Farm Feature: Barrelponics System

Mar 11, 2021 | Farm

By: Kaitlyn Dykstra (Farm Manager)

The very first aquaponics system on the FoodChain farm was the barrelponics system. This system helped to demonstrate how aquaponics works and to show the potential of it so that FoodChain could fundraise to build our current aquaponic system.
The barrelponics system uses several 55-gallon barrels and a flood and drain system with syphons to grow plants. The plants are actually growing in a gravel bed instead of just floating on top of the water, and there are fish up in the top barrel of the system. There is one pump in the barrel on the bottom that brings the water up to the top barrel. The second barrel in the line has netting in it to help collect the solid fish waste and provide surface area for the beneficial bacteria to live on and convert the fish waste into nitrate. There are about 100 gallons of water in this system.
We have grown many different things in our barrelponics system, including mint and basil, and we are currently growing borage, which produces edible flowers. We currently have tilapia in our barrel system, but many different fish species would work, such as goldfish or koi, which are two other popular species for aquaponics.
FoodChain has developed a manual for how to build and operate a barrelponics system just like ours! You can find the manual here: Manual for Building an Aquaponics System with 55 gallon barrels (Barrel-ponics). It only cost FoodChain about $350 to build this system, but it could be made cheaper if you have any materials available that would work for it! This system is great for a small aquaponic set up at home or in the classroom.