Understanding Aquaponics and Growing Food
Submitted by Damien Hinkson
My first true commercial farm upgrade to aquaponics (AP) is complete, the first of many more as the commercial farmers are rushing to exploit the labor saving qualities of AP. This type of farming comfortably puts you in the .3 to .7 worker per acre range, amazingly, with no additional labour skill sets required. This reduction in labor is replaced with small, constant energy usage.
When upgrading, priority is to utilize materials from on-site, the aim is to keep this as simple and cost effective as possible. Most pioneering farmers have usable materials from past projects, check. I wouldn’t go as far as to advice on system design because all systems, programs and growers are unique; however experience and good system design when converting are crucial for the continuity of the farm.
As a long time consultant on all things aquaponic and farming in general there are certain dynamics I have become acutely aware of in regards to farm and farmer for a project to be a success. I have some important ones list out here.
Clearly defining expectations and limitations, when upgrading a farm it has a program set in stone that works, and it is usually all in the growers head, they went thru so many labors and taught, re-taught and adjust it so often it’s highly unlikely that the program is written down in any detail, you first must extract that program, it should take 3 weeks observation and working with the grower as the grower usually will now have to document it himself. Each farm is unique and each successful grower is just as unique, in fact I would say unless you asked for it in advance if there is a readily available written accurate program that’s a red flag the grower is green.
Find the core workers, a farm is a very efficient machine and anyone there definitely is not unproductive, at the same time farming is seasonal and the ebb and flow of seasons sees workers coming and going. There will be a set of core workers that are there because they are dependable and understand the program. Usually the amount is .3 to.7 per acre. This is your labor for the new system. Disregard everyone else. Build a relationship with these and draw the relevant information from them also beginning the process of training in building the new system, after all they are your manual labor.
When switching over to the new system your fertilization program is the biggest change, you’re going to have to heavily rely on foliar feeding until bio filtration and root zone activity is converting efficiently enough, which if done right should take one growing season. Pest control should remain more or less unchanged. With this info it is possible to keep a farm in the green during the whole upgrade. If you’re interested in upgrading your commercial farm in the most financially viable way, be sure to contact me for a quote.