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Incredible Edibles: Utilizing Aquaponics as a Method of Phytoremediation and Food Production through Green Pedal Power A Third Year Study. Emilee Dixon 9th Grade. About Me.
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I am a new student with FLVS. I am in 9th grade and currently enrolled in 4 core classes— Algebra I, Biology, History and English. I have participated in science fair for the past five years. All of my projects have been in the Botany division because I am very passionate about protecting our environment. I love to watch documentaries and my two favorites are The Cove and Food Inc. I hope my research will encourage people to think about the global impact food production has on the environment and make changes in their buying habits.
My hypothesis is “If water can be pumped through an aquaponic system by use of a pedal powered water pump and a toilet valve, then both fish and plants can be grown aquaponically without the use of electricity.” The purpose of my experiment is to determine if I could grow vegetables aquaponically without the use of electricity.
I will be creating a bike powered water pump to grow Lettuce. I planted both seedlings and transplants into my system. I ran various tests on the water to determine if the ammonia was being converted into nitrates. I also observed plant and fish growth.
The results showed that nitrates were produced by flushing my system once daily. I was able to pump the most water in the shortest amount of time by decreasing the size on the top of my check valve pump.
My experiment revealed that it is possible to grow vegetables aquaponically without the use of electricity and thus my hypothesis was supported. I hope to extend my research by continuing to monitor the growth of my Lettuce.
If water can be pumped through an aquaponic system by use of a pedal powered water pump and a toilet valve, then both fish and plants can be grown aquaponically without the use of electricity.
“Much of our food system depends on our not knowing much about it, beyond the price disclosed by the checkout scanner; cheapness and ignorance are mutually reinforcing. And it's a short way from not knowing who's at the other end of your food chain to not caring–to the carelessness of both producers and consumers that characterizes our economy today“ by Michael Pollan.
Industrialized systems of food production contribute to 40% of climate change. Each year, over 900 gallons of oil-based products are used to grow and transport food an average of 1700 miles to the table of a family of four. $.75 for every food dollar is spent on marketing and food transportation. Once produce is picked, it stops receiving nutrients from the source plant. In addition, after days of traveling to the market, the amount of nutrients in the fruit or vegetable already begins to diminish. Locally grown produce that has a longer time to mature on the host plant can reap the many more nutrients derived from the plant, hence, a healthier food. Backyard gardening is not only the key to eating healthier foods but to restoring our Earth’s health as well.
Aquaponics is methods used to grow fruits and vegetables without depleting natural resources but instead recreating a natural cycle—the Nitrogen Cycle. By adding a pedal powered water pump, vegetables can be grown without the use of electricity making this system one that can be used in most rural areas where water and power are scarce.
Aquaponics is the integration of aquaculture (fish farming) and hydroponics growing plants without soil). The process involves fish, plants and beneficial bacteria. The fish waste provides a food source for the growing plants and the plants provide a natural filter for the fish. This creates a mini ecosystem where both plants and fish can thrive. The benefit of using fish waste as a fertilizer compared to other organic manures is that harmful bacteria such as Ecoli are not present because they only are found in the waste of warm blood animals such as cows and fish are cold blooded.
The fish in an aquaponics system are beneficial in two aspects: plant nutrients and food production. Fish excrete waste and respirate ammonia into water. According to Aquarium Guys, the ideal pH for goldfish is between 6.5 – 8.25. Water temperature should not rise above 24® C and will not eat in temperature below 10 degrees C. Fish should be feed daily and no more than an amount that can be consumed within 5 minutes.
It is important to establish the nitrogen cycle. Water from the fish farm is pumped into the grow beds to harvest helpful types of bacteria—Nitrosomonas and Nitrabacter. These bacteria turn ammonia into nitrate which then is used as plant fertilizer. Nitrifying bacteria are classified as obligate chemolithotrophs which means that they must us inorganic salts as an energy source. They must oxidize ammonia and nitrites for their energy needs and fix inorganic carbon dioxide (CO2) to fulfill their carbon requirements. They are largely non-motile and must colonize on a surface (bioballs) for optimum growth. The temperature for optimum growth of nitrifying bacteria is between 25-30 degrees C. Growth rate will decrease by 50% at 18 degrees C.
Plants in an aquaponic system serve not only as a biofilter but food production as well. The plant’s roots remove nitrates and phosphorus from the water. These nitrates which come from fish manure and decomposing fish feed would otherwise build up to toxic levels in the fish pond and kill the fish, instead serve as plant fertilizer. The water from the grow beds is then pumped back into the fish farm providing the fish with fresh, clean water.
