1 month shop

One of the big learnings from last year’s attempt to grow food for the family was that there was more than one challeng. There is the challenge to grow food in a meaningful volume, which I had a number of successes with – in particular my salads.

In fact what I learnt was that I could produce food at volume but not at the right times and steadily throughout the year. That’s what made me realise there was a bigger challenge.

How do you produce preserve store and maintain a stable supply of food throughout the year.

We had to change the way that we ate and to grow skills in food preservation and storage. And so after discussions with the family we all agreed to run an experiment to limit our monthly supplies to a single shopping trip.

We worked together to plan our single shopping trip thinking through recipes for meals as well as methods of storage of different types of food. The planning exercise in itself was valuable and levelled us up.

In the end we took 2 hours to shop spent €500 and packed two full trolleys worth of food. It also took 2 hours to unpack and store the food.

Throughout the one month experiment we will be recording our learnings and Improvements for next time. The aim would be to progress to quarterly shopping trips. But let’s take it one step at a time.

Side Experiments

After just pontificating on the importance of focus and production in this post…. I do still want to run some side experiments with the limited goal of increasing my base subject matter expertise, and giving me the ability to go broader with my goals next season.  Off the top of my head those will include:

  • Testing potatoes
  • testing different types of radish, tomatoe, and salad
  • breeding tilapia for sustainability
  • microgreens to supplement salads

In addition to this, My wife and son will be experimenting with a variety of other things.

Additional floating raft

I added a second floating raft tank to the system to take the remaining sprouts that I have ready. 

The second raft tank is connected to the first tank in two places low down in the base, so that water that enters the first tank enters the second tank easily. 

The exit point is from the second tank and flows back in to the general tank. 

O2 and plants

I got the tip from Murray Hallam, to oxygenate the water under the floating rafts.  

After les than a week it is clear that the sprouts on the side closest to the airation on the right have grown bigger and stronger. 

I’d move the air stones under the rafts but it’s a little too turbulent.  I’ll try experiment with distributing the air stones. 

Egeria Densa

I had read that tilapia were very versatile eaters.  As I was cleaning out the junior aquarium I decided to add some of the aquarium weed (egeria densa) to the tank just to see if it’d grow. 

Several days later.. I realized that the fish had been snacking on it.  This made me feel better because, I was getting concerned that they weren’t eating. 

Fast forward another week and it doesn’t seem like the plant has been eaten much more.  I believe this is because the fish are now more comfortable with their environment, and worth me, and are now eating the pellets I feed them more voraciously. 

Fish arrived

25 Nile tilapia fingerlings arrived from the Uk after a rough 24 hour journey. 

They were all alive, albeit fairly shaken up and stressed.  The water temperature in the bag that they had arrived in had fallen to 22 degrees C – they were used to 25 to 28 degrees C. 

Unfortunately my tank was at 17 degrees C, I therfore rushed out and picked up a bar water heater (35 euros) and added hot water from my taps directly to the tank. 

Once the temperature was 24 degrees C, I felt comfortable adding the fish to their new environment. 

Upon finding themselves in their new environment, they all ran off and hid behind the water pump. 

I didn’t feel confortable with them hanging out there – seeing as they may have been stressed and tired I didn’t want any of them getting sacked up – so I added the stones below to create a safe place for them to congregate. 

500 L test set up 

My first test set up has been sitting around for over a month now waiting for fish.  The fish will arrive shortly, so I thought I’d take some time to document the set up. 

My system has three core parts to it at this moment. The main tank is 500 liter tank probably filled up to about 350l.  With this I plan to hold 25 fish.  The tank cost about 50 euros. 

On top of the tank I’ve placed a grow bed.  I selected this container for its volume, 170l.  The GB (or media bed)  contains about 150l of gravel and clay grow beads.  The aim of this bed will be to air the water and to run it through the helpful bacteria that hopefully should develop. This bed is a flood and drain system that is regulated by a home made bell syphon – which is much easier to make than they make it seem on the Internet (for instance there is no need for the snorkel). (costs: container = 30 euro, gravel = 6 euro / 20l). 

Lastly, I’ve added a floating raft bed to increase the productivity of the entire system.  This consists of a smaller container ( approx 70l) which fills at the same time as the GB.   

Both the tank and the floating raft system are oxygenated with a single air pump.  And the whole system is powered with a 500l+ pump.