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How To Get Started In Aquaculture
Northern Indiana ice and snow didn’t stop Lucy and Kenneth Hochstedler from picking fresh produce this winter. Their aquaculture greenhouse gave them fresh strawberries, greens and even tomatoes all winter long. While they haven’t harvested any fish yet, that day will come soon, says Lucy.
  “Our children still think they are pets, but eventually I hope to raise them for food,” says Lucy. “We’re on a learning curve. First we want to learn to produce plants, and then we’ll add the fish production.”
  The Hochstedlers had previously put up a greenhouse to extend the growing season. To get into aquaculture they had to build a second greenhouse inside the first one.
  “When it’s 10 degrees outside it’s 80 degrees inside the inner greenhouse during the day,” says Lucy. “We installed 50-gal. black plastic barrels partially filled with water to store heat for nighttime hours.”
  Knowing this wouldn’t be sufficient for the dead of winter, the Hochstedlers designed a hot water base for their future grow bed.
  “We laid down a cattle panel and attached PEX water lines to it with zip ties, using brass elbows for tight curves,” says Lucy. “This was covered with packing gravel after making sure any sharp points were pointed downward.”
  The Hochstedlers purchased a 4 by 16-ft. grow bed kit from Gills and Greens Aquaponics (www.gillsandgreens.net; ph 574 202-7579). It came with molded panel sides, a polypropylene liner, a small pump, a bubbler and polystyrene rafts for plants. The rafts hold coir pucks where the Hochstedlers plant their seeds. Over time, the plant roots descend through the coir to pull nutrients out, cleaning the water.
  “I like the ease of the system versus planting in a rock-based system,” says Lucy. “When I harvest greens, I just pull them out of the water. With rocks, I would have to dig through to get every root.”
  Before planting could commence, a fish tank was installed. It was set up so nutrient-rich water would gravity flow into the grow bed. Water cleaned by the plant roots would be pumped back into the fish tank.
  “For the price we paid for the system, we could have bought all the vegetables we needed, but Lord willing, this will provide our family with food and perhaps an income for many years to come,” says Lucy.
  Costs include $2,969 for the grow bed kit and heaters. An LP hot water heater and RV pump circulate hot water through the PEX. A 12-volt thermostat with a probe set in the grow bed water controls the pump. Grow bed water is kept at 70 degrees. If the air temperature falls below 40 degrees, a wall-mounted LP heater kicks in.
  “It is amazing that the air temperature can drop to 39 degrees over night, but the tomatoes keep producing because their feet are warm,” says Lucy.
  While Lucy is the lead person on the aquaculture greenhouse, Kenneth is a big supporter. He says the produce tastes as good or better than summer garden vegetables.
  “My favorites are the cherry tomatoes,” he says. “They taste even sweeter than those in the summer.”
  Lucy admits that strawberries are her favorites. “Who else gets to eat their own ripe strawberries all winter,” says Lucy.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Lucy and Kenneth Hochstedler, 11765 W. 050 N., Middlebury, Ind. 46540 (ph 574 642-1334) or Gills & Greens Aquaponics, 52649 State Road 13, Middlebury, Ind. 46540 (Paul Schlabach ph 574 202-7579 or Wayne Miller ph 574 202-7572; ggaquaponics@gmail.com; gillsandgreens.net).

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2016 - Volume #40, Issue #2