Aquaponics Farming of the Future | UNC-TV Science


>>IF THE WHIRRING SOUNDS OF THE
WIND TURBINE OR THE ARRAY OF SOLAR PANELS DON’T SEND A
MESSAGE THAT LUCKY CLAYS FARM IS A DIFFERENT TYPE OF FARM, THEN
ONCE IN THIS GREENHOUSE DEFINITELY WILL. IN FACT, THE FUTURE OF FARMING
IN A WORLD WHERE WATER IS SCARCE MIGHT JUST BE INSIDE THIS
BUILDING TUCKED INTO THE HILLS AROUND NORWOOD. WATER IS STILL REQUIRED FOR THIS
FARMING OPERATION, BUT WHAT’S HAPPENING HERE NEEDS ONLY ABOUT
1/10 OF THE WATER THAT IS USED TO GROW VEGETABLES IN THE
GROUND. THAT’S BECAUSE THIS FARM IS A
CLOSED SYSTEM THAT RECYCLES 99.5% OF ITS WATER.>>THIS WOULD BE AQUAPONICS. AND WHAT WE’RE DOING IS WE’RE
INCORPORATING, UM, HYDROPONICS WITH AQUACULTURE. SO WE’RE USING THE WATER THAT’S
RECIRCULATING THROUGH THE FISH SYSTEM TO PROPAGATE AND TO GROW
PLANTS WITH.>>AQUAPONICS IS A FARMING
SYSTEM IN WHICH EVERYTHING IS LINKED TOGETHER IN A MANMADE
WATER CYCLE. WATER IS CLEANED AND RECYCLED
AND USED AGAIN AND AGAIN TO RAISE FISH AND GROW PLANTS. THIS IS GONNA SOUND SILLY,
BUT THIS IS ALL — THESE ARE ALL FLOATING.>>YES, SIR. YEP.>>OKAY.>>THEY’RE, UM — TELL YOU WHAT. THIS WOULD BE A GOOD ONE. SO THIS FLOATS IN NOTHING BUT
WATER. YOU CAN SEE THE YOUNG ROOTS
FALLING DOWN THROUGH THERE. WE HAVE AIR STONES EVERY FOUR
FOOT. EVERY 16 SQUARE FOOT WE HAVE AN
AIR STONE THAT PROVIDES FRESH OXYGEN FOR THE ROOTS. THIS IS SOMETHING THAT NORMALLY
IN TERRESTRIAL FARMING YOU DON’T GET AS MUCH AMBIENT OXYGEN IN
THE SOIL AS YOU WOULD AT OUR FACILITY HERE.>>AND JUST TO MAKE SURE,
THIS IS THE WATER THAT THE FISH WERE IN THAT HAS BEEN CLEANED
AND EVERYTHING ELSE, AND NOW IT’S FLOATING HERE.>>THAT’S RIGHT. YES, SIR.>>OKAY. YOU MIGHT BE READY TO SAY YUCK. BRADLEY TODD, WHO DESIGNED AND
BUILT THE SYSTEM, WOULDN’T BE SURPRISED.>>WE HEAR THAT A LOT. AND THERE’S MERITS TO BOTH SIDES
OF IT. WHAT WE DO IS WE COLLECT ALL
SOLIDS, ALL UNEATEN FOOD, ANY KIND OF WASTE IN THE SYSTEM,
SO NO SOLID WASTE AT ALL EVER MAKES IT TO ANY OF OUR PLANTS. WHAT THAT ALLOWS US TO DO IS TO
TAKE THAT SOLID WASTE AND TO MINERALIZE IT. AND THAT EXTRACTS ALL THE
NUTRIENTS, ANY KIND OF MACRO, MICRONUTRIENTS THAT THE PLANTS
NEED.>>BUT THE FOLKS AT LUCKY CLAYS
BELIEVE THEIR SYSTEM WILL ALSO MAKE PEOPLE SAY HMM.>>YOU KNOW, ONE OF THE OTHER
THINGS IS, AS THE POPULATION GROWS AND REAL ESTATE SHRINKS
