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, Pest Management, Strawberries, Aquaponic Supplements, Beneficials, Niles, Insect Control

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, Niles, Aquaponic Supplements, Insect Control

Nile System update 10/12/17

Posted by Conor Quinlan on Oct 12, 2017 1:30:00 PM

System #2

 

Nitrogen (mg/L)

 

 

 

Date

pH

Total Ammonia

Ammonia

Nitrite

Nitrate

Temp (Fo)

Alkalinity

mg/L

EC (mS)

9/15

6.87

0

N/a

0.25

250-300

78

-

1.1

9/18

6.83

0

 

0.25

250

 

35

1.17

9/20

6.75

0

 

0.25

-

 

-

1.16

9/22

6.9

0

 

0.25

-

 

-

1.10

9/25

6.94

0

 

2

250

 

50

1.10

10/4

7.2

0

 

0.5

200

 

-

1.12

10/6

7.3

0

 

0

-

 

90-100

1.11

10/9

7.35

0

 

0

150

 

-

1.16

            9/15 -> 9/26 -> 10/4 -> 10/10 : Total Hardness: 400 -> 360 -> 350 -> 360 mg/L CaCO3 equ
Calcium Level: 48 -> 45 -> 40 -> 43.2 mg/L    Magnesium level: ~ 68.3 -> 60.3 -> 60.9 -> 61.5 mg/L
P (PO4-) = 0 -> 15 -> 15 mg/L

 

Water Quality Overview

All fruiting crops are producing with success,  with the majority of current issues related to lack of adequate PAR lighting in our warehouse environment. Vegetative growth is slightly more prominent but not significant enough to affect the fruit development of the various crops. 

No carbonate additions have been required over the past month. The likely cause is that the crops are having an effect on pH. This has not affected the production of fruiting crops within the system and they appear to be receiving enough nutrients over time. A water quality test is being conducted to determine how the K, P and Mn levels have been affected over the last month.

STP (super triple phosphate) as well and MnSO4 and chelated iron have been added maintain limited nutrient levels.  

The efficiency of the clarifier was recently tested by determining the total water volume dumped from the media bed into the sump bed. The more waste build up in the media bed that had occurred over time the greater the loss of water volume and therefore the lower the change in water height in the sump after a given media siphoning period.

I determined that 4.125” increase in water height in the sump was the maximum drainage that could occur from the media bed. After a 4-month period the test was repeated and it was discovered that the drainage decreased to 3.5” (or a 0.625” drop; 15.15% decrease in water volume), not too bad considering the buildup of root material that is also taking up considerable space.

 

Fish Overview

Unfortunately, the fish feeding trial will need to be redone as the feeder reset itself without notice. Overall the new catfish skretting feed appears to provide the best results with the lowest level of floating waste. The aquamax feed appeared to have considerably higher floating waste levels. The skretting feed will be re-tested first followed by the aquamax.

The fish have grown well and are averaging 625 grams/tilapia (nearly 1.4 lbs) as of 10/10, which is a reasonable 80-gram increase in size since the last weighing on 9/18. It has been 6-months since their introduction at 15 grams/fish meaning the tilapia are still well beyond their anticipated harvesting cycle.

Above is a comparison of the change in size of the tilapia over the course of the last two weeks with the first image image being from 9/18 and the second from 10/10.

We are still maintaining double what the tilapia should be weighing at this point in the grow cycle despite a constant 300 g/day feeding rate. This is proof that tilapia have a very flexible feeding requirement that can be manipulated to help the crops

 

Crop Overview

Most of the fruiting crops including the tomatoes and cucumbers placed in the system are nearing the end of their growth cycle. All crops produced viable fruit,  with the LED producing much larger tomatoes and cucumbers overall. The fluorescents have no problem growing peppers of multiple varieties. 

The cucumbers and leafy greens have been removed from the media bed in order to make room for four new tomato varieties. These will be tested in the media bed under the LED fixtures this time. The same pepper individuals will be used to compare yields of LED vs Fluorescents. Below are images showing the change to the media bed.

