Stuppy Aquaponics Blog

System update: Niles, 2/7/18

Posted by Conor Quinlan on Feb 7, 2018 2:30:00 PM

Niles

 

Nitrogen (mg/L)

 

 

Date

pH

Total Ammonia

Ammonia

Nitrite

Nitrate

Temp (Fo)

EC (mS)

1/08

6.22 -> 7.00

0

N/A

0

-

71

1.94

1/12

6.8

0

 

0

LAB

68.2

2.03

1/15

6.7

0

 

0

-

68

2.00

1/18

6.5 -> 6.95

0

 

0

-

68

2.08

1/24

6.85

0

 

0

-

71.2

2.07

1/30

7.2

0

 

0

-

70.4

2.15

2/01

7.14

0

 

0

-

73.6

2.22

image showing off the full height of the tomatoes which are all fruiting very well in the media bed.

The full height of the tomatoes which are all fruiting very well in the media bed.

 

Water Quality Overview:

Niles will now have it's pH automatically adjusted to maintain the ideal level of 7.2 on a consistent basis using a sensing unit called the pH Mini. The automatic injector uses a relay module, pH probe and peristaltic pump to input a defined amount of concentrated K2CO3 solution after a specific time interval as the pH drops below 7.0. The pH Mini is the third small scale sensor based unit to be tested as a potential Aqueduct accessory and the first to provide the advantage of water quality control. It has been functioning since 1/26 and is the most comprehensive unit to date.

In the image belowyou can see the unit installed just above the system sump which contains the input line for the concentrated K2CO3 buffer solution. The line has been anchored just below the float bed overflow drain to induce the immediate mixing of buffer and system solutions minimizing nutrient precipitation

controller.jpg 

The monthly supplement regiment will remain identical to last month since lab results indicate the system is maintaining ideal nutrients levels for reproductive growth:  200 g of STP (super triple phosphate) 20 g of Micro Mix, 70 g of Chelated iron and 50 grams of MnSO4

 

The results of the water sample from 1/12 reflect that most nutrients levels have reached an equilibrium:

Parameter

Concentration (ppm) (4/20)

Concentration (ppm) (6/20)

Concentration (8/22)

Conc. (10/27)

Conc, (12/06)

Conc.

(1/12)

E.C.

0.64 mS/cm

0.99

1.04

1.16

1.51

1.66

Ca

36.91

48.53

49.11

44.08

47.35

47.1

Mg

23.5

51.83

54.72

54.8

62.34

69.55

Na

60.39

70.27

87.75

100.47

109.65

109.49

Cl

35.31

56.76

49.39

67.52

73.39

73.15

B

0.17

0.44

0.33

0.5

0.69

0.77

Fe

0

2.65

3.76

7.03

7.98

7.65

Mn

0

0.05

0.01

0.04

0.06

0.06

S

64.36

68.65

76.63

96.8

110.28

117.14

Cu

0.01

0.28

0.19

0.34

0.68

0.71

Zn

0

1.16

1.19

1.74

2.62

2.67

Mo

0.01

0.07

0.2

0.03

0.05

0.04

NO3-N

0.02

31.47 (140 as NO3)

35.97

29.38

51.7

70.42

(313 as NO3)

NH4-N

6.73

0.78

0.9

2.77

0.79

0.13

P

0.9

3.96

0

12.19

28.06

32.02

K

10.77

32.87

12.27

36.15

143.37

142.85

The Sodium accumulation rate has actually decreased for the first time which means Na levels aren’t as significant an issue as previously anticipated. The system hasn’t been drained once since it was reset early April of last year and is therefore no longer a major requirement to keep water quality adequate for crops.

Phosphate and Potassium concentrations are remaining relatively stable. This  means the overall fruiting crop nutrient uptake is nearly identical to what is being supplemented. We can confidently conclude that K2CO3 combined with a simple monthly natural supplementation regiment can replicate ideal water quality conditions with a precision similar to that observed in hydroponic systems, and with less effort

Total Nitrogen content has continued to increase at a steady rate and has reached the optimal concentration given the concentrations of P and K.  The system is right around the ideal N:P:K ratio for maintaining reproductive production while maintaining enough vegetative production to continuously promote further growth.

