Floyd’s ‘crop circle’ aquaponics system

Here’s a couple of photos of an Aquaponics system our friend Floyd recently built in Thailand. His brief was to provide fish, herbs and greens for the staff of an island-based business, on a site that was not exactly prime growing medium (read: sand)…

Floyd designed a system where the growbeds sat directly above the sump ponds, which were submerged in the sand. The outside of each ‘crop circle’ was then clad in logs.

From Floyd:

There is only 1 water pump, and 1 air pump….these and the round grow beds were the only brand new items purchased….the pump is connected to a largish solar array that powers some other things around the place… so our power is ‘sustainable’ in a limited sense if we must use that word…

The fish are tilapia and we have successfully bred them in the system We have a 2000L fish tank as the main tank, and a 700L nursery tank. All salvaged items…after our initial purchased of 100 fingerlings, we now have our own ‘sustainable’ supply.

Of course it is most necessary to feed the fish. I feed them as much kang kong and duck weed as I can, which is harvested out of a nearby storm water drain. We also feed vast quantities of worms and BSF larvae. This dramatically reduces the amount of pellets used (which are made from by products of the Thai aquaculture industry)

Pellets are not nice, I agree, but in the early days until a local homegrown solution can be reached, they are necessary. As Ive previously mentioned, we try to use as much home grown feed as possible. In fact the system has been operational for 1 years now, and has only consumed 30-40kgs of pellets. This was mostly in the first few months while things were getting established…in the first half of this year only 10kgs have been used… bear in mind we have grown over 200 plate sized fish and several hundred kgs of veg,,,,

Also, the fancy and somewhat complicated design and aesthetic was a request of the client due to the high profile location of the system, and also as a means of engaging and interesting a wider potential audience to inspire….and it worked….shortly after this system went online, locals were putting together their own far simpler versions…

sooo….we make our own power, grown our own feed, and breed our own fish….not bad for a new system in a place thats never had one before…

oh, and the round grow beds just happened to the only containers I could easily source that gave me a deep enough zone to grow veg, and experiment with fruit trees….they currently have pawpaws and limes growing in them as a mid to over story….so form is following function, and the form looks good.

Oh, and absolutely no issue with mosquitos or any other pests breeding up in any part of the system. The water is constantly flowing, with absolutely no where for it to gather and stagnate, or accomodate pests and larvae.

Also, some fish have escaped from the main tank into the sump tanks where the pump is located, and if on the incredibly off chance some larvae managed to survive and hang around long enough, the fish would most certainly make a meal out of em….

Apparently the system has been a great success, far out-producing the raised beds that the staff also grow some of their greens in, and providing meals of fresh fish as well…  so it sounds like this aquaponics system was a good solution for the parameters at hand…

If you’d like to learn the basics of Aquaponics in order to confidently build your own system, we run weekend aquaponics courses.

>> More posts about Aqauponcs how-tos and resources at Milkwood.net…

16 Comments

  1. Posted July 23, 2012 at 6:34 am | Permalink | Reply

    Reblogged this on The Adventures of Thrive Farm.

  2. Posted July 23, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Permalink | Reply

    awesome!

  3. Posted July 23, 2012 at 9:17 pm | Permalink | Reply

    We have a fabulous aquaponics system that my clever husband built and are also finding that it out-performs the veggie patch that I tend. But I have to say, this system is a thing of beauty. I haven’t seen a design as gorgeous as this before.

  4. gordon
    Posted July 24, 2012 at 8:53 am | Permalink | Reply

    Just to prove it is sustainable overall – what are the fish being fed on? Not any product made from commercially caught fish, shrimp, or “by-catch”?

    • Posted July 25, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Via Floyd: “yes it is most necessary to feed the fish. I feed them as much kang kong and duck weed as I can, which is harvested out of a nearby storm water drain. We also feed vast quantities of worms and BSF larvae. This dramatically reduces the amount of pellets used (which are made from by products of the Thai aquaculture industry)…”

      • gordon
        Posted July 25, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

        Thanks Kirsten. I agree with Stevene’s comments – in fact i was going to ask for more details of outputs and cost per unit output. System looks nice and I like the concept, but as set up it seems kind of dinky.

        Also, is there an issue with dengue and malarial mosquitoes breeding in the collection tubs under the grow tubs – I would imagine that there is residual water each time the system pumps out.

        What kind of fish are they? Sounds like they must be omnivores with that kind of diet. Good to hear that there are BSF in Thailand. I wanted to recommend them to a young guy I’m advising on setting up a demonstration sustainable farm in Cambodia, but wasn’t sure they would be there.

        I don’t know much about the Thai aquaculture industry in recen times, but in the 1990s I spent some time trying to find ways to make their shrimp aquaculture sustainable, or at least not totally destructive of the environment. Didn’t succeed – outsourcing your costs and maximising profits beat sustainable every day among both small and mega shrimp farmers. That and other work in developing countries left me with deep suspicion of products/by-products emanating from the aquaculture industry. Did you look into the basis for the pellets?

