Travelling from Cairns to assist the Queensland Northern Gulf schools, The Aquaponic Gardener took his aquaponics education and travelling displays into remote QLD towns last week. Both public and private local schools of Croydon, Georgetown, Forsayth and Normandy were engaged learning freshwater ecology, organic vegetable farming using aquaponics, water bug identification, soil science and even fresh water fishing techniques, skills and knowledge. The days were highly interactive and practical.
The Aquaponic Gardener showcased his fish tank mini aquaponics system display using yabbies’ and demonstrated how it’s possible to make a simple aquaponics organic vegetable garden very cheaply in this manner. “It can be as simple as floating a Styrofoam box lid with some holes cut into it where you place vegetable seedlings on top of the fish tank and add goldfish below the vegetables or herbs”, Aquaponics doesn’t have to be complicated. If you can dream it, find containers that hold water and you can build a system to produce fresh vegetables and fish from home or school” said the Aquaponic Gardener.
The school children learnt the importance of water quality and only after just a few minutes were able to test pH, ammonia, dissolved oxygen and identify environmental indicators of good water quality.
During the two days intense freshwater environmental education the children were engaged in practical well thought activities.
During the Aquaponics classes we discussed the benefits of aquaponics which is suited to the poor soils and harsh hot environments of central Queensland and the Gulf regions.
The teachers and children alike were engaged and by the end of each session were wanting to return to school to make either the small fish tank herb aquaponics system or larger systems using IBC tote tanks and vertical gardens.
Teachers and students left each days events learning all the essentials of organic aquaponics in the backyard or school, were provided a USB or CD with information, fact sheets and handouts on DIY system designs.
Many different examples of aquaponics systems were discussed including global examples using swimming pools, spas, recycled materials, IBC, timber grow beds and others.
School participants had a great time learning about freshwater environment and growing fresh organic aquaponics vegetables at home or school. It was a real privilege to share aquaponics information with the school children in this manner at last week’s event.
Last week sore another bus load of interested school students visit Cairns Aquaponics demonstration facility in Redlynch. The students were visiting Cairns as part of their school curriculum agricultural program and were very interested in building a school aquaponics system for themselves. The school students spent time learning about Aquaponics, fish selection, types of vegetables that can be grown and assisted in practical methods to plant out Styrofoam food trays. Spending several hours in the aquaponics greenhouse they also learnt about water quality, aquaponics maintenance techniques and asked dozens of questions in a relaxed environment.
Aquaponics will be featured at this years Eco Fiesta or Cairns Eco week.
ECOweek is fast approaching and its when North Queensland rolls out the green carpet … for you!
From 28 May to 5 June 2016, green groups, environmental agencies and eco-minded businesses gather under the ECOweek banner to bring you festivals, film nights, fun days, accomodation deals and discounts to rainforest and reef. It’s all part of a regional collaboration to celebrate our green edge.
The ECOweek calendar of events and offers will keep growing.
Brought to you by Cairns Regional Council and Regional Development Australia, ECOweek is the largest community focused environmental collaboration in North Queensland, with communities from Townsville to Cooktown coming together to deliver new and existing festivals, events and green business promotions. Participation in ECOweek provides opportunity to reach a bigger audience and benefit from networking opportunities and ECOweek marketing.
ECOweek 2016 is be held from Friday 27 May until Sunday 5 June.
The Aquaponic Gardener will be at the event. Ill be running several Aquaponic workshops this year in Far North Queensland to promote aquaponics courses and sustainable food production in the north.
Hope to see you there.
Cairns Aquaponics systems were inspected thoroughly last Thursday by a travelling Chinese university student delegation and they left impressed with how Aquaponics vegetables, Barramundi and Jade Perch are growing out of control and thriving in the tropical environment of Cairns when other traditional agricultural vegetable gardens are ever consuming water to avoid drying out.
The day consisted of both classroom theory introduction to Aquaponics and a practical component where students learnt how they could build an aquaponics one tank system for less than $100 themselves using second hand materials.
One participant in the 1 day Aquaponics course said “ I cannot believe how all the plants are so healthy” another commented how impressed she was using “mostly recycled materials and turned scrap waste into a sustainable garden and food for your family and saw a direct application to feed several families in China”.
Each participant learnt they can grow food in small spaces on roof tops, basements, verandas or window kitchen sils. Your not limited by space. Participants learnt that even on a vertical wall they are able to utilise it and produce food. The knowledge that individuals are able to grow their own food easily and knowing where their food was being produced was inspiring. “The health benefits of Aquaponics is great”.
