by Amber

Print Your Own Compact Aquaponics System

As millions seek to become more self-sufficient, to grow their own food in cities, we’ve seen a number of compact aquaponics system designs come to life. But this is the first personal aquaponic garden that anyone can make anywhere there’s a Fab Lab. Barcelona start-up Aquapioneers designed it to help more people get involved in urban gardening.

Dissatisfied with a high-stress job, Guillaume Teyssié ditched his career and started Barcelona’s Fab Academy, where he met his future business partner, Loic De Goueff, who was working on completing his master thesis in Aquaponics. The two improved Guillaume’s lab-created Open Source Aquaponics Kit, the results of which become available at Fab Labs worldwide in October 2017 as the print your own Aquapioneers Ecosystem.

print your own aquaponics systemWhy not take their compact aquaponics system design into production? While that might prove fruitful to Aquapioneers as a business, the team sees problems with that picture. Providing all people with the same opportunity is not reducing the carbon footprint or waste. Doing so calls for local production of the aquaponic garden, using materials already available, which translates to more affordable access to sustainable food.

So, they designed an aquaponics system with digital delivery of the plans and user manual. Making parts from sturdy, yet affordable materials meet slim budgets, while the footprint of roughly 4 square feet fits space-challenged homes. Their goal is helping people and cities become more self-sustaining.

To raise awareness for their print your own aquaponics system project, they ran a recently completed crowdfunding campaign on Ulule. It was more successful than they imagined, attracting global support, and meeting 2 stretch goals with funding hitting 200%. Only Barcelona area pledges were eligible for pre-built garden pledges, all others received gifts. The money raised will pay for finalizing the Fab Lab print plans, a complete users manual, and cover some of their upfront costs.

Print this aquaponics systemAs for making money as a business, Guillaume and Loic have other plans and projects. One of them is a rental program for installing Aquapioneers Ecosystem gardens in Barcelona offices for staff well-being and team building. They will also continue developing their larger scale urban farm model, release the Ulule stretch milestone – a print your own greenhouse, and offer aquaponics training and consultations. A STEAM Education aquaponics program is already online at one Barcelona school.

The DIY Aquapioneers Ecosystem includes an adjustable print your own LED grow light that attaches to a cabinet measuring 3.93′ H x 2.62′ W x .98′ D (1.2m x 0.8m x 0.3m). The system uses a 50-liter fish tank with plant nutrients generated by 8 small fish like guppies or goldfish. Big enough to provide a steady supply of fresh lettuce and herbs with good rotation planting.

And best of all? Being open source, you’re free to improve, expand, or modify it as you see fit. Good thing, because the tank size doesn’t translate accurately to US gallon aquarium specifications. Some slight adjustments make the pieces fit a 15-gallon aquarium. You’ll probably need to increase your fish population to 9 to keep nutrients in balance given the added water volume. Why stop there? Go for a 20-gallon long tank and get an extra 6-inches of growing bed length, but you’ll need 12 fish, based on 1.65 fish per gallon capacity (50L = 13.2 gal ÷ 8 fish = 1.65 per gallon).

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Images courtesy of Aquapioneers via Facebook, PITO diagram from Fab City.

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The garden played a starring role from spring through fall in the house Amber was raised in. She has decades of experience growing plants from seeds and cuttings in the plot and pots.