Our Greenhouse's History:
Our Greenhouse went through many changes since we first built it in late 2008. The above photo is what it looked like in the Spring of 2015 before we tore everything down and moved to Arizona. But the first Systems it housed were early versions our FGS-20 Deep Media STEM & Family Growing System as seen below. From 2009 until February of 2014, we had five of these Deep Media Beds with three 120 gallon Fish Tanks underneath them (not shown) in our Greenhouse.
Then in February of 2014, it all changed.
We tore out everything that you see in the photo above, including the fish tanks and installed our first Vertical NFT (Nutrient Film Technique) System. We called this system the Duffy Duct™ System after our System Designer, Oliver Duffy.
This first Duffy Duct™ System used vinyl fence posts as growing ducts as seen below. We designed this system as a prototype to promote our large-scale, commercial Vertical Food Forever™ Farms; and the first crop was four 60 degree Vertical Walls full of Romaine Lettuce.
But we soon discovered that the Vinyl Fence Posts were too expensive to use even after spending hours establishing wholesale relationships with several suppliers. Commercial Farmers just weren't going to be able to pay the exhorbitant price to build one of these Systems on a large scale. We went back to the drawing board and came up with a much less expensive component for our NFT Growing Ducts. By now it was around July of 2014 and we once again tore out everything except the wooden support walls and installed the new Duffy Duct System you see below using Downspouts, which were a much less expensive version of the Vinyl Fence Posts. These Downspouts are growing a Wall of Red Oak Lettuce.
At the same time, we started doing R&D on an 80º Vertical (below, right) System using our Sump Tank as the water catch.
Once we established that the 80º Vertical System would work, we once again tore everything out of the Greenhouse including the wooden support walls and the two Sump Tanks and started over by installing a Trough that looked a lot like a Raft Trough without the polystyrene. The Trough catches the water flowing through the 80º Vertical NFT Downspouts. Reflected in the Trough water are the Tomato Plants that are growing in one of the two Deep Media Bed that are in the back of the Greenhouse. Grace is trimming those Tomato Plants in the accompanying photo with the Downspouts in their 80º Vertical positioning over the Trough.
There were three indeterminant Tomato Plants in the Deep Media Grow Bed you can see in this picture. Behind that Bed, you can barely see the second Deep Media Grow Bed in the back, which has Taro planted in it as a test for one of our customers who wanted to grow Taro and Peppers in Deep Media Beds.
The three Tomato Plants were planted in the Spring of 2014 so they were about one year old as this page was being created. They put out the most delicious, nutritious tomatoes we had ever tasted right through fall and winter of 2014 and 2015.
The Test Taro Plants struggled in the back Deep Media Bed, not because Taro doesn't like to be grown in an Aquaponics System, but because the three Tomato Plants actually grew over to the other Deep Media Bed where they took space away from the Taro.
You have to be careful with Tomatoes because they will take over a small system not only taking over the space but, also, taking up all of the Nutrients in the system because it takes a lot of Nitrates to grow Tomatoes.
Tomato Plants have to be trimmed on a regular basis. This one was in need of a good trimming when this photo was taken. A well manicured Tomato Plant looks practically naked in terms of leaves as you have to get rid of all of the sucker leaves that will not produce fruit and will only take nutrients away from the fruit producing branches.
We also had a Growroom, which was approximately the same size as our Greenhouse and is where we grew leafy greens without sunshine by using a variety of Grow Lights; as we'd been doing R&D using Grow Lights for several years. We built the Growroom to demonstrate to our Aquaponics USA customers how to grow food indoors without land or sun. The photo below was taken after we installed the first system in the Growroom, which was a FGS-40 STEM & Family System with four Deep Media Grow Beds and a 320 gallon Fish Tank.
In the photo below, Grace is planting sprouted seedlings into the Deep Media Grow Beds. You will see by comparing this photo with the next one that we didn't have nearly enough light over these beds. We discovered that early on when these plants got real leggy, meaning the lettuce had these long stalks indicating they were reaching for more light.
Here you see the other end of the Growroom where the 320 gallon Fish Tank sat. This picture shows the addition of another row of Fluorescent Grow Lights, which made all the difference in our ability to grow healthy plants.
In the foreground is our Automatic Fish Feeder. We often say that raising Tilapia is quite easy as long as you have one of these handy devices.
The fish pretty much take care of themselves, eating mating, swimming, fertilizing your plants and repeating that process.