“Globally the world transports food everyday and as consumers we never know how that food has been produced or where and what chemicals have been used to grow it”.
It was an exciting day of Aquaponics at Cairns.
Cane toads are a big pest issue in Tropical Far North Queensland. I’ve found them in my aquaponics sump, in my fish pond, wicking bed and in pipes I had laying around the yard. They can get into everything and if this sounds like you too you must get them out before your fish start to die.
Cane toads became pests after being introduced into Australia to control destructive cane beetles in Queensland’s sugarcane crops. Cane toads are capable of poisoning the majority of predators that try to eat them and they continue to spread across Australia. I have found them as far south as Newcastle 10 years ago in Jewels swamp and heard others found them in Belmont and Lake Macquarie. here is no broadscale way to control this pest but scientists are developing a better understanding of the impacts they have on the environment and the ways in which assets, such as rare and vulnerable wildlife, can be protected. Every night the kids and I scout the yard and dispose of any toads we find. I have also put chicken wire around a greenhouse but they still find a way unfortunately.
Cane toads forage at night in a wide variety of habitats including my aquaponics greenhouse. The toad is a ground-dwelling predator, primarily eating terrestrial and aquatic insects and snails. Toads will even take food left out for my dog.
The toads can be accidentally transported to new locations, for example in pot plants or loads of timber and that’s how they typically spread around Australia.
Cane toads need constant access to moisture to survive. Instead of drinking, they absorb water through the skin on their belly — from dew, moist sand or any other moist material. If forced to stay in flooded conditions, cane toads can absorb too much water and die. They can also die from water loss during dry conditions. In Australia there are no specific predators or diseases that control cane toads.
I’ve noticed that Barramundi can often die unexpectedly and although I haven’t yet proven it 100% im almost convinced that the Barra ive lost have died from eating poisonous cane toad eggs or tadpoles.
I’ve lost about 10 otherwise healthy large Barramundi in this way. pH, ammonia, nitrates and nitrites are all perfect so I blame Cane toads eggs. My anecdotal evidence was that halve the toad string was bitten off and were eaten and then id notice a few fish would die each time I found eggs in the pond. Toads are not my friends or welcome at my house.
According to a letter written to provide Advice to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage from the Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC) on Amendments to the List of Key Threatening Processes under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) – All stages of the Cane Toad’s life cycle: eggs, tadpoles, toadlets and adult toads, are poisonous. Cane Toads have venom-secreting poison glands (known as parotoid glands) or swellings on each shoulder where poison is released when they are threatened. If ingested, this venom can cause rapid heartbeat, excessive salivation, convulsions and paralysis and can result in death for many native animals.
There are a number of anecdotal reports and more recently, experimental data, on the impacts of ingestion of the Cane Toad by native species. Studies have been, and are continuing to be, undertaken on the Northern Quoll, vertebrate fauna in Kakadu National Park, reptiles, snakes, and crocodiles to determine the impact of lethal toxic ingestion of the Cane Toad on these species.
I’m sorry for not updating my website much last year. I have been so busy with my family, body injuries, and working in Papua New Guinea on sustainable projects in remote villagers. Its hard being me living in two countries.The climate in Cairns is hot and humid and makes gardening the traditional method using soil quick tricky. If we get one hot day that’s it- your plants and they will wilt and burn if out in the open. The roots also can dry out and burn in the baking soil.
That’s why just a year after moving to Cairns I set up my sustainable Aquaponics system in the backyard. Actually I built x5 systems using all different techniques, materials and methods so I can use it as a training facility as well and teach others in sustainable gardening techniques from my greenhouse.
After the hot 40 degrees days, the flooding, cyclone season and wallabies eating my vegetable garden, Aquaponics just makes sense in queensland or anywhere else in Australia or the world. Aquaponics can be used in basements, on roof tops in fish tanks, inside or out. Your time and imagination is the only thing limiting you in the design. I once made one in a fish tank and also converted an old swimming pool. These are so many possibilities.
Just one year after building my system its good to be able to report that my Barramundi and Jade perch are growing very well and still have a veracious appetite. The Barra range in size but after 12 months growth are between 20- 30cm and the Perch are about 15-25cm but fatter.
We still have tomatoes flowering and fruiting. They are growing through the greenhouse shade cloth and just wont stop. I estimate we have produced maybe 10kg each month. That’s way too many for us and we either give them away or make chutneys and sources.
