Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Aquaponic Abundance with the ASC Magazine

Aqua Abundance and Spencer Curry

Spencer Curry is an owner-operator with Fresh Farm Aquaponics. He is also a writer for the ASC Magazine. Spencer's articles come with a lot of enthusiasm and love for this industry. We are very proud to feature this column in our magazine every month. Spencer is showing people of all ages what can be done with all of that youth and energy. We think he is quite a remarkable young man. 

Hi everyone welcome back to Aquaponic Abundance!

Article taken from the ASC Magazine March 2015

Last time we talked we went over the specific winter techniques that I’m using on my farm, FRESH Farm Aquaponics.  We're located in South Glastonbury, Connecticut.  

Currently we have more than a couple feet of snow piled up around our greenhouse.  Despite night temperatures well below freezing, our 25 koi are happily swimming in balmy 65 degrees water with daily air temperatures of 75-80℉.

We went over how we heat the water (with a Jacuzzi heater), our mini-greenhouses, and the lights we use to accelerate growth during the darker months.  Be sure to check out last month’s article for more information.

This month the light starts to come back and the days grow longer.  Our plants are starting to perk up and grow, little by little.  

The aquaponics system is a marvelous tool for season extension.  Even without using grow lights, there are a number of benefits to starting your season off early with an aquaponics system.

Season Extension with Aquaponics

There are many reasons aquaponics is so wonderful for season extension.  Aquaponics systems use heat more efficiently, the growing media is always workable and they make use of the little light available most effectively.

Most farmers in our region are busy hibernating at this time of the year.  Fields are under thick blankets of snow.  Greenhouses are expensive to heat the traditional way, most farmers around here use wood boilers or oil burning ovens to keep their greenhouse air warm.  

But as we covered in the last article, it is far more cost-effective to heat the water in the aquaponics system than heating the air in a normal greenhouse.  For one, the heat from the water eventually radiates up to the plants leaves.  

This is similar to how the heat of the Earth normally radiates up from the soil into the undercarriage of the plants.  By heating the water, you heat the roots and plants and the air, all at a fraction of the cost of heating the air by itself!

Eager to get planting but held back by a snowy March?

Luckily, aquaponics growing media is also always workable.  The growing medium never freezes.  There is no need to wait for soil to thaw out.  There is no need to shovel snow or wait for it to melt.  

No need to battle early spring weeds or any of the other headaches typically associated with working the land after a hard winter.  That means that you can get your plants in the ground as soon as the seedlings are ready.  

Finally, aquaponics provides such a rich environment to your new seedlings that they are able to best utilize whatever light there is available in these early months.  In normal soil conditions, plant roots must expend energy on extending themselves throughout the soil in search of nutrients.  

However in aquaponics, the roots are flooded with vital nutrients, water, and beneficial bacteria.

There is no need to expend resources on root growth, so all energy is directed to actual plant growth. When a plant has so much of its needs cared for, the only limiting factor is the light.  That means that whatever light is available, your aquaponics systems will make the best of it!

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Saturday, August 22, 2015

Best Seeds With The ASC Magazine

Whats the difference between Open Pollinated, Hybrid and Heirloom?


Taken from the ASC Magazine August Edition 2013

Tom introduced a discussion detailing characteristics of hybrid seeds. As we all consider varieties for the season, it is common to wonder about the difference between hybrid and open-pollinated varieties when choosing varieties that are right for you. First, let’s make sure we’re all speaking the same language. 

Open-Pollinated Varieties 

Are those, which if properly isolated from other varieties in the same plant species, will produce seed that is genetically “true to type.” This means that the seed will result in a plant very similar to the parent. Beginning in the early 1900s, plant breeders worked to develop new open-pollinated varieties, using techniques to create a more pure, and thus uniform, genetic line. 

Heirloom Varieties 

Are named open-pollinated strains which either pre-date or are unaltered by the earliest open-pollinated breeding work. If open-pollinated varieties are allowed to cross within the same species, the resulting seed will be a hybrid.  

The modern era of plant breeding started when biologists rediscovered Gregor Mendel’s study of genetics. By the 1930s, many hybrid sweet corn varieties were available in the US. 


In commercial seed production, hybrids come from the careful and deliberate crossing of two different parent varieties, each with traits desired for the offspring. Seed from a hybrid variety can be saved, but will not be true to type.

At High Mowing Organic Seeds, we are of the opinion that both open-pollinated and hybrid varieties deserve a seat at the table. As discussed below, each has its benefits: 

The Benefits of Open-Pollinated Varieties

Save your seed: The most obvious benefit to using open-pollinated seeds is the option to produce one’s own seed supply. Some crops, including beans, peas, tomatoes, and lettuce, are self-pollinating, and thus do not even require much isolation for seed saving. Furthermore, by selecting the best plants from which to save seed, anyone can adapt specific variety strains to their region or microclimate. 

