Claire Corlett

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Urban Organics Aquaponics Doesn’t Use Raw Fish Poop as Fertilizer

Urban Organics Aquaponics Doesn’t Use Raw Fish Poop as Fertilizer


Alright! This is John Kohler with GrowingYourGreens.com
today we have another exciting episode for you and where in the world am I today? I’m
in St. Paul, Minnesota of all places in the whole world and why I’m here today is to
check out the building behind me and actually it’s a former site of Hamm’s Brewing Co.
and when I was in college the guys used to drink Hamm’s “The beer refreshing” because
it was one of the cheapest beers out there although I don’t think anybody liked it
too much but it got us drunk and it did the job. Nonetheless, years have passed and now they’re
no longer there they’ve vacated the little brewery here and it’s an empty six story
building and one of the things I’m into is basically reusing things, whether it’s
old buildings or whether it’s reusing old shoes and finding a new use to grow some strawberries
in and why I’m here today is because they’ve taken this building here and what they’re
doing is they’re aquaponically. So, that means they’re growing leafy greens and herbs
by using fish as the driving force, as a fertilizer, to make this food desert a food forest or
at least a fish and leafy green forest here. It’s sad that in this area that might be
a little bit depressed economic area they’re revitalizing it by bringing and creating jobs
both directly and indirectly through Urban Organics. The first aquaponic organic growing
operation that I’ve ever seen, so actually let’s get inside Urban Organics and show
you guys what they’ve got growing on. Alright, so now we’re inside Urban Organics
and this place is amazing, it’s like this warehouse building that they used to probably
brew beer in back in the day and as you can see they’ve got these industrial steel racks,
the same kind of racks you’d see in Costco and this is a really good use for the racks
for actually producing food instead of storing it. So, what we’re looking at here is this
huge racks and they’ve each got 3 levels, they could probably maybe fit a 4th one in,
and they’ve got six different beds in these racks here. That’s growing over 17,000 different
little baby plants so that the St. Paul, Minnesota area can eat some of the best, fresh greens
throughout the entire year including the winter time when it’s snowing outside. So, what
we’re going to do next is actually take a look at the system that drives this and
how they’re growing on this aquaponic system on a commercial scale. The first organic aquaponic
system that I’ve ever seen. So, now let’s talk about what is aquaponics.
As you guys can see they’ve got this little signage around, they had a grand opening kind
of tour thing. They don’t normally do tours so this is a behind the scenes tour for you
guys but hopefully in the future at some point they will be able to do tours and do a lot
of education especially for kids in the area and working with schools and have other people
be able to come here and see exactly what they’re doing and how they’re doing it.
So, this sign says “the dirt on aquaponics”; what aquaponics is in its essence is basically growing the plants
or the food with the fish waste, but it’s a little more detailed than that, I’ll show
you their system that’s a world’s first system that’s not anywhere else. That’s
really dialing this into a commercial viable system to all the different variables that
could occur that could kind of mess you up. One of the things I like to think about in
this system is that this system is not prone to crop failure due to bad weather because
it’s all inside. This can literally be duplicated, anywhere in the world you can get an aquaponic
system to start growing not only the leafy greens which are rich in the antioxidants
and nutrients for you but even the fish that is rich in protein and actually farm fish,
in a controlled environment, that’s not going to have pesticides, herbicides or heavy
metal pollution that could happen if you get wild cod or fish found in nature these days. So, what we’re looking at now are the fish
tanks, this super huge gigantic fish tanks. And actually I like that they have little
circular cut outs that are clear on the outside of all these guys so you can see the fish
swimming around. Yes! The fish are real, what they’re doing here is they’re using the
tilapia here and basically the only input that they’re using for
the system is the fish food that’s right
here, it’s actually called the “Aqua Feed”. They’re feeding the tilapia, the tilapias
are swimming around happily, eating the food, pooping and peeing. And it’s their poop
and pee that is then converted into the food for the plants. Now, most aquaponic systems
