We’ve been operating a Growroom we built by closing in a typical ranch style home back porch about a year and six months ago. Because we sell our Food Forever™ Growing Systems to people who place them in Greenhouses, basements, garages or spare rooms, we wanted to be able to demonstrate aquaponic food growing technology in an indoor environment as well as in our Greenhouse.
We also wanted to do a comparison between the two growing environments; and we’re coming up with some interesting conclusions. One of those conclusions is that right now, January 19, 2013, our Growroom is putting out more veggies than our Greenhouse. We’re in the high-desert of Southern California, and we’ve been dealing with some bitter cold for the last week. It’s actually gotten down to the mid 20’s at night and stayed in the high 30’s during the day; and for Californians, that’s really cold. Nevertheless, our Growroom has stayed a balmy 77 degrees F; and our fish tank water is up around 80 degrees F. And here’s what’s happening in that wonderfully controlled environment.
We have walls of Basil growing and beds full of Butter Lettuce.
The Basil is growing so tall, we have to keep moving the lights up higher and higher.
We finally figured out the right amount of light needed to grow incredible amounts of veggies. We’re using Fluorescent Fixtures, which are great for growing leafy greens; but they won’t grow flowering vegetables like cucumbers. These T5 Grow Tubes are on only eight hours a day and are really doing the job. We’re selling these lights on our website in two sizes. There are eight Grow Tubes in each light; and it takes two of the larger sized lights (FF-8B) to cover one of our 11 sq. ft. Grow Beds. When we were trying to do this with one of the small lights, FF-8A, we were getting stunted growth and brown spots on our leaves. Now we are getting huge, beautiful leaves, no spots and virtually no pests in this Growroom. To check out these great Grow Lights, go here.
This is a Grow Bed full of Rex Butter Lettuce. It’s delicious, hardy and prolific. This lettuce went from seedlings to full heads in about one month and it was the coldest month we’ve experienced in California in a long time with outside temperatures around 25 degrees F at night.
This Growroom has two entry doors. Below is the room from the North facing door. There are two fish tanks in this room. The one in the foreground of this photo is our 120 gallon tank; and it’s holding about 25 tilapia. In the foreground is our automatic fish feeder. When someone asked us who was taking care of the fish, both Oliver and I looked at each other and said, “No one’s taking care of the fish.” Then we both thought for a moment and corrected ourselves to say: “The fish feeders are taking care of the fish.” If you think raising fish is difficult, think again. They pretty much take care of themselves and only need to be fed.
Below is a photo of our South facing door. When you enter from this side of the room, you see our 320 gallon fish tank that has around 35 Tilapia in it. Some of these guys we’ve had since we started doing aquaponics and they’re huge. We’re letting them grow to see how large they’ll actually get. Everything’s R&D around here as we started from scratch not knowing anything about aquaponics until we discovered it in 2008. We’ll share some photos of these guys in our next Blog post.
We’ve explained in the past how we keep our Growroom a balmy 77 degrees F in the dead of winter; but for those of you who missed that important tid bit of info here it is again. We use a standard home hot water heater in that room. It’s rigged with a stainless steel pipe that comes out of it and wraps twice around the bottom of the 320 gallon fish tank. The hot water heater heats the water to whatever temperature we want. A couple of days ago, we upped the temperature from 76 degrees to 80 degrees to heat up the room a little bit more because it’s all that hot water that’s keeping the room warm. There’s nothing else in the Growroom except a small air conditioner for summer.
Hope your Holiday Season was joyous and you’re getting off to a great start in 2013. We’re about to start harvesting that Butter Lettuce and will be selling it over at Sue’s Health Food Store in Yucca Valley, CA, our local go to place for everything that’s good for us. Our next Blog post will be about the harvesting, packaging and delivery of the veggies we’ve talked about here.
We’re growing more than we can eat ourselves right now, which is the good news; but we’re not really growing enough to make money on the food sales. We wanted to make that clear so we don’t send out the wrong information here. Right now, selling our veggies is practice for moving into a viable commercial operation down the road. An economically viable commercial aquaponics operation requires a much larger set up than our little R&D set up. Our focus right now is selling systems. We grow food for ourselves and to demonstrate how well our systems work. When we grow more than we can eat, we’ve arranged to take our excess over to our local Health Food Store because that’s the right thing to do; and I get to exercise my marketing brain with packaging, point of sale signs, vendor/owner relationships etc. It’s all practice.
Thanks for visiting our Blog. We really appreciate your participation in this exciting new way to grow food. We love sharing and are so blessed to be able to do that with you here. We’re keeping the same motto for 2013 as 2012.
IT’S TIME TO GET GROWING!