Backyard Urban Aquaponics Farm Grow 3000 Heads of Lettuce a Month

Alright! This is John Kohler of
Today we have another exciting episode for you. My last day here in Maui, I’m sad to
actually be flying out here tonight, but I’m actually really happy because I’ll be seeing
my girlfriend tomorrow. But anyways, aside from that, why I’m here today, in a standard
residential neighborhood actually, is not because somebody is growing a front yard garden,
which I wish more people were growing front yard gardens. What I’m doing today in a residential
area is actually filming a video for you guys on aquaponics farm that happens in the backyard
of a standard residential tract home. There’s many reason for aquaponics in this
particular situation, and I want to let you guys know if you do live in a residential
tract home, you can have a farm and grow food to distribute to people. Even more so the
farm I’m going to be visiting today in this residential neighborhood is certified organic,
which is amazing and even more so, they’re not just growing things in raised beds like
I do, which I believe is the easiest way to grow things because nature is self-balancing.
They’re actually taking things to the next level and growing things in aquaponics. That
can be a little bit more challenging than growing in the soil because you need to balance
things out and if you don’t do it right, your plants and your fish are not going to
be as bountiful, taste as good as they possibly can. So I guess the next step is let’s go ahead
and head to the backyard to share with you guys Aquaponics No Ka ‘Oi, which actually
means aquaponics is the best, something like that. And after eating some of the food that’s
grown here, I definitely say it’s an onoman (ono means “best” in Hawaiian). So I’m
going to go ahead and walk down the alley which leads to the backyard to share with
you guys this farm, literally here in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Now,
this farm is more my model of how I believe agriculture should be done. If you’re going
to be dependent on agriculture, it should be decentralized. Right now agriculture is
really centralized, and there’s big farms producing a lot of food and they’re in one
place, California, and that one food, lettuce, how’s it get shipped to Hawaii, shipped
to New York, shipped to Texas, shipped to Kansas, shipped all over. I think this is very intensive on the planet’s
resources and not the best way to do things also for the quality of the crops. I always
want to encourage you guys to select locally grown crops whenever you can and better yet
than locally grown is to grow it yourself. So actually that’s how they started here
at Aquaponics No Ka ‘oi, because they started aquaponics to have some food for themselves
to eat because they realized that we are the food we eat, and they were not happy with
the food that’s being imported from California not being as fresh. And much like me, they
said, “Hey, we could do it better ourselves.” And that’s what they did. About four years
ago, they started off with aquaponics, a little setup and it started working for them and
they started getting really productive and they slowly but surely expanded and into making
it a commercial business. One of the jokes that was told earlier today
by the farmer is that you can make a small fortune in aquaponics. The way to do that
is if you start with a large fortune, you buy all your aquaponics stuff and start doing
it, and then you end up with a small fortune. So this is definitely not a get-rich-quick
scheme, although you can make a living at it if done properly, as we’re going to see
back there, he produces a lot of lettuce that he sells locally, currently at Whole Foods
but hopefully he’ll start selling it direct to the customer to actually increase his margins
because he’s basically getting wholesale price. When you’re selling things wholesale you
don’t make as much money as when you sell them retail. Let’s go back down the alley
and share with you guys the whole process of how he grows food in his backyard and really
ramps up the production and he’s able to grow a lot of heads of lettuce in just a small
amount of space. And this space he calculated is less than one-tenth of an acre and he’s
producing a lot of lettuce on one-tenth of an acre. So let’s go ahead and head back
there. So when you walk into the yard, you’re not seeing a normal backyard and when you
walk into my backyard, you’re not seeing a normal backyard either. You’re seeing
all plants and raised beds and a whole big jungle, but I’m not seeing a jungle back
here because they’re not farming in that way. They’re doing the aquaponics, so there’s
a lot of advantages to the aquaponics. For example, in about a week’s time, it only
loses about five percent of the water that needs to be replenish, so it’s more sustainable
way in times of drought, like many places are, this is an excellent way to save water.
The other thing is that in a small space, and I don’t know if I could even be productive
in growing this many lettuces in soil because some of these lettuces are packed in pretty
tight as you guys are going to get to see in a minute. But in this whole operation here,
once again, less than one-tenth of an acre, they’re growing 3,000 heads of lettuce this
time, but they could do other crops. 3,000 heads of lettuce. They have over 300 pounds
of fish growing, which is another item they could sell or choose to use themselves. They have about 900 gallons of water that
house the fish and overall they’re using about 5,400 gallons of water total. I mean
because literally, this is like everything, the water’s basically the transport mechanism
for the nutrition, for both the plants as well as the fish. What we’re going to do
now is check out some of these hoophouses. I’m going to share with you guys how exactly
they’re set up because they’re actually done very well and go over some of the nuances
and the specifics of aquaponics system here so that you’ll be more familiar with how
an aquaponics system works and whether you’d want to set up a small-scale system for yourself
or maybe even have a backyard farm like they do here.  You’ll know how more to do that because
of this video. So let’s go ahead and take a walk around.  So the system that’s being
used here is called aquaponics and basically unlike hydroponics, which is basically growing
things in water, aquaponics is you’re growing fish like they have some beautiful, large,
18 inch koi fish. I don’t know if you can see them swimming around but they just fed
them there. They look amazing; they’re super huge. They got the koi fish here and this
is kind of like a sample demonstration aquaponics setup. They got the koi fish here, basically
the water, the fish are peeing and pooping in the water and that’s actually nutrition
for plants, so they take the water in layman’s terms and they pump it over, actually they
don’t even pump it over, it’s gravity-fed into this little tube here. This tube then
runs to the next big container, which then the water is distributed in through the rock
medium, which acts as one layer of filtration. And there’s also biofiltration. This is
actually called a biofilter. There’s beneficial microbes in there that’s breaking down the
nutrients in the fish poo and pee that are now feeding these amazingly tall ginger plants.
You guys can’t really see there, and in addition to the bacteria, there’s also beneficial
organism such as worms and these other little crustacean-like creatures taking out the toxins
in the fish poop and make it a bioavailable nutrient for these plants. And check it out,
these plants, by the looks of it, are definitely loving it. So that’s the basics. I have
a really good episode going into the basics of what aquaponics is if you want more of
a schooling on that, so I’ll put a link down below this video if you haven’t seen
