Our Greenhouse's History.
Our California Greenhouse went through many changes since we first built it in late 2008. The above photo is what it looked like in the Spring of 2015 before we tore everything down and moved to Arizona in June of 2016. But the first Systems the California Greenhouse housed were early versions of our FGS-20 STEM & Family PLUG & GROW™ Growing System as seen below. From 2009 until February of 2014, we had five of these FGS-20 like, Deep Media Grow Beds with three 120 gallon Fish Tanks not shown as they were underneath the Grow Beds. You can see the Automatic Fish Feeders in the photo.
Then in February of 2014, it all changed.
We tore out everything that you see in the photo above, including the fish tanks and installed our first Vertical NFT (Nutrient Film Technique) System. We called this system the Duffy Duct™ System after our System Designer, Oliver Duffy.
This first Duffy Duct™ System used vinyl fence posts as growing ducts (photo below). We designed this system as a Prototype to promote our large-scale, commercial Vertical Food Forever™ Farms, and the first crop was four 60 degree Vertical Walls full of Romaine Lettuce. We now have a separate website promoting our Food Forever™ Farms and their Vertical Lettuce Walls. Click over to BioPonicsEarth if you're interested in large-scale Aquaponics and Vertical growing.
But we soon discovered that the Vinyl Fence Posts were too expensive to use even after spending hours establishing wholesale relationships with several suppliers. Commercial Farmers just weren't going to be able to pay the exorbitant price to build one of these Systems on a large scale. We went back to the drawing board and came up with a much less expensive component for our NFT Growing Ducts. By now it was around July of 2014 and we once again tore out everything except the wooden support walls and installed the new Duffy Duct System you see below using Downspouts, which were a much less expensive version of the Vinyl Fence Posts. These Downspouts are growing a Wall of Red Oak Lettuce. At the same time, we started doing R&D on an 80º Vertical (below, right) System using our Sump Tank as the water catch.
Once we established that the 80º Vertical System would work, we once again tore everything out of the Greenhouse including the wooden support walls and the two Sump Tanks and started over by installing a Trough that looked a lot like a Raft Trough without the polystyrene. The Trough catches the water flowing through the 80º Vertical NFT Downspouts. Reflected in the Trough water are the Tomato Plants that are growing in one of the two Deep Media Grow Beds that are in the back of the Greenhouse. Grace is trimming those Tomato Plants in the accompanying photo with the Downspouts in their 80º Vertical positioning over the Trough.
There were three indeterminate Tomato Plants in the Deep Media Grow Bed you can see in this picture. Behind that Bed, you can barely see the second Deep Media Grow Bed in the back, which has Taro planted in it as a test for one of our customers who wanted to grow Taro and Peppers in Deep Media Beds.
The three Tomato Plants were planted in the Spring of 2014 so they were about one year old when the above picture was taken. They put out the most delicious, nutritious tomatoes we had ever tasted right through fall and winter of 2014 and 2015.
The Test Taro Plants struggled in the back Deep Media Bed, not because Taro doesn't like to be grown in an Aquaponics System, but because the three Tomato Plants actually grew over to the other Deep Media Bed where they took space away from the Taro.
You have to be careful with Tomatoes because they will take over a small system not only taking over the space but, also, taking up all of the Nutrients in the system because it takes a lot of Nitrates to grow Tomatoes.
Tomato Plants have to be trimmed on a regular basis. This one was in need of a good trimming when this photo was taken. A well manicured Tomato Plant looks practically naked in terms of leaves as you have to get rid of all of the sucker leaves that will not produce fruit and will only take nutrients away from the fruit producing branches.
We also had a Growroom in California, which was approximately the same size as our Greenhouse and is where we grew leafy greens without sunshine by using a variety of Grow Lights, and we did R&D using Grow Lights for several years. We built the Growroom to demonstrate to our Aquaponics USA customers and Teachers how to grow food indoors without land or sun. The photo below was taken after we installed the first system in the Growroom, which was an original FGS-44L (replaced by the FGS-42) STEM & Family PLUG & GROW™ Food Growing System with four Deep Media Grow Beds and a 320 gallon Fish Tank.
In the photo below, Grace is planting sprouted seedlings into the Deep Media Grow Beds. You will see by comparing this photo with the next one that we didn't have nearly enough light over these beds. We discovered that early on when these plants got real leggy, meaning the lettuce had these long stalks indicating they were reaching for more light.
Here you see the other end of the Growroom where a 120 gallon Fish Tank sat. This picture shows the addition of another row of Fluorescent Grow Lights, which made all the difference in our ability to grow healthy plants. However, it's important to understand that Fluorescent Lights will only grow Leafy Green Plants not Flowering Plants, which is why we discontinuted selling Fluorescents and only sell LED's now that will grow everything.
