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January 4, 2012 at 7:42 pm #36983
I am new to this forum and after I got a lot of good ideas from this site, I feel that there is little to no info about a good organic food growing system easy to do off grid.
I was searching the net for ways to grow food all year around in a greenhouse and I found an interesting concept that amazed me by it’s simplicity and efficiency. The concept combines the best qualities in 3 areas of growing food:
– geo-dome greenhouse, a very efficient greenhouse structure that needs little heating over the winter and is easy to cool over the summer
– aquaculture, that is raising fish for food
– hydroponics, that is growing plants in a watery media
The geo-dome greenhouse uses a large fish tank to store heat during the day and slowly release it during the night. That is perfect for aquaculture. But the fish need the water filtered to stay healthy. There comes the hydroponics. A pump takes the dirty water from the fish tank and runs it through some special grow beds that hold pebbles instead of soil. Over there, natural bacteria develops and transforms ammonia generated by the fish into nitrites and then to nitrates that are nutrients for the plants. The plants are planted in that growing media and absorb the nitrates and leave the water clean to be returned to the fish tank. This way, a natural bio-system is created. Fish feed the plants and the plants filter the water for them. We can also feed the fish with plants, completing the cycle. All done in a closed environment, with no need to water the plants, weed them or spray them for pests. Naturally organic farming. And we get to eat fish as a bonus. The plants grow faster, denser and taste amazing, all year round. The only plants that do not grow well in this setup are the root plants like potatoes, carrots, etc, but we can have soil grow beds separate outside the greenhouse. Usually those plants can be stored over the winter in cold rooms so there will be no need to grow them over the winter anyway.
For more technical aspects of a geo-dome greenhouse, take a look at these sites:
For info about aquaponics, take a look at this site:
Cheers!January 4, 2012 at 9:20 pm #42155
Most hydroponic systems of any size require pumps and these pumps require power. You may find this constant power drain somewhat expensive to provide for on a solar system. Systems that require pumping 24/7 be it for hydronic heating or whatever are not popular with OTG residents.January 5, 2012 at 1:49 am #42158
aquaponics is nothing new. the windstar foundation in snow mass colorado(funded by the late john denver) built a 90 ft diameter/ 2 story biodome in the 80’s to study how much food you could produce at 9000 ft elevation. to reep the benefits i encourage others to build their house as a habitable greenhouse. this way you are not heating or cooling two separate environments. leaving amongst your food is great. for smaller spaces you can build vertical hydroponic systems that hang in a window. a fish tank pump will work for this type of small scale system
maybe the lack of discussion here is because its inherent that an off the grid lifestyle would also desire as much self sustainable food and beverage as land and time allow. on the other hand with so many different ways to generate store and utilize various forms of power discussion tends to follow the path of power souces.
thanks for starting a post on growing food lets see where it goes.
p.s. as great as geodesic domes are. there are lots of cuts(power tools are huge energy hogs). its more difficult to utilize free/discarded windows( i just acquired 40 4×4 window) it sure would be tuff to use them in a dome. on the other hand i can use 8ft 2x and build couple hundred feet east to west of green house space.
peace gordoJanuary 5, 2012 at 5:40 pm #42159
http://www.desertdomes.com shows you how to build a dome from EMT electrical conduit. http://www.minimalintentions.com/ is a guy that built a 19′ dome this way. There are a couple of ways you could cover this dome with plastic. One is boat marine shrink wrap. The other might actually be pallet wrap (saran wrap). marine wrap comes in white and clear. You need a $300 heat gun for the marine wrap. For example his 19′ dome would cost around $600 using marine wrap. Of course you have to cut the pieces and hammer the ends flat, drill holes and bolt the thing together. The guy at mimimalintentions is talking about for himself a hydroponics setup similar to what you guys are talking about with a geodome.