Our water quality improved considerably after this photo was taken because we added some extra components to our system. You can read all about that in our Aquaponics 101 Tutorial.
We grew basil in the first Deep Media Bed. Basil loves Aquaponics Systems and will grow beautifully in Deep Media Beds as well as Raft Systems and NFT (Nutrient Film Technique) Systems, which are all water with no Growing Media.
We also provided an overhead light for the fish in our indoor systems because Tilapia like some light.
The Growroom went through some big changes after February of 2014 when we also tore everything we had in it out and put in a Horizontal Vinyl Fence Post System, which worked like a combination NFT and Deep Water Culture System. Below are the same two views from one end and then the other of our rennovated Growroom. This room had two doors, one on each end. This is the view from the door that was at the North end of the room.
The brown rectangle you see at the top of this picture is the bottom of an Induction Grow Light, which we were selling on this website. We decided they were too expensive and have discontinued them.
This is the rennovated Growroom, from the South door at the other end of the house. You can see that we added this Growroom by converting a back porch into a room. The stucco walls of the back of the house remain. There are two different kinds of LED Lights that we've been testing in this Growroom; and we'll be selling custom designed multi-color LED's in the near future on our website.
There's one more room that we need to share here because it completed our new 80º Vertical System and the new Growroom System shown above. That room is our Fishroom. If you scroll back to the 80º Vertical System, you'll see that our Greenhouse has no fish tanks in it; and as you can see here, neither does our Growroom. We didn't need to put fish tanks in either of these rooms because we built a Fishroom.
This new Fishroom worked great because the fish were in an indoor controlled environment where we easily could keep an eye on them, watch how the breeding and brooding process was coming along and hand feed them for fun when we gave tours.
Above is a photo of the Fishroom being built.
We extended the roof off of the existing one we put on the Growroom. The finished wall is the Growroom's outside wall. After completing the Fishroom, we placed 6,000 Watts of Solar Panels on the new Fishroom roof.
Here is the completed Fishroom. It has five 120 gallon Fish Tanks. These are the same Fish Tanks that we use in our FGS-20 STEM & Family System.
Notice the tall black Tower in the back corner of this room. That's one of the added components which allowed our water to be so clear you can actually see the fish in their tanks.
You can learn more about this WET (Water Enhancement Technology) System in our Aquaponics 101 Tutorial.
The addition of this WET System is not necessary if you're running one of our STEM & Family Growing Systems because they are all Deep Media Systems that can easily grow lots of different kinds of veggies and fruits in those Deep Media Beds.
But once you start growing leafy greens in NFT (Nutrient Film Technique) 80º Vertical Downspouts, you need to have ultra clean water or the roots get clogged up with solid fish waste.
That's why we added the WET Tower and what we call our Solids Separation BioConversion System, which is purposefully not shown in this photo.
The water you see in these fish tanks runs through our Greenhouse and our Growroom as all of these parts became one single system requiring a single water chemistry measurement. Some of the water ran underground for about 100 ft. from this Fishroom to our Greenhouse and then back again. It also ran into the Growroom right next door and then back to the Fish Tanks.
Our Greenhouse, Growroom and Fishroom were self-contained Eco Systems–highly controlled environments where the temperature was kept around 75 degrees. The Greenhouse got hotter than that in the summer and colder than that during winter nights; but we were able to keep it in a range that continued to grow those tomatoes we spoke of earlier right through winter. We added reflective insulation along the North Wall of the Greenhouse which helped keep the heat from escaping, reflect to low winter sun back into the greenhouse and also helped us keep out some of the heat in the summer.
Because we were in the dry High Desert of Southern California above Palm Springs at 3,500 feet of altitude, we could cool our Green House and our Growroom with evaporative coolers that are much less expensive to operate than regular heat pump style air conditioners. The Greenhouse had two large ones and the Growroom had one small one.
In the winter, we needed to heat our Greenhouse at night and were using a natural gas Blue Flame Heater on a thermostat set to about 50 Fº to do that.
We hope you've enjoyed this multi-year history of Aquaponics USA. This page describes what we were doing before we moved from California to Arizona. What we're doing in Arizona is a different story all together that involves dealing with snow and 6,000 ft. of altitude.That's a whole new story, which is coming soon.
We then planted three kinds of lettuce in our new 80º Vertical Wall and ended up with the Wall of Lettuce you see at the top of this page. Below is one end of the 80º Vertical Wall next to the badly in need of trimming Tomato Plants.