In the foreground of this photo flipped around so you can see the front is our Automatic Fish Feeder. We often say that raising Tilapia is quite easy as long as you have one of these handy devices. The fish pretty much take care of themselves, eating, mating, swimming, fertilizing your plants and repeating that process.
Our water quality improved considerably after this photo was taken because we added some extra components to our system. You can read all about that in our Aquaponics 101 E-Book below.
We grew basil in the first Deep Media Bed. Basil loves Aquaponics Systems and will grow beautifully in Deep Media Beds as well as Raft Systems and NFT (Nutrient Film Technique) Systems, which are all water with no Growing Media. We also provided an overhead light for the fish in our indoor systems because Tilapia like some light and a sense that there's day and night.
The Growroom went through some big changes after February of 2014 when we also tore everything we had in it out and put in a Horizontal Vinyl Fence Post System, which worked like a combination NFT and Deep Water Culture System. Below are the same two views from one end and then the other of our renovated Growroom. This room had two doors, one on each end. This is the view from the door that was at the North end of the room.
The brown rectangle you see at the top of this picture is the bottom of an Induction Grow Light, which we were selling on this website. We decided they were too expensive and have discontinued them.
There's one more room that we need to share here because it completed our new 80º Vertical System and the new Growroom System shown above. That room was our first Fishroom. If you scroll back to the 80º Vertical System, you'll see that our Greenhouse has no fish tanks in it; and as you can see here, neither does our Growroom. We didn't need to put fish tanks in either of these rooms because we built a Fishroom.
This new Fishroom worked great because the fish were in an indoor controlled environment where we easily could keep an eye on them, watch how the breeding and brooding process was coming along and hand feed them for fun when we gave tours.
Above is a photo of the Fishroom being built.
We extended the roof off of the existing one we put on the Growroom. The finished wall is the Growroom's outside wall. After completing the Fishroom, we placed 6,000 Watts of Solar Panels on the new Fishroom roof.
Here is the completed Fishroom. It had five 120 gallon Fish Tanks. Notice the tall black Tower in the back corner of this room. That's one of the added components which allowed our water to be so clear you can actually see the fish in their tanks.
You can learn more about this WET (Water Enhancement Technology) System in our Aquaponics 101 E-Book below.
The addition of this WET System is not necessary if you're running one of our improved STEM & Family PLUG & GROW™ Food Growing Systems because they are all Deep Media Systems that can easily grow lots of different kinds of veggies and fruits in those Deep Media Beds while keeping the water clear and clean.
But once you start growing leafy greens in NFT (Nutrient Film Technique) near Vertical Troughs, you need to have ultra clean water or the roots get clogged up with solid fish waste.
That's why in Califiornia we added the WET Tower and what we call our Solids Separation BioConversion System, which is purposefully not shown in this photo. We simply didn't have enough Deep Media Grow Beds to keep the water clear.
The water you see in these fish tanks ran through our Greenhouse and our Growroom as all of these parts became one single system requiring a single water chemistry measurement. Some of the water ran underground for about 100 ft. from this Fishroom to our Greenhouse and then back again. It also ran into the Growroom right next door and then back to the Fish Tanks.
Our Greenhouse, Growroom and Fishroom were self-contained Eco Systems–highly controlled environments where the temperature was kept around 75 degrees. The Greenhouse got hotter than that in the summer and colder than that during winter nights, but we were able to keep it in a range that continued to grow those tomatoes we spoke of earlier right through winter. We added reflective insulation along the North Wall of the Greenhouse, which helped keep the heat from escaping and reflect the low winter sun back into the greenhouse. It also helped us keep out some of the heat in the summer.
Because we were in the dry High Desert of Southern California above Palm Springs at 3,400 feet of altitude, we could cool our Green House and our Growroom with evaporative coolers that are much less expensive to operate than regular heat pump style air conditioners. The Greenhouse had two large ones and the Growroom had one small one.
In the winter, we needed to heat our Greenhouse at night and were using a natural gas Blue Flame Heater on a thermostat set to about 50 Fº to do that.
We hope you've enjoyed this multi-year history of Aquaponics USA's Greenhouses, Growroom and Fishrooms. This page mostly describes what we were doing before we moved from California to Arizona. What we're doing in Arizona is a different story all together that involves dealing with snow and 6,030 ft. of altitude. That story will be evolving as our Arizona Greenhouse evolves.
Aquaponics USA isn't just a business, It's a MOVEMENT!
We then planted three kinds of lettuce in our new 80º Vertical Wall and ended up with the Wall of Lettuce you see near the top of this page. The holes have an 8" x 8" separation, which we learned is too close. Below is one end of the 80º Vertical Wall next to the badly in need of trimming Tomato Plants.
Our California Greenhouse.
Below is a photo of the Greenhouse we had in California before we made our move to Arizona, where we have built the new Greenhouse and Fishroom you see above.
Our New Arizona Greenhouse.
