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Backyard aquaponics as self-sustained farm in (sub)urban LA

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Scott Henley wanted to prove he could turn the backyard of his modest Pasadena (Los Angeles) home into a working farm. To turn his 8000-square-foot backyard into a productive farm, Henley turned to aquaponics- a combination of aquaculture (fish farming) and hydroponics: "This is a very efficient way to grow things in a small space. And it also produces a protein source." He farms tilapia because they breed fast. The fish waste is broken down in the water by naturally-occurring bacteria into nitrate. The plants take up the nitrates as food and the now-cleaned water is fed back to the fish and the process begins again. The only inputs are sunlight and fish food. It's an inherently organic system because any pesticides would upset the natural balance of the small ecosystem. After less tha 2 years in operation (he started in the summer of 2012), he- through Whisper Farms- now sells enough produce to restaurants, CSAs and at the local (Altadena) farmer's market- to cover all costs and produce a small profit. His "experiment" is still not productive enough to create a salary, but he hopes that will change once he's able to sell his fish and create more of a cooperative setup with other farms (to reduce the permitting costs for selling at farmers' markets). Whisper Farms: http://altadenafarmersmarket.com/?vendor=whisper-farms Filmed by Johnny Sanphillippo -- more of his stories about urbanism, adaptation & resilience: http://granolashotgun.com/ Original video: http://faircompanies.com/videos/view/backyard-aquaponics-as-self-sustained-farm-in-suburban-la/
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Text Comments (509)
Steve Wyatt (7 days ago)
contain the black hose with plexiglass for double therms
Steve Wyatt (7 days ago)
Be honest, show your pump-failure nightmare that eventually happens
SicklikePhee (9 days ago)
This is the ideal setup that I've been wanting to get started. I have plenty of outside space, so no issue there, where would you suggest one starts with this system, if you were building from nothing?
Sean Kav (9 days ago)
This is awesome
Alex Richey (13 days ago)
I would really enjoy meeting you guys as one of your Nieghbors. I really appreciate your enthusiasm for what your doing and would like to learn more about what you do
Gaijin Guide (17 days ago)
Awesome video! Thanks for sharing
Healani Matthews (20 days ago)
You got some hawaiian words. Thank you.
Allen Boatman (20 days ago)
How is it working out now 5 years down the road Kirsten?
cindy chan (23 days ago)
i want to grow moringa in the uk but don't think they will survive
Aquaponics Source (23 days ago)
Getting ready to get my fish by Thursday
Aquaponics Source (23 days ago)
Just decided to start aquaponics in the past week
Ultra Violet Turtle (25 days ago)
Imagine if the government came to tell you can't grow anything but bananas? Even for personal consumption? You resist, then the come in middle of night to r*ape your wife and kill all the males. Sadly this is exactly what the US did to all latin America. It called the banana massacres. Still going as we speak. We don't realize how free we are here.
Riaan Stols (26 days ago)
80w + 90w = 1.7kw?
Aquaponics Source (26 days ago)
Aquaponics is so interesting
Ziwco Nawalean (1 month ago)
You could use compost heater to heat the water, making the cost of heating just material for the compost heater and labor costs.
Justin Gough (1 month ago)
Interesting set up. What is your current set up? Great video and information thanks for sharing it
Simon Haestoe (1 month ago)
For cruelness fish farming gets a straight A.
hoorayimhelping (1 month ago)
5:51 whooo boy, that power strip just hanging next to a big bucket of water is probably fine
reverend moonie (1 month ago)
1.4 kilo watt hrs...how many hours a day, cause if its 24 ..thats not gona be any 30 cents a day. more like 4 dollars a day
Michal Olender (1 month ago)
It would have been awesome if it wasn't for the fish prisons.
x794z2000 x794z2000 (1 month ago)
Im sure you can feed those fish almost anything even garden weeds garden waste etc
gasser55t (1 month ago)
Oh figured out why he is using so much poison plastic in his system, he is a smoker and dose not care about poison.
gasser55t (1 month ago)
I want to do this, but have not found out how to do it, and not use any any plastic or foam and such. In my opinion that these are poison, especially PVC. So any advice?
Jane Smith (1 month ago)
Think bamboo instead of plastic tubing. I hate to add more plastic to my environmen, especially styrofoam as it breaks into tiny pieces and never degrades. I don't know how to use bamboo, but I've seen in done in Japan and China.
Sonya Wohletz (1 month ago)
what is that protein heavy plant with the 6 dollar cup again?at min 6.50?
Zac Pfeifer (1 month ago)
Moringa
American-Outdoors.net (1 month ago)
Wow! Amazing work and love how you have maximized your property. Great segment.
