TOL Aquaponics Greenhouse Ready for Production

When we built our backyard Aquaponic system we looked for a partner who would give the food we grew to people in need and share the story of Jesus Christ. We found Tree of Life Ministries (TOL) in Purcellville, VA which operates a Food Pantry and shares our goal of telling people about Jesus.

About a year later we felt the Holy Spirit leading us to build an Aquaponic System for TOL thus allowing them to grow fresh organic produce year round. The Edwards family agreed to provide the land for the system and to operate it giving half of all the produce to the TOL Food Pantry. Of course, this means that half will be available for purchase to help them cover operating expenses.

This food factory production line has two Deep Water Culture (DWC) beds providing 96 square feet of raft space that will hold 576 plants. Each week 72 seeds will be sown and 72 plants harvested, year round. That’s about 30 pounds of fresh lettuce each week grown about a mile from the Food Pantry. The media bed is filled with expanded clay (Hydroton) and provides 18 square feet of grow space and biofiltration to convert the solid fish waste into nitrogen and minerals to feed the plants. The media will be home to cut and come again plants like kale, peppers, and basil.

The fish (Tilapia) live in a 275 gallon food grade IBC Tote. The water is constantly aerated by two large air stones connected to an air pump. Near the top of the fish tank is an overflow pipe that empties into a 20 gallon radial flow filter. The water takes about 5 minutes to flow through the filter allowing solid fish waste to settle to the bottom before the clarified water overflows into the Media Bed.

The Media Bed sits on top of a sump trough. When the water level reaches about 8 inches deep in the media bed then a bell siphon is activated and the water is drained into the sump trough below. The sump contains a 700 gallon per hour water pump that pushes water to both the fish tank and the large DWC trough with the flow rate to each controlled by a separate valve. The large DWC trough is connected to the smaller DWC trough by a 1 1/2″ PVC pipe. Which in turn is connected back into the sump trough. Thus completing the closed circuit water flow.

Thanks go to several people who have helped get this built. Thanks to Brian McMullen from Tree of Life Ministries for embracing the idea and finding the location for the greenhouse. Thanks to Blake and Rebecca Edwards for volunteering their land, time, and money to operate this system. Thanks to my helpers, Kristi, Dan Remington, Lloyd Robinson, Michael Bianco, Kevin McQuade, and Chuck Glausier for their help in hauling and building. And of course, thanks to God for His Son Jesus Christ, and for showing us a way to grow fresh, sustainable, local produce for people in need!

Rebecca, Blake, and Colin

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