Low Manganese levels continue to be an issue despite doubling the levels of MnSO4. The solubility is not great at higher pH’s and therefore a chelated Mn compound MUST be utilized when naturally available concentrations are negligible in the source water. These minute concentrations do not appear to be affecting many crops negatively, including all the tomato varieties. The only crop that has been affected is spaghetti squash which still has no problem producing viable fruit.

Another water sample will be collected next week by 2/07

 

Fish Overview:

No changes have occurred in the fish feeding rate since the last post a month ago. 180 grams/day has been enough feed to provide the nitrate needed by all the fruiting crops is the media bed and the strawberries in the NFT channels. Total available nitrogen content has increased 20 mg/L since the previous water quality test. That is nearly 90 mg/L of nitrate which is good for maintaining vegetative structure during reproduction.

 

Crop Overview

Four tomato varieties, two pepper varieties and one large squash continue to grow very well under the powerful LED Plessely light fixtures. Reproductive growth continues to dominate all crops and fruit production is at its peak with regular harvests occurring weekly. The spaghetti squash has nearly finished forming its second fruit which is nearly a foot in length and several lbs (See next image)

media1.jpg

It has taken a while but the Jalapeno (firstimage) and Habanero (second image) varieties are making considerable progress on the formation of viable peppers.  These should be harvestable within the next couple weeks.

 media2.jpgmedia3.jpg

All tomato varieties are still producing flowers and have been harvested twice recently, with a 3rd harvest planned for 2/05. Production is identical to that observed in the hydroponic system and blind taste tests show that tomatoes of the same varieties grown in different systems are indistinguishable from each other.

media4.jpg

Above is an image showing off several varieties of tomatoes that have almost fully ripened.  

Strawberries.jpg

 

 NFT Strawberry Update:

Since the last update the number of flowering strawberry crops has increased to 12 crops. This is well over half and is fairly substantial. Of those crops nine of the flowering individuals are younger runners, while the older individuals only make up three of the flowering strawberry crops. It is becoming apparent that once any variety has flowered once, it is more difficult to flower again. Many of the crops now have ripe strawberries making their first appearances and almost ready for harvest.  

Overall, strawberries are best planted in the early spring allowing vegetative growth to fully form by the time the winter season starts and cool temperatures and/or artificial lighting schedule can induce flowering. Fruits are always best grown in cooler temperatures, and are often better tasting too. After the flowering stops the runners should be utilized and grown in the same manner.

 

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Update:

Since transplanting several outdoor strawberry crops into the NFT channels connected to Nile the aphid population has begun to explode. Like thrips, aphids are hard to spot in the winter as they will produce deep within the strawberry canopy where it is warmer.

Pyrethrum, neem oil and spinosad were applied to only crops infested with the pests (5-6) but there was little effect. 

Similar to the thrips natural pesticides were simply not enough to remove the majority of populations hidden within the crops. So, for the first time Beneficials are being tested in the system to determine their effectiveness at removing large pest populations as well as observe how well the beneficial remain within the confines of the system grow area over time.

Ladybugs are the best candidate for testing trials as they are well known for their love of consuming aphids. They are also known to eat many other common pests including thrips. Approximately 300-350 ladybugs were released on 2/01 and were observed over a several hour period to find that they not only started feeding on the largest aphid populations immediately but also started mating vigorously. After 24 hours many ladybugs could be easily located among the leaves indicating individuals aren’t moving away from the system.

Strawberries2.jpg

Ladybugs are hardy and can tolerate a range of temperatures. They are better suited for utilization in smaller systems like the Aqueduct when temperatures are lowerso they are less likely to migrate away over time.

Other Crops Affected? Recently after discovering aphids on the strawberries a huge population managed to manifest quickly under portions of the spaghetti squash crop in the media bed. This was of particular concern as the tomato crops are fairly close to the infestation. 

What’s the Next Step? Next is to observe the progress of the ladybugs removal over the course of this next week and determine whether more Beneficial’s are required or additional IPM steps need to be taken. In the unlikely event the ladybugs disperse quickly or can’t hold back the growth rate of the aphid population a different beneficial will be utilized and is the main active ingredient in “BotaniGaurd” which uses predatory fungi to destroy pest eggs and larvae.

