you may want to just end viewing the site and Facebook group now.

You will be seeing a lot more of things like Solar PV energy creation, Solar cooking, electric vehicle adoption going along with aquaponics, urban farming and about 100 other things that I like.

Over this past year, I have still been involved in doing other things. I have created a Facebook group called the Alberta Canada Solar Cookers for solar cooking adoption and have started up an Electric Vehicle group with a website of www.evaab.ca along with a Facebook group for electric vehicle adoption. By all means, please come get involved in the other ventures.

You will be seeing a lot more blending from all of the sites and groups on the Alberta Aquaponics website and Facebook group from now on.

The site will be active again, just maybe in a different direction than what it has been.

I hope that you will continue to hang out with me and assist in the new tact, and thank you for still being here to read any of this after a year of assessment.

  

 

Greenhouse Rebuild

Alberta Aquaponics needs a new Greenhouse!

Donna and I have been struggling with the greenhouse this year. We have problems with our grow bed tables starting to warp from the weight and humidity, Issues with the plastic poly around the greenhouse, limitations on our growing area and being able to access produce and problems with heating and cooling the greenhouse year round.

We would like to change things up.

Currently we have a used single car garage frame that we have used for our greenhouse. Its dimensions are 21′ x 11′ by 9′ tall. Surrounding our greenhouse, we are using nothing more than 7mil poly and bubble wrap for the winter months and just the 7 mil poly in the summer.

Plastic over the greenhouse

Greenhouse When it was first built

Although we have been able to grow through out the winter in our greenhouse, it has been at a cost due to the inefficiencies the greenhouse has. The solar concentrators have helped, but also need to be updated and made better to resolve the issues of the heating without the breakdowns that we have had from the solar tracker losing the sun from time to time.

The in floor heating from the solar concentrators is limited and needs to be extended under the grow beds, and more room in the greenhouse is required for both the water battery for radiant heat and the rabbits for over wintering. We would also like to move the worm farm inside the greenhouse to act as another heat source.

This summer we were hit with a hail storm that devastated our plant production due to the need of us having to remove the end walls of the greenhouse to allow for air flow. The hail came in both sides of the greenhouse and ripped the plants apart. The cold water was then collected in the grow bed and funneled into the fish tanks where we ended up with some pretty harsh losses.

The tables and grow bed supports we have in play are also in need of some much needed repairs. The tables, although reinforced and made as heavy as we could make them with wood, are starting to warp from the humidity and weight on them and are also in need to replacement.

Grow Bed Table

Grow bed table needs to be replaced

We also need to re-insulate and cover the greenhouse this fall. The hail managed to put some divots into the greenhouse and caused a couple of small punctures that need to be resolved before winter comes. (We have them covered with duct tape at the moment to get us through until replacement.)

As you can see, this is turning into a laundry list of problems that we would like to see resolved.

We have been thinking about the issues for the last few weeks and have come up with a plan.

We would like to rebuild and expand the greenhouse to be 24′ long, 16′ wide and 8′ tall. We believe that this will increase our growing capacity by 60%, make the greenhouse more efficient for temperature control, offer up a better education and training facility and be a safer long term structure over all.

Lets start at the bottom and work up.

We would like to put in a better layout of the in floor heating for the solar concentrators, making sure that they go to the outside edges of the greenhouse. This will better stave off the cold int eh winter and make growing a lot easier with fewer losses.

Once the in floor heating is installed we would like to put sidewalk blocks over the entire floor of the greenhouse to level it off and stop the trip hazards that we have in there now. This would also act as our base for the new building structure.

We would like to do the main walls of the rebuild using pallet racking.

Pallet Racking

Our Proposed Construction Material

The pallet racking would provide a very stable, safe and secure structure frame. The grow beds would be able to sit directly on the shelves that are structurally made to hold them and sized for an IBC tote. The room for extra shelving would allow for more grow space, storage and potential passive heating systems to be incorporated.

Attached to the pallet racking on the outside, we would like to build super insulated panels from the ground level to the 4′ mark all around the greenhouse. The insulated panels would help in both maintaining the heat and cooling within the greenhouse as well as protecting the greenhouse long term from the elements.

Super Insulated Panel

Super Insulated Panel

On the upper sides and roof of the greenhouse we would like to install multi walled poly-carbonate panels so that we have a better insulation value for the winter and the ability to create automated venting windows for the summer months.

Polycarbonate Panel

Polycarbonate Panel

Going along with the build, we would also like to incorporate a few more items for the education side.

Along with the ebb flow growbeds and dutch buckets that we already run, we are planning to add in a deep water culture system, wicking aquaponic beds and create a spring starter area for starter plants.

We would also like to get a better water capture system in play for collecting the water from the greenhouse, and putting it in play for both the tank top ups and water batteries.

All of this plan sounds simple enough until we get into the costs of implementation. Materials on this project are over $10,000.00.

Our solar install this year has left us tapped for extra finances to make everything happen on our own. Although we have a small budget to do some of the work, we are unable to make a real change that would help long term on our own.