that one already. And this I’m just quickly going to go over the process that they’re
doing here and really focus on how much yield they can produce in a small amount of space,
whether you guys want to feed your family or start your own backyard farm, I want to
give you guys options and create options for you guys on what truly is possible in a small
amount of space. I mean, as much as I wish I lived in ten acres
like some of the farms you saw in previous episodes, to grow all my own food, I don’t.
I live in a standard American tract home like many of you guys, and I chose to grow in soil.
And once again you can have a debate over what’s better John — soil or aquaponics?
Well, I’ll tell you this after talking to the farmer and from my previous experience:
growin gin soil is so much more easier than growing aquaponically and we’re going to
get into the reason for that in a little bit. The main reason for that is in soil, nature
is a balancer. Nature balances things out. If you put too much of this, too much of that,
the soil will work itself out. But in aquaponics, you need to pay more attention; you need to
figure out the pH, how much ammonia’s in there. What other kind of nutrients you may
need to add in the aquaponics so that your plants will do good, because the fish don’t
produce everything the plants need. For example, the fish produce about 10 of
the 13 of what traditional agriculture or people in universities say the plant needs.
Now I do not agree with that figure at all. The question is how do we really know what
a plant needs? Do they really need only 13 nutrients, or maybe 16 or 15, what some people
say? You know, yes, while they will grow with those, I don’t believe that the plant will
be at its best, at its peak performance with those nutrients, with that many nutrients.
I’ll give this analogy for you guys out there. Human beings, a standard adult male,
needs about 2,000 calories a day to live, to function, is what the government says,
and is there a distinction between going out to McDonald’s and eating 2,000 calories
at McDonald’s, which I think is about two Big Macs, maybe even one and a half Big Macs.
2,000 calories of Big Macs, and people are living fine, they’re growing and getting
fat on Big Macs, or would it be better to eat 2,000 pounds of fresh fruit and fresh
vegetables grown in your garden? When I put it in those terms, yeah, one is
definitely better than the other. And in the same 2,000 calories, if you’re eating fruits
and vegetables, you’re getting a lot of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, phytonutrients,
antixodants and in the burger you’re getting a lot of calories and fat and not a whole
lot of these other nutrients, right? That’s kind of my opinion; people can live on McDonald’s
and yes plants can live on a limited amount of nutrients, but why not give an offer the
plants all the different nutrients that are available on earth? So that’s more of my
gardening style that I like to do in my soil-based garden, but I would also transition into doing
an aquaponics system because I believe it is so important. SO I will in this video explain
some ways you can actually introduce trace minerals into your aquaponic system to ensure
your plants get everything they need instead of just the 13 or 16 minerals that big education
says they need because I never, and here’s a disclaimer, too: I never went to school
for biology or horticulture, none of that stuff. I’m just self-taught and I want to
encourage you guys, instead of going to some university to take an aquaponics class and
to learn gardening, learn by doing. Watch my videos. My videos are good in some
senses because I think out of the box because I don’t have a horticulture degree. I know
none of this stuff that people talk about half the time, but I’ll tell you what works
and some people don’t even want to care how things work they just want to know what
I add to the soil so that it will work. And yes, that’s what you guys get in my videos
if you don’t want to get educated, because I’m learned literally all my gardening knowledge
by couple ways — the school of hard knocks, doing it myself and number two, more importantly,
visiting places such as the farm I’m at today and the other places I visited here
in Maui and all over the country when I travel to see how people are growing, what’s working.
And then basically I incorporate different bits and pieces from everybody’s different
style that I see works into my style so I got the best of all the worlds that I visited.  And because I make these videos for you
guys, too, you guys can pick out those little nuggets from the videos that you want to incorporate
and test and experiment with in your particular situations. Another thing I want to super
recommend you guys is experiment, test because that’s how we learn and grow. If you always
did the same thing with a rigid mindset, you’re never going to try something out of the box,
you’re never going to think out of the box. I’m an out of the box thinker; I think I
was just born this way. I think a little bit differently and say some off-kilter jokes
sometimes, too. But I think that’s what makes me a better person and more importantly,
a better gardener. So I guess with that, let’s just go ahead
and get into how this system is grown here and how they’re able to grow a lot of food
in a small amount of space. So what we’re looking at now is how all the plants are started
here at the farm. They start everything from seed here at the farm and as you guys can
see, they’ve basically got this large table here that is fed with the same demonstration
system that I saw here, these ginger plants that I showed you guys. I think it’s like
once or twice a day, a pump comes on and all the water is fed into this table here and
it basically goes up to a certain height and what happens is, these trays here wick up
the water. I want to be careful pulling these guys out to show you guys, but basically these
guys wick up the water in here and this mixture here’s basically a mixture of 60 percent,
40 percent coconut coir and vermiculite, and that is really good to hold the moisture and
allow the water to wick up so that these seeds germinate. Now the cool thing in here is that this is
like a production line, like a factory, where things go in in the beginning of the factory
and then they come out the other side. And that’s like they have a little production
line here as well; they move all the plants along at a specified rate. So over on this
side, the one that I just lifted up, these guys have been in here a little bit of time
and they’re getting ready to be transferred into the next stage, but you could see if
you look down this row, like down in the back side, way over yonder, they just planted the
seeds and every day or two they start a new flat or two, and they move all these guys
down and the last guy, that’s the largest, gets planted out is basically how this works.
So the guys are in here for about seven days until they get moved into the full-blown aquaponics.
Now, I always encourage you guys to pay attention to your seedlings because when your plants
are a seedling, and when they’re a little baby, they’re the most delicate. Also, they have the highest probability of
getting abused, and if your plants are abused as a seedling, and they’re stressed out,
they will never fully develop into their mature plants and never produce to their genetic
potential. This is very important, so one of the things that they do here is in these
little containers that contain these little net pots with the coir and the vermiculite,
each of these hold 38 and 38 is also how much their rafts hold, but another thing that I
like a lot is that they’re starting them in these net pots and these plants live their
whole lives in these little net pots without having to be transplanted. So that’s totally
cool, so this minimizes transplant shock, which is a form of stress. I always recommend direct seeding where you’re
