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RAFT Systems That Don't Produce Well.
I have seen many "raft" only systems that have visibly poor plants. No need to send plant tissue out to have it analysed. The produce is obviously poor in quality.
This is a direct result of an entrenched belief that there is something magic about fish waste. Additionally, many new to Aquaponics blindly follow outdated raft only system technology. No one wants nutrient poor produce, but that is exactly what you will get if you do not make sure that all the plant nutrients needed are provided.
A good way to provide all the micro-nutrients the plants require is to make sure you are running your system with the incorporation of some media beds. Systems combining media beds and raft beds are proving to be very successful at home and commercial level.
Media beds provide an excellent environment for the development a “Nutrient Bank”. The successful combination of media and raft in a system we call, "FloMedia" technology. After successfully collecting the large and suspended solids from the water column, we process these solids in various ways to extract and release otherwise trapped plant nutrients.
The primary source of plant nutrient in an Aquaponics system is the fish food. The beautiful thing is that the fish food is one primary source of nutrient for the plants and the fish, a paramount principle in working towards sustainability.|
Two uses from the same resource.
It is, therefore, important to choose a good quality fish food to feed your fish. There is no magic happening in the body of the fish whereby it can mysteriously produce a full range of plant nutrient from a low-quality input for its needs. It is basic logic that a good quality, balanced fish food pellet will serve the overall Aquaponics system very well.
However, there are three elements that do not come into the Aquaponics easily from the fish food input. These are, Potassium, Calcium, Iron.
Happily, we can supply the Potassium and Calcium to the system when adjusting the system pH upwards. As you would know, the natural state of affairs in a well found Aquaponics system is that the pH is always slowly drifting downwards. There is a need to adjust the system pH upwards periodically as required.
Iron is added in the form of Iron chelate as required when the plants exhibit some iron deficiency or on a regular basis, say once every three months.
Over time, we find that there is a build up of fine solids in the media beds, we find that worms take up residence, or we add them. The worms do what worms do to all organic material. They move about in the media bed and process the solids collected there. The solids are reduced in volume by up to 80% by this process and locked up nutrients are released.
Every gardener knows that the greatest friend one can have in a regular garden are healthy active worms. They are the wonder workers of Aquaponic gardens. They release, by their actions, nutrients that are locked up in the fish waste. This action is part of the process, making minerals and nutrients available for absorption by your plants, and in turn consumed by you and your family for optimum human health.
Additionally, and very importantly we make good use of our home-grown compost teas. Every Aquaponics gardener should become a master composter. The compost tea so produced provides a myriad of plant nutrients for the system. All our INDY system designs incorporate a "mineralisation" tank. This process allows the further processing of the collected fish waste to release and mobilise otherwise unavailable plant nutrients. Compost tea has other important uses in our Aquaponic garden.
Find out more about these crucial information pieces by attending one of our training programs.
Typical raft or DWC system in an aquaponics farm.
These Raft beds are built up off the ground.
FloMedia beds incorporated into a commercial farm.
This project is in Hong Kong. Built by Waterfarmers.