This is where we would like to ask for your help!

We are looking for donations to the project.

We have set a goal of $5,000.00 for the new greenhouse build to get all the materials so that we can begin construction before winter hits. We are trying to make this easy for people to donate. Simply click on the donation button at the right side of the Alberta Aquaponics website, put in the amount you want to contribute!

To quote a show I often quote, “winter is coming”.

I know, we are being hopeful, in trying to make this happen fast, but we need to get the rebuild in play or start doing band-aid fixes to get us through the winter months. We would prefer to do it right the first time and have a long term solution and investment.

We do not expect people to donate without getting anything back, so if we are successful in achieving our goal, we are going to give the folks that donate $25.00 or more an invite for a tour of the new greenhouse, a bunny BBQ and an afternoon of mingling with other supporters for spring of 2016! We will also create a Donators Webpage celebrating everyone who donated and help Alberta Aquaponics and the greenhouse build!

Please help us make the greenhouse a better facility and help Alberta Aquaponics grow by supporting and donating to our cause!

Thank you for being a part of our community and for thinking about helping us go farther!

Hail Storm And After Math

Last night we got hit with a pretty nasty hail storm. It started around 5:30 with hail that went until 6:30 and continued to pound rain until around 8:00 before calming down for the night.

I snapped a couple of pictures and did some video of the storm.

IMG_1852
IMG_1853
IMG_1854

The hail knocked out our community grow beds and shredded all the plants.
IMG_1865
IMG_1866
IMG_1867 IMG_1868
The hail managed to strip the leaves off the apple tree with such force that they are actually stuck 6 feet up the side of the house, 10 feet from the apple tree.

IMG_1857
IMG_1858

Today we still have piles of hail all over the yard.

IMG_1864
The greenhouse got hit as well finishing off the cucumbers and peppers that had already been hit by a power outage that starved our plants of water and made them wilt.

IMG_1861
IMG_1862
The melting hail also brought the temperatures in our tanks down in a dramatic fashion. As a result we lost another 12 fish.

I have yet to get on the garage roof to see the solar panels. It is still too wet for me to go up safely, so I will wait and cross my fingers that they all survived the onslaught.

This will end up definitely being well less than what we get out of our back yard as a norm for a summer.

As bad as all of this is, it could have been a lot worse. The house didn’t flood, we are all still safe and healthy and we can rebuild.

 

Spring Catch Up And Future Plans

To say that this has been a busy spring at Alberta Aquaponics would be an understatement.

In fact, I am not sure we are even at spring yet after looking outside this morning and seeing the snow covered everything that made me want to crawl back into bed.

Maybe there is our problem.

We have been sucked in by weather that has been highly unusual for Calgary that has egged us on to attempting to get everything going early and doubling our usual work load.

We have been doing a boat load of courses this year, both taking them and teaching them, which has been fantastic.

So far have already completed the Verge Permaculture course and the Permaculture tour that Ted Bahr from Prairie Sage Permaculture puts on for this spring as well as put on two of our own courses for the ABC’s of Aquaponics.

We also just completed the Alberta Government beekeeping course this weekend with our field day where we got some class time and had a chance to play with the bees.

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”2″ gal_title=”Beekeeping 2015″]

Over that, we have tilled and planted the grow beds in the front yard for our community gardens and have them in for an early start.

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”3″ gal_title=”Community Grow Beds 2015″]

We did add in some 1/2″ PVC and poly to act as a hoop house on all of the grow beds to ensure that we do not have any losses to things like the snow and frost we had last night and this morning.

We have been told by virtually everyone, that in the event it snows, it is all our fault for planting so early, so guess the white stuff out there this morning is all my fault for being sucked in by the weather.

For future things, I have started working on the change ups for Alberta Aquaponics for this spring.

We have a couple of ambitious projects and a bunch of smaller ones on the board for this summer and spring which include the upgraded installation of solar and the greenhouse rebuild.

We are going to upgrade our solar installation on our garage from 1 Kw to a 5Kw solar installation with a grid tie in using Microinverters.

We will be offering up a course on basic solar installation as we do the install. On the other side, everyone should have a basic understanding of the technology available, how to evaluate need, how to install the gear, how to maintain the gear and the permit process for making it all happen.

Stay tuned for dates within the next couple of weeks.

For the rebuild of the greenhouse, we are changing out our single car garage frame to a more efficient build based off of industrial pallet racking. The new build will be using S.I.P. technology for a better insulation factor, have the solar concentrator attached for water battery heating and include vermicomposting as a heating system.

As part of the new build and design we are planning to add in more grow bed space, a small seasonal N.F.T. system, a D.W.C. bed and a wicking grow bed.
This will be part of our Advanced Aquaponic Build Course for those interested.

This weekend  we are going to be hosting one of our yard tours. Saturday, May 16 from 1:00 – 4:00 we will be hosting a yard tour showing aquaponics, cunniculture (rabbit raising), vermicomposting, wicking grow beds, closed loop urban farming and much much more.

This is a free event for those who have taken our courses in 2015.

