Full Circle Aquaponics Demonstration Site

Final Report for FNC12-863

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2012: $7,500.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: North Central
State: Kansas
Project Coordinator:
Alice Hill
Beaver Creek Ranch
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Project Information

Summary:

Summary

FULL CIRCLE AQUAPONICS DEMONSTRATION SITE includes a 24’ X 24’ non-traditional greenhouse which contains an Aquaponics System to raise tilapia and fresh produce year-round as well as a ‘total farm’ concept including organic hard red winter wheat, pastured heritage pigs, pastured poultry for meat and eggs, pastured cows for beef and milk, extensive gardens including one high tunnel, one modified high tunnel, small fruits, vermicomposting and use of on-farm fertility inputs.  The food produced is used in part to feed the guests who enjoy upland game bird and turkey hunts at Beaver Creek Ranch.

Introduction – Prior to building and installing the greenhouse and aquaponics system we were only able to produce fresh items during the traditional growing months which did not include the hunting season.  We purchased all fresh items from our local grocery.  These products are all shipped in from CA, etc., and the quality was poor.  FULL CIRCLE AQUAPONICS allows us to serve food grown on our farm year-round and to serve the best quality available.  During the non-hunting months we hope to host interested visitors who wish to see aquaponics in action and to see how a small farm can be sustainable through a variety of agri-tourism options.  Additionally, one goal of the research is to ‘close the loop’ as much as possible to minimize off-farm inputs for the greenhouse, livestock and gardens.

Objectives/Performance Targets-

  1. To establish a fully operational aquaponics greenhouse with minimal energy use
  2. To grow and harvest fresh greens year-round
  3. To raise tilapia to harvest size
  4. To establish a breeding tank and nursery tank for tilapia
  5. To create a food supply for the tilapia to supplement commercial fish pellets
  6. To host guests during non-hunting months specifically for the FULL CIRCLE AQUAPONICS DEMONSTRATIION SITE
  7. To offer exposure to the Total Farm concept to local citizens
  8. To create a data base for solar collectors in a heat bank system
  9. To create a planting and harvest guide for aquaponics in KS
  10. To utilize solar voltaic panels to offset electrical use

Methods

  1. Greenhouse highly Insulated (North and West walls and North roof covered by double layers of Farm Tek Reflective/BubbleBubble/Poly wrap, East wall Solexx with drop down insulating curtain, South wall Solexx with 2” polystyrene sheets manually placed at night, Aluminet curtains drawn horizontally as insulating blanket at night)
  2. Raft tank system Nelson & Pade – sequential seeding of varied greens, etc. into rock wool cubes
  3. Nelson & Pade  4-50 gallon tanks stocked sequentially
  4. 75 gallon aquarium with extra filtration for breeders, 30 gallon tank with extra filtration for raising fry to fingerling stocker size
  5. Duckweed tanks initiated, red wiggler worms growing in vermicompost bin, black soldier fly breeding closet and Bio-pod for larvae, meal worms harvested from waste grain
  6. Website: www.fullcircleaquaponics.info, advertise as an underwriter for High Plains Public Radio (HPPR), special coverage reports on HPPR’s Growing on the High Plains, listing on SARE website, introduction of project via e-mails and letters to various agencies, community colleges, etc.
  7. School tours, K-State Research and Extension contact, area Farm Service Agency contact
  8. Daily records of inside/outside temps and sensors, weather conditions collected and put into a computer file for sharing (Solar Heat Exchange website link)
  9. Calendar records of each planting, varieties and results. Photos of growing plants.
  10. Unable to purchase solar voltaic panels at this time due to cost.

 Outcomes and Impacts

  1. General outcome shows effective temperature control during a very hard winter. Cooling the building during the summer months (a very hot summer) was more difficult.  For data please contact Alice Hill ah.fullcircle@gmail.com
  2. Full range of salad greens, chard, kale, Asian greens, chives, etc. have been harvested and utilized by our guests during the fall/winter.  Additionally, some local sales and sharing of items with friends & family.  All scraps fed to layer hens to supplement their winter diet.
  3. Harvested 15 White Brook White Nile tilapia as of this writing, (Tank 1 was then restocked)

Tank 2, 3 & 4 contain fish at various sizes.

  1. Breeder tank will receive 1 adult male and 1 adult female at the end of March to begin home production of fry.
  2. Not utilized yet as I wished to have the system in full and stable production prior to ‘experimenting’ with supplemental feed. Currently using pelleted fish food from the same company the tilapia were purchased from.
  3.  One short tour given to a family from MO who learned about us from the SARE website.  Two phone calls from interested people also generated by SARE website.  No overnight guests yet, but our goal is to begin June 2014.  Over 100 hunting guests from many states have toured the greenhouse this winter. 
  4. Local impacts: co-presented at the Colby KS K-State Research and Experiment Station Field Day event October 2013 on the subject of Aquaponics (invited to do similar presentation in Hays, KS in 2014); gave a tour to the St. Francis, KS community garden group; presented at the Atwood, KS library lunch program; gave two school tours last spring (prior to completion of aquaponics system); tour to four local business owners; other individuals.  Also hosted an intern for Ogallala Commons for two months last summer.

Accomplishments

          Reached many goals set for this project with a great amount of knowledge gained throughout the past year.  The concept and actual results were shared with hunting guests and local visitors.

 

Potential Contributions

          Unknown at present.

 

Publications/Outreach

          Not at present.

      

Future Recommendations

Goals for upcoming years:

  1.  Add a media filled bed(s) to utilize the solid waste purging from the fish tanks for fruiting crops such as tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers during the winter months and to act as a further bio-filter year-round.
  2. Develop a photo enhanced e-book for aquaponic growers showing types of plants grown in this system.
  3. Continue to experiment with strawberries in the system to gauge the success and viability of them for raft aquaponics in KS.
  4. Complete the fish food cycle and develop a method of using alternative types of feed to supplement commercial pellets.
  5. Add solar volteic panels to augment the electrical system.
  6. Promote the ‘total farm’ concept and local food production in our area.

         

Project Objectives:

FULL CIRCLE AQUAPONICS DEMONSTRATION SITE is a refinement of a well researched system, customized for small production. Emphasizing self-reliance and sustainability through a closed system, we will show how the use of on-farm inputs for fish food (red wigglers, meal worms, black soldier fly larva and tank raised duckweed) as opposed to commercially processed fish pellets, utilizing the remains from fish processing to supplement the Red Wattle’s diet vs. commercial feed and recycling the garden/greenhouse waste via the vermicompost system will reduce expenditures. Additionally, sprouted grains, (wheat and barley) grown in the aquaponics system and excess plant materials will supplement the poultry and hog feed. Composted waste from the livestock will fertilize the duckweed tanks and outdoor gardens. Using a breeding colony of tilapia will eliminate the need for an outside source of fry (baby fish) to stock the tanks. Green technology to reduce utility costs will include passive solar heated water for radiant heating during winter months, hydro and geo-thermal cooling for the summer, solar fans for ventilation and solar voltaic panels to supplement the electrical needs of the system. A well insulated greenhouse will be built on site to house the aquaponics system.

Research

Participation Summary
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.