Episode 4 – Types of Aquaponics Systems

Episode 4 – Types of Aquaponics Systems
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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.

 

Show Notes:

There are three main types of aquaponics systems:

  1. Media-based systems  include IBC based systems and media beds. These are typically simple and inexpensive but difficult to scale.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?)
  • Climate
  • Market
  • Space
  • 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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10 Comments

  1. You guys never cease to amaze me

    Reply
  2. I’m thinking of using media beds as a germination / nitrification stage in a zipgrow system.

    I want to have a media bed for research and a strong vermiculture and I’m interested in additional elements like hanging basket attachments to zipgrow’s for tubars and strawberry’s and tomatoes.

    Are Crop Supports addon’s in the works ?

    Reply
    • Hey Farmer Joe,
      If you’re interested in growing tubers and other root crops then a hydroton media bed is probably the way to go. ZipGrow towers will work really well for all of your vermiculture though, and heavier crops will do fine in towers, you just have to secure the towers and let the plants do the rest. Some folks will trellis heavier towers of tomatoes and cucumbers with netting or similar to help support the plants. Strawberries don’t need support though. They’ll do really well in regular towers with no add-ons at all.

      We have been thinking about special supports to use with towers for a while now. They’re definitely on the list of products that we’ll be working on in the coming months.

      Thanks for following the blog!

      -Nate

      Reply
  3. Another well done podcast! Thanks for all the great information.

    Reply
    • So glad you’re finding it useful, Zac!

      Reply
  4. I have been trying hydroponics and Aquaponics, but i seem to have trouble with the fertilizer, my lattuce/salat do not grow in to heads, but go “in stock”, meening they grow very good, and are very crispy, but they dont look good.

    Do you have any advise, they must be missing something or getting to much of something… :-(

    Reply
  5. You mentioned that raft systems are more suited for tropical climates and that towers work best in northern climates. Could you elaborate more on why towers work better in a northern climate as compared to a tropical one ?

    Thanks

    Reply
    • Hey Joe, sure thing. We actually have a few videos on this subject (http://youtu.be/s0MXcSdcrdk), but the main reason is to utilize as much light as possible with a lower sun angle. Our light here in the northern hemisphere is much lower for half of the year compared to those in tropical climates along the equator. When your sun angle is lower, your light quality is lower as well and so it’s important to maximize that light as best we can if we’re going to grow successfully and make a living farming. Here’s a bit more on that: http://brightagrotech.com/zipgrow-light/

      Reply
      • Thanks for the reply ! So in the tropics it is right to say we have better light quality as compared to the the northern hemisphere, however does that mean that towers would work better or equally well when implemented in the tropics ?

        Reply
  6. Thanks for the prompt reply ! So in the tropics it is right to say we have better light quality as compared to the the northern hemisphere, does that mean that towers would work better or equally well when implemented in the tropics ?

    Reply

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