Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Microcontrollers, Aquaponics and Humboldt

I know very little about aquaponics at the moment, but I have a feeling that may change over the next year or so...

Someone I met today is interested in microcontrollers and aquaponics (a mashup of aquaculture and hydroponics). I think he mentioned that he's planning to build an aquaponics system soon. And I'm pretty sure a member of the Humboldt Microcontrollers Group previously told me they're very interested in working with someone to build an aquaponics system. In addition to those two people being interested in working on a 'fish & plants' system, the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation & Conservation District is involved with this topic, as illustrated by a video clip from Fall 2013. The news blurb reports that,
"...On Sunday the greenhouse received 75 white Sturgeon fish about six inches in size. The idea behind the greenhouse is to farm fish and plants in a mutually beneficial cycle by using the fish waste to convert to plant food. Project coordinator Erika Blackwell...said she wants Humboldt county to grow into an aquaculture industry. “The fish being in the system means we can start planting our vegetable starts and get our produce to market. There is this huge opportunity to provide locally raised sustainable raised fish. The climate is perfect for aquaculture..."
So tonight I did a brief online search for microcontrollers and aquaponics and found a few online resources for people interested in this topic. A few of the resources are linked below. There are lots more for those interested in this subject.

I'll have to ask John (the gentleman I met today) and Nick (a member of the Humboldt Microcontrollers Group) if either of them saw Rik Kretzinger's aquaponics display at this year's Maker Faire in San Mateo. Rik is from the Bay area and has been doing aquaponics for a number of years. His 2014 Maker Faire display topic was 'Internet of Farming: Arduino-Based Aquaponics.' Rik authors the Aquaponic DIY Automation blog. Maybe in the coming months we can talk Rik into making a visit up to Humboldt county to talk about his experiences with fish, plants and MCUs. And we can ask Erika Blackwell if we can do a tour of her Samoa system, and maybe see if there are opportunities for collaboration -- perhaps the Humboldt Microcontrollers Group can help her set up some low-cost controls systems if there are experiments she'd like to try but for which she doesn't have the budget to do a full-scale commercial installation.

A couple other 'MCU / fish / plants' projects to be found on the web include a Make: Project called "Aquaponics -- Online Temperature and Humidity" and an Instructables project called "Arduino Aquaponics: JSON Pump Controller." Rik or John might know of better online forums for this topic, but the Backyard Aquaponics forum seemed to have a fairly active community based on my brief visit to the site.

Lastly, it seems almost too good to be true, and I didn't take time to investigate it fully yet, but there might be seed money available to help get a new aquaponics project started in Humboldt Country. The Aquaponics Association has a micro grant program where members of the association can apply for grants of up to $1000 "to increase public awareness, understanding, and knowledge of aquaponics as an educational tool, a hobby, or a business in providing a source of fresh, local, healthy food." That's an opportunity we'll have to look into more closely...

I know a lot more about aquaponics now than I did when I woke up this morning!


1 comment:

  1. Nice post, Bob! Yes, I did visit Rik's booth at the Maker Faire. He's doing some great stuff for backyard aquaponics. I discovered that he lives in Pleasanton (East Bay) and has a following of energetic youngsters helping him spread the word. Very inspiring! That vertical PVC contraption photo you are showing was growing strawberry plants. There's a really nice video of Rik's systems here by Kirsten Dirksen (who does some great documentary videos):