  5. Posted July 25, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Like gordon says, the outputs are neat, but the burning question is what are the inputs? Also, it looks really neat, but it seems like larger containers could be much more efficient, not only in production per space, but also by reducing embodied energy from technological inputs since there is a significant efficiency of volume to material used in larger tanks. Or maybe there is a reason for the size and shape even if its just what was at hand. Also larger tanks might require fewer pumps, plumbing etc…? Anyway, it looks better than my aquaponics system! (none).

  6. Floyd C. Constable
    Posted July 27, 2012 at 8:54 am | Permalink | Reply

    There is only 1 water pump, and 1 air pump….these and the round grow beds were the only brand new items purchased….the pump is connected to a largish solar array that powers some other things around the place… so our power is ‘sustainable’ in a limited sense if we must use that word…

    The fish are tilapia and we have successfully bred them in the system We have a 3000L fish tank as the main tank, and a 700L nursery tank. All salvaged items…after our initial purchased of 100 fingerlings, we now have our own ‘sustainable’ supply.

    Pellets are not nice, I agree, but in the early days until a local homegrown solution can be reached, they are necessary. As Ive previously mentioned, we try to use as much home grown feed as possible. In fact the system has been operational for 1 years now, and has only consumed 30-40kgs of pellets. This was mostly in the first few months while things were getting established…in the first half of this year only 10kgs have been used… bear in mind we have grown over 200 plate sized fish and several hundred kgs of veg,,,,

    Also, the fancy and somewhat complicated design and aesthetic was a request of the client due to the high profile location of the system, and also as a means of engaging and interesting a wider potential audience to inspire….and it worked….shortly after this system went online, locals were putting together their own far simpler versions…

    sooo….we make our own power, grown our own feed, and breed our own fish….not bad for a new system in a place thats never had one before…

    oh, and the round grow beds just happened to the only containers I could easily source that gave me a deep enough zone to grow veg, and experiment with fruit trees….they currently have pawpaws and limes growing in them as a mid to over story….so form is following function, and the form looks good :)

  7. Floyd C. Constable
    Posted July 27, 2012 at 11:51 am | Permalink | Reply

    Oh, and absolutely no issue with mosquitos or any other pests breeding up in any part of the system. The water is constantly flowing, with absolutely no where for it to gather and stagnate, or accomodate pests and larvae.

    Also, so fish have escaped from the main tank into the sump tanks where the pump is located, and if on the incredibly off chance some larvae managed to survive and hang around long enough, the fish would most certainly make a meal out of em….

    Floyd.

  8. gordon
    Posted July 27, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Wow. Thanks for taking the time to provide such a detailed response Floyd. I am truly impressed with all aspects of your set-up. The reduction in pellet inputs is icing on top of a very nice cake. Well done. I hope I can come up with something nearly as good here in Aus.

    • Floyd C. Constable
      Posted July 27, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Note: The above post should read 2000L fish tank, not 3000L

      Enjoy! :)

      Floyd.

  9. Posted July 27, 2012 at 2:25 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Sweet, sounds awesome. Thanks for the details!

  10. Thomas
    Posted July 30, 2012 at 4:53 am | Permalink | Reply

    Very nice. You could also add mosquito fish to the system (if they are available to you) if you ever have a mosquito problem. They will eat any mosquito larvae. Friendly Aquaponics uses them in Hawaii with great success.

    • Floyd C. Constable
      Posted July 30, 2012 at 10:47 am | Permalink | Reply

      Once again, we find that mosquitoes will not breed in flowing water, and th water in this system is always flowing…

      We have also built a smaller simpler system to breed mosquito eating fish. When we have enough we distribute them to locals to release into their ponds, paddies and water tanks\containers…

  11. karin
    Posted July 30, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Permalink | Reply

    i love your system it looks amazing especially the way the growbeds are right on top of the fish tanks.. do the fish get any light?

  12. gordon
    Posted July 31, 2012 at 10:46 am | Permalink | Reply

    Not sure what species people are referring to as “mosquito fish”. If it is Gambusia then considerable caution is needed. Eastern gambusia (Gambusia holbrooki – also known as plague minnow, gambusia and mosquito fish) are native to south-eastern USA. They were initially introduced into Australia (New South Wales) waters sometime during the 1920s because of their reputation for mosquito control. However, since that time their ability to control mosquito larvae has been shown to be no greater than that of small native fish that feed on insects. Eastern gambusia are now common in NSW waters and throughout Victoria, Queensland, Western and South Australian waterways.

    The species has been associated with the decline of abundance or range of a known 35 fish species worldwide, including at least 9 Australian native species, and has been demonstrated to prey on the tadpoles of native and introduced frog species in Australia.

    They can behave aggressively towards other species by chasing and fin nipping, which can lead to secondary bacterial or fungal infections and potentially death of other fish. Eastern gambusia feed on a wide variety of foods, including insects such as ants and flies as well as aquatic beetles, bugs and other fauna. The high reproductive rate and extended breeding season of Eastern gambusia, along with broad feeding habits can enable this species to overwhelm suitable habitats with juveniles and deplete food supplies.

    [http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fisheries/pests-diseases/freshwater-pests/species/gambusia]

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  1. [...] gone from strength to strength with designing and installing aquaponics systems in Australia, Thailand and most recently Spain. We can’t wait to see Floyd’s next [...]

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