We will be following this up with our Face to Face meetup on Sunday, May 17, where we will get together for our monthly aquaponic meetup.

Come be a part of the community, bounce ideas, get information and have a few laughs with the aquaponic folks in the area! Always a great time and a lot of fun!

This is all just the start of what we have planned for 2015, so lets get busy, stay tuned and be involved!

The Spring Bug Is Back And Eradicated From Our Server!

Donna and I spent the weekend getting a bunch of spring stuff sorted out.

First off, we spent a bunch of time cleaning up the server and getting it back up and running (not a lot of fun on that project). After the melt down and issues we are taking a bit of a loss for the year that has just started and as a result may have to cut out some of the projects we wanted to make happen this year.

Our plans were lengthy for this year. We wanted to rebuild the greenhouse and make it more efficient, knock down the two pine trees in the front yard, replace them with another 6 wicking grow beds for our community garden, add in another 5KW of solar to the mix to take everything off grid and rebuild the flow through vermacomposter and bunny hutches all over and above everything else we normally do.

At this point I am not sure how much we are going to be able to make happen, but I am still hopeful and time will tell.

aeroponic sytarters

One of the starter Aeroponic systems for the seedlings.

We now have just over 600 plants started for the greenhouse and community garden wicking beds, and I can honestly tell you that I am hyped to get growing!

I keep going into the greenhouse and looking at the plants in there with the intent of mass harvesting and replanting with the starters. I know it is still a little early for it and that our starters are still a bit young and unhardened for the move, but the urge is strong and the want is almost overpowering.

I can wait until we have a full lush greenhouse again filled with amazing plants and activity. The hardest part of winter is the wait for the big growing season again. The winter growing is ok, but it is just not the same as the lush look and feel of the summer. (Granted it may have a lot more to do with the light and the temperatures, but the feelings between the two seasons are immense).

For now, all I can do is sit and plan.

Its a good thing we have the face to face meet ups to at least help deal with the additions of  aquaponics and the long, hard seasons while we wait! Of which, our next Face to Face meeting is on April 19.

As for the short term action, we are getting ready for spring with another ABC’s of Aquaponics Course for May 2.

I am again hyped for meeting new eager people looking to get into aquaponics and help in getting them started!

We got to get to know a lot of very cool people from the last course, with many of them actively planning and creating aquaponics systems now.

A couple of them have already put in orders for fish and have received their licenses.

Sean Morish has created up a Turnkey Aquaponic system that we had the chance to debut at Seedy Saturday.

turnkey demo
Although the one we showed was a cut down version for a road show, making it easier to carry and set up, he is working hard on a full sized system that we should have up in the store soon.

The new Turnkey Aquaponic system is going to be based off of a 70 gallon aquarium with a 4′ x 2′ x 1′ grow bed. The unit is a three piece system with the grow bed being removable, the stand to support the grow bed and protect the fish tank and the tank stand which is a roll out tray allowing you access to the fish and pumps.

The high side of the unit is that it is large enough scale for success, home decor friendly and a turnkey system that you can just put together and start cycling.

In that this system is not the industrial look of most of the DIY aquaponics systems, we expect that this will be a lot more accepted as a piece of furniture in a living room or family room setting, making it a true showcase for aquaponics and what it has to offer.

Sean is working hard on putting together a few options for the unit including addons like a hanging light mounts and customization.

I can report that the demo turnkey system is now running in my living room as a replacement to the barrelponic system that was there. The unit has been running trouble free with both the fish and the plants very happy and healthy within it. I suggest that you have a good look at it when you are by next and evaluate it for yourself.

Stay tuned for more information and updates in the near future.

We are working on getting a bunch of new products for people shortly. We have been working with some new suppliers and sorting out some of the logistic issues at the moment, but many new and awesome products should be available shortly.

We have started adding in a few of the products in the shop and have hopes that we will have product in stock within the month.

Barring any more bugs and issues we should be back on track with lots of updates and information coming to you soon!

Alberta Fisheries Regulation Stakeholder Consultation

The ESRD is looking for change up the laws of the land in regards to licensing and restrictions. They have a survey up that I have just been given the green light in making public for everyone to take part in.

As a person who is a part of Alberta Aquaponics, I believe that we all have a vested interest in the outcome of the upcoming legislation changes, and I urge you to take the survey and make your opinions known.

The survey is  anonymous unless you wish to disclose information in your replies. and is running until January 15, 2015.

The survey can be found here: Alberta Fisheries Regulation Stakeholder Consultation Survey

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.

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!


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.

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.

SignTinFoilHatArea

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!

Alberta Aquaponics Legislation Reform

news flashAs and update to the post on the meeting with the ESRD on legislation, we have taken the opinions of everyone and created both an Alberta Aquaponics Society (on facebook) for those that want to sign up and be a part as well as a petition for the ESRD and Alberta Environment Minister for the signatures of support for the letters we are submitting.

Please sign up for the petition for Aquaponics Legislation Reform and get involved and or sign up for the Alberta Aquaponics Society.