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.


Everything is thriving in sunny Cairns

Cairns Aquaponic and wicking bed under construction

Cairns Aquaponic garden and wicking bed under construction

Cairns Aquaponics greenhouse

My completed Cairns Aquaponics greenhouse x10 growbed and wicking bed system

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.

Cairns QLD Aquaponic Garden vegetables

Cairns Aquaponic garden and wicking bed just 4 months later flourishing with food


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.



Organic Worm Tea reduces insect attack in Aquaponics

235899 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.

Hunter Organic Growers Society- Aquaponics Open Day

HOGS 13 April cLast 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.

HOGS 13 April dWe 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!

hogs 13 April


International Permaculture Day is on again- May 5th 2013

int permaculture day may 2013Thought 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.

How do we reform global industrial agriculture?

Food for thought- Whats water doing? How can we assist our planets water resources?

The introduction of fossil fuels into agriculture reduced much human suffering around the world — but it also created a massive spike in global population, creating an ever-growing need for more food. While our population continues to grow exponentially in every country, our resources for growing food — from oil (for fuel) and natural gas (for fertilizer) to freshwater and topsoil — are rapidly depleting around the world. The price of food is also a real concern as resources increase in value.

Eating organic and eating local helps minimise fuel transport issues yet are only part of the solution. How do we reform global industrial agriculture so that we can feed nearly seven billion people (and rising) without wasting precious resources needed for at least the rest of the century? How do we build the food resilience of communities which have grown dependent on food supply chains built for a world of cheap oil?

The video below helps explain these issues clearly. Its long at (45mins) however raises some good points for further consideration, thought and action.

Lake Macquarie City Council Environmental Activities, grants etc April- May 2013

Make your own backyard  habitat – free  workshop

Saturday 20 April,  1-3pm

Learn about the importance  of backyard habitat for local native animals, and discover how to create a frog  pond and possum nest box in your own  backyard.

Location:  Landcare Resource Centre, Corner of Toronto  Roadand  Five Islands Road,  Teralba

Bookings essential to Lake  Macquarie City Council on 4921  0333


Fungi  Foray

Saturday 27 April,  Approximately 9.15am – 1.30pm

A free event for Landcarers  and Community Ecosystem Monitoring Volunteers. Learn about fungi and how to identify  different  types.

Meet at the Landcare  Resource Office, 80 Toronto  Rd,  Teralba

Limited places so please  call the Landcare Resource Office on 4921 0392 by 24 April to book your  place.


Free Showerhead  Exchange

Hunter Water and Lake  Macquarie City Council invite Hunter Water Customers to exchange their existing  water guzzling showerhead for a water efficient one. Free and low cost premium  options available.


Westfield Kotara       Shopping Centre, outside Woolworths       Supermarket Thursday 2       May10am –       8pm Friday 3       May10am –       4pm Saturday 4       May10am –       2pm
Hunter Water, 36 Honeysuckle Drive,       Newcastle       Westor

Hunter       Water’s Customer Service desk at Lake Macquarie City Council, 126-138 Main       Road, Speers       Point

Monday 6 –       Friday 31       May9am –       5pm


Littoral Rainforest Plant  Identification  Workshop

Saturday 4 May, 10am – 2pm

Help  protect and improve the ecological value of Littoral Rainforest.  The workshop will include an overview of  native plant species found in Littoral Rainforest Communities, ecology and  identification principles, and an introduction to Plantnet and other useful  resources.

Location: Landcare Resource  Centre,  Teralba

For further information or  to book your place contact the Landcare Resource Centre on 4921  0392.


Powerful Owl  Workshop

Sunday  5 May, 10am – 12:30pm

Find  out about these amazing birds and how you can become involved in the Powerful  Owl Project,

Location:  Landcare Resource Centre,  Teralba

For  further information and to book your place, contact David Bain at BirdLife Australia on 0421 337  545 or email



Wangi Area Sustainable  Neighbourhood Group Launch and  Celebration

Saturday 11 May 2013,  11.00am – 2.00pm

The official launch of the  Wangi Area Sustainable Neighbourhood Group and their Action Plan will be held on  Saturday 11 May 2013.

Join in the fun – there  will be family-friendly activities, free food and lots of information about the  great projects members are  undertaking.

New member sign ups on the  day are very  welcome.