Below are images of the float beds with each of the different artificial light sources (LED bottom). Each float bed now contains swiss chard and basil seedlings for a final comparison between LED and Fluorescents. The chard and basil will also be added to the hydro NFT system as well for comparison. The tomato seedlings are currently growing out in the LED float bed and will be transplanted to the media soon.

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Topics: Aquaponics, Niles, LED

System Update: Niles 7/6/17

Posted by Conor Quinlan on Jul 6, 2017 2:30:00 PM

Niles

 

Nitrogen (mg/L)

 

 

 

Date

pH

Total Ammonia

Ammonia

Nitrite

Nitrate

Temp (Fo)

Alkalinity

mg/L

EC (mS)

6/16

7.4

0.25

n/a

0.25

150

81

150

1.17

6/19

7.5

0.25

n/a

0.25

-

81

-

1.20

6/21

7.45

0.25

n/a

0

31.5, 140

81

-

1.28

6/23

7.45

0.25

n/a

0

-

82

140

1.20

6/26

7.35

0.25

n/a

0

same

74.5

-

1.22

6/28

7.3

0.25

n/a

0.25

-

77

-

1.21

6/30

7.25

0.25

n/a

0.25

-

77.5

110

1.17

06/16/17 -> 06/30/17 : Total Hardness: 390 -> 360 -> 350 mg/L CaCO3 equ
Calcium Level: 61 -> 59 -> 56 mg/L    Magnesium level: ~58 -> 52 -> 51 mg/L
P (PO4-) = 22.5 -> 15.5 -> 12 mg/L (4 mg/l as P)

An image of the size difference between the collards grown by the LEDs (right) and Fluorescents (left, smaller). The LED fixtures have the ability to produce fully mature crops 5-7 days earlier than the fluorescent fixtures. Below is a table showing the harvest times for mixed lettuce and collards between LEDs and Fluorescents.

 

LED

Fluorescent

Mixed Lettuce

28 days

33 days

Collard Greens

38 days

45 days

 The numbers above represent harvest times it takes to reach the maximum maturity. In an LED set-up these leafy greens can be harvested a couple days earlier. Overall both Flourescent and LED provide more than sufficient light for optimal growth rates with the LEDs being superior and even outpacing the recommended grow time of 45 days for fully mature collards.

Water Quality Overview

Since the clogging of the system on 6/11 and subsequent death of over half the fish nutrient and pH levels have remained steady. No additions other than 100 grams of chelated iron was added to the system in the last 2 weeks.

 On 6/20 a water sample was submitted to JR peters Lab. As expected nitrate accumulation rates have slowed. Despite the lower waste production nitrate and EC seem to be remaining stable with a recently lab tested value of 140 mg/L NO3 (31.5 mg/L as N), more than enough to support the nitrogen needs of any crop. The lab test also gave us more exact K and PO4 levels which have only been rough estimates at this point; K = 33 mg/L and PO4 = 12 mg/L (or 4 mg/L as P). Although both levels appear to be quite low, especially compared with hydroponics, they have been adequate enough to support the growth of not only the two float beds of collards and mixed lettuce but also an entire media bed filled with various heavier feeding fruiting crops including tomatoes, cucumbers, cantaloupe, squash and peppers.  Boron levels are high and are the likely reason behind the discoloration of the cucumber leaves which is sensitive to Boron. Despite the high levels of Mn added to the system via MOST micro mix, Mn concentration are still far too low at 0.05 mg/l. Deficiencies have appeared, and for this reason, the fertilizer manganese sulfate will be used to increase concentration without affecting Boron or other potentially toxic micros. Below is a table of the full results: 

Parameter

Concentration (ppm) (4/20)

Concentration (ppm) (6/20)

E.C.

