Adapting aquaponics systems for use in the American Pacific Islands

Adam Baker and Harry Ako
Department of Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering University of Hawaii at Manoa

Aquaponics systems are environmentally friendly and productive
Feed • Feed eat feed and release metabolites, which bacteria remediate, and plants take up

• 2 crops from 1 input • No effluent (negligible environmental impact) • Productivity 6 times higher than soil agriculture

Fish grow and excrete metabolites Bacteria remediate toxic N species
bioremediated water cleaner water

Plants take up metabolites to grow

The most well known system was developed by James Rakocy

•Research began in the 1970’s •Plants in raceways, fish and equipment under black tent
http://rps.uvi.edu/AES/Aquaculture/basil2002.jpg

This system is complicated
• Uses complex equipment • Requiring: – A large capital investment – Constant electricity – A trained staff to operate and maintain
screen filter tank

fish tank clarifier sump degassing tank

• May explain the lack of commercial aquaponics systems • Was attempted and failed in Saipan

Air pumps, water pump, and 237 air stones (not shown)

The hypothesis and approach of this work
• “Estimates of nutrient uptake and a deeper understanding of culture water nutrient dynamics are required for design criteria”, Rakocy and Hargreaves, 1993

• Lettuce require specific quantities of nutrients to grow • Fish grown under a specific set of conditions (feed input and stocking density) can provide these nutrients • A mechanically simple aquaponics system could be developed after these parameters are defined

Determination of lettuce nutrient needs
•Provided lettuce with hydroponics nutrients •Measured the nutrients remaining in solution at an intermediate (4 weeks) and full (6 weeks) grow out cycle with ICP-AES •Nutrients taken up at full cycle were hypothesized to be required nutrients (will be used in future slides)
Nutrients Manganese (mg) Nitrogen (g) Potassium (g) Calcium (g) Magnesium (g) Phosphorus (g) Iron (mg) Zinc (mg) Copper (mg) Boron (mg) Hydroponics Remaining Remaining nutrients after 4 after 6 provided weeks weeks 307 2% 1% 33 53.7 31.1 16.1 11.2 337 77.7 55.5 322 70% 74% 83% 91% 90% 123% 97% 61% 86% 5% 14% 51% 53% 45% 83% 62% 56% 59%

Verification of predicted lettuce needs by amount
•Required nutrients in first column, those provided in second column •Low Ca and Mg predicted to be adequate •No difference in yield
Nutrients Manganese (mg) Nitrogen (g) Potassium (g) Calcium (g) Magnesium (g) Phosphorus (g) Iron (mg) Zinc (mg) Copper (mg) Boron (mg) Required Provided to Low nutrients Ca and Mg 305 31.6 46.0 15.2 4.72 6.12 58.1 29.6 24.6 133 307 33.3 53.7 18.8 6.97 11.2 688 77.7 55.5 322

Lettuce head weight (g) Mean lettuce head weights (g) 200 150 100 50 0 Control Low Ca and Mg a a

Verification of predicted lettuce needs by amount
•High N predicted to exceed needs •Greater uptake observed but no benefit in yield, even under higher light
Nutrients Manganese (mg) Nitrogen (g) Potassium (g) Calcium (g) Magnesium (g) Phosphorus (g) Iron (mg) Zinc (mg) Copper (mg) Boron (mg) Required Provided to nutrients High N 305 307 31.6 62.2 46.0 53.7 15.2 31.1 4.72 16.1 6.12 11.2 58.1 688 29.6 77.7 24.6 55.5 133 322 Mean lettuce head weights (g)

b a a

b

Spring

Summer

Verification of predicted lettuce needs by amount
•Lowered K level should be inadequate •Significant reduction in yields
Nutrients Manganese (mg) Nitrogen (g) Potassium (g) Calcium (g) Magnesium (g) Phosphorus (g) Iron (mg) Zinc (mg) Copper (mg) Boron (mg) Required nutrients 305 31.6 46.0 15.2 4.72 6.12 58.1 29.6 24.6 133 Provided to Low K 307 33.3 34.3 31.1 16.1 11.2 688 77.7 55.5 322 Mean lettuce head weights (g)

a

b

Control

Low K

Verification of predicted lettuce needs through time
•Lettuce provided ¼ nutrients relative to control •Nutrient depletion was predicted at Week 4 •Significantly lower yields at Week 4

1/4th nutrients, Week 4

Control, Week 4

Verification of predicted lettuce needs through time
Mean lettuce head weights (g)

•Lettuce provided ½ nutrients relative to control •Nutrient depletion was predicted at Week 6 •Significantly lower yields at Week 6

a b

Control

½ nutrients

Predicted levels of “required nutrients” seem accurate in terms of both quantity and as a function of time

Footnote: Supplemental Fe was required
Control, Week 3 Aquaponics (no iron) Week 3 Fe chelate Aquaponics, Week 4

