Catching Our Breaths – But, Not for Long!
By Adam Cohen
We are catching our breaths here at Green Phoenix Farms – and enjoying the days we have had to attend to office affairs and “housekeeping details” of the business. But, we know it won’t last for long!
Our Major East Texas Project is Complete
The major design/installation of a nearly 11,000 square foot, Aquaponic greenhouse system for a private customer in East Texas is now complete. This system is composed of 3,000 gallons for fish, held in 12 individual tanks of 500 gallons each. These tanks feed into 20 media-beds each 4’x8’. From here the water flows into 4 DWC/Raft Troughs at 4’ x 80’. Each of these troughs will hold 1,440 plants alone. In addition to all of these growing areas, there are also 400 square feet of aquaponic Wicking Beds and 24 Vertical Planting Towers with 28 plant sites each. All in all, the volume of food that can be produced is staggering.
Begun in February, the project was conveyed to the owner in September, following a brief testing, filling and stocking procedure. The owner was eager to “get on with it” and we wish only the best for the continued successful operation of the multiple growing beds and the entire operation. As many of you know, a very large amount of our time and energy went into this project, so now that we have turned over operation, we admit that we are suffering a little from separation anxiety.
We have tried to provide information and photo updates along the way, but be assured that as we have the time to put up more detailed pictures, we will go deeper into the specifics of this system. As well, many of you know the frustrations encountered in dealing with Texas winds and weather; some of you also know the frustrations of dealing with multiple subcontractors and suppliers. As with any Aquaponics system, there is a learning curve to be navigated and, despite our years of experience, we still encounter some setbacks (yes, we still occasionally lose some fish, have pH readings that are out of limits and encounter nutrient deficiencies of one kind or another.) Unfortunately, that is the truth of any kind of farming enterprise.
But, as we walk away from our daily involvement with this massive project, we move on to a host of other activities that are exciting, enticing and promise to not only test our skills and expertise, but also to expand the world of Aquaponics education is a very real way here in North Texas.
Teaching the Next Generation
After returning from our attendance at the Vocational Agriculture Teachers Association of Texas (VATAT) conference in Abilene, TX in July, we have fielded inquiries from school districts and educational institutions in our area about the possibilities involved with incorporating Aquaponics as an effective teaching tool in the classroom. As you may know, I spent a few years in the classroom myself (actually 12!), and one of my main personal goals is to introduce Aquaponics in as many school situations as possible. So, this is an exciting direction for our company.
Earlier this month, David and I delivered a system to San Marcos High School in San Marcos, TX. We built this system at the shop in Mansfield, trucked it to its new home, met the classroom “instigator” and many of the students and had it up and ready to go – all in a day’s work! We’ll be getting regular reports and we’ll be sure to share them with you.
Just last week, we delivered half of three (3) Aquaponic systems to Mountain View College (part of the Dallas County Community College District) in Dallas. The largest of these is a custom designed system that has a 500 gallon Fish Tank, 3 Media-Beds each 3’ x 8’, a 3’ x 4’ Wicking Bed, a 4’ x 26’ DWC/Raft Trough, 6 Vertical Towers, and even a small Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) system.
The other two systems are small demonstration systems that will show the students and community the types of things that can be grown in simple home systems. These smaller systems are a One-Bed IBC Tote System and a Three-Bed IBC Tote System – both designed to make it easy for anyone to build their own in their backyard.
We will finish that installation this coming week, getting the students and faculty ready to grow food in the existing, refurbished greenhouse that already on the school’s property.
Next week, we will be working with our friend Gay Bingham at Seagoville High School (DISD) to expand the growing Aquaponic program that he has there. We will work with her students to install a hybrid Aquaponic system that will have a 300 gallon fish tank, a 4’ x 8’ Media Bed, a 4’ x 16’ DWC/Raft Trough and a 2’ x 16’ Wicking Bed. This system will be installed in the newest of three greenhouses that Ms. Bingham has for her program.
Also on the agenda over the next few weeks are systems for several other school districts in our local area. We’ll be publishing regular updates on the progress of those installations. The exciting thing is that they are all different – and each one gives Green Phoenix Farms an opportunity to interact with students, teachers and administration on the importance of incorporate “growing” curriculum into the pattern of education. We couldn’t be more excited about that prospect.
Expanding our Program
While we’re “tooting our horn” just a little bit, we also want to officially announce the start-up of our Green 1000 demonstration system at our Mansfield facility. We have fish; we have plants; we have a “hoop-house” covering almost complete. And, we invite you to come out and see us – we’ll be happy to take you on a tour of it. The hybrid system is designed to fit in a 20’ x 50’ greenhouse or hoop house space, and can be a family system or the basic unit for a small commercial operation. We’ll be taking lots of pictures of it – so keep watch for the growing gallery.