0.64 mS/cm

0.99

Ca

36.91

48.53

Mg

23.5

51.83

Na

60.39

70.27

Cl

35.31

56.76

B

0.17

0.44

Fe

0

2.65

Mn

0

0.05

S

64.36

68.65

Cu

0.01

0.28

Zn

0

1.16

Mo

0.01

0.07

NO3-N

0.02

31.47 (140 as NO3)

NH4-N

6.73

0.78

P

0.9

3.96

K

10.77

32.87

Fish Overview

The blue tilapia in the Niles system continue to feed at more than the optimal rate. The feeding rate has increased from 170 grams/day to 210 grams/day and fish size has increased from 125 grams/fish to 175 grams/fish. Using the avg. tilapia weight and the data generated by the graph below it was determined that they should be feeding at 2.19%. This is 0.67% lower than their actual feeding rate at 2.86% body weight which means they are consuming nearly 50 grams more feed than expected. Fish feeding rate is increasing at 0.476 grams/fish/week.

Based on the water quality, lower tilapia populations are actually more optimal for our smaller system.

Crop Overview

All of the leafy greens are growing very well as anticipated. The LED float bed now has Asian leafy greens and the fluorescent float bed will be harvested completely on 7/05. From this point forward staggered production will be utilized to produce leafy greens and lettuce in the float beds. This will maintain a steady nutrient uptake.

In the following images you can see the change in crop size that has occurred over the last two weeks in the media bed.

 

The crops have been growing better than anticipated and even our tomatoes have recovered fully and are showing good growth. There is some leaf curling due to high heat loads in the warehouse which can’t be helped. The zucchini squash, cantaloupe and cucumbers are all producing first small fruits.

LED Testing Trial

The LED and fluorescent trial results are in and listed at the top. Exactly as expected the LEDs produce at slightly faster rates. There was no significant difference in taste between the two grow methods although further testing will need to be done to determine the nutrient content of the tissue itself to see if a difference exists. With the LEDs producing stronger pigmentation it is likely crops grown under it will contain higher levels of various nutrients.  

You can see the remaining collards in the Flourescent Float bed below. 

 

Staggered production has already begun in the LED float bed and the same will be done in the other when the collards are harvest very soon.  

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Topics: Aquaponics, Aqueduct Development, LED, Niles

System Update: Niles 6/20/17

Posted by Conor Quinlan on Jun 23, 2017 2:30:00 PM

Niles

 

Nitrogen (mg/L)

 

 

 

Date

pH

Total Ammonia

Ammonia

Nitrite

Nitrate

Temp (Fo)

Alkalinity

mg/L

EC (mS)

6/02

6.8

0.25

n/a

2

>150

78.5

32.5

1.17

6/05

6.7 -> 7.35

0.25

n/a

2-5

>150

77.6

-

1.20

6/07

7.3

0.25

n/a

1-2

>150

77.1

-

1.28

6/09

7.25

0.25

n/a

2-5

>150

76.3

70

1.20

6/12

7.25

0.25

n/a

2-5

>150

80

-

1.22

6/14

7.3

0.25

n/a

2-5

>150

82

-

1.21

6/16

7.4

0.25

n/a

0.25

150

81

150

1.17

06/02/17 -> 06/16/17 : Total Hardness: 380 -> 400 -> 390 mg/L CaCO3 equ
Calcium Level: 54.4 ->62.4 ->61 mg/L Magnesium level: ~59.5 -> 59.5 ->58 mg/L
P (PO4-) = 10 -> 8-10 -> 22.5 mg/L

Above is an image of the Niles system taken on 6/12. Both float beds are growing very healthy mixed lettuce and collards with the LEDs producing individuals that were slightly larger and more colorful. The mixed lettuce in the further 2/3s of the LED bed had to be harvested 6/16 whereas the lettuce in fluorescent float bed will remain in place until 6/21 or 6/23. The collards will be left in the float beds until they are more mature and have been spaced 16” apart to allow for larger growth. The closer 1/3 of the LED float bed, previous seeded with mixed lettuce, was replace with a new variety of Asian leafy greens.

