Out of the Grow Bed, Into the Pan and Onto the Plate


Here’s what’s going on in our Aquaponics USA Greenhouse these days.

Greenhouse Full ShotWe just harvested a ton of lettuce and moved into flowering plants. Notice we still have lettuce in the first Grow Bed, which is about to be harvested. In the back bed we have the Queens of the Greenhouse–a couple of huge Zucchini Plants that are pumping out huge Zucchini. The leaves on these plants look like African Elephant ears. They were planted in early April. We’ve got eggplant, tomatoes, okra, peppers and corn in the middle beds.

We’re giving corn another try this summer as we actually got cobs to grow last year; but they didn’t mature into edible corn. I’m so eager to be able to grow non GMO corn, which is pretty much impossible to get in the U.S. these days thanks to Monsanto and friends. I just broke down and ordered non GMO corn flour so I can make my own corn tortillas as tacos is one of our favorite dishes around here. Bob's Red Mill

We just harvested four Zucchini from the Queens; and I can’t wait to get them into the kitchen so I can cut one up and make Italian Zucchini paddies.Four Zucchini and the Queens #1Four Zucchini and the Queens #2

Below are a couple of photos of an outdoor Zucchini Plant that was planted on the same day the indoor plants were placed into our Food Forever™ Growing System. Every day we have to go out and water this puppy. Once we do that this evening after the hot desert sun goes down, it will perk right up and not have those droopy puppy-dog ears.Zucchini in soil #2Zucchini in soil #3

The difference between these two plants is remarkable to say the least; and we’ve hardly done anything in the way of maintenance on the indoor plants. Trimmed off some of those huge elephant ears the other day and that was about it. No watering and no weeding. Aquaponics systems don’t have weeds, and the watering is done automatically in what is called an ebb and flow schedule designed into the system.  That means about every 15 minutes the Grow Bed is flooded with water and then it drains out. This goes on 24/7 with the aide of the Bell Siphon.

So here they are in the pan, thick slices of zucchini that were dunked into a couple of raw whisked eggs and then dipped into Italian Bread crumbs and quick fried.Fried Zucchini Paddies

And from the pan, they went to the plate. I’m not planning on auditioning for Master Chef any time soon; but I had to add a few leaves of our fresh basil (we’re growing tons of it on our growroom right now) for color and image appeal. Notice shadow of the cook in the foreground.Zucchini on the Plate

Here’s a photo of the ingredients that went into making the zucchini paddies. Fresh, just picked zucchini from our Food Forever™ Grow Bed, 2 eggs, some Italian Bread Crumbs, graded cheese, salt, pepper, oregano and our own aquaponically grown dried basel (in the bottle with the yellow lid). Oh, and some Prego on top.Ingredients for Pan Fried Zucchini

This is making me hungry so if you’ll forgive me, I’m going to send the zucchini on the next leg of its journey–into my stomach.

Thanks for visiting.

We’ve got our own Black Soldier Flies!


Black Soldier Fly #1Here they are, one of the most incredible creatures on the planet–Black Soldier Flies–and they’re flying around in our enclosed growroom. Notice their lovely purple and blue iridescent wings. Because we live in the high desert of Southern California, Black Soldier Flies are not native to our environment so for the first several months of owning and trying to operate our new BioPod™, we failed to produce Black Soldier Fly Grubs. I realize for those of you who are not in the know, I need to start at the beginning so this blog post makes sense. Here goes.

