Monday, February 1, 2016

Aquaponyx

Listen to the arguments for vegetarianism and it won't take you long to be convinced that it is a morally superior choice over the typical American diet. I would like to at least stop eating animals raised in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Chickens may be future residents of our homestead, but it may be easier to avoid the complications of homeowner's association rules by setting up an aquaponics operation for obtaining our animal protein. I guess you could call aquaponics a form of CAFO, but I'm not ready yet to concede that fish deserve the same privileges as mammals or birds, especially as Jesus himself was at least an accessory to the consumption of net loads of fish.

+Jonathan Bates, of Paradise Lot fame, gave a presentation at a U.S. Biochar Initiative symposium that I attended explaining how he substituted biochar as the growing medium in his aquaponics system. There, as in a chicken pen, biochar could help grow edible plants and serve as grit for the crops (gizzards) that both fishes' and chickens' digestive systems rely upon.

The first step for us will be a greenhouse, which will require HOA approval, but the aquaponics system inside is not burdened with any regulations, to my knowledge. Bates touts the book, Aquaponic Gardening, in his USBI talk, hoping that the next edition includes information about biochar. In any case, I have biochar in abundance to apply to aquaponics. Bates' talk shows that the bigger chunks are preferred. I will want to charge it first, with fish fertilizer or some other nitrate-dense inoculant, in order to support plant growth.

My guess is that the aquaponics system, i.e. the tank(s), pumps, and connections, will cost less than the chicken farming infrastructure and it will probably yield more food. Sometimes, playing by the rules opens your eyes to better solutions, while keeping you in good stead with the community.

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