A True Small-Scale Off-Grid Empowerment System? “Hydroponics May Soon be Our Only Solution”

I long ago came to the conclusion that the path to reclaim our freedom and turning things around in this centralized, power hungry police state must involve a larger portion of the population growing our own food – decentralizing power and improving eating habits and health.

Thanks to some ingenious developments, there are now some interesting and efficient ways to make that happen.

So, this post will deal with the question of whether or not hydroponics can help.

Actually, this post deals with both hydroponics and aquaponics, as if interchangeably. Both systems have their trade offs and advantages, but can offer a personal solution to growing your own food in a small scale, off-grid model that promotes independence and can spread as quickly as other brushfires in the minds of men.

As one commenter noted: Hydroponics is growing plants without soil… letting the roots dangle in a constant spray or stream of water and nutrients.
Aquaponics is a combination of hydroponics and aquaculture, which is basically farm raising fish or other aquatic animals. The systems can be closed loop and self-sustaining to a large degree, depending upon the set-up, with lots of room for variation and adapting to one’s personal needs.

Among the major advantages are not only the possibility for faster and larger plant growth, but the ability to grow in urban areas or on contaminated lands, because the soil is not used. Further, because the water is recycled and used many times before changing, drastically less water is used in these systems that with conventional soil gardens.

These systems can be scaled from very small hobby gardens to large scale production facilities.

Here is a profile on a man named Eric Maundu, who is an urban aquaponics gardener in inner-city Oakland:

Mythgarr, a commenter on hackaday.com where this video was posted, said: “It’s a good start. This coupled with some of the solar/wind/thermal power solutions we’ve seen could provide a true small-scale off-grid solution.”

Another major advantage to this systems is that they can be integrated vertically to maximize growing space in any environment – including outdoors, indoors and in a greenhouse.

An entrepreneur named Will Allen gained notoriety for his massive aquaponics operation on 3 acres in Wisconsin, boasting that he was raising 1 million pounds of food, supported by 10,000 edible tilapia also being raised there. Vertically stacked greenhouse space was heated in the cold winter using only the heat produced from 500 yards of worm castings and compost, which in turn support the fish and plant life, and are valuable inputs to any soil system. From a Yes Magazine profile:

Since 1993, Allen has focused on developing Growing Power’s urban agriculture project, which grows vegetables and fruit in its greenhouses, raises goats, ducks, bees, turkeys, and—in an aquaponics system designed by Allen—tilapia and Great Lakes Perch—altogether, 159 varieties of food. […]

Allen designed an aquaponics system, built for just $3,000, a fraction of the $50,000 cost of a commercially-built system. In addition to tilapia, a common fish in aquaculture, Allen also grows yellow perch, a fish once a staple of the Milwaukee diet. Pollution and overfishing killed the Lake Michigan perch fishery; Growing Power will soon make this local favorite available again. The fish are raised in 10,000-gallon tanks where 10,000 fingerlings grow to market size in as little as nine months.

A similar system is run by his daughter in inner-city Chicago:

Growing Power is in what Allen calls a “food desert,” a part of the city devoid of full-service grocery stores but lined with fast-food joints, liquor stores, and convenience stores selling mostly soda and sweets. Growing Power is an oasis in that desert.

Check out his awe-inspiring set-up in this short video:

Here’s one resource to help you develop and sustain your own aquaponics system.

Aeroponics – a third way

A third, and related, system is known as aeroponics. Famously, much of the concept was developed by NASA to help grow food for astronauts:

“Aeroponics” is a type of hydroponic system where the roots are not submerged in the water, as they are with hydroponics, but rather, they are sprayed or misted continually with water filled with nutrients. This allows the roots to receive maximum aeration and water at the same time. As far as the plant roots are concerned, this is the best of both worlds.

There are countless DIY project ideas to customize an amazing aeroponics garden, as several commercially available varieties as well, some of which are fairly inexpensive.

Here’s just one: http://www.farmxchange.org/diy-aeroponics/

A few popular all-in-one easy-to-use consumer oriented options are the:

Miracle-Gro AeroGarden (with optional LED lights). This system is marketed to grow culinary herbs like basil, cilantro and thyme, but can be used to grow or start almost anything. With optional models with various bells and whistles between $100 and $200, it might be a simple way to try it out with the likelihood of good results, though the DIY approach is probably a better cost-effective option for serious food production.

