Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “industrial agriculture”

A Family Fun Garden – Roger Ingalls

If you’re contemplating a garden and want the entire family involved, consider building an aquaponic garden.

aquaponics-picture-2

Aquaponics is a constructed ecosystem based on fish, plants and beneficial bacteria that harnesses nature’s propensity to create balanced growth while conserving resources (water, nutrients and energy). Essentially, one life form benefits the next in a re-circulating system. Beneficial bacteria create a probiotic environment where fish waste (poop and ammonia) is converted into nitrite and then nitrate which is a usable form of natural fertilizer for plants. In turn, the plants remove the nitrate from the water to fuel their growth leaving clean water for the fish. Other than a little water, the only input is food for the fish. Since fish are cold-blooded, they waste no energy regulating their body temperature making them efficient consumers of food. On average, two pounds of food adds one pound of weight to a fish compared to 16 pounds of cattle feed to produce one pound of beef. Another benefit of using fish waste for fertilizer is there’s no risk of E coli poisoning commonly attributed to waste from warm-blooded livestock.

Aquaponic Benefits:

1)      Up to 10 times more vegetables per given space relative to standard soil gardening.

2)      The plants grow twice as fast because nutrient packed water is supplied straight to the root.

3)      Since there is no soil, there’s no soil borne pests, no weeds so no pesticides or herbicides are needed.

4)      Aquaponics uses 95% less water than conventional farming or gardening.

5)       No daily watering is required since plants grow in a re-circulating water system.

6)      Both plants and fish are grown creating two sources of food (meat protein and vegetables).

7)      Overall, aquaponics uses 70% less energy than conventional farming.

8)       It’s all organic, no fossil fuel based fertilizers or pesticide.

9)      It can be replicated anywhere on Earth.

The most productive farm in the USA is in the middle of Milwaukee WI. This three acre urban farm, Growing Power, produces one million pounds of food per year.

Go to youtube.com, type in aquaponics and you’ll be hooked. There will be videos and plans to build a system perfect for any household. It can be as simple as a small goldfish bowl, one goldfish, a $5 air pump, plastic tubing and a basil starter from the local hardware store. The little fish will poop which fertilizes the basil plant and the plant will clean the water to keep the fish healthy. All you have to do is feed the goldfish and added a little water now and then. The whole family will enjoy the experience and the organic basil.

Seriously, go to youtube and check it out. You will be amazed by the rapid growth of this new farming method.

Save the P – Roger Ingalls

Have you seen the price of food lately?

Many of us now know that food prices are tied to natural gas and oil. Oil is used to make pesticides and nitrogen fertilizer is made from natural gas. Since World War II, most of our food has been grown with manmade chemicals. As fossil fuel prices rise, so does the price of food. Even meat rises because the animals are fed grains grown with synthetic chemicals.

What’s not often discussed is another type of fertilized or macro-nutrient used in Industrial Agriculture. Phosphorus (P) is essential for plant growth but since the 1930s most of it was depleted from the soil. Under President FDR, government initiatives were put in place to mine ancient phosphorus-rich marine deposits. The P is processed into a usable form and then spread across the fields.

P problem solved, right? Wrong! Just like oil, the well is starting to run dry. The known minable phosphorus deposits will be depleted within the next 35 years. Consequently, the price of phosphorus has recently jumped over 400% adding more cost to food.

Fortunately, P is a reusable resource if recovered. Industrial Agriculture uses a spread to waste process so valuable resources are not reclaimed. Instead, pesticides and fertilizers, including phosphorus, get washed into water ways damaging ecosystems and creating dead zones. This seventy year old method of growing food is productive but extreme wasteful and is becoming economically obsolete. Unfortunately, it is being propped up by big money chemical companies and politicians for hire.

There is a bright side if we look far enough into the future. Eventually, industrial spread to waste agriculture will cost more than sustainable organic farming and high-tech agriculture, such as aquaponics.

Until then, grow your own or buy organic!

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Roger Ingalls is well traveled and has seen the good and bad of many foreign governments. He hopes his blogging will encourage readers to think more deeply about the American political system and its impact on US citizens and the international community.

Aquaponics: Farming the Good Way

Last week I blogged about the new Occupy Gardens movement and it seemed to strike a positive nerve with many people. I believe food production is the most important issue facing the human race so I’ll stay with this theme for another week and probably many more.

Our current industrial farming methods are atrocious; they’re wasteful and extremely destructive. I’ll explain more about the perils of our fossil fuel based agricultural system is future posts but today I want to draw attention to a new way to grow food called aquaponics.

What is aquaponics? It is a constructed ecosystem based on fish, plants and beneficial bacteria that harnesses nature’s propensity to balance growth (survival) with low consumption of resources (water, nutrients or energy…). Essentially, one life form benefits the next in a re-circulating system. Beneficial bacteria create a probiotic environment where fish waste (poop and ammonia) is converted into nitrite and then nitrate which is a usable form of natural fertilizer for plants. In turn, the plants remove the nitrate from the water to fuel their growth leaving clean water for the fish. Other than a little water, the only input is food for the fish. Since fish are cold-blooded, they waste no energy regulating their body temperature making them efficient consumers of food. On average, two pounds of food adds one pound of weight to a fish compared to 16 pounds of cattle feed to produce one pound of beef.

Aquaponic Benefits:

1)      Up to 10 times more vegetables per given space. Plants are grown in a soil-less media and nutrient packed water is directly supplied to the roots. Plants can be densely grown because there’s no competition for food.

2)      Since nutrient packed water is supplied to the root system, the plants use their energy growing vegetation not spreading roots. The plants grow twice as fast.

3)      There are no weeds since wanted plants are densely grown and there’s no soil to harbor unwanted weed seeds.

4)      Since there is no soil, there’s no soil borne pests. No pests no pesticides.

5)      Aquaponics uses 95% less water than conventional farming or gardening.

6)      No daily watering is required since plants grow in a re-circulating water system.

7)      Both plants and fish are grown creating two sources of food (meat protein and vegetables).

8)      Overall, aquaponics uses 70% less energy than conventional farming.

9)      It’s all organic, no fossil fuel based fertilizers or pesticides.

10)  It can be replicated anywhere on Earth.

Is aquaponics really a viable form of farming? Will Allen’s three acre Growing Power farm located in the city of Milwaukee WI, produces one million pounds of food per year. Aquaponics is central to his urban operation and has been described as the most productive farm in the country.

Aquaponics, check it out. Demand it. Your grandkids will thank you.

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Roger Ingalls is well traveled and has seen the good and bad of many foreign governments. He hopes his blogging will encourage readers to think more deeply about the American political system and its impact on US citizens and the international community.

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