Water Quality Overview

Since there is more than enough Mg available in the water MgCO3 was replaced with a slightly larger deposit of CaCO3 for the next carbonate addition added on 6/05. For the 950-gallon system more CaCO3, 300 grams, needed to be utilized in order to provide the same amount of carbonate as MgCO3. Calcium carbonate is also significantly less soluble than the other carbonates. For this reason 100 grams of K2CO3 was also added to help raise alkalinity, pH and K+ levels.

Nitrite levels have been consistently higher than previously seen in our basic system even with optimal pH and temperature levels. The reason behind this is the large population of 95 fish being utilized in the system.  Another reason is that the clarifier was getting clogged by large clumps of nitrifying bacteria which was growing too quickly for the system to handle. This was lowering the flow rate and keeping the media bed from siphoning regularly. Without regular siphoning the bacteria may not be receiving enough oxygen to preform adequate nitrification. A larger bristle brush pipe cleaner is the best tool you can use to keep the pipes connecting the fish tank, clarifier and media bed clean. This can be purchased at any major hardware store.

On 6/11, over a weekend, the system clogged due to a screen placed over the clarifier outlet for our Shrimp experiment which clogged with nitrifying bacteria faster than anticipated. More surprising was how fast the fish in the system died after the system became clogged. The bypass valve was opened slightly so the system never overfilled but the flow slowed enough to cause ammonia levels to become lethal. Half the fish died and now only 41-42 remain. If the system stops flowing with a large population of fish it takes <24 hours to cause significant damage. This is discussed in more depth in our experiments post next week. 

This also means the nitrification rate is now significantly slower and the pH is no longer as affected leading to higher pH levels. The alkalinity managed to rise to 150 mg/L due to the transpiration of the lettuce and collards in both float beds. This transpiration is very significant (>5 gallons required per day). Overall, the leafy crops appear to have a very strong basifying effect on the system.

 Fish Overview:

The blue tilapia in system #2 continue to feed at more than the optimal rate even after the clog on 6/11. The fish that survived have recovered fully. They are feeding at a rate far higher than expected at 170 grams/day and each weighs an average of ¼ lbs or 114 grams. Using the avg. tilapia weight they should be feeding at 130 grams/day which means they are consuming 40 grams more feed than expected with a feeding at 3.55% body weight per day rate. This means that the tilapia purchased from the commercial fish farm in NM can consume the anticipated maximum for tilapia of 200 g.

It is safe to say that 100 fish, for even the largest Aqueduct layout (both add-ons included), is over-kill. The accumulation of nutrients was already becoming an issue after just over two months since adding the tilapia. This is proven consistent with our recommendation that 75 Tilapia is the upper limit of the system. The data also indicates that a system can function with as few as 25 individuals. We will be exploring a low density system after our next reset. 

 

Crop Overview

The lettuce and collard varieties in both float beds have shown absolutely no problem growing. Any leafy green or lettuce related variety thrive in the Aqueduct environment.

The newly planted Asian greens, under the LEDs, are showing very interesting pigmentation which should produce a very appealing variety visually.

 

LED Testing Trial

As discussed below the first image at the top of this post the LED grown lettuce and collards are growing slightly larger than all of the same individuals under the fluorescent fixture. This is because the LEDs produce a higher PAR at near 350 umols/m2/s vs the fluorescents which output 280 umols/m2/s. The mixed lettuce in the LED grow bed needed approximately 24 days to reach max maturity (first signs of bolting) after being transplanted whereas the fluorescent grown lettuce needed approximately 30 days. The LEDs consume 40% less energy while taking 20% less time to produce similar mass quantities. Below is an image taken on 6/12 showing the difference in size of crops between the two testing float beds:

Below is another image showing the difference in size and pigmentation between two red romaine lettuce individuals of the same variety from each grow bed on 6/16 when the LED lettuce was harvested. The right individual is from the LED grow bed while the left individual is from the Fluorescent grow bed. The LED grown individual appears to have a better luster and red pigmentation as well as overall larger size.