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Topics: Aquaponics, Insect Control, Niles, Strawberries, Pest Management, Beneficials, Aquaponic Supplements

System Update: Niles 12/13/17

Posted by Conor Quinlan on Dec 13, 2017 2:30:00 PM

Niles

 

Nitrogen (mg/L)

 

 

Date

pH

Total Ammonia

Ammonia

Nitrite

Nitrate

Temp (Fo)

EC (mS)

11/01

6.5 -> 6.6

0

N/A

0

120

Act. test

64.2

1.38

11/08

6.5

0

 

0

-

64

1.49

11/10

6.58

0

 

0

-

63

1.40

11/13

6.25 -> 6.8

0

 

0

150

73.8

1.48

11/15

6.6

0

 

0

-

75

1.57

11/22

6.5 -> 7.0

0

 

0

-

75.2

1.7

11/27

6.8 -> 7.2

0

 

0

200

70

1.6

11/30

6.95

0

 

0

-

73.6

1.58

12/4

6.6

0

 

0

-

76

1.6

12/6

6.5 -> 7.0

0

 

0

Awaiting Results

75

1.65

10/27:
Calcium Level: 44.08 mg/L     Magnesium level: 54.8 mg/L
P = 12.19 mg/L            K= 36.15 mg/L

Water Quality Overview

The change in air temperature to a range between 60-70 F has had a positive effect on water quality, particularly pH. The pH now fluctuates regularly, requiring weekly additions of K2CO3. This is very good for the tomatoes and peppers being grown in the media bed of the system; 150 grams are required about once a week. This was added along with a mix of other vital nutrients to keep nutrients levels up for the tomatoes. Super triple phosphate or STP(200g), Micro Mix(20g), Chelated Iron(70g), and MnSO4(30g) are now being added on a monthly basis. When the lab results of the water sample taken return the phosphate and potassium levels are expected to increase significantly. This will lead to a more ideal N:P:K ratio for all crops but particularly the tomatoes.

The more ideal water conditions, while promoting ideal pH fluctuations, also has significantly lowered the amount of clogging that occurs over time for unknown reasons.

Fish Overview

The Skretting feed still appears to be the best for solidifying waste.  However the fish feed was switched over to the Aquamax 4000 feed one last time to determine if the more optimal water conditions affect the waste accumulation. The switch occurred on 12/4.

The fish are continuing to grow at the anticipated rate and weigh 795 grams/fish(1.75lbs), a 115 gram increase since the last weighing on 11/7. It has been 8 months since tilapia introduction and the tilapia have surpassed the anticipated size for the given time frame. The fish can be harvested at any time from this point and will be done after the tomato crops have completed their grow cycle.

Crop Overview

Four tomato varieties and three pepper varieties continue to grow very well under the powerful LED Plessely light fixtures. There are no deficiencies detected and even the leaf curling has subsided in the Washington cherry variety. The thrip population has been brought down to reasonable levels and neem oil continues to be sprayed throughout the canopy once per week to keep the population under control. 

The first tomato fruits started to form a little over a week ago and all the varieties now have some fruit formed. It will be only a couple weeks now until the first tomato fruits are ready for harvest. Below is an image of the hybrid cherry tomato crop with formed fruit.

The first image below is from 11/7 when the seedling were producing their first flower trusses.The second image was taken on 12/06, 42 days after the transplanting occurred. The change in size is very dramatic.

 The float bed was completely harvested and will be replaced by iceberg lettuce and green and red cabbage which are cold season crops.

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Topics: Aquaponics, Insect Control, Niles, Aquaponic Supplements

Experiments Log 6/28/17

Posted by Conor Quinlan on Jun 29, 2017 2:30:00 PM

This Week we are following up on the ongoing Experiments with beneficial organisms in our systems. To learn more about these experiments, check out our earlier post on the subject!