Tommy Capps (1 month ago)
NO ONE should have to get the government’s permission to sell vegetables they have grown!
Ric de Mowbray (1 month ago)
Awesome outlook, endeavour and ultimately pragmatism. What a dude.
decorator125 (1 month ago)
This is A.MA.ZING. I am so impressed by your cleverness and drive to do the right thing regarding the food we eat and making use of your yard. I love the way your mind is always working to come up with better ideas. GREAT JOB!!!!
Quantum Energy Solutions (1 month ago)
Nice, remember to crop the tops 4 times so the Moringa stays low with many branches.
Chloe Stratton (1 month ago)
That's 170 Watts. A Kw is 1000 Watts.
EQOAnostalgia (1 month ago)
Came to the video expecting some yuppie dipshit and my dude turns out to be the real deal! I learned how to do all of this in conservation school back in the late 90's early 00's, good to see this practice is not only still going strong, but spreading to urban areas. Everything looked DiY, impressive!
Shifttube (1 month ago)
yea you have to pay like 50 different taxes to grow and sell anything in the usa cant sell shit without them taking half bullshit
Lavonda Carter (1 month ago)
I just watched this today, August 25, 2019, wondering if they still have this system ?
jack smith (1 month ago)
This sort of setup would not work well in a cold enviro season. Oregon has about five months of off and on frost.
Panthera (1 month ago)
Why don't you grow apples, cherries, peaches, blackcurrant and etc? Chicken need normal grass and some other cover crop to feed onto. YOu could maybe make a pond.
Sammy West (1 month ago)
The apples and cherries, and peaches all require a tree to grow from. It would take quite a few years for a tree to produce any results.
Panthera (1 month ago)
YOUR PROBLEMS: grown in plastic which leaches chemicals almost no soil and no correct microflora (microbes, fungi etc) need fertilisers fish locked up like in small jail cell for life Look into permaculture Gabe Brown, Geoff Lawton, Learn Organic Farming. Chicken MUST HAVE fresh grass and maybe some other cover crops like leafy greens mixed in, maybe some clover, maybe something else.
Joshua Lund (2 months ago)
One thing I've yet to find out. Do you need to do a water change with aquaponics? Cause eventually the oxygen and any other nutrients get used up right? Everyone says it's fine to keep recycling the water. That true? Water like a trickle system be good enough?
IreneSisIzzie Games (2 months ago)
Outstanding mate! You have a brilliant set-up I'm in awe the best of luck to you and your family I hope you can achieve all your future goals 😊👍🏼🌿
snp213 (2 months ago)
05:51 that does not look very safe
Adam Silva (2 months ago)
Free the fish!!!!!
Leonardo The Useless (1 month ago)
No
Mikki Mik (2 months ago)
Why aren't you using black soldier flies?
Bigginz Rich (2 months ago)
I wonder what would happen if one used oscars in a system like this. They are my favorite type of fish to look at but idk about eating them :)
Regenerate THIS (2 months ago)
Close the loop by raising earthworms, mealworms and black fly larvae... :)
Sleepless In The Carolinas (1 month ago)
You can raise thousands of black fly larva by leaving an overly ripe melon or cantaloupe outdoors.
Regenerate THIS (1 month ago)
@Henrik Karl yes
Henrik Karl (1 month ago)
to feed the fish?
Jason Lucia (2 months ago)
i see your hash bubble bags, guy.
allah son (2 months ago)
Awesome
allah son (2 months ago)
Ugotagrowsourr
Victor Timmons (2 months ago)
This is a serious question, why are common gold fish look over as a viable alternative to tilapia in colder waters? I'm talking fry to fried. They grow fast, they are easy to keep, a green water system will almost feed them and they breed easily. Carp are eaten all over the world.
Victor Timmons (1 month ago)
@steal threaded I read all the time about cold water killing tilapia.
steal threaded (2 months ago)
they are cold water fish and anything above 75 causes problems, tilapia are hardy across a range of temps
aaron afre (2 months ago)
Your awesomeness
Kyle Hanz (2 months ago)
"I'm having a real problem struggling" hell yea Scott, hell yea.
Brian Smith (2 months ago)
Great work. Better double-check that protein content of the moringa though - 38 - 39% is a bit higher than most studies show. In the leaves the content in about 25%, less in the stems. Depending on the variety and growing conditions 15 - 30% protein content for the whole plant is usual. More importantly, what are the amino acid (AA) bonds in the protein? If the human can not make the specific enzyme required to break those bonds, the amount of protein does not matter. If you can't break it down, the body can't use it - and, in fact, indigestible dipeptides (2 AAs) may hinder or impair the ability to adequately digest those AA bonds humans can break down. This, theoretically, could lead to a lowering of the available AA pool, given that the diet contains more than one source of protein. Also important is the ratio, and type, of AAs used to make the plant protein - the human body has a specific ratio of AA needed for each protein of which about 20 must be obtained by diet. If this plant uses AAs that are not usable by humans, it reduces the efficiency and if of the ones humans can use, there are one or two essential AAs missing, the body can not manufacture any protein the needs the missing AAs. This is why moringa works in India and Africa - because it is the main, if not the only, source of protein, it will only add to the AA pool.