 To the left are images showing the progress of the mixed lettuce and collards in the fluorescent bed and just the collards in the LED bed taken 6/18.

 

The collards in the LED grow bed have gotten so large that they were partially covering the mixed lettuce before it was harvested. Now they cover the area almost completely

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Topics: Aquaponics, Niles

System Update: Niles 6/6/17

Posted by Conor Quinlan on Jun 6, 2017 2:30:00 PM

System #2

 

Nitrogen (mg/L)

 

 

 

Date

pH

Total Ammonia

Ammonia

Nitrite

Nitrate

Temp (Fo)

Alkalinity

mg/L

EC (mS)

5/26

7.0

0.25

n/a

2-3

150

76

47

1.06

5/31

6.9

0.25

n/a

1

-

78.3

-

1.14

6/02

6.8

0.25

n/a

2

>150

78.5

32.5

1.17

05/26/17 -> 06/02/17 : Total Hardness: 330 -> 380 mg/L CaCO3 equ
Calcium Level: 53.5 ->54.4 mg/L        Magnesium level: ~47.8 -> 59.5 mg/L
P (PO4-) = 3 -> 10 mg/L

Above is an image of system #2 full of fresh seedlings which are now a few inches tall after being seeded a few weeks ago. The expansion float bed on the far right will be testing the LED fixtures and will be compared directly to the other float bed which will utilize the standard 650W florescent lights. Both will grow a variety of collards and mixed lettuce varieties. The harvest quality and amount will then be compared.

Water Quality Overview: The 200 gram MgCO3 and 100 g K2CO3 addition have acted as a very adequate buffer that maintained the pH above 6.6 for over a 10-day period. Since Niles is operating at the maximum fish capacity, this addition represents the max recommended carbonate addition for full capacity production.

With Mg levels reaching nearly 60 mg/L we are starting supplementing with CaCO3 and K2CO3. Calcium levels should be maintained around 80-100 mg/L and can reach concentration up to 200 mg/L without any significant negative effect.

Although the 40-gram addition of M.O.S.T Micro mix added more than sufficient quantities of all other micro nutrients 50 grams of chelated iron needed to be added in order to correct some Iron deficiencies that were beginning to form in the larger lettuce individuals in the LED float bed as seen in the image above. Therefore, in order to create an ideal micro nutrient profile both JR Peters M.O.S.T Mix and DTPA Chelated Iron are required once every few months.

 

Fish Overview: The blue tilapia in the Niles System continue to feed at more than the optimal rate. Since 5/23 the feeding rate has been increased from 233 g/day to an astonishing 300 g/day. The crop should be receiving maximum nutrient utilization around 375 - 400 grams/day for lettuce growth and the feeding rate will be slowed in order to prevent over accumulation of waste and nutrients. Heavier feeding crops will be transplanted into the media bed once a second addition of K2CO3 is added in order to allow the feeding rate to continue to rise.

 

To the left is a comparison of the change in size of the tilapia over the course of the last week with the first image image being from 5/26 and the second from 6/02. Although the size change is not that noticeable the significant increase in feeding rate suggests that the young adult tilapia are >100 grams average. The water color indicates that the nutrient content is building.

 Crop Overview: The crops are growing very well and there is no doubt that nearly all lettuce varieties have no problem growing immediately after nitrate begins to form and micronutrients are added.

A few fruiting crops were added to the media bed in order to determine if heavier feeding crops can be placed immediately in the system at this higher production capacity. The squash crop and peppers are looking good with the tomato crop showing major K deficiencies as well as some slight P deficiency. A second addition of K2CO3 and Super Triple Phosphate will be required before adequate tomato growth is obtained.

In the images above you can see the change in crop size in the past week. The Squash, in particular, is thriving. 

