Aquaponics in the Neighbourhood

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I’ve just watched 2 lectures on aquaponics as part of the Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) and lecturer Max Meyers made strong points about sustainable fishing, polluting the water, and less land use for aquaponics rather than agriculture.

Photo: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/closed-loop-aquaponics-webinar-with-max-meyers-may-2013-tickets-6746636371

Max Meyers is one of the lecturers in the Permaculture Design course

He also raised some remarkable benefits including 70% less water needed for production when you would think it would need more, given that it is water-based, and the 75% reduction in labour needed than traditional farming. These two benefits alone are huge and could have an incredible impact on the lives of food growers. It also means it puts it more in reach of every day householders as it isn’t such a drain on resources.

So this made me wonder, are there any aquaponics farms near Melbourne? Is it possible to buy fish from that source rather than supporting the continued overfishing of our oceans or from the impacts of farmed fishing? I hear farmed fishing also has its downsides, see 9 Things Everyone Should Know About Farmed Fish or for a short video:

From what I can see from our trusty friend Google, CERES, always a world leader in sustainability practices, has an aquaponics installation.

A drawing of the CERES aquaponics system

No vendors popped out to sell me their fish though.  Really, the focus seems to be on education and training to be able to set up your own aquaponics system at home.  Here is a small example of aquaponics that might appeal to people who want to keep fish as pets.

Aquaponics with a goldfish bowl

And other sites are all about supporting you to do it yourself.

http://www.aquaponic.com.au/

http://www.growfresh-aquaponics.com.au/

Or a bigger example of backyard aquaponics from Western Australia: http://www.suburbanfarmer.com.au/fish-farms/

Alfcon’s Aquaponics has a round up of resources in Australia and the US.

The Ballarat Fish Hatchery provides advice on Stocking Your Aquaponics System.

Poor fish, I have to feel a bit sorry for them when their size is discussed in relation to the dinner plate.

In conclusion, it seems that in Victoria there are no current aquaponics systems with a commercial yield at present (or at least with an online presence or with any buzz on forums). This looks like an opportunity for some enterprising souls. According to this article on Farming Fish,

“Australians consume about 40 per cent less seafood than recommended for a healthy diet”,

and “local wild-caught and farmed fish accounts for just a quarter of national consumption”,

with the majority of the remainder imported from New Zealand and South-East Asia so that suggests quite high growth potential. On the other hand, there are a number of resources available to assist in setting up your own aquaponics system. Ballarat Fish Hatchery would recommend a 1,000 litre fish tank to hold 50 fish.  For a rough idea of size, here is a photo of an outdoor tank:

An installation at Albany State High shown on Murray Hallam's Aquaponics website

An installation at Albany State High shown on Murray Hallam’s Aquaponics website

Or source a kit from a supplier such as Practical Aquaponics.  The typical drawback is cost in Australia as most kits seem to run into the thousands of dollars but are tested models, versus building up your own aquaponics knowledge and designing and creating your own system.  As a fairly new industry, innovations are evolving, such as Grow Packed, which is now available in Australia for vertical plant production towers, called ZipGrow.  Or check out Pinterest for many aesthetically pleasing ideas.

It’s an exciting field to watch as it develops.

Perhaps I shall reflect on this while watching our clown loaches swim in our fish tank…

A clown loach swimming in our fish tank

A clown loach swimming in our fish tank

Have you set up your own aquaponics system? What was your experience like? Have you heard of any aquaponically-grown fish available for sale?

 

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Late Autumn Garden

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The garden reminds me that time goes on whether or not I have been able to move forward with projects.  It brings me joy to see plants flourishing in the relatively short time they have been in the ground.

My husband and I planted mini cyclamen near our front door as a pretty entry to cope with only morning sun conditions at least 2 years ago and they are gorgeous for most of the year, just withering away during summer when the hydrangea perks up.

Mini cyclamen in a row in front of two hydrangeas

Mini cyclamen in a row in front of two hydrangeas

The first year they did that, we had thought we lost them and would have to plant something else, but they sprang up again and even self-seeded.  It seems nature has decided to fill in the gaps around the hydrangeas, and we’re very happy to see more mini cyclamen there.

The flourishing mini cyclamen in bloom in May 2014

The flourishing mini cyclamen in bloom in May 2014

In the backyard, the hardenbergia “Happy Wanderer” is settling in nicely.  I planted it in October 2013 after the tree removals, and mulch had been spread.  Initially it looked like it was a bit unhappy until I sprinkled the area with blood and bone and watered it in.

The hardenbergia growing up the trellis along the fence

The hardenbergia growing up the trellis along the fence

It was amazing how quickly it shot up in summer.  I could see a 10 cm difference in a few days!  And now it has little buds like it will be covered in purple flowers later this year…  It ties in my colour vision of the backyard for purple, yellow, and red tones.

The hardenbergia preparing to bloom

The hardenbergia preparing to bloom

Here is a rough sketches of ideas for the backyard garden beds.  This doesn’t include the hardscape elements, just the idea of size of the beds and relative location.  As it happens, the PDC has taught me some valuable lessons and I have changed my thinking about the right hand side area.

Backyard left garden bed design sketch

Backyard left garden bed design sketch

The x’s are for where the plants are to go.  I decided to just put the shrubs in and see how big they grow before considering ground covers as well.  They may just fill up the space as so far the tick bush (Kunzea Ambigua) has tripled its size!

The tick bush is steadily growing

The tick bush is steadily growing

I can’t wait to see this mature.  I fell in love with this plant on a family holiday to Wilsons Prom in 2006 and promised myself that I would one day plant one in the garden of my own home. I haven’t seen this plant at any local nurseries, but ended up sourcing it from Online Plants, along with a woolly bush (Adenanthos Silver Streak), and a banksia “honey baby” (Banksia blechnifolia).

A tick bush growing at Wilsons Prom in 2006.  The honey fragrance is delicious!

A tick bush growing at Wilsons Prom in 2006. The honey fragrance is delicious!

I absolutely adore its fuzzy, honey scented flowers, and I’ll be interested to see if it attracts the honeyeaters that come to our garden for the grevillea tree.  Ideally, I would love little birds to come to our garden, but the big open areas and family of magpies that live nearby would discourage them.  I wondered if it would grow well where it is as the firm clay make it challenging to even dig the hole for it.  I dug a bigger hole than needed for the pot size and back-filled with a native soil mix from Bunnings so that it would have a chance.

And here is the correa.  It has already shown us flowers peaking out from the lower stems and is coping with its spot next to the compost bin.  The honeyeaters may like this one too once it’s big enough in years to come.

The correa is filling up its space in the garden

The correa is filling up its space in the garden

All these spots are in part shade, and the natives should cope with low water conditions once they are established.  The other established natives have not needed water, even during the extended 40+ degrees heat we have experienced in the past couple of years.  I can’t help but think this trend will continue, especially when reading articles like this Research shows Antarctica may be the reason for SA dry climate.  It’s better to be prepared, is my way of thinking.

A New Blog Look

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Nope, the Sorbet theme wasn’t floating my boat.  I’ve chosen a new WordPress theme for my blog, Writr, as it puts the emphasis on the blog posts, which is what I want, and is clean-looking and allows me to put most of the widget options in that I want.  It’s still not 100% of how I want it to be, but this is probably as close as I’m going to get with a free theme. 

You’ll see the sidebar on the left, instead of the right, and it showcases more About Me, previous blog entries, and the tag cloud.  I hope everything is easier to see than in the previous format.

I’ve had lots happening in the backyard to share with you and more photos coming soon!