New Location, Permaculture, Dry Times, Lectures, and In the News

Future home of
Santa Barbara Aquaponics!

  Nestled among the avocado orchards of the Santa Barbara foothills, lies the future home of Santa Barbara Aquaponics. Using an existing gravel parking area, we are designing an aquaponics center which will allow us to test cutting edge sustainable agriculture techniques for both backyard systems and a small commercial demonstration facility. Kevin and Randy are thrilled to be taking this to the next level. This summer, we’ll be fencing off the area and begin installing aquaponics systems and a hoop greenhouse. If you want in on the fun, either stay tuned for announcements of work parties and workshops or email us now to get involved!  

Blending Aquaponics within a Permaculture backyard

While aquaponics can be a standalone method of gardening, its best value may be as part of a larger permaculture garden. Water from an aquaponics system can be an amazing nutrient source for your plants in the ground. When planning your aquaponics system within your garden, try to put it near the high point in the yard that is still close enough to electricity and a hose connection. This will allow you to easily drain some of the aquaponics water from the system downhill to your soil gardens to give your plants an occasional nutrient boost from the fish waste. When you’re done, just top off your aquaponics system with dechlorinated water from the hose. Be sure to leave some nutrients for your aquaponics plants though. A good rule of thumb is never drain more than 1/3 of the water at once so you don’t change the water chemistry or temperature too much. For those who have too many fish relative to the amount of grow space they have for veggies, this is a good way to help improve water quality for the fish and improve the productivity of your yard. We will discuss other specific permaculture techniques you can do with your aquaponics system in the next newsletter.

Guest lecture at SB City College

Kevin and Randy continue to reach out to the Santa Barbara community to share our love and knowledge about aquaponics. In May, we spoke at Gerri French’s Environment and Nutrition class to discuss the environmental benefits of aquaponics and how this is a great way to grow healthy produce for you and your family. We are happy to share what we know about aquaponics and if you want us to speak to your group, email us so we can get involved. 


Aquaponics style filtration for polluted Sri Lankan lake 

Aquaponics improving Water Quality: Using aquaponics rafts to grow local Canna plants, a group of researchers in Sri Lanka is trying to reduce pollution from urbanization. These floating wetlands serve to purify the water, and the results so far are positive. Using aquaponics for your vegetable garden is only one approach because as this project shows, the ecological function of uptaking nutrients from the water column can also improve water quality for lakes and backyard koi ponds. For water of suspect bacterial quality, you can grow flowers, wetland plants, or many other species which don’t have to be eaten to be appreciated. Regardless of your body of water, aquaponics can help.

Rain, Rain, Stayed Away…

With the rainy season over, Santa Barbara received about 66% of our normal precipitation this year. This isn’t the worst rain season ever but for those of you who realize how much water it takes to grow our food, water our lawns, and keep us happy Californian’s, it’s not good news. If you want to save water, embrace aquaponics, the water thrifty method of agriculture. To help document water savings, we will be measuring how much water we use at our new headquarters and trying to quantify how this compares to regular farming. By more efficiently using water to grow our food, we can reduce water waste and pollution and help our community be more prepared for the next drought. Sounds like a recipe for the future.

Ted lecture on sustainable fish

How I Fell in Love with a Fish

Of the large fish fisheries, the fish we love to eat, 90% have collapsed. Dan Barber’s lecture points out the value of thinking differently about fish and how one fish farm is taking ecosystems into account. When we consider ecological factors such as the value of wetlands in producing quality fish and benefits to wildlife, we can appreciate the value of aquaponics as a miniature sustainable ecosystem. Plants in an aquaponics system are virtual wetlands, removing nutrients and purifying the water, while the diversity on microorganisms that can be cultured within a properly designed system will help ensure a thriving food web to support healthy and delicious fish while reducing costly inputs and polluting outputs. Aquaponics can truly give us hope of a small scale model for local sustainable fisheries, whether you are near the ocean or not. 

Mercury Rising

Southern California to heat up 4-5 degrees by mid-century
What does this mean to us here in Santa Barbara? Well, obviously the weather will be downright unbearable during heat waves. But this also doesn’t bode well for agriculture for the reason that plants need more water when the temperature gets higher. By turning to more sustainable farming alternatives such as aquaponics, which when compared to traditional agriculture is less affected by water loss from evaporation and has a smaller carbon footprint, aquaponics can be both a mitigation and adaptation strategy to climate change!!!  Aquaponics is a method of growing food which uses less resources today, helping reduce our own carbon and water footprint. The best part is aquaponics techniques continue to quickly evolve as we find more efficient methods, find better materials, and better understand the aquaponics ecosystem. We won't rest as we try to make it even better and more efficient than today’s best designs.   
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