LED Testing Trial: Thus far the LED grown crops are already showing some slight differences in plant morphology. Mainly that the LED crops are more compact and have better pigmentation. The LED grown crops are also slightly larger in size mainly due to the higher level of PAR produced by the LEDs. Below is a comparison of the crops grown under the different light sources:

 

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Topics: Aquaponics, Fish, Niles

System Update: Niles 5/31/17

Posted by Conor Quinlan on May 31, 2017 2:10:24 PM

Niles

 

Nitrogen (mg/L)

 

 

 

Date

pH

Total Ammonia

Ammonia

Nitrite

Nitrate

Temp (Fo)

Alkalinity

mg/L

EC (mS)

05/08

7.05

0.25

n/a

2-5

10

78.4

35

0.82

05/10

7.15

0.5

n/a

2-5

15

76

-

0.80

5/12

7.00

0.25

n/a

5

20

74.5

25-30

0.80

5/15

6.4 -> 6.9

0.25

n/a

>5

20

76.1

-

0.81

5/17

6.9

0.25

n/a

>5

30-40

78

-

0.84

5/19

6.9

0.25

n/a

5

40-80

82

35

0.93

5/22

6.8

0.25

n/a

2-5

>80

75

-

0.90

5/24

6.6->7.3

0.25

n/a

2-5

115

75

-

1.00

5/26

7.0

0.25

n/a

2-3

150

76

47

1.06

05/12/17 -> 05/19/17 -> 5/26/17 : Total Hardness: 240 -> 290 -> 330 mg/L CaCO3 equ
Calcium Level: 52 -> 50 -> 53.5 mg/L Magnesium level: ~26.8 -> 40.2 -> 47.8 mg/L
P (PO4-) = 2 -> 3 mg/L

Above is an image of system #2 full of fresh seedlings. The expansion float bed on the far right will be testing the LED fixtures and will be compared directly to the other float bed which will utilize the standard 650W florescent lights. Both will grow a variety of collards and mixed lettuce varieties. The harvest quality and amount will then be compared.

 

Water Quality Overview: Since adding the water heater the nitrate levels have continued to rise but only more recently have begun to spike. Within the last 10 day the nitrate level has increased from about 20 mg/L to 150 mg/L. So overall the transformation process has very distinct peaks where rapid conversions from ammonia to nitrite and nitrite to nitrate occur within a few day period or less after an extended period of bacteria growth between each nitrification phase. The drop in ph has been far more dramatic in the last few weeks and even the addition of 200 g of MgCO3 on 5/15 only brought the pH up from 6.4 -> 6.9 and only maintained an adequate pH for 9 days. This is due to the larger water holding capacity of the system with the expansion float bed attached. A larger addition was therefore necessary on 5/24 to compensate for the extra water held by the expansion float bed (about 300 extra gallons). 100 g of K2CO3 was added with 200 grams MgCO3 to help increase the buffer/pH to higher levels while also adding the limited nutrient K for the newly seeded crops. This had a more significant impact on pH which increased from 6.6 -> 7.3.

 40 g of the new micro nutrient mix was used to added mainly Mo, Mn and Fe but adds all vital micro nutrients. Thus far no negative effects have been experienced due to the addition as expected. It is important that a micro mix like this NOT be over used as it can become toxic to plants if excessive micro nutrients are dissolved in the solution, generally a MAX of 1 mg/L of any micro nutrient, other than Fe which is required at 3-5 mg/L, is more than enough, nutrients like Cu and Mo will cause toxicity problems at levels around 0.5 mg/L or greater.

 Our Micro Mix is called: JR Peters M.O.S.T Mix, contact JR Peters Laboratory for product.

 

Fish Overview: These blue tilapias are doing far better than the locally sourced tilapia in system #1 particularly at their current size. They are consuming slightly more feed than system #1 at 233 g/day. On 5/23 the tilapia were weighed to determine the current feeding percentage which was approximately 3.3-3.6% of their body weight (avg. of 72.85 g/fish). This is the same or slightly greater than the rate approximated by our fish size to feeding relationship graph below. This is far greater than the feeding rate of the juveniles in system #1 which consistently consumed <2.5% of their body weight during a lot of that earlier growing stage. Even since the weighing the feeding rate has been increased further to 260 g/day on 5/26.

