Q: Where are you from? Tell us a bit about yourself.
A: I am from Tucson, AZ. I have been active in natural health and organic gardening for more than a dozen years. I am a technology consultant, systems designer and real estate investor.
Q: How did you get interested in aquaponics?
A: After a particularly extreme winter (several 18-21 degree nights in a row) and hot summer (almost no rain with one hundred (100) 100 degree days in row my garden production fell off significantly. After researching alternatives I began studying the application of aquaponics. I found mixed results with many commercial aquaponics systems failing across the country and many local home systems for sale or abandoned after a year of operation. I invested in a week long commercial aquaponics course at a successful operation and decided to implement a smaller system modeled similarly with adaptions for our climate extremes.
Q: How are you currently working with aquaponics? Home setup, community greenhouse, etc.
A: I currently operate a deep water raft system with 75 sq ft high density grow area in a greenhouse and 75 sq ft outdoors. This prototype system has been successfully in operation for 7 months. In addition to the greenhouse and outdoor growing areas I build a “fish house” to house a 300 gallon tank which drives both greehouse and outdoor growbeds. My design has resulted in water temperature varying no more than 2 degrees or so during the day where the high might reach 110 degrees with a night low in the 70’s. This system is about 900 gallons.
Q: Tell us about your system. Geek out a bit and tell us all the specs.
A: My fish are fed soy free GMO free pellets, algae, duckweed and azolla. To provide a continuous source of fish I built a second fish house for Tilapia breeding. This has also proved successful. I have also created an aquaponics grow bed system utilizing one or two 8 square foot growbeds that can be deep water (preferred) or media based using any standard 10 gallon or larger aquarium as the engine. This in-house, basement, family room or patio system has been tested, been sourced and will be available soon at a cost of 1/2 to 1/3 of what most DIY home systems cost.
Q: What plants and fish have you had the best luck with? And the worst?
A: I have done very well with cool weather lettuce (common) as well as varieties that continue to perform in extreme weather. Pole beans did so well in the greenhouse that they threatened to dominate it. Peas also did very well (in cooler weather). Tomatoes continued to produce through hot weather when ground based tomato production ceased due to the heat. Brocolli didn’t do well, but it was already too warm when I got it started. My system is driven exclusively by Blue Tilapia as they will tolerate extreme heat as water as cool as 50 degrees. Our climate typically only sees about 10 nights of frost per year allowing me to maintain 70 degree water temperature with minimal heating requrements.
Q: What do you like most about aquaponics? Least?
A: I appreciate the minimal water usage compared to conventional gardening as our climate suffers about 8.5 FEET of evaporation per year while here in the desert our annual rainfall is 12 inches or less. Th e system is extremely low maintenance compared to my raised bed and other systems. I have also been able to cultivate species of plants year round that most growers can only do annually. The only thing I haven’t liked is the inability to use effective natural pest control systems that can be used in growbeds that can not be used around aquaponics (to control aphids and other insect pests.) My startup cost was high, partially due to the prototypes/system variations that I tested – this is what I liked least!
Q: What do you think the biggest misconception about aquaponics is?
A: Most people even in the gardening community do not understand what aquaponics is… they generally confuse it with hydroponics.
Q: What are your future aquaponics goals?
A: My future goal is to successfully market my aquarium add-on aquaponics system which will allow huge numbers of individuals to experience aquaponics without the difficulties, time, and costs to build and modify DIY systems.
Q: What do your friends say when you show them your system for the first time?
A: They are amazed at the production which requires so little maintenance. My systems are so stable that I do water tests every 2 or 3 months (if I think about it), add a little chelated iron and just make sure that I feed my fish regularly. I have had zero fish loss in my system.
Q: What is your next big gear purchase going to be? What about your next small one?
A: Dissolved Oxygen Meter – I currently have never tested for DO but believe that I could increase the efficiency and productivity of my system if I enhanced and better managed DO levels.
Q: What’s the best recipe you’ve ever had/made, based around something you grew in your system?
A: We consume a lot of raw fresh vegetables which is so convenient but Caprese salad using homemade red wine vinegar, buffalo mozzerella seasoned with fresh basil homegrown peppercorns is right up there.
Permission granted to publish this information and pictures subject to my name/home name (Hacienda Marron) and facebook link being included.