that I’ve visited and seen in the past basically use the raw fish and pee water directly into
the beds and that works and a lot of systems I’ve seen use it but what they’re doing
here is a little bit different. They’re actually taking the raw manure or fertilizer
and they’re converting it before they send it to the plants; so this is totally ingenious. Alright, so what we’re looking at next is
actually the Fish Air Aquatic Ecosystem, this is a filter and filtration system. This is
a system that I haven’t seen on any other aquaponic system I’ve ever seen in the world.
This is a world’s first, this really makes the whole system run cleaner and more importantly,
more efficient. What we’re looking at here is the first stage where basically there’s
a drum filter that’s removing all the solids and then after all the solids are removed
all the waste water goes into this big tanks and let’s go ahead and talk about what’s
happening in this big tanks because that’s actually probably one of the most important
parts and aspects of this system that makes it totally new, unique and different than
anything else I’ve seen. Alright, so what we’re looking at now is
the second part of that filtration system. Now, what happens is… you know, I had a
fish tank when I was a kid and you have to have a filter on your fish tank otherwise
the water would get gross and all this kind of stuff and it wouldn’t be good for the
fish. That’s what they’re doing here they pretty much have a filtration system that
is taking out the ammonia out of the water and then converting it to nitrite and they’re
doing that with the bacteria. Once they’ve got the nitrite they use another bacteria
to convert that into nitrate which then is the nutrients the plant can absorb, so this
is totally ingenious. Most of the time in aquaponic systems that I’ve seen they just
run the dirty water through the whole system and the bacteria is living in the root zone
and all over that’s converting this but I like it here because it’s much cleaner
and neater to happen; it happens in all these enclosed tanks and only the fertilizer water
literally is then being fed to all the plants in front of me. So let’s go ahead and take
a look at those beautiful plants next. So, besides the fish another important aspect
of Urban Organics are of course the plants or the vegetables that they’re growing and
this is where it all starts. They’ve got little cells here with a nurtured soil medium
where they put the seeds in and once again this is also being grown on the aquaponic
system on little rafts that are floating and they just seed them in there and soon enough
when these get a little larger they’re going to transplant them up into the larger rafts.
We’re on the bottom story of a 4 story that’s above me that that is growing lots of greens.
So let’s go ahead and take a look at some of those greens growing, next. So, one of the things you will not find here
at Urban Organics is any dirt. They’re not growing in any dirt so there’s no chance
of contamination or things that can happen when growing in dirt and what they’re doing
is using a nurtured sterile growing medium and I want to show you guys this. I mean,
this is how healthy this root zone is underneath this kale. They’ve got the water flowing
down here super fast, which provides the aeration, and once again all the nutrients that they’ve
basically pre-made by pre-filtering the water and providing it to the plants. You can see
the massive root zone, this would be a cool artistic picture to take pictures of these
root zones underneath here and it’s the roots that are really feeding the plants and
once again it’s amazing they’re doing this without any dirt. Once again, this is
saving more water and only uses 2% of the water that a standard farm would. It’s always sunny in Philadelphia, no wait,
that’s something else. Anyways, it’s always sunny in Urban Organics here because they
don’t happen to rely on the sun to grow their crops. They’re using energy efficient
fluorescent tubing that are the right spectrum to provide plants all the light they need
to easily do the vegetative growth and that’s what they’re after. They just wanted it
to veg out and produce as much leave matter as they possibly can to feed people in the
local area. So it’s really funny here me just walking through the facility to see they
have this big fluorescent lights that pretty much look like a shop’s lights but these
are special lights over each of these growth beds and in certain growth beds you can see
right underneath the light the plants are flowering up and they’re a lot larger than
some on the other areas. So, light really does make a difference and they’re doing
this in an energy efficient manner to produce the most amount of food year round independent
of the weather. Especially with the climate change, or whatever you want to call it, weather
