Gayn­dah gar­dener hooked

Fishy gar­den­ing sys­tem at­tracts grow­ing in­ter­est

Central and North Burnett Times - - LIFE - Adam McCleery adam.mccleery@cnbtimes.com.au

The plants will now do al­right in ex­treme heat with this sys­tem be­cause their roots will al­ways be in the wa­ter.

— Michael Hig­gin­son

GAYN­DAH res­i­dent Michael Hig­gin­son has, with the help of lo­cal perma-cul­ture buff Isaaq Smith turned to new meth­ods for grow­ing gar­den veg­eta­bles.

Mr Hig­gin­son had been con­sid­er­ing aquapon­ics for a num­ber of years but only now has found the time to dive into it.

“I’ve had the ma­te­rial here for two years so it’s about time we made some­thing of it,” Mr Hig­gin­son said.

“I went down to Brisbane a few years ago and did a work­shop on aquapon­ics and fig­ured I had to put what I learned from that ex­pen­sive work­shop into ac­tion.”

Aquapon­ics is de­scribed as the com­bi­na­tion of both aqua­cul­ture and hy­dro­pon­ics.

Mr Hig­gin­son’s sys­tem will fea­ture plants grow­ing in beds of stones. It will use re­cir­cu­lated wa­ter along with fae­ces from fish housed in a tank to add nu­tri­ents to the plants.

“The plants will now do al­right in ex­treme heat with this sys­tem be­cause their roots will al­ways be in the wa­ter,” Mr Hig­gin­son said.

“We have to cover the wa­ter tank though, to make sure the wa­ter doesn’t get too warm for the fish.”

A sil­ver tarp will cover the tank, not only pre­vent­ing the wa­ter from over­heat­ing but also stop­ping al­gae build-up in the tanks.

“The fish like darker ar­eas so it will keep them happy,” Mr Hig­gin­son said.

The wa­ter is then dis­trib­uted around the sides of the gar­den bed be­fore be­ing drained down the mid­dle to start the whole cy­cle again. When the wa­ter reaches a cer­tain level it starts to siphon which then drains the tank au­to­mat­i­cally. The sys­tem is non-me­chan­i­cal.

An­other method be­ing em­ployed to pre­vent over­heat­ing of the plants is to lay white rock over the top of the other rocks. So long as the rocks re­main wet the plants are able to get their nu­tri­ents from them.

“The white rocks won’t re­tain as much heat,” Mr Hig­gin­son said.

“There are bet­ter medi­ums to use but heaps of peo­ple do use rock.”

He said plants can be grown in floating foam rafts that sit on the wa­ter sur­face.

Mr Hig­gin­son had in­ten­tions on start­ing this project after first fin­ish­ing the aquapon­ics course.

“I then had some­one come up and do a soil bi­ol­ogy study here but then the floods came and things went hay­wire,” he said.

The first plants to go into the new self-sus­tain­ing sys­tem were tomato seedlings and mint.

Mr Smith said a lot of vari­ables come into play with grow­ing plants in a closed sys­tem.

“You don’t need to wa­ter them if the sys­tem is do­ing its job,” Mr Smith said.

“But the growth varies on how well tuned the sys­tem is, if it is per­fectly tuned it seems to grow a bit faster than in ground but that does vary be­cause it’s a bi­o­log­i­cal sys­tem.”

Mr Hig­gin­son said many varieties of fish can be cul­ti­vated in an aquaponic sys­tem with species se­lec­tion based on fac­tors such as lo­cal gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tions.

“The plants will get nour­ished by the fish poo and the wa­ter will be cleaned for the fish by the sys­tem,” he said.

One of the ma­jor ben­e­fits of an aquaponic sys­tem is there is no weed­ing, no fer­tilis­ers and will only em­ploy the same power as it takes to run two light bulbs in your own home.

Michael Hig­gin­son and Isaac Smith set up the aquaponic grow­ing sys­tem.

GROW­ING IN­TER­EST: Michael Hig­gin­son in­stalls his new aquaponic gar­den bed with the help of some keen vol­un­teers. PHOTOS: ADAM MCCLEERY

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