Location:  Wangi Wangi Foreshore, Watkins Road (in  front of  RSL)

For more information,  contact the Wangi Area Sustainable Neighbourhood Group on


Salts Bay Community Event and  BBQ

Saturday 11 May,  10.00am – 1.00pm

Come along to a walk and  talk, with free BBQ, to learn about the rainforest of SaltsBay and Swansea  Heads.

Location:  Meet at Reids Reserve at the end of  Lambton Pde, Swansea Heads

Bookings essential to the  Landcare Resource Centre on 4921 0392

Create your own Naturewatch  Diary – Workshop

Saturday 25 May,  10.30am – 12.30pm

There are many ways to  record the seasonal changes in your garden or local bushland.  Build your awareness with tips from an  expert and document your observations for future generations.  All participants will receive a copy of  unique template developed by the presenter, in addition to a Naturewatch  Diary.

Landcare Resource Centre,  Corner of Toronto  Roadand  Five Islands Road,  Teralba

Bookings essential to Lake  Macquarie City Council on 4921 0333


Other  Opportunities


Our Super  Street Sale

Our Super StreetSale is a new Council service to help you  hold a street-wide garage  sale.

All you need to do  is get two or more houses in your street to hold a garage sale on the same day  and Council  will:

  • advertise your garage sales  in the Newcastle Herald on the day of your  sale
  • promote your garage sales on  Council’s website, Facebook page and  Twitter
  • send you a free garage sale  kit, including tips and hints, to have the best garage sale  ever


Win $500  towards your electricity bill!

Council has  launched the 2013 Bust Your Bills  competition, a fun initiative to help you reduce your energy usage and  save money on your electricity  bills.

You could win $500  towards your power bill, as well as fantastic monthly  prizes.



Community Environment Grants (Caring for our  Country)

Applications for Community  Environment Grants program which offer small grants of between $5000 and $50 000  to help groups undertake on-the-ground activities and increase their skills and  capacity to protect the natural environmenthasnow  opened.

A wide range of activities  are eligible including activities that increase biodiversity in and around World  Heritage Areas; developing land and sea country management plans, holding field  days and conferences to show-case innovative sustainable environment practices.

Activities also extend to  training local communities to participate in environmental protection, working  with local governments, regional bodies and industries to reduce pollution  entering urban and coastal waterways and marine environments and recording and  using Indigenous ecological knowledge to deliver conservation outcomes.

Applications are open to  groups Australia-wide until midnight (12am AEST) Wednesday 8  May.

Grant guidelines,  application forms and further information is available from the Caring for our  Country website:


EcoSchools  Grants

This program provides  grants to schools to give them the opportunity to involve their  students and community in developing and implementing environmental management  projects.

The overall objective of the  Eco Schools program is to support schools to develop best practice in  environmental education and innovative solutions to environmental  issues.

Applications close 17 May  2013.

For full details go to


Stephanie  Alexander Kitchen Garden Program Is Now  Open

The focus of the  Program is for primary school students to learn how to grow, harvest, prepare  and share fresh food in the belief that this approach will provide a better  chance of positively influencing children’s food  choices.

The Program  provides one-off funding of up to $60,000 (GST exclusive) to eligible schools to  cover infrastructure costs associated with building a kitchen and  garden.

For more  information


Volunteer Grants – Australian  Government

Volunteer Grants  2013 recognises the valuable work of Australia’s volunteers.  This  initiative forms part of the Australian Government’s ongoing commitment to  organisations whose volunteers assist disadvantaged communities and encourage  inclusion of vulnerable people in community  life.

Funding of $16  million is available to support and encourage volunteering.  Eligible  not-for-profit community organisations can apply for grants between $1,000 and  $5,000.

For more  information and application guidelines go to:

Applications are  due 24 April  2013.

A garden in the ghetto generate food Gardens, build communities

This film below tells the story of a South Los Angeles edible garden planted in a surprising spot. Ron Finley, its planter, constructed the garden the way he wishes his neighborhood could be. And his vision of repurposing unused open space, like that of many others working together on urban agriculture in our city, should inspire us all, and remind us of how, with a little creativity of vision, and willingness to get our hands dirty, we can remake spaces defined by asphalt and dead grass into productive places of beauty.


TO LEARN MORE about the food movement in Los Angeles and how to get involved visit the Los Angeles Food Policy Council: