Garinger Aquaponics

Updates on the 100 Gardens site at Garinger High School in Charlotte, NC


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Moving Right Along

Hey folks,

Things are moving right along here at Garinger. On Friday we made a big push, and with some extra hands pitching in we got the system up and running! We’re in the final stages of the project now. I was down there today and all four tanks are full, though we still only have Tilapia in the far left. So that’ll be something to take care of soon. We’re also going to have to get some plants started in the rafts, which are now at full volume, each hole drilled in the polystyrene floats. A few other things will need to be resolved, but for the most part we’re pumping.

I could always tell you what we did, and every little detail, but I think that it would be easier to show you pictures. If you’d like to visit us, send an email to garingeraquaponics@gmail.com (I check every once and a while).

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The hydroponic rafts with our vegetable trays in them!

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Sometimes you just have to climb in – the plug on the water pump couldn’t be reached otherwise, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to a little bit.

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Connecting students to the work going on at the farm is one of our biggest objectives. Our Garden Coordinator Bobbie Mabe does a great job with this – I saw her today teaching an American History class.
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Sam explaining to me the intricacies of our air pump.

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The aeration system up and running!

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And the water pumping through the tanks!

It’s a great thing to hear your first Aquaponics system turn on for the first time.

Talk soon,
Jacob

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Back at it!

Hey folks!

We are back to it now! The past few weeks have been mostly devoted to the Southern Spring Show, working on the setup for the Ultimate Schoolyard Garden, which was recognized with two awards by The American Horticultural Society. Though I wasn’t able to experience the conference firsthand, I am very happy about this news. A lot of hard work went into making the display possible, and acknowledgement of that dedication was well deserved. It’s encouraging to know that progressive efforts, such as those displayed by the Schoolyard Garden, are well received by the urban agriculture movement. We have a huge opportunity for growth while public interest remains high in local agriculture efforts, and a need to adapt our approach to agriculture for the sake of resiliency that was not as pressing during prior years of public support. It is inspiring to see that growth happen every day

So I’ll fill you in on what we’re building at Garinger, and what we accomplished today. As you can see the greenhouse is a lot greener, thanks to the warm weather and sunshine we’ve had lately. There’s a good bit of algae in the rafts, but once we get the water pumping (which it will be Friday!) all that will be filtered out. The filter system will have to be cleaned out a good bit at first, due to the algae in the rafts and the biofilm in the totes, but we’ll want to keep a close eye on everything at first anyhow.

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Next bit of news for you is that there are fish in the far left tank. Some of them are veterans from the Schoolyard Garden display, but we lost a few in transit. They seem to like their new home pretty well, and they’re already getting to work cleaning the water of biofilm and adding nutrients for the plants.
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As you may notice, there’s a pipe protruding into the fish tank at the bottom there. That’s because all the totes have been hooked up to the same plumbing system! Again it isn’t pumping yet, we’ve still got some dirt to move and holes to drill with our wonky drill bit that makes for some very clean 1.5′ holes. Or 1′, heck I’m pretty sure you can even drill a 1/4′ hole with that set. Go crazy, see what happens.
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So there’s that crazy drill bit. Sam is drilling into our sump tank there, which will run from the raft (the little blue corner is in the bottom left of the picture). The whole thing will be driven by pumps, and gravity. It’ll be a process of trial and error, but we’ll get it sorted.Image
Today we worked until we ran out of materials. Sam is putting the finishing touches on the aeration for our totes here. The cement glue holding those pipes together gives off some serious fumes. Sam tipped the jar a bit at one point to dab some from the bottom, and I could see the vapor pour out, the same way you might see steam rise off a compost pile. Or heatwaves on the asphalt in summer.

I plucked some greens, covered in aphids and worm castings. I’m looking forward to a dinner of greens and onions tonight.