going to plant things if you could do that and of course sometimes you can’t, so then
I recommend minimally transplanting as minimal as you can because every time you transplant,
you get some transplant shock and that may affect in the end your overall yields. This
looks pretty cool here. So next, let’s go ahead and go into one of the hoop houses and
share with you guys how the plants are growing and more about the specific system that they’re
using. So what we’re looking at now is basically four of the different hoop houses that have
the lettuce contained within them. Now these are more of a modern development — he didn’t
start with these hoop houses — but after he got the organic certification he wanted
to ensure that his product was pest-free without having to spray things. I always encourage
you guys to keep burglars out of your house; you want to lock your doors and make sure
they can’t get in and to keep bugs out of your house. You can have screens in your windows. Well, that’s simply the principle they’re
doing here. They built a house for their plants and they have pretty good control and a tight
basically mesh fabric as well as some shade cloth to keep all the pests out. This way
they are avoiding the pests in the first place so that they don’t have to spray even organic-certified
controls, which can get expensive and also be a pain in the butt. It’s a lot easier
to grow a house for it and basically just exclude them. And you can do this in you guys’s
raised bed, whether you have a raised bed or an aquaponic system, you can build a framing
like this really easily. One of the easiest things to do to build this because it’s
just made out of a 1-inch PVC, I can’t really explain this and show this to you too much,
but it’s basically 1-inch PVC with all the connectors that basically come out the ground. To go into the ground you can sink the PVC
into the ground or another cool idea I saw on one of the farms I visited, they put rebar
into the ground and basically put the PVC on top of the rebar to hold it firm and then
you basically take the connectors and make these cool arches on here. You can have it
more square, but I like this design. And then they got these cool things, and these are
some really cool clips, these are specially designed clips that I have seen available
that you can buy but if you’re ingenuitive — I don’t know if that’s a word either
— you can take some PVC and get the next largest size and cut it and bend it or heat
it or something, or you can just buy these fancy clips that make assembling your hoop
house and putting the fabric on super simple and super easy and they just clip back on.
So they clip things on, they can take it off. Right now they’re using about 40 percent
shade cloth right now; they could have higher shade or less shade and this might be something
they want to experiment with to see what the plants do better on for a period of time.
They actually grew without shade cloth and they had some amazing crops with that, but
it’s very important to keep the bugs out because most people don’t want to eat bugs
in their stuff. That’s why they built this, and it’s super simple. PVC is relatively
inexpensive to buy. In really harsh climates with UV it may degrade over a couple of years
but a big 10-foot section of PVC, well it depends if you’re in Maui or in the mainland,
could just be a couple bucks. So the cost of entry is not that expensive
to keep the pests out so that you don’t have to spray them and do all this kind of
stuff. Most farms don’t use good things to spray; they use highly toxic chemicals
and if you are going to spray, I encourage you guys to use the least toxic organic controls.
Be sure to check my past episodes on that. I have a good episode about it; it’s entitled,
it’s like “End your pest problems forever” and I like to use the Neem oil and Dr. Bronner’s
soap. I have another good episode using something else called diatomaceous earth, which is another
good one. Anyway, I guess next let’s go into one of these guys to show you how exactly
the lettuce is growing. So this where aquaponics could definitely
pay off. I’m in one of the five different hoop houses, shade houses that’s screened
to keep the bugs out and all this kind of stuff, but check it out here. On either side
of me I’ve got 600 heads of lettuce, we’ve got some other things growing on this side
too, and 600 over on this side just in this hoop house. I think it’s maybe like 30 feet
long, something like that. Twelve hundred plants man. I don’t know if I’d stuff
lettuce in a raised bed that’s this size this close together, I mean I suppose I could
do it. But this is just really cool. Check this out, we could lift this raft up here
and you can see all the baby roots hanging. These are not yet ready to be harvested and
what they’re using is basically polystyrene sheeting that’s been extruded. It’s very important to get the extruded
one because the other ones will flake off on you. That stuff’s pretty resilient on
its own, but the problem is this: if the UV and the light is hitting the top of the polystyrene
for a length of time it’s going to flake off and it’s going to get into your water,
it’s going to contaminate your system, and that’s not going to be a good thing.  So
what they do is actually they use a good exterior latex paint to coat the top of it so that
the UV coming down does not degrade it. Just make sure when you’re putting them in your
system, don’t put them with the painted side down. And then they’ve got I think
38 plants in each of the rafts and once again this is part of the production line technique
that I shared with you guys earlier that they do in their seed-starting table; they do it
here as well. If you guys look way far down in the back, I know you guys can barely see
that in the video because I’m not going to go all the way down there because it’s too
far to walk, all the way in the back they’ve got the baby plants. And basically as they get more mature they
get moved down the system all the way down and when they get to this end, this is the
end where they harvest from and this is also, conveniently, the end with the door so they
literally roll out the door, take out this whole raft, take this over to the table and
they are able to harvest them. So this is definitely really good because instead of
having to bend over to harvest, you can just pick up this whole thing and take it to the
table and easily at standing height or sitting down on the bench you can harvest all the
lettuce to get out to the customers. Definitely cool. They also have air bubblers in here, which
is something I would recommend you guys do in your aquaponic systems because we want
to aerate the root zone not only for the plants but to control the bacteria and the algae
growth and all this kind of stuff. This looks like some amazing Maui-grown lettuce. Now
the lettuce is just one aspect of an aquaponics system. Another big aspect, of course, is
where the nutrients are coming from for the lettuce, which is the fish. So I want to go
ahead and take you guys on a little tour of the fish tanks and all the fish that are creating
their pee and their poo to feed all the lettuce here. So now what we’re looking at, probably
doesn’t look like much on the video but basically we’re looking at these stock tanks
here. He’s got one, two, three stock tanks and
it’s these stock tanks that hold about, I don’t know, 300 gallons of water each
and about over 100 pounds of fish in each one and once again because he is organic he
wants to keep foreign materials and bird poop and all that stuff out. He’s built these
amazing covers here that’s ingeniously designed that’s basically PVC, reminds me of a hot
tub cover, it’s PVC and then he’s got the shade cloth, the dark shade cloth up on
top to as not to get in there and create the algae growth. And then he’s got these little