The benefits to aquaponics include low water usage, it is organic and it can be done virtually anywhere. Compared to traditional in ground farming, aquaponics uses 96% less water. Because it is in a controlled environment there is no risk of disease thus eliminating the use of pesticides. The above reasons make it a sustainable food production system that can help eliminate hunger in drought stricken countries.
1. 1 Nike +iPod Sport Kit
2. Materials List
3. Total length of 5cm X 8cm Wood= 2,164.08cm
4. Total length of 3cm X 8cm Wood= 122cm
5. 24 Gold Fish
6. Recycled Dog House
7. Total length of 5cm PVC Pipe= 152.4cm
8. Total length of 2.5cm PVC Pipe= 121.9cm
9. Total length of 1.9cm PVC Pipe= 30.8cm
10. 5cm PVC End Cap
11. Total length of 1.27cm clear tubing= 304.8cm
12. Recycled 2lt soda bottle
13. Toilet Valve unit
14. Check Valve
15 189.27 Liter Grow Bin
16. 189.27 Liter Fish Pond
17. 189.27 Liter Flood Tank Bin
18. 189.27 Liter Plastic Trash Bin
19. Water testing kit
20. Seeds/Starter Plants
21. Bio Balls= 50 each
22. Styrofoam Sheet
23. Fish Food
24. (6) 3.81 sq cm Stonewool
26. Recycled Bike
27. Metal brackets
28. PVC Glue
30. 30.48cm of .63cm pex pipe
31. 1 each 1.27cm pvc male adapter
32. 3 each 1.27cm pvc ell
33. 2 each of 4.44cm long 1.27cm pvc pipe
34. 1 each 7.62cm long 1.27cm pvc pipe
35. 1 each 15.24cm long 1.27cm pvc pipe
36. 1 each 1.9cm pvc male adapter
37. 1 each 10.16cm long 1.9cm pvc pipe
38. 1 each 5.08cm pvc female adapter
39. 1 each 5.08cm x 2.54cm pvcsch 40 bushing
40. 1 each 2.54cm pvc street ell
41. 1 each 2.54cm pvc tee
42. 2 each 4.44cm x 1.9cm pvc ell
43. 1 each 15.54cm long pvcsch 40 2.54cm pipe
44. 1 each 48.26cm long 2.54cm pvc thin wall pipe
45. 2 each 21.59cm long 2.54cm pvc thin wall pipe
46. 1 each 1.27cm conduit locknuts
47. 1 each 1.9cm conduit locknuts
48. 1 pkg. screen door tension rollers
49. 1 each 60.96cm steel fishing leader
51. 2 each #8 x 1.27cm SS pan head sheet metal screws
52. 1 each #10 SS flat washer
53. 1 each .63cm split shot
54. AR 1.27cm SS flat washers
55. AR 5.08 net pots= 6 each
56. 1 each 12oz tube of aquarium silicone
57. 1 each bag of Hydroton Pellets
58. 152.4cm metal pipe
59. 60.96cm angled metal
60. 60.96cm standard rope
1. Before construction begins, make sure that there is an adult supervisor present to supervise and assist all cutting and nailing of wood and PVC piping.
2. Make sure safety goggles are worn when cutting.
3. Research goldfish care to ensure proper care is given and water stays within a sustainable pH and ammonia level.
4. Place (1) 189.27 L fish pond on a flat level surface and add (1) 14 L bag of river pebbles to the bottom of the pond and insert a pipe at the top to allow run off water to overflow into water reservoir. Cover end of pipe with mesh so that fish cannot swim into the piping.
5. Dig a hole next to fish pond and place a 189.27 L plastic trash bin inside hole next to pond. This will serve as a water reservoir and water contained within it will be used to pump up into the flush tank.
6. Using a hammer, nails and a saw, wearing safety goggles and the direction of my adult supervisor, construct a shelving platform system for my grow bed and water flood bin (we used our dog house to support the water flood bin).
7. Add 50 bio-balls to the raft grow bed bin.
8. While wearing goggles, cut Styrofoam sheet to fit the dimensions of the raft grow bed bin using a knife under the supervision of an adult supervisor.
9. Using wood, and the supervision of an adult supervisor, build a stand for the bicycle. Make sure you wear safety goggles.