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Topics: Aquaponics, Insect Control, Aqueduct Development, Experiments

System Update: Frasier 6/15/17

Posted by Conor Quinlan on Jun 15, 2017 2:30:00 PM

Frasier

 

Nitrogen (mg/L)

 

 

 

Date

pH

Total Ammonia

Ammonia

Nitrite

Nitrate

Temp (Fo)

Alkalinity

mg/L

EC (mS)

5/26

6.6 -> 7.3

0.25

n/a

0

350

75.5

25 -> 65

1.50

5/31

7.15

0.25

n/a

0

-

76

-

1.54

6/02

7.25

0.25

n/a

0

350

76.5

80

1.60

6/05

7.05

0.25

n/a

0

-

77

-

1.64

6/07

7.15

0.25

n/a

0.25

-

76

-

1.56

6/09

7.00

0.25

n/a

0.25

350

76

50

1.60

05/26 -> 06/02 -> 06/9/17 Total Hardness: 480 -> 510 -> 500 mg/L CaCO3 equ
Calcium Level: 74 -> 68 -> 68 mg/L            Magnesium level: ~72 -> 83 -> 82 mg/L
Phosphate Level: ~ 35 -> 30 -> 25  mg/L (as PO4-)

Water Quality Overview: The 100g K2CO3 and 125g MgCO3 addition continued to maintain the pH above 7.0 for two full weeks. The alkalinity is also increasing to levels higher than have previously been observed with just CaCO3 and MgCO3 due to the higher addition of K2CO3 which dissolves fully in water regardless of Ph.

Other than the typical carbonate addition, 50 grams of chelated iron (equ to 2 mg/L Fe) was added on 6/09 to replenish levels. The last 50 gram addition was added on 4/28 so that addition lasted just over 2 months.

Nitrate levels are more than sufficient for the growth of any crop and enough K has been added over the course of the last couple months to support the growth of any heavy feeding fruiting crop.

The only supplements to the solution, besides fish feed, are the three carbonate compounds (K2CO3 MgCO3, CaCO3), JR Peters M.O.S.T Micro mix, Chelated DTPA Iron and Super Triple Phosphate. This is the max number of supplements that can be used in the Aqueduct for the growth of larger fruiting crops such as tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, melons, strawberries, squash, ect.

Fish Update: The fish are performing well now that they are larger in size. The feeding rate is now increasing as predicted and has increased from 204 g/day to 252 g/day over the past weeks for a total increase of 0.4g of feed/fish/week. Using this data, we can assume that the fish are around 200 grams in weight which is a significant increase from 125 grams. The fish will be weighed next week to determine their progress since the last weighing on 5/23.

Crop Update: Additional heavy feeding crops have been added to the media bed including more tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, Asian eggplant, and habanero pepper. Pictured below is a drawing showing the placement of the crops paired with a picture of the media bed right now. 

The indeterminate tomato added to the system is growing without a problem with no signs of deficiencies at all. The new crops added to the media bed are expected to perform just as well.

The only hitch is that some of the recently added seedlings have been stunted by the sudden thrip population explosion. Luckily the infestation has been reduced to nearly nothing with the use of a new organic natural pesticide called pyrethrum. When incorporating IPM it is extremely important to rotate natural pesticides regularly to prevent tolerance. For the past year we have been utilizing spinosad, sesame seed oil and insecticidal soap which have become useless against thrips; we are now incorporating pyrethrum, neem oil and diatomaceous earth to control pest population. Since the first application of pyrethrum on 6/02 the thrip population has been reduced to near harmless levels. Crops will be observed on a daily basis to ensure the thrips don’t return to problematic levels. These organic pesticides can be found at local home improvement stores like Home Depot and Lowes.

The strawberries fruit trusses have been clipped since the quality of the fruit is beginning to decline. We are now waiting for the next blossom initiation. In the images below you can see the dramatic change in crop size in the past month. 

 Another row will be removed from the NFT component soon as the strawberries are taking up more and more space.

The radishes were harvested last week, showing significant cracking. This was due to the low humidity of the surrounding air (see image below). The beets are showing similar symptoms and in order to control it moist paper towels have been wrapped around the fruits to keep them wet (see image below). The crops can easily be grown via aquaponics but should be placed in the media bed for adequate humidity and moisture levels around the roots.

 

Outdoor Update: A variety of tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers have been transplanted outside to provide a comparison with our aquaponics grown crops.  Below is an image of the strawberries planted outside. With the increasing summer heat, the strawberries may need to be covered with a shade cloth.

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Topics: Aquaponics, Insect Control, Pest Management, Frasier