Last year saw me install Solar power, burry the electricity cable, mentor the community in sustainable gardening .
Over all we have 60 varieties of herbs and vegetables all thriving in our backyard Aquaponics system.
Far north Queensland is an ideal location for Aquaponics with it hot and humid weather. Plants are exploding and I’ve had no trouble with any plant disease, fish disease.
In 2016, due to high demand from neighbors and then word of mouth advertising, I have decided to run additional local Aquaponics training courses as more and more people are turning green and wish to build, practice DIY solutions to our countries waste and food security issues.
If you need any help think about coming to do a days course with me before you start building. The Aquaponics training is a way to share ideas too and learn from everyone’s collective experiences.
Last year the Aquaponic Gardener moved from Newcastle NSW to Cairns far north QLD to be closer to my sustainable agriculture projects that are ongoing in Papua New Guinea. It was a hard decision to leave Newcastle however here in Cairns the weather is great and I have re established in an old weatherboard Queenslander home on a big block of residential land. We are in the throws of converting it using sustainable new and old techniques and technology. Here in Cairns we have re-established a greenhouse with aquaponics and a wicking bed that grows all sorts of herbs, lettuce, tomatoes, celery, rhubarb, egg plants, mint, basil, peas and fruit trees seedlings.
So far we have about 30 varieties of fruit trees growing from seed including local bush foods. Everything is flourishing. The plan is to plant the entire boundary and be able to eat well an
Yesterday 6kw of solar panels went on the roof for sustainable energy .
Also have x7 native bee hives living in the walls of our home. I’ve built bee hive boxes and I’m coaxing bees out to re establish the native bee colonies into my man made boxes so I can get the honey. If that doesn’t work ill drill into my walls and stick a tap in them to get the honey. The grand plan is to stick hives on native bees in the green house to pollinate my aquaponically grown food and wicking beds.
A recent edition this week was a 2m long black solider fly larvae monster breeding box that should become in a few months an automatic fish feeder by diverting food scraps and compost that the chickens and worms wont eat into a food resource in fly larvae (grubs /maggots) that ill feed to the 100 Barramundi and 50 Jade perch that I have growing.
Its a slow process moving to a new location and working in several developing countries and starting with a blank canvas of grass in the backyard. Its all coming together though and
already producing food. In time our Cairns house will become a landmark sustainable permaculture Cairns home and a showcase of what an average person can simply do at home using scraps of timber and free materials found anywhere to create something that can sustain large family.
Very soon ill be running Sustainable courses again in Aquaponics, Wicking Beds, Native Bees, Sustainable Pest Control etc.
Stay tuned. Ill start up my sustainable courses in Cairns, Brisbane, Newcastle and Sydney in time ill be putting out the event schedule.
I always comment that the number one secret to Aquaponics is compost worms in the grow beds to reduce maintenance and to help plant function. But have you ever sprayed your plants leaves with worm tea to create healthier plants? Worm tea is easy to make at home and has the following benefits:
• Worm casting are pure organic worm castings and not vermin-compost.
• By spraying the worm tea on your plants (under the leaves as well as on top) and over your seed trays (seed nursery), you’re adding nutrients directly to your growing plants and making them healthier and minimizing any potential problems.
• Since you’re spraying the leaves and fruit/vegetables, pathogens are less likely to attack your plants because you’re adding beneficial microbes (very important to healthy plant growth) to the surface of the plants.
• Worm casting tea used as a foliar spray is beneficial and controls many fugal problems like black spot, black mildew and tomato blight, to mention a few.
• Testing proves that there are microorganism properties in the worm casting tea that act as an insect repellent for many insects such as aphids, white fly, spider mites, and other small bugs that eat plant juices. This is due to enzyme released in the worm tea called chitinase which will dissolve chitin which is the exoskeleton of an insect.
You can make your Organic Worm-Castings Tea in as little as 4 hours and 98% of that time is allowing the tea to brew or sit and brew prior to application in your aquaponics system. Easy to make. Easy to spray. Great for your aquaponics system.
Ingredients and equipment required:
Cup Worm Castings which is 100% organic and supplies a natural source of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium and iron for your plants.
Water from your fish tank. Use tap water only when it has been left to sit for a week to remove the chlorine.
Let a kitchen blender to do the work to mix and aerate the worm casting tea.