pipes on here that’s basically just connected with some rope there and then you can just
lift this guy up and put this in this little hole and it’s just a cover thing and you
can lift up, you can take a look at the fish, and feed them when you need to. Now one of the cool things I’ve noticing
here is that he’s doing an excellent job taking care of his fish. This is some of the
cleanest water I’ve seen on any aquaponics system because some of the waters I’ve seen
look pretty dirty. I believe that’s because of this next set up right here, just a standard
trash can. Now this may look like a trash can but it’s not functioning as a trash
can because this is a very important ingredient to his system and I believe that if you start
an aquaponics system it should be as important to you as well. This is known as a biofilter.
Some people put different things in there like plastic sponge-like things that filter
stuff but this just does not have that. Let me do a close up on this because I really
want to show you guys what’s in here. It’s uber cool. So now what we’re looking at
is this biofilter. It’s just a Rubbermaid brute trash can. This is commercial quality.
I want to encourage you guys, when putting your system together, get high quality ingredients
or things that aren’t going to break down. He’s got some good Rubbermaid stock tanks,
nice and heavy-duty, as well as heavy-duty garbage cans. Not just the cheap ones, because
that would work too but over the long term that might get a hole in it and all this kind
of stuff. The higher quality, I want you guys, if you’re going to buy things, buy things
that are going to last a long time instead of just cheap stuff. Anyways, inside here,
this is the biofilter and they’ve got a couple things going on. Number one, they’re
aerating the biofilter. I really like that he has I think about several
pumps in the system to aerate the water at different areas including inside where the
plants are growing as well as in with the fish and also inside the biofilter. Oxygen
is essential for many forms of life, including us and the plants, as well as the creatures
living in here. Another thing that’s really cool about this system is that this system,
this entire system with all five different hoop houses you guys saw, is driven with only
one pump. And because most of this system is designed on a gravity feed and that’s
just amazing. He’s basically put things on blocks and different tanks are on different
levels and it’s all gravity fed, just a little different so that gravity will take
the water wherever it needs until the final stop, which, then it’s boosted it up and
drain it here and then gravity takes it along. And even more so in this biofilter, he has
the water coming in here, it goes down to the bottom, and then spirals it ways up to
get more a lot more contact filter media time with the filtration happening until then it
goes into the next one. There’s many ways to do aquaponics; I believe this to be one
of the better ways and one of the better examples that I’ve ever seen because he’s really
taken the time to figure out what he’s doing. He figures out if it’s working if it’s
not working and even if it’s working, he thinks if there’s a way to do it better
and then he improves as he grows. And it’s only in this way things will ever get better
in the world. If you’re like “I learned it like this, I’m never gonna change”
then what if there’s a better way and you can improve your yield and improve your quality
or fish. You can grow things faster. You can use natural methods to filter your water instead
of having to resort to chemicals and all these kind of things and they’re doing that here.
So let’s go ahead and dunk my hand into fish pee and poop. The other thing, let’s talk about the other
thing, which is the pH. Very important in an aquaponics system to have the perfect level
of pH. His pH is between 6.5 to 7 and the plants like a certain pH, the fish like a
certain pH, so when you’re doing aquaponics, you’re basically playing God to all the
creatures that are alive in your system because you need to take care of them. He adjusts
his pH with some oyster shells to also add some calcium into the system, to make it that
right pH so that the bacteria, the microbes, and all the lettuce and the fish can survive
properly. And this is why I like soil gardening because I don’t need to be paying attention
to the pH for the most part, I mean I do have to have a range of soil pH as well, but nature
will correct itself. But in this system, it’s not really autocorrecting,
like my spellcheck and thank God for spellcheck on computers because I spell a lot of bad
stuff. But soil is kind of like Autocorrect and spellcheck. But this system is not. If
you mess up, you go away for the day, your pump stops working, and your water stops flowing,
stops getting aerated, you could lose everything in one day, whereas in a soil system you have
of course, it freezes during the winter in the continental United States and I lose stuff,
but it’s a lose easier. And that’s one of the reasons why I prefer soil systems. But one of these days I will get my hands
wet with aquaponics. Hey, maybe it’ll be today. Let’s go down  in here and grab
one of these sponges. As you guys can see it’s one of these nylon scouring sponges
and this filters the water but more importantly than these filtering the water and collecting
stuff, I don’t know if you guys can see that on here, but look at that, look at these
little creatures moving. What these guys are called is gammarus, and they’re little crustacean-like
creatures. I don’t want to leave them out too long or let them drop around because we
want to get them back in the system and working. What they do is they basically eat the big
particles of poop to make the water clean, and that’s one of the reasons why, I believe,
this water is really clean, cleaner than most aquaponic systems I’ve seen because they’re
in there doing their job. The cool thing is that they appear naturally
one day. This is another concept I want you guys to be familiar with is that in the nature
system, if we were in nature, nature’s autocorrecting and another thing I really like about nature
is that there’s no such thing as waste in nature. Everything is always recycled; the
poo is converted by these creatures into nutrients for the plants, they get out all the particlet
so that the fish in the next bin, because he has three of these set up so they can have
clean water, and the next batch of fish. You wouldn’t have this batch of fish if you
were getting all the poop and pee from the first batch of fish, right? So they’re probably
glad for these gammarus in here also. These gammarus appeared one day whether they
were brought in on a fish or aquatic plants that were brought into the system somehow
and guess what? If you provide a good home for creatures they will multiply and stick
around and they will do the work for you. It’s like when I keep worms in my raised
bed garden; they’re breaking down the organic matter, they’re making it viable for the
plants, and they’re making their castings to feed my plants nutrients. This is something
missing in modern agriculture today. They think it’s as easy as taking 10-10-10 bag
of fertilizer that’s made out of chemicals to feed your plants water-soluble chemicals.
And the fact of the matter is clear. Water-soluble chemicals don’t feed your
plants, they do feed your plants a little bit, but most of them are basically washed
out and they pollute the environment, creating dead zones and all this kind of stuff which
is not good. So I want to encourage you guys to use organic methods and with organic methods,
one of the most important criteria is having biofilters in a system like this or having
bacteria and microbes in more of a soil system that breaks down the nutrients and breaks
things down to make them more bioavailable for the other components of your system. I
