USA University student studies Cairns Aquaponics system

Hi, my name is Brennan Cross,  an undergraduate university student performing research into the exciting field of aquaponics.

I’m from the United States but thanks to SIT World Learning and the University of Vermont, I have had the opportunity to study here in Australia for a few months at the Redlynch Aquaponics Training Center.

Since I was 14 years old, I worked on a vegetable farm in my Hometown of Simsbury, Connecticut. Naturally over the course of seven summers growing food, I developed an appreciation and interest in agriculture in its different forms. I recently discovered the combination of aquaculture and hydroponics as a sustainable agriculture practice and it immediately piqued my interest.

I met the energetic Rod Ingersoll, aka the Aquaponic Gardener, by chance shortly after arriving in Australia and he’s been kind enough to allow me to perform a modest experiment in his ingeniously designed aquaponics system while I conduct my research.

usa aquaponics research in cairns

USA University Student Brennan Cross conducts Aquaponics research in Cairns

Through a series of installments, I’ll share the results of my research as well as the progress and outcome of my small experiment.

Hopefully I can be of some help to those like me who are interested in how this process works.

I plan to update you with the following over the coming month:





Part 1: Plant Needs and How Fish Provide them;

Part 2: Aquaculture and Hydroponics: What are they and how are they natural allies? (System types and designs);

Part 3: My Experiment Design and setup;

Part 4: Experiment Progress;

Part 5: Results;

Cheers, Brennan Cross






Aquaponic Gardener wins Southern Cross University School of Environment, Science and Engineering Alumnus of the Year 2017

Southern Cross University School of Environment, Science and Engineering Alumnus of the Year 2017 Awards were held in September 2017. Rodney Ingersoll was awarded as finalist for his local and global environmental management & sustainable community development initiatives like aquaponics.

alumni of year 2017

Rod Ingersoll wins SCU Alumni of year 2017

IMG_2845 Alumni065

“I feel numb, happy, humbled & so blessed to have won the Southern Cross University School of Environment, Science and Engineering 2017 Alumnus of the year for services to Global Community & Environmental Management.

So many nominated talented people who have all done so much in there careers. I received the awards acknowledging those who helped me survive university and those who never stopped believing in me. People like SCU Chaplin Rev. John Kidson. I appreciate all your support”, Rod Ingersoll said


See for further information

World Environment Day 5th June 2017

World Environment Day – observed on 5 June every year across the globe – is the largest annual event for positive environmental action. 

world Environment DayWorld Environment Day was inaugurated in 1972 following the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm, Sweden on 5-16 June – the first international conference on environmental issues.

Since its first celebration on 5 June 1974, millions of people across the world have taken part in thousands of events to raise awareness and generate political momentum around growing concerns such as the depletion of the ozone layer, toxic chemicals, desertification and global warming.

Events range from neighbourhood clean-ups, to action against wildlife crime, to replanting forests.

The Day has developed into a global platform for taking action on urgent environmental issues, driving change in our consumption habits as well as influencing national and international policy.

The host country for this year’s celebration is Canada, succeeding 2016 host Angola.

Canada has chosen the theme “Connecting People to Nature” for 2017, which invites people to enjoy the outdoors and to take forward the call to protect the Earth that we share.

Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment, said: “It reminds us of what a treasure nature is, and encourages us all to protect and appreciate our environment.”

Countries around the world will host events and introduce initiatives to celebrate the largest annual event for positive environmental action.

This year the citizens of Mumbai, India are taking part in a mass beach clean-up, while Canada is offering free entry to its national parks and marine conservation areas.

world environment dayTo get involved you can join the global album by sharing a photo or video of your favourite place in nature using #WorldEnvironmentDay or #WithNature. See:

You can also join over 1,000 events taking place across the globe, or even organise your own.

Or why not help build the world’s largest nature database by recording the wonders of biodiversity in your local environment.

World Environment Day has partnered with the iNaturalist global network to record all contributions, which will be shared with scientific data repositories.

For information on how to get involved visit:


For Australian Environmental Events including World Environment Day see:

An introduction to Aquaponics – 27th of May 2017 CAIRNS

An introduction to Aquaponics – 27th of May 2017.

For all those that would like to see several different functioning aquaponics systems, I have made available my time to show you  through my Cairns Aquaponics demonstration facility. Cairns is a tropical environment and there are many different tricks and secretes that I can show you to assist your vegetables and fish grow healthier.

As part of Cairns Eco Fiesta 2017 I am running this workshop on behalf of Cairns Permaculture.

Ill be discussing the following: Ph issues, fish selection, problem solving, siphons, solar backups, pumps, how to grow super fast vegetables etc.

Registration and payment is essential to confirm your place. At just $20 a head for 3hrs of expert training i’m sure this will book out fast!

Please register at

aquaponics ad May 27th 2017

Aquaponics Training reaches remote QLD schools

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.

Rosebery Middle School Northern Territory visits Cairns Aquaponics Training Course

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.

Roseburry Middle School visits Cairns Aquaponics facility

Roseburry Middle School visits Cairns Aquaponics facility

Aquaponics will showcase at Cairns Eco Fiesta

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!Cairns Eco Week

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.


Chineese School visits Cairns for DIY Aquaponics advise

Chinese Aquaponics students in Cairns

Chinese students learnt how to remove soil and replant seedlings in aquaponics grow beds


Chinese Aquaponics students clean exime Barramundi

Chinese students learnt how to conduct Aquaponics 2min maintenance.


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”.


One IBC tank simple Aquaponics system

Chinese delegation learnt how to build an aquaponics system for under $100.

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 and Aquaponics


cairns cane toad

Pest cane toad in Cairns Aquaponics system

aquaponics cane toad cairnsCane 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.cane toad eggs

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.


Cairns Aquaponics-1 year vegetable and fish growth update


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.20150911_163426

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.

aquaponics tomatoes

Tomatoes growing out of control through my greenhouse roof

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.