Aquaponics Grow Lab Update – Aquaponic Elements

By: Tawnya Sawyer

One of the main benefits of moving into our facility last year was that we finally have a grow lab.  Back when we were working out of the basement we would experiment with plants and products in our backyard greenhouse system.  The problem was that there was only one fish tank and all the water was circulating among the beds so we could never really set up an experiment that required isolating the water. 

Aquaponics Elements in Grow labThat all changed when we moved.  Now we have three identical systems set up, side by side, each with a media bed, a raft bed, a sump tank and a 200 gallon fish tank.  The three systems have a pipe running between them that can either be valved shut to prevent the water from mixing, or opened so that all the water across systems mixes together.  We isolate the systems if we are running an experiment that involves the water, such as a plant nutrient additive that is applied through the water.  We allow the water to mix if we are testing something that is above “ground”, such as a plant foliar spray, where we want all the water in the root zones to be identical.  That way, any reaction we see in the plants will necessarily be from the spray.

It occurred to me that you might find our experiments in the lab interesting, so I am committing an occasional  blog to describing what we are doing in there and what we are learning.

We currently have four experiments running.  I’ll tell you about the first one now, and save the next three for future posts.

Aquaponic Elements – Most of our work in the lab so far has been around identifying and correcting deficiencies or toxicities in aquaponics, and fixing them, and in finding safe, organic growth enhancers.  Often they are one and the same.  We have actually tested a couple growth enhancers so far that didn’t pan out.  But we finally found a winner in Aquaponic Elements!  This is a rock dust compound that has been formulated especially for aquaponics because it contains low levels of both nitrogen – which we have plenty of – and sodium – which can accumulate and become harmful to plants.  It comes in a tea bag form that you put under the water-in spout in your system.  One bag is good for 100 gallons for 2 – 3 months. 

AquaponThe results we have seen so far have been in basil.  While the plants in the control system put on new leaves two at a time as usual, the system with Aquaponic Elements put on bunches of leaves during the same time period!  We are so excited about these results that we added Aquaponic Elements to all of our showroom systems and plan to extend this test to a side by side test using several plant types in the near future.

Next test – fabric grow bags