I know of no great OFG solution for pumping myself. But I’d suggest for any thing like this or shops or mills a hydro electric generator nearby. And hydro does not fit every location. So shopping for land with a good hydro site might be the thing to do first. Or conversely shopping for land with great solar or great wind or a combination of the two.January 6, 2012 at 11:54 pm #42163
Caverdude, thank you for adding those links, I have not seen them before, lots of cool info, especially from the minimalintentions. If one looks through that guy’s experience, sees that a geo dome can be built for cheap, but sure, not easy from scrap rescued from different places. So I guess it’s more about the level of each one of us can afford. For instance, I work as a tile installer, but I actually do more than that, for a management of rental apartments in GTA (Greater Toronto Area). Besides my construction skills, I also have electrical and electronics skills, as well as plumbing and mostly everything that needs to be done in a house. I can easily work as a handyman in a small community so I can generate some income. Besides my construction skills, I come from a family of beekeepers (back home in Romania, my father still has bees at 74 years old). With 50 hives I can make between 25-50 thousand a year which is a lot if I live OTG. So to me, living OTG means generating enough power to suit my needs. I will get PV, wind and hydro if possible, a little of everything to get to the power needs I will have. So yeah, even if the aquaponics need to have a pump running 30 minutes and wait another 30 minutes, I will take that into consideration when I’ll size up my power needs. It’s just like a refrigerator, but with less power. I will try to find a way to replace the electric pump with a water powered pump for instance, if I will be able to find a land with a creek. The creek will turn a water mill which in turn will turn an axle connected to a water pump. If this will be possible, i will have to use the siphons to drain the grow beds, since the water will be pumped into them constantly. Another method is to use a closed system with a battery that runs the water pump, charged by solar panel and a small wind mill. This setup works well for the half on/half off system. So yeah, if you want it, you can find ways to do it. The food you can grow this way is going to cover the expenses quickly. I’ll come back soon with more info about the pumps, how powerful they need to be and how much energy they need. I just need to double check first, so I don’t say stupid things.January 13, 2012 at 4:04 am #42175
Elnav. You can use 12 volt pumps for pumping in Aquiculture farming and also you do not have to pump 24/7.
I was a marine science educator for 7 years in florida and grew clams,horse shoe crabs and grouper in tanks and now plan to do freshwater prawns here in WV and we are totally off the grid making our own power via wind turbine and solar with diesel genny for backup. And a rocket stove in the greenhouse to keep it warm in winter. I see you do alot of posting on this web site and you talk like you are off the grid are you? or do you just like knocking other peoples ideas. Sorry had to ask. ALROD53January 13, 2012 at 6:19 am #42176
not sure if this has been mentioned–but i like the open source concept and business model of window farms–http://www.windowfarms.org/. the window farms site has both diy plans and hydro planter for purchase and depends on open source community to improve their product.January 13, 2012 at 2:37 pm #42180
I was pricing a 12 volt pump, 30 psi I think, from an RV dealer $85 the other day.
For hydroponics and vertical setups like the ones at http://www.windowfarms.org use fish tank aireator pumps, to lift water with air I think.
I have articles on off grid energy production on my blog. I speak about all options in general and point you to good info sources.January 13, 2012 at 5:52 pm #42181
Caverdude. You do not need pressure you need volume.Pressure pumpe for rv’s will not tolerate constant running. Look into boat bilge pumps. That is how I am setting up. They use very little power and are cooled by the water they are submerged in and can handle constant running and can be picked up on ebay for less than 20 bucks depending on the size you want..Always check out ebay first. I got a really nice rv water pressure pump for 20 bucks to supply water for our cabin from our cistern..Just some ideas..alrod53January 13, 2012 at 9:31 pm #42182
To answer your question. I have lived off grid in the past and for the past decade have worked as a power system designer for off grid and marine applications. The main reason I am not off-grid now is because after my third stroke we needed to live close enough to a doctor and hospital to get help.
Last time we could not get anyone to take me to hospital. Nearest doctor was 70 kilometers away and closest friend was 5 kilometers away. And when you need assistance it helps if it happens during daytime when your friends have their computer on. Last time was in the middle of the night. We have not had a phone this past four years.
As to being critical, that goes with the engineering territory. I was designiing and building wind generator controls back in 1977. I have been involved in alternative energy in various forms ever since. You always look to the worst case application first then engineer solutions around that.January 14, 2012 at 5:35 pm #42188
I don’t know about building a $5K dome kit. I thought about making an Earthship greenhouse addition to house this;
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