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HOMEGROWN: Taking plunge into aquaponics


Suzanne Griffith

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I always say that kitchen gardening should always be no pressure, a hobby, something that you enjoy, a relaxing pursuit. Most certainly it isn’t easy fitting gardening into a busy lifestyle. These days everywhere I turn there is something that needs doing, feeding, washing, folding, cleaning – modern life.
When I met Damian Hinkson of the Baird’s Village Aquaponic Association in St George two years ago, I was instantly taken with the concept of aquaponics: the marriage of hydroponics, soilless cultivation, with aquaculture, fish cultivation.
Hinkson has worked tirelessly to develop an aquaponic system suitable for the home gardener. At present the fundamental components of a small home system are in my front yard ready for action.
As stated above, I have tinkered with the idea of abandoning traditional kitchen gardening for this method for quite some time; further I must admit that the two tanks and stand that make up the system have been glaring at me for the last two months while I contemplated whether to take the plunge into aquaponics or not. You didn’t hear it from me, but I am ready to take the plunge.
With the addition of some PVC pipe, what Damian promises me to be a small pump, a mountain of coconut husk which will serve as the growing medium, and a serious school of tiny Tilapia fish, I will be ready to cultivate crops in the grow tank and tilapia in the fish tank.
I still have some concerns about undertaking the aquaponic way; perhaps you too have considered aquaponics and have similar reservations. Luckily Damian has graciously agreed to allow me to express my concerns, as unfounded as they may be, and address those concerns in a follow-up interview next week. As well feel free to contact me if you would like to know more about aquaponics; I have written extensively about it in past installments of this column and other publications.
Now for my concerns, in no particular order!
Plants yes, fish no! Let’s get real here. My young son and I can hardly keep a gold fish alive and you expect me to be farming tilapia? Can a person with no aquaculture experience be successful at raising Tilapia?
How many fish, and how much will they eat and when? Refer to point No.1 above, we only had a single pet gold fish!
The system relies on a small pump to circulate the water between the two tanks; I already cringe when I see the Light & Power bill each month. How much will it cost to operate the pump?
Vacation? Can we go off the island and entrust the monitoring of the system to a friend or neighbour as easily as we would ask them to water or look after a traditional soil based garden?
Resources? What if somthing goes wrong? The plants aren’t growing, even worse the fish aren’t living.
I’ve always enjoyed experimenting in the kitchen garden; no doubt my upcoming foray into aquaponics will be a natural extension of my past experience. As I begin to set up the system I look forward to Damian allaying my concerns.

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