Gallery: Self-Sustaining Aquaponic Greenhouse Coming to Vermont Park

The Root Center, a pending non-profit, is building a solar-heated aquaponic greenhouse in Vermont Park. Dubbed “Garden of the Future,” the project will house a sustainable fish pond and aquaponic vegetables. The Root Center’s mission is to provide
The Root Center, a pending non-profit, is building a solar-heated aquaponic greenhouse in Vermont Park. Dubbed “Garden of the Future,” the project will house a sustainable fish pond and aquaponic vegetables. The Root Center’s mission is to provide food, water, shelter, energy and community, and the food the greenhouse produces will supply local food banks and schools.

The 45-foot domed greenhouse sits on half an acre of land leased from the National Gardening Association. Using only fish food and seedlings to start, the team will install a fish pond in the center of the self-sustaining dome. Bacteria will act as a pH regulator in the pond, and the water containing fish poo will be siphoned to the plants, providing not just water but also natural fertilizer. The fruit, vegetables and flowers grown are essentially organic, as is the fish farm, but there are no organic certification regulations for organic crops grown without soil via aquaponics.

In addition to producing organic food, the whole compound will be powered by renewable energy – passive solar technology and vertical axis windmills will produce electricity for the dome. They also plan to use waste to produce even more energy. The pond will begin construction in May, and it will also function as an educational community center run by Root Center employees WWOOF and other volunteers. It is anticipated to yield 20,000 lbs of organic produce for the needy each year.

+ The Root Center

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  1. Steve June 6, 2013 at 4:44 pm

    It’s really not the “poo” that feeds the plants it’s the ammonia that the fish excrete from their gills. The “poo” is mostly a solid that becomes a problem by mucking up the grow beds if you don’t filter it out. Yes it makes great fertilizer for the garden, but it’s not so good for the aquaponic garden or the fish. The ammonia is converted to nitrites and then to nitrates by bacteria in the system. The plants take up the nitrates as nutrients. Very little of the solid wast is actually beneficial to the aquaponic system. One also has to find a balance between the amount of nitrates produced and to number of plants that can use them or the nitrates can reach a level that is toxic to the fish. At the other end of the spectrum, you have to have enough fish to produce enough ammonia that can produce enough nitrites to produce enough nitrates to feed your plants or they will not do well. Aquaponic systems are not a closed loop and therefore not self-sustaining. They also require a power source to pump the water. If it’s going to operate in hot or cold environments, then energy will need to be applied for heating and cooling the water/grow beds. I am an aquaponic gardener and I can tell you from experience that if you monitor the system carefully, it will produce fish and vegetables. If you don’t carefully monitor the system, you will have a lot of dead fish and plants.

  2. anaerobic April 22, 2011 at 11:37 pm

    Buy a 50 ft. roll of turkey wire 4 ft. high with 2″ x 4″ spacing. Cut it in three 15 ft. lengths with 2″ extra wire sticking out at one end to hook onto the other end. Bring the ends together to form a large cage about 4 ft. in diameter. Use the 2″ piece to hook the ends together from top to bottom. Now weave vertical blind slats in the fence wire horizontally all the way around from top to bottom to make a large basket. This 50 ft. roll will make you three baskets. Be sure you locate each basket on level ground. Fill each basket with leaves,any kind except pine needles, and keep adding leaves for at least 2 weeks as they settle. This is very, very important because the leaves will pack down like a sponge. At the end of 2 weeks put at least 6 inches of planting soil on top covering the entire surface over the leaves. You must plant now because the weight of the soil will press the leaves down further and it will be hard to plant reaching over the fence wire after it settles. It will continue to settle for about 2 to 6 weeks depending on the type of leaves and the amount of rain. It should stop settling at about a 3 ft. height or waist height, ideal for those using wheelchairs. After the soil has settled to this point cut the top 10 inches of the fence wire off leaving 2 inch pieces sticking up all the way around, about 90 pieces. Bend these down inside to avoid being cut by the sharp ends. Save the part you cut off for use later. In 2 to 3 years it will have settled to about 2 ft. or less. This is slow composting also known as anaerobic digestion. In the end you end up with good humus. When you are ready to start over just lift the wire cage off leaving a large cake of humus, set the cage in a new location, put the 10 inch piece back on top, fill it with leaves, keep adding leaves for 2 weeks, add 6 inches of soil and you’ve started all over again. Plant.

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