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.

Read More

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

System Update: Frasier 6/27/17

Posted by Conor Quinlan on Jun 27, 2017 3:26:08 PM

Frasier

 

Nitrogen (mg/L)

 

 

 

Date

pH

Total Ammonia

Ammonia

Nitrite

Nitrate

Temp (Fo)

Alkalinity

mg/L

EC (mS)

6/09

7.00

0.25

n/a

0.25

350

76

50

1.60

6/12

6.9

0.25

n/a

2-5

-

80

-

1.66

6/14

6.85

0.25

n/a

0.5

-

81

-

1.70

6/16

7.05

0.25

n/a

1

300-350

81

57.5

1.62

6/19

 

0.25

n/a

2-5

-

81

-

1.64

6/21

7.15

0.25

n/a

2-5

-

82

-

1.66

6/23

7.2

0.25

n/a

0.25

300-350

82

75

1.67

06/09 -> 06/16 -> 06/23 Total Hardness: 500 -> 520 -> 540 mg/L CaCO3 equ
Calcium Level: 68 -> 67 -> 65 mg/L            Magnesium level: 82 -> 85 -> 92 mg/L
Phosphate Level: ~ 30 -> 25 -> 25   mg/L (as PO4-)

Water Quality Overview:

The pH has been increasing rather than dropping lately. There are a couple of reasons behind this. First is that the source water has a much higher alkalinity than previously observed at 100 mg/L versus 55 mg/L. The change in source water quality is affecting the chemistry of the water,  leading to higher pH levels. This means that our carbonate additions will need to be lowered. It is not unusual for source water quality to change over time and should therefore be measured consistently. The system also has a significant number of larger crops that can easily influence the pH of the solution by taking up more water or releasing higher levels of OH- or H+. The efficiency of the nitrifying bacteria within the media bed is equally as important, a static media bed (no siphoning) can lead to less nitrification and therefore higher pH levels. That was a major part in what occured in our system. 

A clog in the clarifier assembly due to buildup caused the siphon in our system to stop functioning and decreased nitrification production leading to higher nitrite levels. Clearing the clog with a large bristle brush pipe cleaner is very effective and should be done once a week.

The only addition made in the last two weeks was 50 grams of chelated iron which is now required in higher intervals with the addition of the heavier feeding crops in the media bed. It has only been 2.5 weeks (versus 2 months previously) since the last addition signifying how much more rapidly it is being absorbed by the crops.

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:

Fish feeding rate and growth is fairly strong. The feeding rate has increased to 276 grams/day up from 250 grams/day. The growth of the fish is going well with an increase in size from 125 grams to 228 grams in the past 4 weeks. Using the fish size to feeding relationship the ideal feeding rate should be around 286 g/day so the tilapia are only about 10 grams/day off of their max feeding rate which is very good.

 

Above you can see the change that has occurred in size from 6/09 to 6/26. The second image being the most recent. The fish are growing faster now that the feeding rate is more consistent.

Crop Update:

Below is a representation of the crops in Frasier’s media bed from 6/09 (first) to 6/23 (second). Thus far the only crop having trouble is the cantaloupe.  This is because of its sensitivity to boron,  copper,  or transplanting. The cantaloupe seems to be recovering in the last several days and are growing far more effectively. It is most likely that the reason behind the problem was the stress induced by transplanting the crop.

The tomatoes and cantaloupe are growing very fast.  Their stems are quite thin due to low light levels and are beginning to fall over. Sticks will be needed to hoist them up. A couple of the tomato crops are now beginning to bloom and we will have our first tomatoes of the year very soon.

The thrip infestation is gone.  I have occasionally found a few thrips, so the crops are being tended weekly with natural pesticides until the population is completely exhausted. The crops have recovered from most of the thrip damage.

The strawberries have been trimmed and one more NFT channel has been removed to make more room for the remaining crops.

The strawberries are still very vegetative and consistently put out runners which means flowering is not being triggered. This is due to the high temperatures in our warehouse. A temperature around or below 50 F is generally required for a couple hours at night to induce flowering. Either a solution must be found to cool the strawberries or we are going to have to wait for the fall to get additional strawberry fruits. 

The Swish chard and basil crops which were added to the float bed on 6/09 and are doing well as expected. The basil started growing far better when transplanted from the hydro solution in the propagation tray to the float bed.

Above is an image of the full float bed which now has beets, swiss chard, basil, and a couple radish crops growing.

Below is an image of the beets on 6/09 (left) and (6/26) right. The right image also shows a close up of the towels and how they were wrapped around the beets. The beets are growing far better with moist paper towels wrapped around them. One was left without a towel as a control to observe the difference, which can be observed in the images. 

 

Outdoor Update:

The newly transplanted crops outdoors had some trouble with heavy winds but appear to be recovering nicely. The pepper crop didn’t make it, so it will be replaced. Below are images of the crops (top are the strawberries, bottom are tomatoes, Brussel sprouts, cantaloupe, and squash.