Crop Overview: During this early stage of the system cycle most of the system will be dedicated to growing mixed collards and lettuce in order to do the LED and florescent comparison described below. 

The media bed has been seeded with sage and lavender as well as individual squash, tomato and pepper crops. The nutrient content of system #2 is increasing so quickly, due to the high quality of the fish, that immediate filling of the systems with heavy feeding crops is required. 

 

 

LED Testing Trial: The LEDs and Florescent lights have been put into place above the grow tanks and will be used to compare results between the two lights. The LEDs consume approximately 40% less energy per light while outputting a higher quality PAR output. Therefore, we expect these LEDs to produce larger and higher quality produce over time. A variety of collard and lettuce varieties from the same seed stock were used in each float bed for a direct comparison. Both float beds were filled with the seedling on 5/22 and will be grown in a batched fashion in order to provide more accurate visual data.  Everything for this test was seeded at the same time, in the same grow tray, with the same seedling nutrient solution.

Lighting Set-up: The LED lights have been placed 3’ above the crops to ensure proper light uniformity with their smaller footprint (size) while the fluorescents have been placed 2’ above the crops. The LEDs produce an average PAR between 300-330 umol/m2/s with the very lowest reading being 250 umols/m2/s at the farthest edge of the grow tank. The fluorescents produce an average of 280 umols/m2/s with the lowest reading being 240 umols/m2/sec at the farthest edge.

 The LED provide slightly less uniformity due to their smaller footprint but the fluorescents produce significantly more heat directed towards the crops than the LEDs. Clip fans will need to be used to help reduce the heat buildup and improve transpiration of the crops in that area.

 Mixed lettuce, which was added to one raft on 5/16 to ensure the water had enough nutrients, is already producing significantly more pigmentation and compactness compared to the lettuce grown in system #1 under the fluorescents.

 Updates on the comparison, as well as pictures, will be provided continuously over time. Below is an image of the LED light up close:

 

 

 

 

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Topics: Aquaponics, Aqueduct Development, Niles

System Update 4/27/16: Niles

Posted by Conor Quinlan on Apr 27, 2017 2:30:00 PM

Niles

 

Nitrogen (mg/L)

 

 

 

Date

pH

Total Ammonia

Ammonia

Nitrite

Nitrate

Temp (Fo)

Alkalinity

mg/L

EC (mS)

04/19

7.7

4

N/A

0

0

73.6

85

0.65

04/24

7.7

>8

>0.05

0

0

68.2

90

0.70

 04/24/17 -> Total Hardness: 190-210 mg/L CaCO3 equ
Calcium Level: 40 mg/L           Magnesium level: ~24.3 mg/L

Water Quality Overview:

It has been over 10 days and there is no nitrite or nitrate formation yet. This is most likely because of the low water temperature with no heater attached. The NH3 concentration are reaching toxic levels and care must be taken to ensure that ammonia does not rise further. If nitrite isn’t forming by the end of the week we will try inoculating the media bed with media from system #1, that should help grow the bacteria a little faster. 

Fish Overview:

The tilapia are doing better than the locally sourced fish in the Frasier system. It is apparent that the source of the fish greatly influences their quality and feeding rate.  Using the feeding rate of about 80 grams/day the fish are estimated to be about 20.5 grams each which is already a 4 gram increase over the last 12 days.In the images belowe you can see the change in size of the tilapia over the course of the week. So far, the fish are gowing as anticipated. 

 Crop Overview:

The mixed lettuce will be transplanted into system #2 once the fluorescent lights go up. We should have those ready to go by the end of the week. With no Nitrate being formed and the high levels of Ammonia the crop growth will not be optimal. The water temperature is having a significant effect on bacteria colonization in this system. 

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Topics: Aquaponics, Fish, Niles