Aquaponics Workshops in Sydney: aiming to truly close the loop

Just a quick note that we’ve scheduled some spring Aquaponics Workshops in Sydney, which are 2 days of intensive aquaponics how-to and why-to with Charlie Bacon (Ecolicious) + Nick Ritar (Milkwood).

While the basics of Aquaponics can be quite simple, there’s a lot of ways to do it in a way that enhances growing conditions for both fish and plants while still adhering to permaculture principles, which ensures you don’t end up with an input-heavy system disguised as a closed-loop one. Which is the kind of knowledge that this workshop is all about…

Super happy DIY aquaponics system in Alice Springs, growing vast volumes of greens in the desert

For example – the fish in an aquaponics system (unless you’re using goldfish, i.e. fish not intended for eating but just for their nutrient (poo) contributions) need to be fed. You could feed them with fish pellets, or fish food, but to us that would defeat the purpose of an aquaponics system as aiming to be a closed loop system.

Happily there are lots of ways to generate high-protein fish food as part of your larger permaculture system that don’t involve buying in pellets made of ocean-caught fish ground to a pulp. Just some of these foods include black soldier fly larvae, compost worms, and duckweed.

Duckweed growing in a simple container in a fishpond – easily containable and harvestable when needed

Duckweed is a high-protein fish food that can be grown in the fishpond of an aquaponics system in contained areas, and fed to the fish periodically. You can even freeze it in cubes for year-round supply.

Black Soldier Fly larvae are a great fish food that are high in protein and easily ‘grown’ in either a DIY system or an off-the-shelf system such as a biopod, using kitchen waste or even dog poo. Now we’re talking integrated systems in a backyard context!

And then of course there’s compost worms, another great fish food. Once you get the hang of worm farming, a happy system breeds up worms to spare. Many, in fact. And it just so happens that the outputs of a black soldier fly larvae system make perfect worm farm inputs. Further integration, and all from household waste!

So that’s the fish food sorted. Now to the vegetables. You can grow many things in an aquaponics system, in many different ways. You can have a regular type growbed that produces greens and other veggies, or you can get a little fancy.

The below video shows growing wheatgrass in a backyard aquaponics system, which is a great way to grow this food with minimal inputs. The same technique could be applied to microgreens.

No space for growbeds? Apartment dwelling? Not a problem. If you have space for a fish tank and either a patio or a window, you could always set up a vertical aquaponics system.

Veritcal balcony aquaponics system with fishpond below. Image and system by Charlie Bacon of Ecolicious, Sydney

Vertical ‘window farm’ style DIY aquaponics system by Joss Culter, Sydney.

So there you have it. The many faces of aquaponics. The thing we like about this growing technique is that it scales from apartment to farm without trouble. We can’t wait to get aquaponics going at Milkwood Farm, a project that will be headed by Floyd Constable, following his work in Thailand constructing aquaponics systems on a community scale…

Community-scale aquaponics system by Floyd Constable in Thailand (seen above in mid-construction). The produce from this garden easily out-produced soil-based veggie beds nearby.

So if you’d like to skill up in Aquaponics, we’re running 2 courses in Sydney this spring. The course includes two days of theory and practice of aquaponics, as well as a guided design exercise where you can brainstorm an aquaponics system for your own home, and get feedback on what would work best for you.

Another of Charlie from Ecolicious’s aquaponics systems, this one using all recycled materials for the growbed. Who wouldn’t want to build one of these in their backyard, especially if it grows all the greens and herbs you need! Image by EcoFilms

>> More posts about DIY aquaponics systems that we’ve seen and built at Milkwood

7 Comments

  1. Posted June 18, 2012 at 9:06 am | Permalink | Reply

    Reblogged this on isismystery and commented:
    Aquaponics a true solution for the future!

  2. Posted June 18, 2012 at 10:25 am | Permalink | Reply

    I was just researching aquaponics the day before – brilliant timing and info, thanks :)

  3. Posted June 18, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Reblogged this on Upwey Permaculture Class Notes Feb-Mar 2012.

  4. El
    Posted July 10, 2013 at 5:02 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I have read about using duckweed & soldier worms for fish food, but usually in the context of some suplimentary pellet feeding. How much inferstructure does it take to produce all the fish food. I would not be able to access the workshops because of distance and other limitations. I am also interested in any information about the quantity of vegetables and fish that could be grown in a given sized system. (I could then scale the information to meet my own requirements). I live in South East Queensland if that helps.

  5. jayatma
    Posted July 20, 2013 at 4:05 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Kirsten, do you know a NSW provider of BSFs or biopods?

    • Posted July 20, 2013 at 5:54 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Jayatma no I don’t sorry, I think the AU distro of biopods is Murray Hallam in Qld… Let me know if you find any nsw suppliers? X

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