Saturday, August 10, 2013
Local aquaponics farmer teaches the world to grow food
His charity doesn't just "give people fish," but helps them create efficient gardens with them.
ROWLETT Dirt gardening is so yesterday.
That's the conclusion Jonathan Trantham reached once he discovered aquaponics, a system that brings together aquaculture (fish farming) and hydroponics (water gardening).
"I hate dirt gardening. I hate it with a passion," he said. "After I found this, it's like, why? Why try?"
A closed-loop system, the aquaponics cycle takes fish, water, and plants on a symbiotic journey where each affects and contributes to the other: fish produce waste, bacteria converts the waste into fertilizer for plants, and plants' roots help filter the water.
"You never clean the fish water. By the time [the water] cycles one time, it comes out the other end clean," Trantham said. "You can drink it."
Trantham has five different systems set up at his Rowlett home so he can experiment with the properties of each. Next to his front door, he recently installed a continuous-flow rockbed arrangement: Plants take up water bubbling through rocks, water drains into a small goldfish pond and then the water gets pumped back up to flow under the plants again. He also has three backyard builds -- a rockbed that floods and drains twice daily, a 16-by-16-foot modified raftbed, and an NFT (nutrient film technique) pipe system -- in addition to a fish tank system inside.
"Each system is simple. I built multiple ones to show the different ways you can build it, because you can use any material, and there's different ways to do it," Trantham said. "So I built one of each system, but if you just want to build one yourself, it's not that complicated."
Trantham does paid installs of the systems, although his main desire is to teach aquaponics to civic groups, Scouts, and schools -- and he's starting a non-profit charity to bring the concept to other countries. Because aquaponics uses 90 percent less water and yields four times the growth rate of traditional dirt gardening, it can help boost food production in countries with limited resources.
And with food prices always on the rise, Trantham said it makes sense to consider the high-yield aspect of aquaponics.
"If you're doing commercial agriculture, your price is going to go up. If your price per seed changes by 1 cent, that's, like, a lot of money," Trantham said. "But as far as me, every time the food prices go up, it just makes it more affordable for me to grow my own."
Trantham has a name in mind for his company: Self Sustained Systems, Perpetual Pond Aquaponics -- or Self Sustained Systems for short. He's awaiting approval on his non-profit application; the charity will be called Lobal Aquaponics -- a combination of "local" and "global."
"If I just want to grow food, I just would have built a giant rock pit, but I wanted to train people, and I wanted to figure out all the kinks so when I take a certain system to another country, it's not my first time," Trantham said. "I've just learned about adding iron and biological surface area. Like, you can calculate the surface area of the rocks in the square foot to figure out how many square feet you need for how many pounds of fish. So I'm still learning it for my systems, but I know it enough to teach other people, too."
Find "Aquaponics! The self sustained revolution" on Facebook or text Trantham at 469-474-6612 for information.
Pegasus News Content partner - Star Local News