Less Costly: For a number of reasons, open-pollinated seeds are invariably less expensive than hybrid varieties. For every hybrid, there are actually two distinct lines of genetics that must be maintained, not to mention the careful task of production, which can get quite costly.

Flavor: Few can ignore the superior flavor of many open-pollinated varieties. Many breeders who specialize in creating hybrid varieties for large-scale commercial growers tend to focus on qualities other than flavor, such as storage ability, uniformity, and characteristics more pertinent to processing. Suffice it to say that since the onset of modern hybrid plant breeding, flavor has not been a priority. 

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

ASC Aquaponics Magazine And Evergreen Aqua

Evergreen Aquaponics With Sasha Grove

Many people in our society are just beginning to acknowledge the detriment the industrialized food system has been to our health and food security. Foods grown in depleted soils, from suspect seed, treated with chemicals and preservatives, trucked enormous distances to the final destination on the family table, are contributing in unfortunate ways to the health of our nation. The current economic climate is restricting the choices of the average family by limiting their available resources for quality foods.

A widespread economic crisis could lead to mass food shortages. Aquaponics can be part of the solution for access to quality food and will enhance health and food security of the family and local communities.

While there are many proposed solutions to the ever increasing threat of obesity and chronic disease, the greatest impact can come from the food we feed our families. Many families are seeking to know what steps to take to become healthier. An obstacle to deciding on a course of action is the conflicting agenda driven information about nutrition coming from so many directions. 

Yet, it is generally agreed that sugar and other refined carbohydrates such as white flour are a major culprit leading to obesity. Whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables and moderate amounts of meat based foods are necessary for a healthy diet.

The plan to avoid many nutritional pitfalls it derailed as we realize the near impossibility of avoiding canned and other prepackaged foods at the supermarket, which often list sugar or even corn syrup as one of the top ingredients, as well as numerous chemicals and preservatives. We assume that purchasing as much fresh food possible will be enough. Yet, even this can be and inadequate solution. The average distance food travels to get to your dinner table is 1800 miles. Much of this produce has been treated with chemicals or other preservatives, for the purpose of enhancing its ability to stay firm and colorful long past its normal shelf life. The nutrients that were in the plant when it was harvested have been significantly reduced.

As families become more and more concerned with the quality and availability of their food supply, home gardening is making a comeback. Home gardening has always been an American tradition.

If you would like to read more about this article...

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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Technology With Aquaponics ASC Magazine

The  APDuino Project Written By Andr├ís Schreiber

In agriculture the quality and quantity of crops greatly depend on the environmental conditions. In traditional agriculture we can make little impact on most factors. Even if we can make an impact, we often make things worse: just think about all the unnecessary fertilization poisoning underground waters or pesticides poisoning all the bugs most likely playing an important part of the natural cycle.

Fortunately there are new growing techniques (some may be ancient or rediscovered), hydro-cultures, such as Aquaponics that are pointing towards a possible solution for several problems and beyond...

Greenhouses and urban growing conditions (window farms, growing cabinets, etc) are getting more and more spotlight and gaining popularity across the globe, especially as there is an exponentially increasing awareness of global problems. Hydro-culture could also answer challenges of places where water is the most precious resource of all.

In closed systems, however, specifically, it is possible to have a tight control on the environment. Theoretically it is possible to maintain an ideal environment for the exact flora and fauna hosted in the closed environment.

Maintenance of an optimal environment takes effort, tedious execution of checks and prompt actions is needed to balance out changes in the external and or internal conditions and ensure avoidance of stressful imbalances.

Project Goal

The APDuino Project aims to provide aid in automation for the pioneering aquaponics and hydroponics farmers, enthusiasts, researchers in a way that even less technical knowledge is required to build a microcontroller-based automation system than before, whereas unlimited complex computing power is fitted to it through the ubiquitous computing already present: the Internet.

Project output, high-level technical overview

The project produces free, open-source binaries for the popular Arduino Mega 2560 + W5100 EtherShield (or equivalent clones) hardware combo, as a basis for any Node. 

Nodes can host many kinds of sensors and actuators, making it possible to monitor environmental conditions such as temperature, humidity, light, conductivity, pressure, water quality, etc. and to interact with the environment by controlling appliances like lights, pumps, heaters, coolers, etc. 