is being crazy and regular farmers can have crop failures but by using a system like this
they’re going to be guaranteed steady production all year long. Alright, so another secret to how the system
works here is the aeration of the plants they’re growing. They have water moving through the
fish tanks at 200 gallons a minute and through these beds here that are really long it’s
running through at 90 gallons a minute, that’s a lot of water. Now, with the water comes
the nutrition but also comes something very important for you, I and the plants, it’s
air. We need air, the plants need the oxygen to breathe and the aeration causes some rapid
plant growth but also helps keep this whole system clean and sludge free. While we are
on the subject of water let’s talk about how much water the system uses. You know,
standard agriculture can take a lot of water because they’re watering the crops, the
crops absorb some of the water but most of the water escapes down into the ground. This
is good because they’re maybe filling aquifers and all this kind of stuff and building the
water table but the fact of the matter is clear that most water used in conventional
farming and even organic farming is wasted. Especially in conventional farming where water
is not sticking around in the soil because there is not a lot of organic matter to hold
on to it and keep it in the soil. That’s why in your garden at home I always encourage
you guys to add a lot of different organic matters and just compost in your garden. You
know I also like to use coconut coir and peat moss that’s going to help retain some of
the moisture so that it doesn’t run all away but thankfully in an aquaponic system
like they’re using here it uses just 2% of the water from traditional farming and
water is a very precious resource. You guys can turn on your tap and we take water for
granted but in many places they’re in drought conditions now and as time goes on and the
future goes on water is going to become scarcer and scarcer and it’s this kind of aquaponics
farming, that uses less water, that can be a valuable asset in the future. So, what we’re looking at now it their harvest
cooler and this is actually a fairly small cooler for this big giant urban farm that’s
in this warehouse and that’s because they get the produce out, harvest it, and then
it goes right out to the stores, it’s not sitting around in a truck being shipped 2000
miles across the country to here in the area. They decided on a business model where they’re
going to keep all the food local, all the food here is going to be only sold within
50 miles and most of it within 10 miles because there’s such a population density that could
totally eat all these greens. In this way people are going to get a higher quality food
that is going to taste fresher. I don’t know about you but when I’ve tasted kale
from the store it tastes bad, but locally grown fresh picked kale, whether it’s at
your garden or here is going to taste a lot better, the flavor is going to be better and
also one of the things that many people don’t realize is that the nutrition is also going
to be higher the fresher the produce is from the time you get it picked the more nutrition
it can have. Within just 24 hours of harvest up to 50% of certain nutrients can be lost
in foods and if all people are eating is food shipped in that’s not the best you can do.
I always want to encourage you guys to do the best you can do. Whether that means growing
your own or supporting a local farm like Urban Organics. Alright, so what we’re looking at here are
all the amazing leafy greens that they’re growing, we’ve got kale on this side, more
different kale and they’ve got two different kinds of kale growing as well as Swiss chards
and now you can see the racks are tall and tall. They have so many leafy greens growing
on here. I’ve definitely had a fun here at Urban Organics, I want to encourage you
guys if you live in the area support them by purchasing the leafy greens they’re growing
here and be sure to stay tuned and check out their website UrbanOrganics.com for any updated.
Hopefully one of these days they’re going to work with other farmers in other areas
so if you want to start growing aquaponically like they’re doing here they’re going
to license or make this available to other people so that you can duplicate this in every
city in the nation. This is something I definitely think is really important and that every place,
every city in the nation should have Urban Organics to help get organic products and
fish out to people so that they can start eating healthier today instead of all the
processed and packaged foods that are being shipped in from all over the world. Hopefully you guys enjoyed this episode. Once
again, my name is John Kohler with GrowingYourGreens.com we’ll see you next time and remember: Keep
on growing!

