Biomimics Nature With Self Watering and Self Fertilizing Planter
Tom Duncan (CEO of Ecoplan) Explains The Concept of “No Waste”
New York, NY – Ecoplan, a company that is behind the world’s largest successful aquaponics project that utilizes Aqua Biofilter™ technology, announces a new product release that biomimics nature to deliver a self cleaning aquarium ecosystem that grows food and plants, the Aquarium Garden.
Living in an apartment is no longer a barrier to growing food plants at home, the Aquarium Garden grows herbs and greens year round, by upcycling fish nutrients to grow plants. Kids love interacting with a pet fish, adults love harvesting some fresh basil, mint or lettuce and garnishing a dish with some tasty herbs.
Aqua Biofilter technology is designed to remove nutrients that fuel algal blooms. Plants take up nutrients, but it is the biofilm on the roots that capture nutrients and accelerate de-nitrification, a natural process. Ecoplan has miniaturized its Aqua Biofilter ™ technology and developed the world’s smallest functional aquaponics system. “Improving upon the Aqua Biofilter™ technology, we are happy to announce, the new Aquarium Garden will be released in 2015 with an Indiegogo campaign,” said Tom Duncan, CEO of Ecoplan. “Creating a wetland biofiltration ecosystem in a fish tank introduces the science behind Aqua Biofilter ™ into homes, classrooms and offices. By spreading awareness on how ecosystems upcycle natural nutrients to grow plants, Aquarium Garden demonstrates the principle that in nature there is no concept of waste.”
The groundbreaking technology behind Aqua Biofilter ™, is part of a new wave of products that rely upon biomimicry to restore nature’s balance with environmentally sustainable processes.
Image: Floating wetlands project, writing ‘Respect Water’ in Chinese characters, China (Copyright Tom Duncan)
Tom decided to take his experience from the large scale aquaponics system in Lake Taihu and other projects in Australia and Malaysia, and miniaturise the technology down into a tabletop system. The concept was to try and provide a kit that anyone can assemble, and would be educational for school kids to learn about biomimicry, nutrient cycles and how ecosystems evolve in co-dependency, whilst for people living in apartments in can provide a small amount of herbs and greens, whilst bringing back a nature connection inside city living apartments. As Tom was working around the world developing floating wetlands projects, living in cities, dealing with city traffic and pollution, having a garden at home was a necessary item. He decided to take his Aqua Biofilter experience with aquaponic floating wetlands and scale it down into an Aquarium Garden kit that could grow some herbs and greens. Species that handle wet feet include mint, Vietnamese mint, basil, lettuce and variety of other species that grow well in hydroponics systems.
Aquarium Garden (Copyright Tom Duncan).
The Aquarium Garden kit is not trying to be a veggie garden replacement, but living in small apartments in cities, people need a small garden that can grow some plants, and engage with biology in what otherwise is a dense urban polluted environment. The kit will include an option for a low energy LED grow light. A crowdfunding campaign will be happening in March – if you would like to pre-order a system for home, school or office, you can subscribe to the Ecoplan newsletter at www.HomeEcology.net and you will be notified when the crowdfunding campaign goes live and accepts pre-orders (at a nice discount we have been told).
Having a pet fish in the city can raise one’s spirit, and is a real alternative to cat or dog ownership which requires sufficient open space to exercise dogs, and also the required importation of meat to feed the animal. Siamese Fighting Fish also known as Betta fish are well suited to a worm farm system if the worm is prepared appropriately as food. Closing the loop in aquaponics enhances the overall environmental sustainability of the system. Tom decided to incorporate a moon gate façade that acts as a fish hide, in a design homage to the Feng-Shui approach that mimics the moon form, into the garden, to bring that awareness and presence into the living space, acknowledging that the moon influences the tides and water movements on earth. Adding a small pump to recirculate water and waste also adds a dynamic element to the fish tank, boosting plant growth aquaponically and giving the fish a dynamic environment to swim within and be happy.
On top of the grow tray are 6 plants which filters the fish waste water. Careful consideration was given to how to best design the plant grow pots to make use of limited space with either 8 or 6 plants fitting comfortably within ½ a square foot using the permaculture keyhole pattern. Designing the system to allow the fish to express it’s ‘fish-ness’, or the fish to express it’s inherent character and habits, is essential when designing a home for an animal and is a key part of the holistic management approach and biomimicry that people like Joel Salatin at Polyface Farm have demonstrated so effectively. Fish are no different, and require the fundamentals that they access in nature. The grow tray was designed to have some plants growing directly down into the tank to provide habitat for the fish, whom enjoys sleeping in the plant root zone. The plants are constantly being provided water and fertilizer, so no more dead plants!
Floating aquatic plant roots are important to many fish in their wild habitat. The fish tank is no different, as the root biofilm made up of complex bacteria and aglal bio-associate species slough off and nourish the skin of the fish as it rubs against the roots, swimming and darting through the rhizosphere. The bacterial and algal root biofilm improves the skin condition of the Betta fish (and many other fish such as goldfish for that matter), preventing skin disease and gives the fish a brighter colour and relaxed demeanor. If more fish tanks incorporated aquaponics on top, fish would be happier and have improved vigor and health. In nature, fish regularly come into contact with the roots floating in the water, as the floating aquatic plants provide habitat and safety for fish to sleep within and feel safe. In the same way Joel Salatin provides pig homes in the forest at Polyface farm, with plenty of places for pigs to rub their backs against, and snout around in the soil, many fish species need plant roots to swim up against, sleep within and gain health improving beneficial microrganisms and algal bio-associates from.
The gut ecology and biome in humans, has a similar role to fish skin around the gills, because fish rely on gill absorption for fundamental sustenance. Betta fish are in some ways unique, in that they have evolved in South East Asia, in what many describe as small shallow ditches near rice paddies, and have evolved to be able to breath the air directly via gulping, instead of via gills, so are uniquely adapted to live in diverse human habitats, if appropriate care and habitat is provided. Betta fish are solitary, territorial and aggressive fish and prefer to live along. Ideally one would own two units, one with a male, and the second with a female to allow mating for 4 weeks of the year. It is recommended to use a small pump in the aquaponics system – a 2 watt pump will be supplied with each Aquarium Garden unit.
Tom hopes the crowdfunding campaign will bring aquaponics fans to his project and get it up off the ground. People can follow the crowdfunding campaign and get a discount pre-order by subscribing to our newsletter at www.HomeEcology.net
Images: Aquaponics floating wetlands project, Lake Taihu (Copyright Tom Duncan)
Please contact Tom at Aqua Biofilter or Ecoplan for information, and for further information on small scale systems, visit Aquarium Garden. Pre-order release dates will be notified by our newsletter, sign up here: http://www.ecoplan.net.au/aquaponics-kitchen-garden/
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