Information spreads in an interesting way; and about a year and a half ago, information about a certain kind of fly–a Black Soldier Fly– was flying (pun intended) around in the lexicon among aquaponics enthusiasts. It was purported that this fly could produce offspring, their larvae, known as grubs, that are very high in protein and that this larvae could be fed to poultry, reptiles and fish (hence the interest among us aquaponics buffs). Now this fly it was said has no mouth and, therefore, does not eat. All it wants to do is mate and make more grubs so it’s not interested in getting into the house or foraging for food in your kitchen. Hopefully, the two below have decided they’re in love or at least ready to talk about doing the wild thing as perhaps indicated by antennae apart vs. antennae together so they can make grubs together.Blk. Soldier Fly #5

If you’re wondering why these beneficial insects are called Black Soldier Flies, the image below may help us figure it out. It appears they have body armor as indicated by the black shield over their backs.Blk. Soldier Fly #6

But this fly needed technology to become the boon to mankind it has the potential of being. So a piece of equipment (that does not require power of any kind) came along that assists this incredible protein producing insect to make more protein using . . . (wait for it) YOUR HOUSEHOLD WASTE!

Egad! That’s almost too good to be true. All you need to do is gather your food waste, place it into the machine and Wha Lah! Soldier flies climb into the bin where the food is placed, not to eat the food because, remember, they have no mouths, but to lay their eggs, which will hatch into larvae called grubs. And guess what these grubs do. These grubs do nothing but eat. They eat your household waste and become chubby morsels of protein for your chickens, reptiles and fish. This machine is designed in such a way as to encourage the grubs to self migrate right into the harvesting bin. This machine is called a BioPod™.A USA BIOPOD

Just click the link to go to our website page that further explains this phenomenon and watch an amazing video of grubs devouring two large fish. You can also purchase a BioPod™ on our page designated especially for it.

As a grub farmer, all you have to do is keep the feeding bin supplied with moisture and food waste, harvest the grubs from the collection bin and make sure several grubs mature into adult black soldier flies so the process remains self sustainable.A World Grubbs on hand If you live in an environment where Black Soldier Flies are a natural insect in the eco system, you can keep your BioPod™ in a cool place outdoors. We need to keep our Black Soldier Flies contained in our growroom as there is no one to mate with outside; and the colony would die out quickly. We’re working on getting our neighbors to start raising Black Soldier Flies in hopes of creating a desert colony; but for now we’re on our own.

We’ll do another blog post on the BioPod™  and all the stages that the grubs go through before becoming adult Black Soldier Flies for those of you who are beginners at this so you don’t make the same mistakes we did. One of the biggest mistakes we made was we cooked our first batch of grubs because we left them outside in the BioPod™ without enough moisture before realizing we needed to bring them indoors. The other mistake we almost made is we saw these black (should have been a clue) crusty looking things where the fat, beige grubs were supposed to be and almost threw them out. This was the stage where the grubs were turning into Black Soldier Flies.

If Black Soldier Flies are not natural to your environment, you need to order a little box of newly hatched grubs from the BioPod™ manufacturer. If you’re interested in doing that, just give us a call at 760-671-3053 and we’ll set you up. Four years ago if someone had told me I’d be selling Black Soldier Fly Grubs, I would have recommended they get psychiatric care.  Funny how the twists and turns take you down unexpected alleys on the pathway of life. On the aquaponics path, there seem to be lots of wonderful surprises. Black Soldier Flies are one of them.

Thanks for following our Blog. Stay tuned. More surprises coming.

The Growroom is really living up to its name now!!!


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.

An 11 sq. ft. Grow Bed full of butter lettuce flanked by Basil.

An 11 sq. ft. Grow Bed full of butter lettuce flanked by Basil.

The Basil is growing so tall, we have to keep moving the lights up higher and higher.

Chinese Cabbage, Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce and lots of Basil

Chinese Cabbage, Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce and lots of Basil

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.

An up close look at some of the most beautiful and delicious Butter Lettuce possible.

An up close look at some of the most beautiful and delicious Butter Lettuce possible.

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.

Coming in the South facing door, you see our 320 Gallon Fish Tank in the foreground.

Coming in the North facing door, you see our 120 Gallon Fish Tank in the foreground.

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.

Entering the Growroom from the South facing door. Here is our 320 gallon fish tank

Entering the Growroom from the South facing door. Here is our 320 gallon fish tank

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!