guess next we could just go through all the different tanks but I won’t worry about
it because he has basically one tank, goes through the biofilter, he has another tank,
goes through another biofilter, then he has another tank and it then goes through finally
a small bed he actually used to grow in but after he got the organic certification he’s
actually not. But he’s growing something else really interesting
in there important not only for soil-based gardening but also aquaponic gardening as
well. So what we’re looking at now is the last biofilter in line after the three different
tanks that hold the fish. It goes into this instead of one of those standard biofilters
in one of those garbage cans you guys saw earlier. Let’s go ahead and lift this one
up. Once again he’s got these cool little braces. You know when you guys lift your car
and you put in those braces to keep your trunk open? It’s kind of like that. He even has
a place to put it with a screw that’s stainless steel so it doesn’t rust at the bottom.
I really like how things are really well-engineered here. Basically this is a four foot by four
foot grow bed from a hydroponic store and in the early days before he got his organic
certification, he would actually use this bed to grow plants in and grow more food for
the family, but nowadays as another biofilter. This is a little bit different from the previous
ones because it’s not using one of those nylon scouring pads. And I want to stop on
the nylon scouring pads for a second. If you’re buying a standard nylon scouring pads from
the grocery store, from wherever you’re buying it from, you gotta be careful because
some of them may be treated with antimicrobial with is not good for your system. So you’re
going to want to make sure to get the ones that are not treated so you might want to
get these from an aquaponics store that’s selling the right stuff for the right job
instead of trying to save some money and getting it from Walmart or something, right? Now I’m
going to share with you guys what’s going on with this biofilter here. It’s more than
just those rocks we talked about. If we move these rocks over to a little layer
over here, if we, oh my gosh, look at this! I’ve got some worms that are squirming around.
He’s got actually worms in his systems. Now worms do not actually like being submerged
in systems, very important. I don’t know if it rained really hard where you live and
the worms come out — oh look there’s a worm on my finger. Oh sorry. Let’s put that
guy back there. Worms don’t like living underwater because they are not sea creatures,
they are meant for the soil, where it does not actually get wet. Worms are free to roam
around here in this biofilter that’s always wet to a certain level, and they choose to
stay right at the level, like the top of the water. They’ve got rocks to brace themselves up
on and much like us, the worms need air. If they can’t get air, they’ll drown, like
a dolphin that needs to come up every once in awhile. Worms like that, too. They’re
staying right above the water level. They could get wet sometimes because worms get
wet but they also dry out. So they stay right at that level where they could stay alive
and guess what? The are great digesters of organic matter, like the fish poop that’s
coming into this bed. SO they’re doing their job to take out the particulate, the fish
poop, and turn it into in my opinion, some of the best plant food — the worm castings
that are rich in nutrients for the plants, but not just the nutrients. The worm castings
are also beneficial microbes that are really good in, have a symbiotic relationship with
the root system of the plants. In addition, in this bed here, besides the worms, if we
dig deeper, another thing that does like the water, underneath here, is the gammarus. I can see them down there, but I’m not going
to be able to hold it up for your guys. Oh wait, there’s one right here. Oh yeah look
man! They’re on that little rock. Something little moving around. You won’t be able
to see it too good, but you’ll see some things moving around. And this is the gammarus.
And the gammarus are crustacean-like creatures, related to shrimp, they’re, once, again,
decomposing the fish poop. And there’s one really cool thing. One of the things I learned
in my videos is about when you’re feeding your worms, you want to feed your worms a
rich chitin source and guess what? The chitin is actually the exoskeleton of the gammarus.
So when the gammarus move on to the next life or whatever, they’ve got their exoskeletons
in there and I’m also sure the worms are digesting them and making nutrients in their worm castings.
If you want to learn more about the best worm castings, be sure to check out that video.
I’ll make sure to put the link below where I have a video on how to increase your yield
by up to 400 percent by using the proper and best kind of worm castings that I share with
you in that video on how you can actually make it yourself. And guess what? One of those secrets is the chitin, or things
like the gammarus shells in there. The other thing that’s very important to feed your
worms that most people do not feed them are high-cellulose materials like cardboard boxes
and things like that. Most people feed their worms things like horse manure or cow manure.
I’m not a big fan of manures because it can actually introduce things, pathogens into
your gardening systems and that’s actually why they have covers on everything. They want
to keep things like bird poop out. I don’t know if you guys heard, but years ago there
was this big outbreak on spinach with the E.coli and a big outbreak with E.coli on cantaloupe
and all that stuff. Here’s something that I want to share with
you guys that many of you may not know: plants and animals do not share diseases. So I can’t
contract STDs from a cantaloupe, but I can potentially contract STDs from another animal,
like there’s some STD out there that was probably contracted from say monkeys. But
we can’t contract things from plants. But what happens is if this weren’t covered
for example, some foreign bird poop got in here, that may have E.coli on it and animal
poops may have negative bacteria on it and then they run rampant in the system. That’s
not in check and have controls like beneficial microbes in this system that kick ass and
break down the bad bacteria. That being said, although the system can potentially
do that, they want to keep that out of their system and have a really good system so that
that’s not even an option. I want to encourage you guys to especially wash your produce like
if there’s bird poop on it and that kind of stuff. I’m all for “if it doesn’t
kill you it makes you stronger” kind of stuff, but you can take that saying a little
bit too far sometimes. That’s why they cover it, and this is working like a really good
system. Once again, this is a lot of area because this is 4×4, about 8 inches deep of
just this solid coral material on the bottom with some rocks on top where all the microbes
and creatures are living. And I want to encourage you, whether you have
an aquaponics setup like this to have some kind of big area like this where you can have
a lot of creatures because they’re doing the pre-digestion of nutrients to make it
more available for your plants so that in general your system will run that much better.
Likewise in soil, you want the living creatures in soil, whether that means you’re going
to have earthworms, that means you’re going to have the beneficial bacteria, the beneficial
fungi like Mycorrhizae I think all these things are super important in conventional agriculture.
They’re trying to wipe out everything in the soil because they don’t want any contamination
because they think any bacteria is normally bad bacteria and it’s not good. But it’s when we do this, things get out