AND THE FISH STOCKS IN THE OCEANS GET DEPLETED THROUGH
OVERFISHING OR DISEASE, WE’RE GOING TO HAVE TO FIND
NEWER WAYS TO FEED THE POPULATION. AND ONE WAY OF DOING IT IS A
SYSTEM LIKE THIS TO WHERE YOU CAN DO IT IN, UM, INNER CITY IN
A BUILDING, RENOVATE IT, SET IT UP THAT WAY, OR YOU CAN DO IT
OUTSIDE, YOU KNOW, OUT IN THE RURAL AREAS LIKE WE’RE DOING.>>THERE ARE REALLY TWO DRIVERS
TO THIS SYSTEM. THE FIRST IS NATURAL —
GRAVITY. THAT’S WHAT BRINGS THE WATER
FROM THE FISH TANKS DOWN TO THE VEGETABLES. THE SECOND DRIVER, PERHAPS EVEN
MORE IMPORTANT, ARE THE FISH THEMSELVES, BECAUSE IT’S THE
UNEATEN FISH FOOD AND THE FISH WASTE THAT FERTILIZES THE
VEGETABLES. SO HERE’S HOW IT WORKS. THE TILAPIA LIVE THE FIRST FEW
MONTHS OF THEIR LIFE IN ANOTHER BUILDING BEFORE BEING BROUGHT TO
THE MAIN FARMING FACILITY. AND THAT IS A WHAT?>>THIS IS A MALE TILAPIA.>>THE FISH ARE FED SEVERAL
TIMES A DAY. IT TAKES ABOUT ONE YEAR TO RAISE
TILAPIA TO THE ROUGHLY 2 POUNDS THAT RESTAURANTS ARE ASKING FOR. THE WATER IS CONSTANTLY
CIRCULATING, WHICH ALLOWS THE FISH TO SWIM AND THE SYSTEM TO
KEEP THE WATER MOVING.>>OUR FILTRATION SYSTEM USES
GRAVITY. THE SPECIFIC GRAVITY OF FISH
WASTE AND UNEATEN FOOD IS SLIGHTLY MORE THAN WATER. SO THAT CAUSES ANY KIND OF WASTE
TO SETTLE ON THE BOTTOM. SO CLEAN WATER COMES THROUGH
INTO OUR BIO-FILTER. OUR BIO-FILTER IS COMPOSED OF A
BIO-MEDIA. IN THIS CASE, KALDNES K1 MEDIA. AND IT’S KIND OF LIKE LITTLE
PIECES OF PASTA NOODLE. AND WHAT THIS IS IS, IT HAS AN
EXTREME AMOUNT OF SURFACE AREA FOR ITS SIZE.>>THE SOLID WASTE FROM THE
FISH, AS WELL AS LEFTOVER FISH FOOD, IS REMOVED. ALL THE WHILE, TWO TYPES OF
BACTERIA ARE ALLOWED TO GROW ON THE FILTERS. ONE TYPE CONVERTS THE AMMONIA
THAT IS LEFT IN THE WATER FROM THE FISH WASTE INTO NITRITES. THE OTHER BACTERIUM TURNS THE
NITRITES INTO NITRATES, WHICH IS GREAT FERTILIZER FOR PLANTS. IN SHORT, THE FARM UTILIZES ONE
OF THE BASICS OF CHEMISTRY, THE NITROGEN CYCLE, TO CLEAN THE
WATER AND GROW VEGETABLES.>>AFTER THE CHEMISTRY’S DONE,
WHAT IT — WHAT IT TURNS INTO IS ALL THE NUTRIENTS THAT’S IN THAT
FISH FEED THAT THE FISH USE WASTE OUT. THAT BECOMES THE INPUT FOR THE
PLANT GROWTH. SO THAT’S WHAT PROVIDES THE
NUTRIENTS FOR THESE PLANTS TO GROW.>>THE WATER KEEPS MOVING
THROUGH FILTRATION BEDS OF ROCK, WHICH FURTHER CLEANS THE WATER
