For many people, gardening is one way to become more self-sufficient and gain some food security. Many experiment with alternatives like home hydroponic or aquaponic systems, which can increase yield, add extras like fish -- all without the need for soil. We've covered various systems that are commercially available, but it is possible to build one yourself, using off-the-shelf parts, and it's always interesting to see how other people set up their systems.
In this video, YouTube host John Kohler of Growing Your Greens visits this backyard aquaponic system that grows an abundance of different veggies and cultivates over 50 kinds of fish in the harsh climate near Las Vegas, Nevada, built using mostly plywood, and no pond liner (you can skip the preamble to 17:42 to see how these DIY tanks are made).
Scott Coggins, a self-taught backyard gardening enthusiast, built this aquaponic system mostly of materials that can be found in a hardware store, such as dimensional lumber, plywood, PVC piping, and large, food-grade plastic buckets. He says:
In 2013 I built a Floating Raft Aquaponics System that was loosely designed after the University of the Virgin Island Aquaponics System designed by Dr. James Rakocy. The system has a 480 gallon fish tank 2 floating raft tables and that are 32' long. We also have 12 Raised bed flower and veggie plots. We live in Henderson, Nevada in zone 9. We have a small house on a 6000 sf lot in a suburban neighborhood.
As Kohler reveals in his tour, the secret to Scott's tanks are a "seamless pond coat" waterproofing product that is labelled as non-toxic, non-flammable, no solvents or VOCs -- all of which are critical to the survival of fish.
Kohler notes that while rubber pond liners are the typical choice, they can cost a lot of money, and Scott's alternative is a one way to cut costs on the overall system. Another interesting hack that Scott employs is the use of conventional air filters in the filtration system. Kohler cautions that filters without an microbial coating must be used, because microbes are needed to break down fish waste into plant nutrients, which is cycled back to the crops.
In one of Scott's filtration buckets, a net bag filled with recycled plastic bottle caps is used as the degassing element. Pretty simple but brilliant.
As Kohler points out, in a climate and location like Las Vegas, trucking in soil and compost is costly. Using a soil-less system like Scott's is a "great equalizer and great balancer that would allow more people to start growing food much easier." We think so too, and it's inspiring to see this productive, well-functioning backyard system that's been set up with easy-to-find components and recycled materials. To see more, visit Growing Your Greens and Coggins Gardens on YouTube.