of balance because once again in nature things are autobalancing. And as long as they balance
out things like the pH in the water and some other things in the aquaponics, it’s going
to do great, as you guys can see. Next, we want to take you to another few areas of the
farm where they actually are raising some of the fish that they take out of these tanks
to have on small scale available at some times because right now they’re focused on vegetable
production and not super big on the fish production. Now I want to talk to you guys about the fish
because they’re an integral part of an aquaponic system because it’s after all the fish that’s
going to make the fertilizer for your plants. What they have here is a huge tank that they
made and one of the cool things is what they’re using here for the plastic.
They’re not using the plastic vinyl stuff or pond liners and stuff. They’re using
what I consider to be the best stuff in pond liners, and this is an HDPE plastic. This
is the hardest plastic, it’s food grade and it’s the best one. It is a pain to work
with because it’s thick, it can crack on you and stuff, but it’s the safest use and
that’s what I would recommend if you were doing it. It should last definitely a good
long time. As you guys can see, we got a biofilter here and a stock tank, and this one actually
has a lift pump. A lift pump is helping to aerate and create oxygen in the biofilter
as well as in the tank here. Basically if fish get too big in their standard aquaponic
system, they get moved into this tank which is kind of like a holding tank, there they
harvest their fish from for sale, because they don’t want to tap into their piggy
bank. Because their fish is their piggy bank; their
fish is making the nutrition to feed the vegetables and if they keep fishing out of their piggybank,
one day there will be nothing left in there. They take the extra guys, put them in here.
Sometimes they have babies so they separate them out and because this is tilapia, this
is white Nile tilapia. Basically the best food for fish is other fish. The tilapia will
have their babies and they’ll actually be carnivorous and eat their babies, which sounds
kind of crazy but that’s what they do. So they have to make sure they have regular feedings
and that’s another cool thing I learned about the fish. They’re actually on a timed
clock, on a timed cycle because they’re fed religiously two times a day at like 7
and 4, something like that. The fish know that at 4 o’clock, they’re
up at the water, they’re biting, they’re ready to eat, like you guys are probably ready
to eat at 5 o’clock because we’re at timed cycles. I personally like to eat when I’m
hungry, not say oh I gotta eat at 6 because it’s 6. I eat whenever I’m hungry. Unfortunately
these fish do not get to eat when they’re hungry; they get to eat when it’s time.
So actually it’s time now. Let me go ahead and feed them. I want o talk about the feed
here. We’re just feeding some fish pellets and it’s very economical to feed the fish
here. They buy like two bags of fish feed. With two bags of fish feed, big bags, it feeds
the fish for an entire month. And that’s the only input that they’re using for the
system aside from the oyster shell calcium, some iron that may be required as well as
the potassium. So that’s really cool. The thing I really want to encourage you guys
is pay attention to your fish food. Very important to get good fish food. There’s some fish
food out there that are being made with corn which is the first ingredient and in my opinion,
GMO corn should not be fed to fish. Get a good solid fish food and read the ingredients,
much like when you guys are buying things at the stores. I wouldn’t even encourage
you guys to buy things with ingredient labels, but if you’re buying fish food you’re
want to be able to pronounce every ingredient, make sure there aren’t all these nasty additives.
Because think about it. You’re eating basically all the converted down poop of your fish,
so you’re eating secondhand this fish food here. For example, in the standard agriculture
industry, if you’re buying factory farmed meats and all this kind of stuff they’re
feeding these cows GMOs, GMO corn and soy and pumping them up with antibiotics that’s
basically being absorbed by the cow, and other toxins in the environment because animals
are basically biologic accumulators. That means they accumulate everything whether
it’s the foods so that they can gain the weight, or the toxins. They accumulate that
and when you eat the foods, you’re basically getting the lifetime supply of the toxins
and also the nutrients contained in the cows. So gotta pay attention to the foods. We’re
going to go ahead and feed them the fish and see if we can get them to jump up to the top
here. There’s one, and here’s two. Just fed the fish. These fish are harvested, and
there’s not a super abundance of the fish. While they do grow fairly fast, once again
the primary focus is on the vegetables, so these are basically sold to friends and whatnot
because there’s not a super large production at this point. Once again, this was not the
whole intention to create a ton of fish. The other thing I want to point out is that
you want to make sure and check out your species you get if you’re doing aquaponics. We are
in the beautiful tropics here in Hawaii, where it barely gets, it never gets freezing unless
you’re on top of the mountain but the weather stays nice and warm. And the fish, like us,
like certain atmospheric or weather conditions. They probably like it in the 70s or whatever.
They like it pretty warm like we do. And if the tilapia get down to like 55, the fish
are not going to make it. The fish are not going to be living any longer.
So if you live in areas that get cold, you might not want to use tilapia unless you have
a heater system. SO you may want to look into using other fish. In addition, some states,
even in Hawaii, it’s illegal to import this kind of tilapia, but if they’re already
existing here, you can move them around within state but not bring them in from out of state.
I know many states for example Nevada it’s illegal to actually bring in tilapia and even
use tilapia in your aquaponics growth, so you want to be aware of the laws and whatnot.
So that’s pretty much in a nutshell, this aquaponics system. I’m going to go ahead
and take you to one other location to share some more information about aquaponics with
you before I go. So the last part of this video I wanted to
share with you guys real quick is actually right here. We’re in the last maybe approximately
quarter of the backyard. The first three-quarters has all the aquaponics set up. The last quarter
approximately, what you see here is they just have a standard garden like many people do,
but the thing that’s interesting here is that if you look down at the soil you guys
can see it’s sand. It reminds me of beach sand, and this actually has nicer sand than
some of the beaches I’ve been to because I went to a really rocky beach today. This
is just beach sand and it’s very difficult to grow in beach sand because the beach sand,
it drains so quickly and the nutrients basically just leech out. So after years and years of
trying to grow in this stuff, they came up with, “Hey, let’s do it differently. Let’s
grow under aquaponics.” I live in Las Vegas it’s basically the desert.
In the desert, the soil is not very good so what I did instead was I brought in raised
beds and built raised beds and brought in organic matter and brought in soil to grow
in. That’s also what they did here aside from this moringa tree, which is a really
nutritious tree that you guys should be aware of if you live anywhere in Hawaii or in the
tropics. This guy literally just grows. What they did here was this tree was super tall
so they hacked it off and now it’s reshooting.  Many people don’t know that the parts
you hack off you can just stick back in the ground and it’ll actually grow a new tree.
