Aquaponic Gardener Profile – Stephen Luckett

By: JD Sawyer

phone1216-045Q: Where are you from? Tell us a bit about yourself.

A: Originally from Indiana, moved to Maryland about 15 years ago. Met many new friends here, but one in particular piqued my interest on aquaponics. He was thinking about buying an old fish farm and transforming it into an aquaponics farm. After he explained the process and being an avid gardener, I was very interested. I started researching and ran across Sylvia Bernstein’s book, which gave me all the information I needed to get started.

 

Q: How are you currently working with aquaponics? Home setup, community greenhouse, etc.

A: I have a large greenhouse attached to our house which is completely aquaponic based. I have two fill & drain systems, a constant height system, “gutter” gardens, and vertical gardens. This has allowed me to expand my grow season to a year round operation, adding to our freezing, dehydrating, and canning foods for the year.

Q: Tell us about your system. Geek out a bit and tell us all the specs.

A: My systems are transformed IBC totes, customized to fit a desired space or goal. With my new tank design, every tank is easily convertible from a fill & drain system to a constant height system with little effort. The grow bed be ~ 4’X4′ lends well to square foot gardening, although leafy greens, radishes, and celery seem to be well adapted to the system.

Q: What plants and fish have you had the best luck with? And the worst?

A: I only grow tilapia fish for personal consumption. I have three fish tanks, so I am easily able to work the fish from largest to smallest. Allowing very nice “fish fry’s” every couple of months now that my original stock is about 2 years old.

This winter was the first winter in the greenhouse. I was very pleased with the harvest of leafy greens: lettuce, mescaline, spinach, and arugula. I also did very well with cherry tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, and cucumbers. It was also nice to do all of our seed starts for the spring planting outdoors, having enough grow space to start extras for neighbors and friends.

Q: What do you like most about aquaponics? Least?

A: I am still experimenting, this year with root crops, to see to what extent I can grow. I have done well with radishes, just o.k. with carrots, and am currently trying potatoes and beets. I love that the fish do most of the work for me and I NEVER have to worry about weeding the garden. This is one of the things I hate about outdoor gardening, the constant need to keep ahead of weeds.

The only drawback is that the systems do need daily attention. If there is a system malfunction which causes the system to drain, it can be devastating. Yes I am speaking from experience.

Q: What do you think the biggest misconception about aquaponics is?

A: That it is expensive to run and maintain. I believe it is more economical to run a system that to have outdoor gardens. Water is constantly recycled, which eliminates the need to water everyday. If one does not need a heated system, like I do with tilapia, the daily cost of operation is very minimal. pumps draw as little as 12 w and lighting can be very inexpensive to run with T-5 or LED.

The cost of setup can be expensive, especially when it comes to the grow media, but once setup overall cost and maintenance is at a minimum.

Q: What are your future aquaponics goals?

A: Currently, to keep experimenting, just to see how far I can go with growing different plants. I am a vegetable gardener, so I do little with flowers, but will probably do some flowers to sell down the road.

Q: What do your friends say when you show them your system for the first time?

A: They are intrigued if they are gardeners. That is truly how I started Baltimore Aquaponics, with the help and advice of friends.

Q: What is your next big gear purchase going to be? What about your next small one?

A: None planned for personal. Any new purchases now are to grow the educational side of the business.

Q: What’s the best recipe you’ve ever had/made, based around something you grew in your system?

A: My wife can’s, freezes, or dehydrates most everything grown. There is not a day that goes by where we do not use something from our personal stock. I can’t really say I have a favorite recipe, but I can say everything tastes better when using FRESH, ORGANIC ingredients.

Want to tell the community about your Aquaponic setup?  Click here!

Want to have your aquaponics system or farm featured?!

Just visit this page and fill out the form!