64 comments on “Urban Organics Aquaponics Doesn’t Use Raw Fish Poop as Fertilizer

  1. I am trying to convince hubby to build a retirment earthship with hydroponics in it as opposed to just plants…he doesnt get hydroponics at all and this explains it realky well…on a grand scale but teo thumbs up for these farms…if I was young this is what I would be doing…but those talapia fish are hard to find….I want some just for their pooh…I have three smallish pond right now.

  2. you need to look more at aquaponic's. thsi si not the first system that use drim filter for removing the "crap" and biofilters (proberly moving bed biofilter) to convert the amonia. it is the mostely used system to run  if you onely want floting raft system. the floatign raft system will help convert som of the amonia. so they can benefit from airating.

  3. @Learn Organic Gardening at GrowingYourGreens You need to research as there is 2 youtube videos from American universities that have done the exact same filtration system as these guys, and pretty much on the same scale. The university's that have this up on youtube are Kentucky State U and Purdue, they are very easy to find if you search aquaponics and the schools name, MUST SEE VIDEO you all! Purdue multiple system techniques are VERY similar to this one you showed. Also, tons of people in aquaponics use a nitrite/nitrate filter system.

  4. John I love your videos and have learned so much from you so I thought I would chime in since this is my area of knowledge.

    This setup based on a outdoor UVI commercial farm developed by Dr. Rakocy at the University Of the Virgin Islands which proved that an outdoor farm on a Caribbean island could be profitable. Farming inside of warehouses is not a sustainable way of growing. You need to heat the building, the water and the air in the colder months to keep Tilapia in 80 degree water. Each one of those light fixtures eats up about 5-6 Kilowatt hours a day or about $15-20 a month.  If you can get a high price for your produce you might be able to eek out a profit but others have not been profitable and rely on grants to sustain them. Two UVI warehouse setups I can think of off hand are Sweetwater Organics (not profitable relying on grants) and Aquavita Farms which has closed. Urbanorganics has also received $300,000 in grants and loans from the city… a model that is not sustainable either once those funds are depleted.

    Fish emit ammonia directly from their gills as a part of respiration and it is also a byproduct of the fish waste decomposing. The reason why they use a drum filter is to remove the course solids that would end up settling in the grow areas and pipes and become anaerobic and start to stink. There are always some fine solids that are circulating in this type of system so by no means are the plants not in contact with the fish effluent. The bacteria live everywhere in the system and in the water column so they can mineralize the fine solids that are circulating.

    Aquaponics can be a very productive and rewarding way of gardening and even farming when done sustainably. If you would like more info on a home DIY aquaponic systems check out my channel. 

  5. Cool video John. Only problem is the mercury filled  fluorescent light bulbs (that leak toxins) which must have mercury in them to work properly. A better choice is New Led bulbs. They use less electricity, last much longer and have no mercury. I liked cfl/fluorescent lighting until I watched this investigational YouTube video on cfl bulbs Toxic Lights CFL energy saving lightbulbs, toxic chemicals and the need to see daylight

  6. Very cool. For crops that require pollination, do they also grow them indoors? If so, how do they attract pollinators?

  7. I think it's awesome that companies allow you to take tours. Most companies will say why would I want a youtuber in our facilities. lol

  8. All Aquaponics systems are organic because you can't use chemicals that can either harm your fish or the bacteria in the grow medium.  I have a pretty big system but my system is off-grid. Now that is something you don't see a lot.

  9. John, I have never heard of anyone just pouring raw fish sludge back onto the plant.  Aquaponics waste is filtered through many filtering process.  I studied aquaponics at Aruban University and it is  amazing and never did I hear of such as pouring raw fish poop on plants.  I worked with tens of thousands of fish and with all that fish waste it was converted into plant usage.  This video seems like a copycat of Will Allen aquaponi setup.  So many have learned from him and started their own aquaponics setup.  I assisted with teaching a workshop on aquaponi at FLU and one thing WE STRESS is how important it is to filter the fish water. 

    It is good that you are sharing some many companies products that one can see and hear of.  Keep it up.

  10. I guess my little aquaponics is uber ingenious. Because my ammonia is converted to nitrate before it even goes into a pipe. XD

  11. about time John Kohler started to think like a 21st century man
    Congratulations John, you've actually made an interesting half scientific video finally
    I'm actually Impressed finally, Finally you get it, This is what 21st Century Food Production Looks like!! Finally You get it! Hooray!
    Big Thumbs Up John!! You've seen the Light!! Nice Video!!

  12. Very NICE! I've always thought it was gross to have raw fish sewege go directly into grow beds. The bacteria overgrowth would be foul! Ecoli thriving on the roots of something I eat is a tad, blaaahhh. I like how this place is growing! Now, if they could get Azomite into their kale, YUM! hehe

  13. It seems to me that they managed to industrialize aquaponics. It's a shame in my opinion, missed the entire point of aquaponics.

