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In this episode, Dr. Storey describes what each type of system is used for, and how to choose a system for your use.
There are three main types of aquaponics systems:
- Media-based systems include IBC based systems and media beds. These are typically simple and inexpensive but difficult to scale.
- DWC (Deep Water Culture)/raft systems are common for commercial growing. Made popular by Dr. Rakocy at the University of Virgin Islands during the 80’s through 90’s, raft system design has not changed significantly in the past few decades.
- Vertical systems are a recent development. This is what we at Bright Agrotech use, because they use space efficiently and allow us to do live sales, which means reduced labor costs. There are a few tower designs out there, but we prefer our ZipGrow towers.
What are they each used for?
- Media based systems are good for hobby systems, but in a a greenhouse setting, require a lot of labor and are hard to scale up.
- Raft systems were made for tropical areas, where maintaining root zone temperature is important. (The thermal mass of the water is enormous and doesn’t vary much, so a raft system provides consistency.) Raft systems, however, have a high labor cost, and aren’t as practical for commercial growers.
- Towers, or vertical systems, work best in northern climates, where space use is important, and growers need to sell into various markets. Towers favor small-structured crops such as herbs but have a harder time with larger plants such as tomatoes.
When choosing a technique, consider:
- Crop (Is your crop plant small or large? What type of system can host this crop?)
- Cost (Operating costs are as important as front-end costs.)
- Return on investment (money making potential)
- Ease of use (Does the system work with your greenhouse layout, employee limitations, pest control, etc.?)
- Intended use (Are you building a system for a green wall? education? commercial production?)
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