This is a tree that everybody should have in their landscape and other trees. Think
if all your trees on your property were edible trees and if all the plants on your property
were edible plants. That’s how it is on my property. I want to encourage you guys
to have more edible plants on your property because think about it, if you have space,
why not use that space to the best of your ability?
Everybody has to eat every day whether you’re going to buy your food at the grocery store
or at a restaurant or grow it yourself. I definitely think growing it yourself is one
of the best ways, and make it easy by doing something like Meringa that just grows year
round in the tropics. Super simple. Another way they’re doing it over there is they
have a wicking bed set up and again they use some of the water from the fish, the aquaponics,
over here to feed their pepper plants. This is another excellent way to conserve water
in the upcoming years with droughts and all that kind of stuff coming on. Now, I really enjoyed my time here. They’re
doing some amazing stuff with the aquaponics, but I always like to give my two cents in
at the end. Probably the one thing I see the most about is, I got to talk to the farmer
in detail here and all the things he’s heard about aquaponics is that the plants need this
many nutrients, and this is what we’ve done, and this what I’ve got taught, but they’re
basically feeding about 13 nutrients and minerals to the plants. I like to say, “Hey, why
don’t we try” or “Why do you try and experiment and see what happens if you fed
70 to 90 minerals?” That’s what I try to do in my garden. I put things like the
rock dust and the sea salt and the ocean-grown and the ocean solutions or C90 and other products
in there to add minerals to my garden because I believe they are essential. I know many
of you guys are already on the trace minerals whether using rock dust or sea salt in your
growth. I know you guys see the results because I
see when you guys post down in the video, but a lot of people seem to be stuck in their
ways with all this kind of stuff. “Oh you know we’ve been doing it this way and it’s
always been working.” I always want to encourage you guys to try things out, even if you don’t
believe me. I don’t care if you don’t believe me or whatever, I want you guys to
experiment on your own and find out for yourself because that’s how I learned about rock
dust. When I heard about rock dust I thought why do you need that stuff? But then I started
buying it and incorporating and using it. I’ll tell you, it does make a difference.
My plants are healthier, my plants are more bug- and disease-resistant. My plants taste
better, they grow faster, and they yield more. What more could you ask for? And the other
thing is that when I eat the plants, now I’m getting the trace minerals in them instead
of taking Centrum A-Z of zinc. What I’m trying to do is duplicate nature
in the most ideal sense. And yes it may not be as sustainable as it is, but that’s not
necessarily, one of my goals is to be as sustainable as possible but one of my bigger goals is
to be as healthy as you can because I almost lost my life when I was younger and you only
realize how important your life is and your health is right when you’re going to lose
it. So I was glad I was given a second chance to make these videos and share these videos
and I was glad that I was able to visit the farmer today and talk with him about experimenting
with some of the trace minerals. Hopefully he does that in his garden so next
time I visit him in Maui I’m going to come here and although he does have ono stuff now
and you want to check currently for him at Whole Foods, he’s going to have better stuff
in the future and more productive in my opinion that’s going to ramp up his production and
hopefully make it so he’s more than just breaking even but actually making a profit
and being able to do what he wants to do in life. Waking up every day enjoying his fish
his nature, his garden, his farm here. I really hope you guys enjoyed this episode today.
Be sure to check my links down below for some videos on trace minerals that I’ll link
down below, there’s some on sea salt and the rock dust. If I did have this growth operation
like he does here, I would number one incorporate rock dust such as the Azomite micronized version
in a filter sock into my different grow beds to make sure my plants and the fish got the
minerals they need, and I would of course experiment, start off small, not add too much
of anything because it might throw off your balances in there. The other thing I would do is I would foliar
feed so it would not get in contact with the water, but I would foliar feed the plants
much like we could absorb things through our skin, they have transdermal patches of vitamins
and estrogen for women and all that kind of stuff. Plants besides the root zone, which
is how they absorb things, they also absorb things through their leaves. So I would foliar
feed on maybe once or twice a month some of the trace minerals and many people have seen,
you can see some fairly quick results just by doing a foliar feed. Another thing I would do, although he has
really good beneficial microorganisms and a lot going on, I would also brew personally
a compost tea for like 12 to 24 hours some good quality compost tea, just a boogeyboo
compost tea, then add that to my system, which would add more beneficial microbes. It’s
these microbes that break down these nutrients, make them bioavailable for the plants, and
they like to live around the root zone so I might even do a root drench of the plants
in their little starter packs as they’re growing on that little table, introduce them
early on in the stage so that all through the plants’ life they’ve got the microbes
that they need to survive as well as they’re going to have the minerals they’re going
to survive. And in this way I believe it’s one of the
best ways to grow food whether you’re growing it on the farm or whether you’re just growing
food for you and your family. So hopefully after watching this episode you’ve learned
more about the aquaponics, how they’re doing it, how they’re growing literally in a backyard.
I mean I took my backyard and did raised beds; he took his backyard and did aquaponics. I’m
for all these different ways to grow food, to get fresher food, to get better food out
to people and especially in this day and age. If the ship stops coming into Maui, people
are not going to be able to eat, except he’ll still have 3,000 heads of lettuce that he
can continually harvest. Once he gets on a solar system he’ll be
able to drive all his pumps, all his oxygen-creating pumps, and all this stuff with solar to be
more sustainable and he loses very little water, just 5 percent. As long as he stays
up with his system, this is definitely one good way to grow food. I guess for now I’m
going to stick with my soil-based system because I travel so much and if I tried to do this
and travel, I don’t think it’d work out so good. Anyway, be sure to subscribe to my
videos if you’re not already. I have over a 1000 videos that you guys can
glean all kinds of information from. Become a better gardener, become a better grower,
and more importantly, get some motivation to start growing today. Even if you guys are
watching this right now in the middle of wintertime, there are ways you guys can grow in the winter,
in an apartment in New York City, it’s called sprouts and microgreens. I want to point this
out to you guys. I want you guys to grow any way you can, whether it’s growing plants
to eat or it’s growing your mind and thinking of new ideas and new things to think about
because once you start stagnating, that in my opinion is when you start getting old and
I’m not old yet. So anyway, once again my name is John Kohler with
and we’ll see you next time and until then, keep on growing.