AND REMOVES ANY REMAINING SOLIDS. THE WATER IS THEN USED TO SOAK A
GROWTH MEDIUM IN WHICH SEEDS ARE PLANTED.>>SO THEY’LL STAY ON THE SEED
TABLE FOR APPROXIMATELY TWO WEEKS. THESE WILL BE MOVED NEXT MONDAY
TO THE SYSTEM. FROM THERE THEY GET TRANSFERRED
OVER TO HERE.>>AND NOW WE’RE BACK TO WATER
AGAIN.>>BACK TO WATER AGAIN.>>OKAY.>>YES, SIR.>>WHAT IS THIS?>>SO THIS IS A — THIS IS OUR
TIGHTER SPACING. SO THE NEXT STEP AFTER THE SEEDS
HAVE GERMINATED IS WE PUT THEM OVER HERE ON OUR 4-INCH SPACING,
AND THEY’LL SPEND ABOUT TWO WEEKS OVER HERE GETTING A LITTLE
BIGGER, A LITTLE STRONGER, BEFORE WE PUT THEM OUT TO THE
LARGER SPACING. IN THERE THEY’LL STAY TILL THEY
CONTINUE TO THE END AND ARE HARVESTED FOR RESTAURANTS.>>THE WATER IS THEN FILTERED
NATURALLY AS IT FLOWS ALONG THE ROWS OF PLANTS LARGE AND SMALL. IT IS THEN RETURNED TO THE FISH
TANKS. THE FARM PRODUCES SEVERAL TYPES
OF LETTUCE ALONG WITH CILANTRO, BASIL, AND PARSLEY. THE PLANTS MOVE THROUGH THE
WATER SYSTEM FROM TOP TO BOTTOM IN ABOUT SIX WEEKS. THAT’S LESS TIME THAN IT TAKES
FOR SIMILAR PLANTS TO GROW IN SOIL.>>DEFINITELY, WE TAKE WATER
QUALITY SAMPLES EVERY WEEK. WE MONITOR OUR OXYGEN LEVELS IN
OUR FISH TANK AS WELL AS IN OUR PLANT BEDS. ANY KIND OF TRADITIONAL FARMING,
YOU WOULD SPRAY CHEMICALS. YOU WOULD DO STUFF TO EITHER,
YOU KNOW, PREVENT WEEDS FROM GROWING OR ADD NUTRIENTS THROUGH
FOLIAR OR SOIL APPLICATION. ANYTHING YOU DO TO THE PLANT’S
GONNA AFFECT THE FISH AND VICE VERSA. SO, YOU KNOW, WE DON’T USE ANY
KIND OF HORMONES FOR THE FISH, ANY KIND OF ANTIBIOTICS. WE USE NO TYPES OF PESTICIDES. ALL ORGANIC CERTIFIED METHODS OF
TREATING PESTS.>>BUT IT ALL APPEARS TO BE
WORKING. LUCKY CLAYS’ EXPERIMENT WITH
AQUAPONICS IS SO SUCCESSFUL, IT IS BUILDING A LARGER FACILITY
WHICH WILL PRODUCE 20 TONS OF FISH, FOUR TONS OF SHRIMP,
AND 320,000 UNITS OF PRODUCE PER YEAR. ALL OF IT IS DESTINED FOR
RESTAURANTS. THE CUSTOMER BASE IS GROWING.>>WE SEE THIS AS NOT ONLY,
YOU KNOW, AN ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY FOR YOUNG
ENTREPRENEURS IN AGRICULTURE, BUT AS A SOLUTION TO A LOT OF
ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS THAT’S GOING ON IN THE WORLD. WE KEEP CLEAN WATER, PURE WATER. WE RECYCLE OUR WATER. WE CAN USE A LOT LESS LAND TO
GROW MORE PLANTS.

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