Until next time everyone!
Jacob


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Snowy Snowy Days

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Hey everyone,

I wanted to put in a mention that we haven’t been able to get any work done this week as a result of the veritable blizzard what came through. A few weeks ago we had a light dusting (The Farm in its light dusting glory is pictured above). This time around I saw about 10” on the north end of the county, and a healthy dose of sleet. Most of the roads are clear by now, and the Southern Spring Show is coming up next weekend which we will be preparing for. Our focus this week will most likely be on getting the demonstration system ready for the show (see in posts below). Hopefully we will be able to catch up with you on the main setup soon!

Stay warm, safe and dry out there y’all!
Jacob


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Gone Fishin’

Hey folks,

 

Just a quick update, we worked a lot on the setup for the Spring Show today (http://www.southernshows.com/sss/). Tilapia have now been added to the system, and they’re already a feisty bunch so I think they’re going to do well. But then again, I’m new at this, so maybe that doesn’t mean anything. Sam tells me they’re just pretty aggressive in general.

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In the background is the grow tower, one of the hydroponic installations that is part of the demonstration system. Out of the frame is a hydroponic raft about 2′ x 8′, but I could be wrong on that one again… Sam built it, I just tinker with it.
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So there’s the whole setup. We’ve got a lot of plumbing to do on the big system (which is behind me from where I took that picture, see in posts below). I’ll be sure to update you guys on that next time around, I believe next Wednesday we’ll be working at it again. Monty did some work on the plumbing, digging a trench for the pipes that will connect our two main rafts. We’ve also got the trim strips for the tops of the hydroponic rafts painted a nice gloss black, and will be getting those down and cutting off the excess plastic in due course.
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We harvested a big bag of Red Lettuce and Mustard Greens from the hydroponic raft for the demonstration setup today. There’s a bit of an Aphid infestation going on right now, so we’ve been trying to curtail that. Most of the mustard greens were either too overgrown or overrun for us to save them, so Sam took some to the roommates, and the Vermicompost bin got the rest. The funny thing about a greenhouse is that it’s the perfect habitat for plants in the summer, but it’s also the perfect place for bugs that eat plants. The Red Lettuce was mostly untouched. I dunno if that’s a dietary preference that Aphids have. I’d like to start doing some companion planting if the infestation gets worse. Marigolds evidently do the trick, so that’s one option.

Point is, the first of the Tilapia have arrived, and we’ve gone fishin’.


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Getting Up to Speed

Hey folks, Jacob here,

Sam and I have been hoping to get this blog up and running, but the focus lately has been more on getting construction in the greenhouse underway. We are probably about halfway finished at this point, so it’s a bit late in the game, but I think a short update as to what is going on down at The Farm would be appropriate.
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We’re currently building an Aquaponics system. If you aren’t familiar with that term, the elevator pitch is that it’s an agricultural technique that focuses on the relationship between fish and plants, where the fish produce waste full of nutrients necessary for plants to grow, and the plants clean the water pumped from the fish tanks through the grow beds. This water is then pumped back into the fish tanks and the cycle continues. There’s more information on Wikipedia page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aquaponics) for anyone who is curious.

Sam works for a non-profit corporation here in Charlotte called 100 Gardens (http://100gardens.simdif.com/index.html). The 100 Gardens mission is to establish a partnership between aquaponics labs in Charlotte and in Haiti. The story of how this idea came about is really compelling, and I highly recommend you take a look on the website sometime. Feel free to follow the progress of the 100 Gardens mission via Facebook as well (https://www.facebook.com/100Gardens).

So far, at Garden Number 4 at Garinger High, we have finished the construction of the two Grow Beds and as of Friday they have been lined with carpet and plastic (kind of like a milk carton sort of material). The fish tanks are full of water and we’ve been checking the pH and ammonia levels getting the water ready for fish to live there. We’re expecting to have 75 fish in each of the four tanks and 250 servings of greens a week from the Grow Beds.

Our next steps in construction mostly involve installation of the plumbing. Unfortunately I’ve got next to zero experience with PVC and plumbing related installation, but I’m excited to learn! We’re hoping to keep the blog updated after each work day, so hopefully this was a good introduction and you are now up to speed with everything going on.

Feel free to email us at garingeraquaponics@gmail.com with any questions.

Best,

Jacob