Nodes can be wired and configured according to the individual needs and specifications, within the constraints of hardware datasheets and software support. The reference hardware is low cost and widely available and known to aquaponics + arduino enthusiasts. Already several systems have been created based on them prior to APDuino Project, but in a less flexible (if open at all), less adaptable design and implementation.

Besides the official Arduino site and forum, there are tons of blogs, how-to’s, forums and companies providing excellent, reliable documentation on how to wire up the hardware components. 

Again, the key difference with APDuino Project is that those programming parts can be skipped; supported hardware can be configured using APDuino Online.

Nodes provide a web-based graphical user interface with charts and interaction with the device; switch between open and closed-loop control, change actuator states, etc.

Key Features:
• No-coding needed to fit supported sensors, actuators
• Closed-loop control (automation) based on custom, user provided logic
• Offline and online data logging
• HTTP API for LAN applications
• Free, open-source

If you would like to read more regarding this article...

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Monday, August 17, 2015

Josh Goode Talks To ASC Aquaponics Magazine

Sweet Home Aquaponics Meet Josh Goode

"Simplicity Is The Ultimate Sophistication." -Leonardo DaVinci

I learned in my work in aquaponics that a simple design is always the best. We see wonderful production and balance in a natural pond environment, thriving with fish and plant life. It's a beautiful sight to see a pond with a waterfall flowing fresh and oxygenated water for the fish and creatures that call it home. And let's not forget the abundance of plant life that grows outward from these pond ecosystems.

Out in nature when we find a thriving ecosystem and peel away the layers to find its source, this source being the re-circulating and recycling layered systems found near a waterfall and pond. 

The recycling abilities of living things working together in perfection. Fish and microbes producing and recycling waste along with all the plant life absorbing and further recycling so there is no more waste and a perfect balance is maintained...with food for all.

One thing I love about aquaponics is that we borrow that magic found in a pond environment and simplify it down into a platform to grow food for us. There are many designs that have been successful in aquaponics, my thought was to design an aquaponics system that is mostly automated and user-friendly. 

A design that someone with light construction skills can build themselves and most materials can be found locally. Then give the platform the ability to be "off the grid" and powered by the sun, replenished by the rain, and protected from all the hordes of critters out there. This article is about one of my favorite designs in aquaponics, the Solar Aquaponic Greenhouse.

The design is basic wood frame construction with pond liners for water-proofing, materials that can mostly be found at your local home improvement store. The pond is the base of the system with about 18 inches of water and a thin gravel layer along the bottom. The system in the photos is 8 feet long by 2 feet wide, so the pond when full of water is about 120 gallons. A good fish ratio is 1 fish per 10 gallons of pond water. So I put 12 Tilapia in the pond to get it started. Then a submersible water pump placed at the bottom of the pond will pump the water to the grow-bed above, bringing nutrient rich pond water to the plants. 

Bacteria break down the fish effluent and releases molecules that are then absorbed by the plants. Then the filtered water drains back into the pond, simulating a waterfall and oxygenating the pond water for the fish.

A small aquarium air pump with an air strip on the bottom of the pond provides further oxygenation for the fish. These two pumps are the only electronics needed to run the system and are powered by a solar panel/boat battery/inverter kit. These components are housed inside a small cabinet below the grow-bed to provide protection from the sun and elements. The solar panel charges a marine battery, a 500 watt power inverter is connected to the battery, and then both the water pump and air pump are plugged into the inverter, each with a simple 30 minute mechanical timer.

If you would like to read more about Josh's story and his cool aquaponics system, we have his full article in the May 2013 Edition of the ASC Magazine. 

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Friday, August 14, 2015

Growing Rosemary With ASC Magazine

Growing Rosemary Written By Tammy Adkins

ASC Magazine Edition 2 

(Rosmarinus officinalis) the culinary type of herb plant can be grown just about anywhere. Whether you are a new gardener or a seasoned one, rosemary is one of the easiest herb plants to grow.  It can handle high heat conditions and survives through most winter seasons.  It will also thrive well growing in a pot indoors.  Only one thing can prevent this beautiful herb from growing.  This plant will need full sun for its highest potential.  Too little sun and it will become spindly.

Rosemary prefers a light, alkaline soil and to be kept slightly moist until its roots are established.  Then, it prefers to be kept on the dry side, with only the roots needing to be slightly moist.  It can tolerate drought conditions very well and is wonderful to plant with other drought tolerant plants, such as thyme, sages, borage and sunflowers.  A rosemary plant that is suffering will enjoy an annual feeding of liquid fish emulsion and/or a kelp solution.  

Rosemary is evergreen and can be harvested year round.  You can pick 3 to 6 inches off a branch to help keep the plant bushy.   Then just hang your rosemary twigs to dry.  Once thoroughly dried, the leaves of the rosemary will be easily removed by back stripping it with your hands.  Rosemary can then be stored in a storage container for later use in your culinary dishes. Keep the dried rosemary away from light and heat, for the longest storage.

Rosemary may also be used fresh as a wonderful addition to flavor a pitcher of water, brewed in a tea or used in a natural flower arrangement, for added beauty.

The rosemary plant blossoms from early spring in to summer and sometimes again, in early fall.  The blooms range from dark lavender to light blue and some varieties include pink and white blossoms.

Cooking With Rosemary

Rosemary is a wonderful addition to many foods including soups, sauces and bouillons.  It can be minced and added as a savory to salads.  It can be added to meat dishes, such as lamb, chicken and pork.  Adding rosemary and garlic to potatoes is one of my favorite dishes.  Adding a sprig of rosemary into your roasted vegetables is a great addition to flavor the dish.  You can also make flavored oils and vinegars with rosemary which can be used for marinades. These will make wonderful culinary gifts.  Rosemary is a wonderful addition to savory breads such as foccacia.  

Rosemary is such a wonderful compliment to a variety of dishes and serves to help break down fats in the digestion process. 

Aromatherapy Effects of Rosemary: Invigorating, Refreshing, Stimulating, Uplifting  

Tammy grows her own herbs in the Smoky Mountains 
and she also makes essential oils from her homegrown herbs. 

If you would like to read more regarding this article you can Purchase Back Issues of the ASC Magazine Here:

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Growing And Aquaponics Survival Communities Magazine

Learning From The Past To Carry On Into The Future

When the ASC Magazine first came out in March of 2013, we started off with community members contributing stories about growing through aquaponics and soil grown foods. We were extremely happy with the different responses from local people who had an eagerness to write about their growing experiences. We didn't care which part of the world you lived in because by telling your story, there was that camaraderie to help other people. 

Since that time 2.5 years ago, the average person has become painfully aware of the need to grow their own food because of preservatives, additives, glyphosate, fluoride, ethoxyquin and other chemicals being found in our food and water. 

While some people have the knowledge and skills to grow just about anything they can, other people still need to learn and this is where our magazine comes into play. I personally have found some of the best lessons in growing come from people who tinker around in their backyards or greenhouses. 

It takes all kinds of people to grow food anywhere they can and there are many great lessons that can be taught from local people. These are community members willing to step up and help others learn. For many good reasons this is probably where food in the future will be headed. 

More people now realize big agriculture has become a dominant and greedy eyesore on the landscape, so they want the knowledge in how to grow their own food.

We have become very aware the food we are eating from grocery stores is less nutritious and more chemical laden, so it will be the local people, backyard tinkerers and community growers who will be teachers for the future.

People desperately want safe, toxic free, naturally grown foods to eat and they know big Agro is NOT giving it to them. When you have the backing of congress supporting big Pharma and big Agro, it makes the decision to grow your own food a whole lot easier.

In all seriousness folks, I don't know anyone who wants to eat food laced with poisons. Do you? 

That's why the ASC Magazine is so important for everyone. We promote local growers, local teachers and community leaders. 

Here is a story from our very first edition about a teacher named Bryan Vincent King who is doing this very thing with his students. He happily became an Urban Farmer and his students have benefitted immensely through his knowledge.  

So have you become a part of the ASC Magazine yet? 

Below is a link to the lifetime subscription. It's a ONE TIME Fee and then you receive in your mailbox on the 10th of every month, a magazine teaching you how to grow through aquaponics, permaculture, agroforestry and other viable methods of growing SAFE, pesticide free, FOOD.  

If you would rather not subscribe but would like to purchase back issues you can do that as well: 

The ASC Magazine believes in paying it forward to benefit all people. This also means businesses, schools, educators and the awesome backyard growers. 

"Pay it forward is an expression for describing the beneficiary of a good deed repaying it to others instead of to the original benefactor. The concept is old, but the phrase may have been coined by Lily Hardy Hammond in her 1916 book In the Garden of Delight."

So what does that mean to you? Well I suppose that is up to you...tell us your story because we listen and then we publish your article to other people. They will read what you have to say and will be inspired by it and possibly teach your skills to someone else. Get involved and pay it forward...

Brightest Blessings

Victoria Kelley

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Aquaponics Photo Contest

Aquaponics Backyard - Commercial System Contest

This is a MONTHLY contest and our aim is to raise awareness of people just like you, creating all kinds of aqua systems, and sharing real people and their Aqua growing experiences.

From the smallest to massive commercial set ups, we want to share your hard work with our subscribers. 

It is EASY to enter - just send us your snapshots of ANY water based system you have been involved in creating. Include the following:

1. your 5 best pictures of the system (use DROPBOX to attach images over 5mb -we need good quality pictures so massive photos should be shared this way)

2. Your full name and state as well as your city

3. 2 to 3 paragraphs about your system

4. A link you want to add (i.e. Facebook, your business link etc. This is not mandatory but we want to reward people who want some traffic or to promote their business). 

There will be more details soon so keep an eye on your email box and be sure to OPEN EVERY email we send. Thanks again and we look forward to your great set ups!


If you a question regarding the contest please contact us at for more information. Remember this is a great way to get some exposure to you, your business and you can win some great prizes!

P.S. Not a lifetime member yet? Please consider joining here for all the perks, benefits and other great goodies:

Monday, August 3, 2015

pH Levels in Aquaponics

Over the next few weeks the ASC Magazine will be posting sections of articles written by our writers and businesses who have contributed to the aquaponics industry and the ASC Magazine. 

This article comes from our February 2015 Edition of the magazine, Written by Vlad Jovanovic: 

Matt Bell Asked:

Hello everyone, I'm fairly new to aquaponics I just ran my tests and here are my results.
Ammonia level = .25ppm
Nitrite level = 0ppm
Nitrate level = 160 ppm
PH = 7.5
Are these levels normal, or even the ballpark?

Well Matt, I suppose that would depend on what inning you are in :-) But yeah, you are definitely in the ball park. It's good that your Nitrite and Ammonia levels are at or near Zero. You may (or may not, depending on how hard your top off water is) see your pH slowly start to come down. It'll be good to get the pH below 7.

 It might also be wise to figure out what your Nitrate level actually is. By that I mean, the API Nitrate test only reads up to 160 ppm. Everything above 160 ppm pretty much reads as being 160. So your Nitrate level may actually be 240 or 500 and you wouldn't really know it, it would just read 160. 

What you can do is perform the test with twice the amount of water (10 ml instead of 5 ml). Or use the standard 5 ml of system water in the test tube, but only add half the amount of the reagents. Meaning, 5 drops from each bottle (per 5 ml of water) instead of 10 drops from each bottle. 

With either of these two methods, you are in essence doubling the upper readable limit of the nitrate tests to 320 ppm. If you perform this 'diluted version' of the Nitrate test, and you compare the color of the test tube, to the chart...and it looks like 100ppm (for instance) this would translate to actually having Nitrates present to the tune of 200 ppm (make sense everyone?).

You can move this upper readable limit even further than 320 ppm, if need be, just by further dilutions (but hopefully that won't be necessary). Excessive nitrates are neither very healthy for our plants, or for us human to consume. 

As far as levels being normal...If we were to define what is "normal" as a matter of prevalence, or statistical occurrence; then yes, having excessive Nitrates in an AP system could be said to be "normal". It seems fairly common from what I've seen, for AP systems to have an excess of nitrogen (and at the same time be deficient in other plant essential elements). But let us, for a moment, step away from defining what is normal only by what is common, or prevalent. Otherwise, we may say things like "obesity is normal" (because it is so prevalent), or "having heart disease is normal" (because it is so common), or "it is normal for our food to be made and modified by the world's largest pesticide maker" (because it happens to be the condition that we find ourselves in)...and other statements like that.  

Let us instead define what is normal in terms of what would provide conditions for "normal" plant growth/health, and "normal" fish growth and health. In this case, what I think would be "normal" for an AP system to do, is to provide the conditions necessary for the near optimal genetic expression of our plants and fish (in terms of fecundity or productiveness). 

Plants Need These Things To Grow Healthy

I. What do plants need to grow?
a). Water
b). Air
c). Nutrients
d). Structure (root anchor)
e). Light
f). Adequate temperatures (both root and leaf)
g). pH at root zone (slightly acidic) 
h). *Soil *? (equates to substrate)

II. What comprises good soil (or substrate)?
a). 25% Water 
b). 25% Air
c). 45% Mineral Matter (rock, sand, silt, clay)
d). 3% - 5% Organic Matter (at various stages of decomposition)

III. Plant Essential Elements
a). Major Elements - N, P, K, Ca, Mg, S (expressed in percent %)
b). Micro Elements - Fe, Zn, Cu, Mn, B, Mo, Cl, (expressed in ppm, or mc/kg)
c). Beneficial Elements Si, Ni etc...
d). Organic molecules vs. mineral ions (microbial action vs. ionic dissociation)
e). Cations vs. Anions-Soil offers greater buffer for imbalance than water culture (show pH chart)

IV. The Role of Microbes in freeing up different plant essential elements from organic molecules...

Learn more...

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