Supplemental Mn was not required

Mean lettuce head weights (g) 400 a a

300 200 100

0

Mn added

No Mn added

Determination of conditions to produce nutritious fish water
Calculating target levels
•Derived necessary daily provisions •Assumed that these would be met with a 20 L daily exchange •Converted to concentrations
Nutrients Manganese Nitrogen Potassium Calcium Magnesium Phosphorus Iron Zinc Copper Boron Required nutrients (g) 0.310 31.6 46.0 15.2 10.6 6.12 0.058 0.030 0.025 0.130 Required from 20 L fish water mg 7.20 752 1100 362 252 146 9.80 0.72 0.60 0.30

(mg/L)
0.36 37.6 54.8 18.1 12.6 7.28 0.49 0.036 0.030 0.015

Experimental set up
•Stocked tilapia in a 200 L tank, removed 20 L of water daily •Periodically added fish •Monitored water chemistry and feed inputs

For a tray of 48 lettuce heads

Fish water met lettuce needs
•Required concentrations in first data column •Fed 14 or 20 g of feed per day, several nutrients were deficient •Fed 40 g of feed per day however, nutrients were sufficient •Another consequence is that nitrogen may be used as a proxy for all nutrients
Nutrients (mg/L)
Manganese Nitrogen Potassium Calcium Magnesium Phosphorus Iron Zinc Copper Boron

Daily requirement from 20 L (mg/L)
0.36 37.6 54.8 18.1 12.6 7.28 0.49 0.036 0.03 0.015

Fish water 14 g feed daily
0 30 101 22.5 13.5 4.46 0.001 0.01 0.04 0.05

20 g feed daily
0.002 34 100 46.2 18.6 6.36 0.011 0.021 0.02 0.09

40 g feed daily
0.001 47 105 33.9 21.0 10.7 0.038 0.095 0.059 0.079

Required fish parameters
•For a 200 L tank with 20 L daily water removal •Met target nutrient concentrations (47 mg/L nitrate-N) with the following conditions
Nitrate N (mg/L) 47 Daily feed input (g) 40 Tilapia biomass (kg) 2.3

•Repeated with replication, 5 weeks in duration •Sustained target nutrient concentrations under the following conditions
Tank 1 2 Nitrate N (mg/L) 44 49 Daily feed input (g) 59 54 Tilapia biomass (kg) 2.5 2.5

Numbers were relatively close and systems were sustainable

A simplified aquaponics system:

Lettuce yields as good as hydroponics
Mean lettuce head weights (g)
bc a a d c b

When fish water nutrients were adequate, lettuce growth matched hydroponics controls

A simplified aquaponics system:

Fish growth parameters
•During the 10 week aquaponics trial, fish growth was measured •These can be used to predict fish yields in aquaponics
Mean Fish recovered/ weight (g) stocked Start End 51/51 66 114 48/48 71 132 Feed input FCR (kg) 4.8 4.7 1.9 1.6

Tank T1 T2

Fish biomass (kg) Start 3.4 3.4 End 5.8 6.3 Gained 2.5 2.9

A simplified aquaponics system:

Aquaponics is environmentally friendly
•Of total nitrogen input into the system as feed: •27% is recovered as fish flesh •43% is recovered as lettuce biomass •30%, a relatively small fraction, is lost
(as nitrogen gas or as solids used to fertilize garden plants)

•None was released as effluent Fish Lettuce biomass (%) biomass (%) T1 26 40 T2 32 41 T3 22 49 Mean 27 43 Tank Denitrification or solids (%) 34 27 29 30

Scenarios. Single family size
Components 1 lettuce tray (2.7 m2) 1 fish tank (200 L) 1 small air pump
Other designs are permissible as long as the basic specifications are followed. Fish under the plants, water flows, etc.

Specifications
Water transfer – manual Cost of construction – 250 USD Fish biomass – 2.5 kg Daily feed input – 40-59 g Production – 1.4 lettuce/day and 1.0 kg tilapia/5 weeks

Scenarios. Micro-farm size
Components 8 linked lettuce trays 1 fish tank (1,600 L) 1 small air blower

Specifications
Water transfer – air lift pump Fish biomass – 19.2 kg Daily feed input – 0.32-0.47 kg Production – 3,300 lettuce and 80 kg tilapia/year

Construction costs – 2,500 USD Projected income – 8,600 USD/year at Hawaii farm gate prices

Scenarios. Small farm, 0.1 hectare
Components Equivalent of 270 lettuce trays 54,000 L fish tank volume 1 air blower 1 water pump

Specifications Water transfer – water pump Fish biomass – 648 kg Daily feed input – 11-16 kg Production – 133,000 lettuce and 2,700 kg tilapia/year

Cost of construction <80,000 USD Projected income – 290,000 USD/year

Summary
• Fine tuned lettuce nutrient requirements • Set fish parameters that provide optimal nutrition to plants • Verified results in several aquaponics trials • Eliminated all electrical components but aeration in fish tanks • Identified rational parameters that will allow for flexible aquaponics design to accommodate different needs and physical environments • Described a simple methodology that can be applied to grow other crops aquaponically

Thank you

This work was funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Center for Tropical and Subtropical Aquaculture (CTSA) through Grant No. 2004-38500-14602

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