We are trying one out right now, but on the advice of John at Grow Your Own Greens, using some organic plant nutrient options that target trace minerals instead of just the conventional farming standard of N-P-K.

There’s also stuff like this model:

The Tower Garden is a brand name vertical aeroponics system that retails for about $500, and could produce some rather dramatic (and beautiful results):

CityFarmer.info wrote:

The Tower Garden system can be utilized in place of hydroponics for indoor growing. Pictured here are 6,000 plants spaces in a solar powered aeroponic system in 23’ by 96’ greenhouse.

But there are also many different types of DIY vertical “tower” style aeroponic gardens producing very worthy results at a fraction of the price.

A few examples (in accessible YouTube format) include:

Half-Pint Homestead Garden Barrel Construction
BOTTLE TOWER GARDENS (Using plastic 2-liter bottles)
Building a hydroponic vertical garden
Aquaponics System – Solar Powered Vertical Tower
DIY Hydroponic Garden Tower
Sahib’s Aquaponics _Vertigro’s in Aquaponics

Feeding the Family, and Working Towards a Larger System

Tying it all together, this family converted an in-ground swimming pool to create a closed-loop system that integrates it all, including backyard livestock.

Dennis and Danielle McClung began by placing an emphasis on producing their own sustainable grow and ended up with an elaborate backyard ecosystem made out of a swimming pool.

“The Garden Pool featured a closed-loop ecosystem where tilapia, algae, and duckweed flourished alongside broccoli and sweet potatoes. McClung’s goal was to feed a family of five and within a calendar year, their Garden Pool saved the family 75 percent on their grocery bills.”

Or to Feed the World

Other proposals have been made for the larger scale.

One proposal, submitted to a design competition, sketches out a decentralized way that communities in the developing world can grow rice – notorious for its vast use of land and large water needs – aeroponically. Wow! Think about the implications of that for world hunger and self-sufficiency.

Because the water is recycled, it changes the entire game with growing rice, a staple crop that billions depend upon for basic sustenance, and would likely minimizes the risk of heavy metal contamination – now notorious with concerns about high arsenic levels in rice.

This project proposes the creation of decentralized aeroponic vertical farmlands that will be able to provide enough rice for future generations. The basic structure consists of an array of bamboo parallelograms that create stepping terraces of rice fields. It counts with a natural irrigation system where gradually flows down with gravity through a network of irrigation paths.

Grow However You Can, Just Grow For Freedom and Self-Sufficiency

So: Hydroponics. Aquaponics. Aeroponics. Raised bed soil gardens. Container gardens. Traditional row gardens. Whatever…

The point is, there are now systems available to the average person that have been created out of pooled knowledge and experience that could literally change the world.

The grocery stores are filled with dangerous ingredients and produce grown with pesticides that are (or could be) risky to your health. The power of Big Agra lobbyists has made the federal government a tool of centralized food production that cares little to nothing about the health of the general population, and has instead, again and again marketed and produced junk food, taken control over small farms to maximize profits and denigrated the environment in doing so.

That all needs to change, and can, if we take back some of the food production power into our own hands – through conscientious local sourcing and backyard homestead gardening.

The change can be whatever you want it to be, just be the change that you want to see in the world.

Hopefully these ideas will give you something to work with, as we all figure out what can be done with the space, time and effort we have to create high-quality living foods and improve self-sufficiency that can regrow some independence in this world. There are many, many more great ideas out there.

One source for learning and generating ideas worth pointing out is Learn Organic Gardening at GrowingYourGreens, an excellent, prolific and popular You Tube channel with a treasure trove of info.

Could Hydroponics Save the World?

CX Hydroponics put out an infographic warning that with the current trend of mega-agriculture, “hydroponics may soon be our only solution.”Hydroponic gardening offers several benefits to our environment. Hydroponic gardening uses considerably less water than soil gardening because of the constant reuse of nutrient solutions. Due to lack of necessity, fewer pesticides are used on hydroponic crops [Editor’s note: no pesticides at all is also possible]. Since hydroponic gardening systems use no topsoil, topsoil erosion isn’t even an issue. If agricultural trends continue to erode topsoil and water water, hydroponics may soon be our only solution.

Source: CX Hydroponics.net

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