Read More

Topics: Aquaponics, Strawberries, Pest Management, Frasier

System Update: Frasier 5/10/17

Posted by Conor Quinlan on May 10, 2017 2:30:00 PM

System #1

Frasier 

Nitrogen (mg/L)

 

 

 

Date

pH

Total Ammonia

Ammonia

Nitrite

Nitrate

Temp (Fo)

Alkalinity

mg/L

EC (mS)

04/26

7.1

0.25

N/A

0

225

79

30

1.30

04/28

7.0

0.25

N/A

0

-

78

-

1.32

5/03

6.5 to 7.1

0.25

N/A

0

-

76.5

-

1.37

5/05

6.4 to 7.3

0.25

N/A

0

225-250

76.5

35->50

1.50

04/24/17 -> Total Hardness: 420 mg/L CaCO3 equ
Calcium Level: 78 mg/L  Magnesium level: ~54.5 mg/L
Phosphate Level: ~ 20 mg/L (as PO4-)

 

Water Quality Overview:

The pH has finally reached levels low enough to add K2CO3. I have added a total of 150 grams to the system from 5/03 to 5/05 which had a significant effect on the pH but had some unexpected consequences. K levels actually decreased since our most recent lab conducted water quality test from 16.3 mg/L to 14.7 mg/L. The addition of K2CO3 will begin increasing this concentration fairly rapidly.

On 5/03 50 grams of K2CO3 was added to ensure the change in pH and alkalinity was not too extreme. The pH increased from 6.5 -> 7.1 because of the very high solubility of the compound. MgCO3 and CaCO3 are dependent on lower pH for greater solubility where as K2CO3 is not. Upon retesting the system on 5/05 the pH had dropped dramatically to 6.4. This is much faster than expected but 100 g more K2CO3 was added on 5/05. This increased the pH to 7.3. This should retain the pH for a longer period of time with the alkalinity at 50 mg/L. It Is possible that the feeding rate is great enough to substantially increase the effects of nitrification causing the quick drop in pH. On the other hand, this larger addition of K2CO3 will improve K levels for crops. Since there is plenty of Mg and Ca in the source water K2CO3 will be my pH adjusting compound of choice until K levels are sufficient (>150 mg/l). This will allow us to utilize more fruiting crops in our system in the near future.

The most recent laboratory based water quality test was received early this week. Low levels of Mn and Mo were reported, the kelp powder did not add significant levels of these micro nutrients. We have therefore ordered chelated Mn as that is the nutrient causing the most severe deficiency problems. Mo is only required is very small amounts to encourage optimal crop growth. The lab tests currently show none available, so we are hopeful that this will not become a problem. 

P has risen significantly since the addition of super triple phosphate, 1.26 mg/L to 5.83 mg/L, therefore 50 grams per month will continue to be added throughout the life cycle of the system to keep strawberry production and quality high.

Among the more significant problems discovered with the water quality test is the accumulation of sodium in the solution which is becoming toxic to many crops. The two sources of sodium are source water and fish feed. The most significant is the feed. We are currently looking at alternatives that are more ideally suited for aquaponics purposes. 

Fish Update: The tilapia in system #1 are finally eating the appropriate amount of feed for their size and are up to consuming 188 grams/day which is nearly 70 grams greater than the feeding rate on 4/24! This means that the fish are close to weighing about 100 grams each. I am hoping that the higher feeding rate will being adding more micronutrients to the system, particularly Mo which is a difficult micronutrient to source.

As you can see the fish tank is getting darker due to the higher feeding rate of the fish. They are difficult to see but have grown substantially. The feeding rate will be kept constant until the water clears some. The darker water is a sign that the fish are at their feeding capacity

Crop Update: The crops are still producing very well and the beans harvested last week were delicious despite a couple nutrient deficiency (mainly Mn and K). Crop quality should increase significantly now with the addition of K2CO3. A couple cups of micronutrient hydroponic blend have been added to the solution to temporarily raise the Mn and Mo levels while more viable fertilizers are found. A chelated Mn powder will be used to raise the levels of this micro nutrient. Mn is definitely causing the most significant deficiency in both bean and strawberry crops and will need to be corrected as soon as possible.

Sodium is turning out to be a significant problem and is likely the cause of previously observed plant growingproblems. The herbs oregano and thyme aren’t growing well and even other crops like swiss chard and spinach appear to be impacted. A test will need to be done to demonstrate the effects of hydroponic solution with reasonably levels of Na compared with the effects of high Na. Many crops remain unaffected by the high sodium levels including the mixed lettuce, strawberries, peas, beans, rosemary and lavender.

The peas are now producing fruits and the strawberries are developing very nicely! Beans are continuing to produce very rapidly as well!  No problems to report here despite the deficiencies observed.

In the image the peas have grown so large that they have to be placed on their sides to keep from hitting the lights. The peas will continue to be wrapped around the PVC poles as they grow.

You can see the dramatic change is strawberry crop size from 4/24 to 5/5. Most of the varieties are bearing fruits and many are already producing side shoots (runners) which produce more individuals. These should be cut in the NFT channels. You can see the Mn deficiency forming slightly on the upper most leaves with a light green color. So far the rest of the crop remains unaffected

 

 Finally, you can see the strawberry crops beginning to form and the peas are looking exceptionally great. 

Read More

Topics: Aquaponics, Fish, Strawberries