You’re listening to Fish Grow Plants—A podcast all about practicing and sharing the love of aquaponics; hosted by Logan Schoolcraft.
Hello, and welcome to Fish Grow Plants! In today’s episode we’re discussing the aquaponic process of construction; namely, greenhouse construction ideas to consider.
Honest story about my own greenhouse option. I built my first ever greenhouse before building my first ever aquaponic system. Why? Because I had it burned into my mind that I HAD to have one. Otherwise, it was just a waste of time to do aquaponics.
Needless to say, I spent a LOT of time, money, and effort to get that thing constructed. Oh, and it was 15 feet square…cause I couldn’t just do something small to see if worked and grow from there!
The sad part about it is that I kind of wish I didn’t build it the way I did because it’s great in the winter, but not so great in the summer. My ventilation was ok, but not ideal, my light was ok in winter, but poor in summer, and I did nothing to keep the outside stickers from migrating all over the place. Now that I say that, I think those goat-head stickers are probably the worst part of all!
The good news about that greenhouse structure is that it’s still standing today! Occasionally my family uses it for minor storage, or random projects since it’s pretty well insulated and passively heated and cooled. For the hot west Texas summer, it does a decent job of moderating heat, with nothing in it. I’ve even gone in there on a cold winter day and felt fine just sitting in the early morning sunshine.
So why am I sharing this seemingly random story with no obvious end? Well, it’s in the money side of it that the real take-away is seen.
You see, I essentially spent more than double the cost of the planned aquaponic system to build that greenhouse. Yes, that is correct. I could have built two more aquaponic systems for the price I spent on that greenhouse.
Do I regret doing it?
Do I recommend it?
So what am I trying to get at?
Think and plan up front. What is your ultimate end goal and purpose? Let that guide you. If I had done that, I would have started with a much smaller system and greenhouse because I am very interested in testing, experimenting, and improving things. Now, I’m stuck with a pretty big structure that isn’t too flexible for other uses.
Ok, lets list off some considerations for and against a greenhouse. Afterall, a greenhouse is not necessary for a successful aquaponic system, but it can be a nice addition to one.
Here are some questions I’d ask myself when considering a greenhouse:
- Where is my aquaponic system going to be located? If it’s indoors, then no greenhouse is needed. If it’s out in a harsh environment, or one with wild weather swings, it might be prudent.
- How big is my system and how big of a greenhouse would I need to comfortably hold it and make working inside easy? Jumping off and building a large greenhouse for a tiny tabletop system would be overkill, but packing a system into a structure that allows for very little “elbow room” is also not effective. Finding balance between your system and your greenhouse is the key takeaway from this question.
- What’s my location look like? Or, said differently, what are my neighbors doing? This question will help you think about the area around your planned greenhouse. If your neighbors are large apartment buildings, you’ll have to design differently than if they are field farmers. This will not only impact what you grow, but how you take in design considerations for security, wind, and actual solar gain.
- How much do I want to spend on my greenhouse upfront, and on-going? This money question will help you assess the initial investment, as well as recuring costs (which also impact the initial build). For example, if you want to go “conventional”, your on-going costs with heat and cooling may be high, but your initial build will be lower. By lower, I mean it will be lower than something like a passive solar greenhouse, which has a higher initial cost, but lower recurring costs. If money is no issue, then do what you want!
- And lastly, ask yourself, do I want to expand? This question will help guide you in determining where you build and why. If you want to add-on you’ll build differently than if you want to try another style of greenhouse with your expansion. This may be true if you have mega aspirations and will need a large area for construction. But the question is still valid for small expansions, such as a dedicated fish room, so you don’t take up precious space in the greenhouse with the fish and their tank.
Alright, I’d like to leave you with something concrete to help you decide whether or not you need a greenhouse, so you don’t have to keep contemplating the thought over and over.
So first, ask, what is my purpose for aquaponics? Does it include a greenhouse right now? If so, what do I need to do right now to figure out exactly what kind I need, where to put it, and how big does it need to be?
Next, honestly answer the questions we just discussed. Let them guide you and help create more questions and ideas that you may want to follow up on, assuming a greenhouse is in your future.
But if a greenhouse is not in your immediate future, that’s ok—it just means you can read up on them a lot more before you decide to try one out! Enjoy the process—it’s fun!
Take care and happy aquaponicing!
This has been another episode of Fish Grow Plants—the podcast all about practicing and sharing the love of aquaponics; hosted by Logan Schoolcraft.