Greetings fellow gardener!
This post is just that.
A basic lesson in aquaponics as constructed from salvage, and used to grow wheatgrass for juicing here at the greenhouse.
A basic aquaponics system is really pretty simple. The configuration is only limited by the gardenerís imagination.
The only thing that will remain constant between one gardenerís system and anotherís is a water source with active balanced biology, and a slues to hold whatís being grown, and a pump to circulate the water across the root zone of the plants.
In the picture above I used some scrap 2 x 10ís to make a box frame, then draped a piece of pond rubber over that frame. Then I used scrap 1 x 4ís to make a framework to support the slues which was made from scrap OSB screwed to some 2 x 4ís to form the water channel. The white liner in the slues is actually an old discarded vinyl Coca Cola banner harvested from the trash downtown by my friend Luke Ebner of Pemaganic.
This system was an evolution of an earlier configuration that Luke and I had running back in 2010 in one of our front greenhouses.
Hereís a pic of the leftovers from the reconstruction. The Aquarium was our water reservoir. In the back leaning up is a chunk of the slues that I cut off to make it fit in the new location.
The move was made to heated space for year round production that would also accommodate fish and water plants in greater number than the test run.
The new version could also handle a larger pump and a filter box to keep the pump running with less maintenance.
The pump weíre currently using looks like this one.
Itís kind of hard to see because of all the duckweed but hereís a close-up of the filter box.
Since the water depth wasnít deep enough for food fish like tilapia that are commonly grown in such systems I went with basic outdoor pond goldfish thinking that they would eat the duckweed. I was mistaken. Goldfish do not eat duckweed. Koi do. One of these days Iíll spring the cash and go buy some Koi. †In the meantime the goldfish have been breeding and happily naturalizing in the system. J
A quick overview of the mechanics here. The filter box connects underwater to the pump. The pump output goes up some tubing to the emitter.
And the emitter puts the water down the slues.
The slues carries the water downhill across the root zone of the plants.
The soil in the flats wicks the water up to feed and water the plants being grown.
The water runs out the end of the slues back into the reservoir.
The plants in the picture are parrotís feather and water hyacinth, and of course, duckweed.
The game plan for this system is to introduce water chestnuts for some extra food output. The shallow depth of a system like this may also be suited to freshwater shrimp. Need to do a little more research on that one. J
Here again the possibilities are only limited by the imagination and resourcefulness of the gardener.
The only real trouble Iíve ever had with system is the occasional visit from the raccoons who will break in overnight and eat all the bigger goldfish. Itís happened twice in 3 years. They donít bother the fry or the eggs in the roots of plants so the fish have always popped back. As you may guess thereís a a considerable mess to clean up the following morning.
Now for the really fun part. J
Using the system for some vitamin rich body cleansing wheatgrass juice! WhooHoo!
Once the grass in the flats reaches a height of about 5-6Ē simply cut the grass and feed it through a juicer.
When growing for juice, sow the flats thick. A really good crop looks like this close up.
Grasses donít juice the same as typical fruits and vegetables so itís best if youíre going juice grass to buy a juicer thatís designed for it.
I chose a Green Star 3000 that I paid about $400 for from discountjuicers.com about ten years ago. The 2000 model is pretty much the same unit for less money but I wanted the pasta making attachment that comes with the more expensive model. Which of course is still in the box, but if I ever want to make my own pasta itís there. J
Hereís a few pix of the unit which has served me well for a decade and is still going strong.
What makes a grass juicing unit different from typical fruit and vegetable juicers is the grinding method. The Green Star is what is called a ďtwin gearĒ unit which uses two counter rotating interlocking crushers to squeeze the juice from the grass which separates the food value out of the indigestible beta cellulose that grasses are built from. Basically, itís a mechanical version of the biological process that goes on in the rumen of a cow. Which is why cows and other ruminant animals can eat grass and we canít. Unless we juice it first.
Hereís a shot down the muzzle of the juicer.
You can just barely make out the interlocking stainless steel gears that draw the clumps of grass in.
The pulp comes out the nose of unit and the juice dribble out of a port below the gears.
It does get a bit foamy which is why we use a straining pitcher to catch the output.
Once strained into our catch vessel it looks like this.
I snapped the picture above halfway through the session. We juiced a total of 3 Ĺ flats for a yield of about 1 liter of juice.
Wheatgrass juice is perhaps one of the healthiest things you can put through your system. Itís a powerful antioxidant and system cleanser, it contains just about every nutrient the human body needs, it rebuilds and restores blood cell function, and there are claims that it will even dissolve cancerous and pre-cancerous tumors. Back in 2005 I decided to test that last claim with a lesion on my arm. I will post that test as a separate blog.
I hope you enjoyed this little romp through basic aquaponics and wheatgrass juicing. J
From left to right, Bob Viebrooks, Wayne Adkins, Al Funke.
If youíd like to see the juicing process in video format Wayne, myself, and his daughter Julie made a wheatgrass juicing video for Funkeís youtube channel that is posted here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eILUqzQ1zG8 †
Itís a fun little 8 minute romp in the greenhouse and does show the guts of the juicer and the operation.
One final note about wheatgrass juice, it does NOT store well at all and is best juiced and drank fresh.
If you like and/or use wheatgrass juice but donít want to grow it and want a local source for nice fresh USDA certified organic flats of grass for juicing, David Rosenberg of Woodenshoe Gardens is an local excellent source. His contact information is Wooden shoe gardens,
Wooden Shoe Hollow Dr, Cincinnati, OH 45232
A video of him speaking at a CSA conference is posted here https://vimeo.com/4492593
ĎTil next time,