  14. John I think all aquaponics are organic, but I love what they are doing covering old buildings it could save towns and jobs if they would do more of it (The rich I mean). Thank you for sharing this your doing the right thing!

  15. It requires so much electricity. How can it be greener? If economy collapse, there will be no electricity and the system is down. But i am giving thumbs up for this effort for alternative. But i just prefer if the system is able to self sustain.

  16. I can't imagine building a system without considering the need for mechanical and biological filtration. surprised to hear people miss that part of the aquaponics set up

  17. Hey John,
    I love watching these videos and learning from you. I would loe to see more aquaponics stuff, and also, your medicinal marijuana garden. I'm in the process of getting my card, and I would love to see how you grow your medicine.

  18. The Achilles heel of an aquaponic system is that it's power intensive.  Pumps, lights, indoor climate control, etc all require electrical power.  An aquaponic system like this can go to hell in a few hours without that power.

    No, I'm not poo-pooing the idea, far from it.  I LOVE the concept.  However, for aquaponics to truly take off, we're going to need a comprehensive plan on how to generate the electricity needed.

  19. I really like your videos!  This is a good video.  Here is my question John:  is there any research on using rabbit manure to feed the fish in an aquaponics system? Other than fish food and duck weed what manure can I use to feed the fish in the system.

  20. The nitrogen cycle is still taking place in the rocks and other places. The filter probably does a great job but it's happening elsewhere too.

  21. Hai Jhon, i only can understand from all your videos that you promote other to show us they are doing very well, i will appreciate if that you can show us the real starts from seeds,
    i couldnt find any video uploading from anyone that tells why seeds dont become plants,
    what we have to care about aquaponices…
    what kind of fish food helps to grow plants, there is nothing to learn…
    there is no any video to teach the system of aquaponics or hydrophonices
    i had spend lot of money to start aquaponice but its didnt works,
    then i did hydrophonice that also didnt works,
    still wondering its that really the way you all doing? or maybe nobody wana share the real technical tips behind of these system

  22. nice video!! Thank you.   I am always concerning if there is any health risk for using raw fish poops from aquaponic system grow veges… but haven't found out many researches about the risk… The risk of using chicken poops to feed farmed fish has been recognized by most people… so we are using raw fish poops feeds veges???   I wish to see an easy way that people can clean the raw fish poops in an DIY aquaponic system in their house.

  23. They could have used a modified chinampa system or floating Burmese garden system combined with the non-circulating Polish Wroclow system, Bengal system, and modified Mittleider system and modified hybrid soil-hydroponic system. Along with rock dust powders and protective companion planting such as water hyacinth, aquatic mint, azolla, perennial living mulch, and many others. Using advance optics and optical fiber cables one can transmit light and amplify it's growth inducing power so the need for external power source is reduced down to a minimum. Growing fast growing fuel crops alongside with non-fuel crops can be of helped as long as they do not interfere with the original food production output in the first place. Using Jean Pain compost heat and energy production combined with air oxygenating plants and air filtering plants will be of great help. Not to forget to combine anti-pesticidal plants, anti-disease plants, anti-parasite plants, anti-blight plants, and other protective plants to protect both the humans and the plants and animals and fish simultaneously.

  24. it can not work without fish poop,nitrate only provide N to plants, P,K and other nutrition should convert from the solid waste otherwise you don't call it organic

  25. Hi Jon, why they use drum filter to separate waste solid, does solid not involve as a part of nutrient or they have another plant to process?.

  26. Although it is very good and you don't use nearly as much water because it is a closed system but what about all of the energy that it uses?

  27. John. Can explain how each system is better …John I'm gunna go out on a limb and say not one of your subscribers can afford this system …we're gunna roll with the old skool …that's for the good info however

  28. What are the criteria for an organic Aquaponics farm? I believe the fish stocking ratio should be maintained below a maximum. 10kg/m3 in some cases depending on region/standard. The stocking density of those tanks appeared to be quite high.

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