In June 2016 we moved from the California high desert to the Arizona White Mountains. We now live on a semi-rural 10 acres at 6030 feet altitude with a 400 foot deep well into the Coconino Aquifer, with some of the best water in the US. Our 100 foot long East-West house had a 75 by 15 foot open and covered porch along its South side. In addition there was an extra 12 foot of concrete slab on the West end, which allowed us to extend the porch out 6 feet with a sloped roof and have room for a 6 foot diameter 310 gallon Fish Tank. It still left us with about 6 feet of outside slab to mount two large swamp coolers external to the West end of the Greenhouse, which have been since swapped out for wall mounted Bonaire units.
For the West end of the 45 feet of original porch, we pealed back about 12 of the 15 feet of roof and used clear bubble film from SolaWrap to cover the top, sloped West end and the vertical South side. The Eastern 15 by 30 feet of the original porch is covered by a connector roof between the house and Aquaponics Systems building Workshop. That 450 ft² area, now walled in, is our Fishroom with three 310 gallon Fish Tanks. The remaining 15 by 45 foot Greenhouse is for growing, plus the additional 6 feet protruding out the West end for the sump tank, pictured above.
The #1 Fish Tank along with our added three Tanks in the Fishroom are hydronically heated by using stainless steel pipes coiled into the bottom of the 6 foot diameter Fish Tanks. Hot water from a gas fired Hot Water Heater in the workshop is circulated through PEX tubing that is connected to the stainless steel pipe and controlled by a thermostatic hot water pump. The Fish Tanks have 1110 GPH Submersible Pumps, that we sell on our site
We custom built six 4 ft. x 8 ft. x 1 foot Deep Media filled Grow Beds (180 Sq ft of inside planting area) in the Western 60% of the full height portion of our Greenhouse. We now have 4 ft. x 8 ft. Polyethylene Grow Beds that we don't have to custom build and are offering our FGS-65, a 65+ ft. STEM & Family PLUG & GROW™ Food Growing System (photo below) to our customers who are ready to grow significant amounts of food. All of our Systems have external loop siphon drains on each bed. The loop siphons allow for complete use of the Grow Bed for planting without the intrusion of a bell siphon. This FGS-65 offers one third of the growing area we have in our Greenhouse. So three of them would equal the growing area of our Greenhouse. Click on the PHono below for more details about this new monster-sized System.
When the sun shines we have about a 40Fº to 50Fº temperature rise midday in the Greenhouse as compared to the outside temperature. Because we have a common wall with the kitchen, dining and living rooms of our house, we can open the adloining door to bring warm air from the greenhouse into the house during appropriate times. By doing this we reduce our Winter heating bill.
We have built a Vertical System (pictured above) in the Greenhouse for leafy greens that also requires nutrients. The Vertical System pulls water from the drain-back of the media filled Grow Beds, as it is the cleanest water currently in the system, and sends a steady flow back to the Fish Tanks.
This description of our Arizona Growing System wouldn't be complete without showing off our new Fishroom with three 320 gallon Fish Tanks housing both huge and small Tilapaia. The open door on the left goes into the Greenhouse.
These two phoos of our Arizona Greenhouse show the two sections of our 50 ft. Greenhouse. The top photo shows the two sides of our six 4 ft. x 8 ft. Deep Media Grow Beds separated by a 2 ft. center walkway and a five foot extention where one of our four Fish Tanks sits. The bottom photo shows the remaining 15 ft. where we installed Oliver's proprietary Vertical and Horizontal Systems.
Aquaponics USA's Greenhouses, Fishrooms and Growroom
The LED Grow Lights you see in the photo below of our rennovated Growroom, have also been replaced by our great selection of Mars Hydro LED Grow Lights, which from our perspective after testing lots of Grow Lights over the years, are the only Grow Lights you need. As you can see, we got really good at growing in an Indoor Growroom, and the addition of the Fence Post Growing Ducts allowed us to grow much more densely than in our original Grow Beds.
We offer an AI Tracking Software Program with all of our Systems that makes keeping track of your important Water chemistry Numbers, Planting/Harvesting dates, local weather changes and so more more a snap, and it comes with a Mobile AP.
Teachers and Famiy Members, HERE IT IS! Our popular and very informative Aquaponics 101 E-Book by Oliver Duffy in a Clickable pdf Format so you can download and Print it yourself. Up until now, it has only been available on our website under the Education Pull Down Menu. But Teachers have requested that we make it more accessible for Classroom use.
It comes with accompanying Quizzes and a Completion Certificate and is a duplicate of what's on our site complete with Grace's original Cartoon Character representing Oliver, the Aerospace Engineer, an Aquaponics Expert.
Read through this Book that was written so beginners can avoid common errors in building and running Aquaponics Systems, and you, your students or family will be off to a good start at becoming Aquaponics Gardners.
This Book is our Gift to Teachers and Families who are performing one of the most important jobs on the Planet--Teaching our children who represent the future of our World to GROW FOOD!