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Reader Comments

  1. mikeygreenman

    Great info !! thanks. Voice work would be good. . Unfortunately your voice is very monotonous and it gets very hard to listen to it much after a few minutes if less. If you learn some "coloring " and stop trying to do the radio announcer voice It will benefit your videos greatly !! Also you say wayyy too much and it becomes over whelming. Whats between the words is just as important to how much you want to hear your own voice. just some friendly advice from another perspective.

  2. AnantaSesaDas

    Ingenuity ingenuitive. (19:33) no prob. We understand.
    No40 electric conduit lasts longer in uv. So paint or cover PVC if you use that or it will degrade.

  3. Johnny Lopez

    I sure had a great time learning from this guy. Free lessons and great documentaries he does. I am very happy that i did not have to pay hundreds $$$$ in University/college trying to learn these techniques.

  4. Adrian Ramos

    when im listening to this i feel like im in the market that is so noisy, i can't understand everything, to much explanation that is not necessarily, just be simple and tell us only the key point, we are not that dumb man…

  5. samantha weber

    Easy & Affordable DIY Backyard Aquaponics System – This is one of the simplest and most economical aquaponics designs you can do.
    Visit -> 🐟 🐡🌱

  6. Doodley Squat

    It's like passive aggressive reporting. Just give people the dirt, on dirt farming, and leave out the inferior method, if so pro-ground growing.

  7. Joe Baladez

    Dear John. When I started watching your vids, I have to admit, I thought you were a cracked-pot! lol However, Sir you are awesome! Love your vids. Glad you stay true to yourself and so honest. keep'em coming. Thank you!!!

  8. lancsFrogger

    dude, pls make ur videos shorter. you have lots of interesting subjects but i never watch any of them cos they're always so long

  9. rowdy hansen

    hey john, what gammarus do they use? i want to make this same setup in a vermiculture/aquaponics setup. i am going to sam houston state university north of houston and going to have free reign to build and research.

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