Use a wire mesh strainer (mesh strainer works better than a spaghetti colander) or a cloth (cheese cloth or old hosiery) to line the strainer (the tea has to pass through your sprayers nozzle so make sure the filter is smaller then the particles in the brewed tea, so strain well). If the worm casting tea is not well strained, it will clog up your sprayer.
1.Pour water into a kitchen blender if you have one or use a bucket and an fish tank airstone. See pics.
2.Turn on the blender or air stone and let it run for about a minute at a relatively high speed to entrain air into the water oxygenating it.
3.Remove the lid and then carefully add the one cup of Worm Castings tea.
4.Put back the lid back on the blender and run it at full speed for one to two minutes, turn off and then let the mixture sit for 2-4 hours .
5.Set up the strainer with the cloth liner to drain into the large bucket with the rest of the water.
6.Very slowly and carefully pour the mixture through the strainer/cloth into the bucket with the remaining water. The drainage gets slower and slower so you may want to stop and change filters to speed up the process.
7.Stop pouring when the heavier remains start to flow out of the blender.
8.Stir the worm casting tea thoroughly.
9.Pour the resulting liquid into sprayer. Note, the color of the Worm Casting Tea can be VERY black.
10.Now you can spray your plants on the top and underside of leaves.
11.Use all of the mixture within a few days as it may start to ferment if you leave it in the sprayer longer than one day.
12.BIG BENEFIT: Worm Casting Tea can be made in a matter of HOURS not days!
Note: Use the remaining casting residue left in the strainer cloth and blender on your indoor or outdoor plants, or your yard, at the base of a plant or tree. DO NOT PUT LEFT-OVER WORM CASTING RESIDUE INTO IN YOUR AQUAPONICS GROW TRAY as it will alter the pH over time.
Last weekend I learnt that i can comfortably fit 50 people into my small backyard. I opened my backyard by request to Hunter Organic Growers Society and saw a flood of interest in my fish, yabbies, veges and Aquaponics ways.
Most people had not seen Aquaponics in action and the day was filled with questions and answers- a great day of education. Many people assumed that Aquaponics was complicated and costly but i was able to showcase what i have achieved in my backyard with mostly recycled materials, limited financial resources, time and effort. It was a great day to highlight the need for home grown food production regardless of land area that you have available.
We discussed how fish waste essentially provides all the nutrients required to grow my vegetables which sit above the ground at waist height, how maintenance free the design is, weed free and a simple inexpensive design. The growing space is utilized in a much more efficient and effective manner to most peoples traditional vegetable gardens that require greater land area. I took some time discussing the water’s pH and carefully timed siphon system as well as the addition of macro-nutrients and micro-nutrients that are important to successful growing results.
At the end of the day- When it works, it works! You don’t necessarily have to understand how- just try it. The fish and bacteria do all the work for you.
Aquaponics not only saves you time in the garden but it’s a sustainable solution to save you so much money as well. Almost anyone can garden with Aquaponics!
Thought you may like to appreciate that International Permaculture day is almost on us again for another year. May 5th 2013. Although Aquaponics can stand alone as a super vegetable growing system, a successful balanced Aquaponics system uses many of the same permaculture design elements. This annual event is a great day filled with education and passionate likeminded people. Last year i opened up my home Aquaponics grow beds, gardens and fish ponds up to the public on this day. This year i’ll be visiting some other backyards to check them to see what inventive things people are doing and i encourage you to do the same!
MEDIA RELEASE: “You can fix all the world’s problems in a garden… You can solve all your pollution problems, and all your supply line needs in a garden. And most people today actually don’t
know that, and that makes most people very insecure.”- Geoff Lawton, Permaculture Research Institute
Geoff Lawton should know. He turned a strip of desert in Jordan into an abundant food forest that will provide food for people for generations to come. And that’s just one of many permaculture solutions being pioneered around the world. We can’t ignore that the world is in crisis. The fresh food, clean air and secure income that so many of us take for granted is no longer a given. No community is immune when we depend on fossil fuels and debt, cheap labour
and food flown thousands of miles. If we don’t create more sustainable supply lines, then we face the prospect of collapse. The good news is that we can survive this and even thrive, if we act now.
This year’s International Permaculture theme is Grow Local! to highlight the value of permaculture design for building local resilience. By using the tools of permaculture and a
little community spirit, we can start to meet our basic energy, clean water and fresh food needs, right in our own gardens.
This year’s theme is Grow Local! to highlight the value of permaculture design for building local resilience. By using the tools of permaculture and a little community spirit, we can start to meet our basic energy, clean water and fresh food needs, right in our own gardens.