Monday, April 25, 2011

How I got involved in high tunnel aquaponics

I'm a pretty effusive optimist, but I'm also a bit of a doomer.

Problem: My dad has Type 2 diabetes. If his supply of medication were interrupted for an extended period (due to any number of realistic possible causes), how could we keep him alive and healthy?

Solution: Without medication, radical dietary changes would be necessary. A traditional Western, highly refined, carb-based diet would kill him in short order without his meds. To use metaphor: if proteins are logs, carbs are twigs, and fats are leaves, and if the ideal state for a Type 2 diabetic is a steady, slow-burning fire, then logs are the way to go. This means that his diet would need to be primarily protein. I've seen this referred to as the "face" diet, as in, "For Type 2 diabetics in scenarios without meds, if it doesn't have a face, don't eat it." Of course, the staple of meat would be supplemented by fresh fruits and vegetables (as much as his body deemed tolerable), but it would be wise to have the capacity to supply a pure meat diet for him if absolutely necessary for an extended period of time.

Problem: But if the supply of meds is interrupted for an extended period, then the supply of protein would almost certainly be interrupted as well. I don't live on a site with adequate room for growing livestock, and my dad doesn't want chickens, so how can I guarantee that he has access to an adequate supply of protein?

Solution: How about fish farming? This allows for the production of huge amounts of high quality protein in a limited space.

Problem: But growing fish in high densities requires massive water filtration; otherwise they'll quickly get sick and die. So how do I keep the water safely clean?

Solution: The toxicity of the water is caused by the accumulation of things that can be used to grow plants. Therefore, if I add sufficient plants to the system, they'll uptake the excess nutrients and clean the water for the fish. (When I got online and began researching the concept of combining fish and plants in a symbiotic growing system, I learned that this method of growing is called aquaponics.)

Problem: How do I keep an aquaponics food production system going year round?

Solution: Enclose the aquaponics system in a greenhouse environment.

Problem: How do I do that effectively and economically?

Solution: Use a modified high tunnel as a passive solar greenhouse.

So that's what I'm doing.