This just in, from Christopher Nesbitt:
“Backyard Aquaponics” is a new book by Joel Malcolm, an innovator in Perth, Australia and is well worth a look.
Aquaponics is a very simple and efficient system involving aquaculture and hydroponics. The system is dependent on plants in grow beds, generally pea gravel, being used to filter out fish manure and other material while aerating the water to maintain oxygen levels.
Joel’s book is substantial, with plenty of information and is broken down into several chapters, spread out over 113 pages of text, photos, graphs and diagrams. In it he does a good job in pulling the reader into the wonderful world of aquaponics by creating a seductive and idyllic picture of the productive system in his backyard.
Backyard Aquaponics is comprised of a book, a DVD and a CD and is substantial, with plenty of information. The information is presented in a clear way, and each chapter leads to the next chapter. Questions that arise while reading generally are answered further on in the text.
The book is broken down into several chapters, spread out over 113 pages of text, photos, graphs and diagrams. The first chapter, “So What Is Aquaponics” explains the concept and components involved in such systems.
Joel does a good job in pulling the reader into the wonderful world of aquaponics by creating a seductive and idyllic picture of the productive system in his backyard.
The second chapter is “Designing and Building A System”, which discusses the many ways to get from nothing to a productive system in your backyard with fish and vegetable production.
Joel discusses the merits of many types of materials and components, and explains how he arrived at the types of components he did. He mentions his preferences, and discusses various alternatives to those components.
He discusses growing media, his grow bed irrigation system and draining system, the flows of water in the system, and the mistakes he has made, while also sharing on experiences of others.
His system is designed using corrugated iron tanks special built to his specifications. He also discusses other tank designs, and offers sound reasoning behind his decision to go with corrugated iron tanks.
Joel uses corrugated iron tanks for both his grow beds and his fish tanks.
The third chapter is devoted to Systems Designs, and covers flood and drain and continuous flow systems. This chapter, like the previous chapters, is well written, and full of information.
This chapter has excellent diagrams of potential system designs, and has detailed information on the components needed to build an aquaponics system like Joel has built. It is based in his system design and includes diagrams showing water flows between the components of the system.
The first part of the fourth chapter, called “The Fish” , covers the needs fish require to maintain health and grow, covering stocking densities and feed quantities.
The balance of the chapter is about the various fish a potential aquaponics system could have. While the information presented in this part of the chapter is Australian centric, a discerning reader could most likely find species whose needs and attributes were suitable for tank based aquaculture in an aquaponics system in their region.
The chapter discusses eight species of finfish and several species of freshwater crustaceans.
The fifth Chapter entitled The Plants, is about the various plant species that can be produced in grow beds in an aquaponics system. It draws heavily on Joels personal experience and is written, as is most of the book, with a contagious enthusiasm that radiates from the page.
Joel discussed various plant species and their suitability for use in an aquaponics system and encourages the reader to “Experiment, experiment, experiment.”
The photo of a grow bed overflowing with several different species of plants is an extremely compelling argument in favor of the aquaponics system.
The sixth Chapter, “Building a System” covers the building of Joel’s system from beginning to end. It is full of photos and offers many tips on construction.
This is the most substantial chapter, vert dense with information, showing each of the steps Joel took between conceptualizing and completion of the system. It discusses how he designed the system, and shows his work. It covers building the structure that houses his system, how the tanks were placed, how the system will work and energy flows internal to the system.
It has a lot of information covering the time between system completion and the first harvest, as well as general maintenance information.
The chapter also includes information on planting regimes, what to look for in sourcing plants or seed, and how to stock the system with fish. With intriguing photos of the completed system, there is plenty of information about how the system operates.
The chapter ends on a very good discussion of the problems of food production and transportation. As elsewhere in the book, Joel does a very good job of presenting information in an accessible manner.
The book is peppered with humour, and Joel, who is obviously well informed on issues of food production, aquaponics chemistry, soil science and regional food security never talks down to the reader.
The book is well written in a friendly manner that is easy to understand, and enjoyable to read.
Armed with this book, I would feel confident to build such a system.
The book by itself gives enough information to establish such a system, however, the other two components pf the Backyard Aquaponics package, the accompanying DVD and CD, are both informative and augment the information in the book with visually appealing clips of Joel and his system.
The DVD has three featurettes covering Flood and Drain systems, Continuous Flow systems, a clip showing the phenomenal growth rate of the vegetables produced in his system, as well as a picture show and some “extra bits Unsorted”.
Joel provides the narrative, with piano accompaniment. The clips show the system at work while discussing the principles of the systems Joel is describing. Joel describes how the components work, and the video shows clearly how the system is set up.
Most of the information in the clips is covered in the book, but seeing the systems physically is a valuable tool to further illustrate the workings of the system, as well as the incredible growth rates of Joel’s vegetables. The DVD component in the Backyard Aquaponics package is very valuable, not to mention enjoyable and inspirational.
The CD has many slide shows as well as excellent Excel documents which cover such topics as Barra growth, pumping cycles, and a materials list to replicate a system like Joel’s. It is a wonderful supplement to the information in the book and DVD.
The author of this review had no regional problems reading the DVD, despite being in another region, nor did I experience any formatting problems using the CD with a Macintosh computer.
Joel’s system is a very impressive accomplishment, noteworthy for its limited resource use, and its productivity. Backyard Aquaponics is a wonderfully informative package of information, a significant contribution to promoting regional food production.
It can be purchased through Joel Malcom’s web site, www.backyardaquaponics.com