10. Remove the chain from the bicycle.
11. Attach a wood block (5 cm x 8 cm x 15.24 cm) to one of the pedals.
12. Attach the 60.96 angled metal piece to the block so that it moves up and down when pedaling.
13. Attach the angled metal piece to a 152.4 metal pipe.
14. Attach the metal pipe to a pvc pipe with a check valve bottom a with 99.44 cm attached to the top of it.
15. At the top of the pipe attach a hose that flows from the pipe into the above 189.27 L flood bin.
16. Above the hose attach another 17.78 cm piece of pipe with a cap at the top.
17. Place the pipe inside water retention bin.
18. Attach a toilet valve to the bottom of the flood bin to act to control water output into the grow bed bin.
19. Add a 2 L soda bottle to the side of the flood bin attached to a pulley system. Drill a small hole in the cap with the help of adult supervisor and wearing goggles.
20. Attach a pipe 35.56 cm to the side of the flood bin that allows water to flow into the bottle. Once the bottle is heavy enough, with the use of a pulley system, it opens the flush valve which pours water into the 189.27 growbed below.
21. Attach a 10.16 cm pipe to the side of the raft bed about 10.16 cm from the top to allow above that mark to flow into the fish pond below.
22. Fill the system with water.
23. Use (6) 3.81 sq cm pieces of Stonewool and soak them in lemon juice until the pH is 7. Once soaked, plant lettuce seed in each piece. Once they sprout, divide them and place them into net pots filled with Hydroton and place the pots into cut out holes in the raft grow bed.
24. Obtain 3 transfer lettuce plants and rinse off all dirt gently from the roots.
25. Place the 3 transfers into net pots filled with Hydroton and place the pots into cut out holes in the 189.27 litter raft bed.
26. Add 24 gold fish to the fish pond.
27. On a daily basis, using the bike powered water pump, flush the system.
28. Feed fish 2 tsp of fish food daily.
29. Check water levels weekly by monitoring pH, ammonia levels , nitrite and nitrate levels.
30. Measure plant growth rate.
31. Chart any mortality of fish
32. Measure caloric output and time to pump the water via the bike using a Nike + iPod Sport Kit.
33. Make adjustments to pump to maximize it’s efficiency.
91.44 cm size pipe above hose on check valve pump
It took 48 minutes and 86 calories to pump 151.42 L of water
60.96 cm cm size pipe above hose on check valve pump
It took 36 minutes and 72 calories to pump 151.42 L of water
17.78 cm size pipe above hose on check valve pump
It took 32 minutes and 58 calories to pump 151.42 L or water
My project can be used as a method to grow fresh vegetables without the use of fossil fuel and minimal water. Because no electricity was needed to pump water through the system, this system could be used to grow vegetables in third world nations where there is no power source. I believe that aquaponics is a green warrior in the fight against world hunger and global warming and my research has provided and chemical and fossil fuel free method of fresh food production.
My projected consisted of designing a pedal powered water pump to pump water through my aquaponic system where I grew lettuce plants. Using a check valve pump attached to a bike petal, I pumped water into a flood bin. Once the flood bin was filled, the water was released through a flush valve attached to a pulley system with a 2 L bottle that acted as a counter weight. By placing bio balls in the grow-bed, this facilitated the growth of both Nitrosomonas and Nitrobacter bacteria which created a nitrogen cycle within my ecosystem. I tested the water’s pH, nitrite and nitrate levels and I also monitored both fish and Lettuce growth. I flushed my system daily as well as feed my fish.
If water can be pumped through an aquaponic system by use of a pedal powered water pump and a toilet valve, then both fish and plants can be grown aquaponically without the use of electricity. By shortening the amount of piping above the tubing on my check valve pump, I was able to pump 151.52 cm in 32 minutes while burning 58 calories.
My water tests showed that there were varying levels of nitrates and trace levels of nitrities. Also the fish and Lettuce both seemed to thrive. I was able to pump water without the use of electricity and therefor my hypothesis was supported.
Backyard Aquaponics. Site by Joel. Web. 20 July 2009
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“How to Care for Your Goldfish.” Aquarium Guys.Web. 29 July 2009.
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Hydrponics—The Growing Solution. HygroTechnologiesm, 1997. Videocassette.
Introduction to Aquaponics. Nelson / Pade Multimedia, 2003. Videocassette.
Materson, Ph.D, James W. Aquaculture Interactive. Vers. 2.0. Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution,
Inc, 2001. Computer Software.
Maximum Yield—Indor Gardening. Web.08 Aug. 2010
Team Treehugger. “Aquaponics—The Urban Food Revolution.” Treehugger. A Discovery Company, 10
Dec. 2007. Web. 20 July 2009. http://www.treehugger.com.