2 Genes (2 months ago)
The fish could use a bigger place
Haute Swan (2 months ago)
Loved to see what you are doing with your fish and plants. I hope to set that up similar in Washington state. We are originally from San Diego, moved to Virginia Beach for 17 years and now we want to find a place in Washington where the air is nice. We may have to do rainbow trout instead but I am excited to show my husband what you have done. I might do much of it indoors depending on the weather and animals there. Thanks for sharing. What you are doing is smart and great for your family!
Henry Sun (3 months ago)
I used to having scared feeling when I grew food at my backyard because it looked weird to me while our neighbors bought food from stores, and they looked at me when I picked food from my back yard to eat. But later years I thought about it and believed that they thought back then that I know how to grow food. Now I want to grow food without having weird feeling and see this gentleman is doing it, I am very excited about doing it too. Thank you for sharing this aquaponic systems.
NPC 017289292973 (3 months ago)
this set up looks messy and easily contaminated.. I mean even in his shed I worry of mold and contamination to the fish.. Funny he talks about his fear of antibotics and such while smoking a cigarette..
steal threaded (2 months ago)
funny you don't know anything about fish keeping and yet you say such foolish things so willingly
Awaken&Chosen (3 months ago)
Beautiful
zachary watson (3 months ago)
how do I grow it......just water this thing I love it!
oiewey (3 months ago)
...........The Tilapia fish live in constant DEJA VU : "I feel like I've been in this same spot just a minute ago.".......".Oh, shut up! You are a fish. You are not supposed to make sounds."
Biblioburro (3 months ago)
Dang, if someone is doing this right in my backyard I guess I don't have any reason not to 😂👍
Jotainkivaa123 (3 months ago)
I wonder if counter flow heat exchanger next to the fishtank would make a difference to the fish pool heat drain. It's basically a pipe inside a pipe. The outgoing hot water would give heat to the incoming cold water. The plant beds are essentially a large radiator. No idea about clogging, cost or corrosion. The temperature difference could also be so small between incoming and outgoing water that there's no point.
Uncle Phil (3 months ago)
Even if you completely fed a family of four on that garden, you'd only be saving like $12k a year Food is only like 6% of the average persons expenses, that's never going to be better than just having both parents work.
steal threaded (2 months ago)
no chemicals or pesticides and knowing for sure is worth more than 12k a year.
A L (3 months ago)
awesome... need it to feed myself in general. Love the idea
John CleD (3 months ago)
what's the name of the 38% proteic plant at 6:35 ?
Bryan Reeme (3 months ago)
Morenga, or horseradish tree; all parts edible & super nutritious. Delicious too
rdormer (4 months ago)
45 watts + 45 watts + 80 watts = 1.7 kilowatts? Bad math....
Ansset0 (4 months ago)
I'm sorry, but how the hell P=2x45W + 80W will equal 1,7 kW (or 1700W)?
soolly 357 (4 months ago)
Don't be sorry, I doesn't add up... If it did it would be produced at a higher volume.... But this is a nice home hobby
William Johnson (4 months ago)
this guy is extremely resourceful everyone needs to drop out of prison sckools and start being real!
allah son (2 months ago)
Give them jobs
Bastian36 (4 months ago)
I don't get it, how do you provide your plant with macro- and mikronutrients, fish only provide nitrate which gets transform to nitrate by bacteria.
Kathi Gregory (4 months ago)
Check your local bait and tackle store. They may pay a nice price for minnows.
royalspin (4 months ago)
That's awesome and very encouraging for those who are looking at doing this . I like the realistic attitude and the can do attitude . I was doing Aquaponics before it had a word to describe it . I was interested in the fish keeping hobby since kindergarten when the Seattle aquarium brought their tide pool critters to our school and gave every child a couple of guppies to see if they could take care of them and be responsible .That was 41 years ago .Since then I've been active in the hobby and worked at a few places such as tropical fish hatcheries and a couple of pet stores . Aside from my regular trade as a communications technician . There is amazing potential for feeding the world using this system and it's environmentally friendly aside from the costs of the power which can be solar,wind or micro hydro powered depending on where you live etc .Also using compost to heat the water is another way to reduce the price for heating water and or air temperature for a greenhouse . The beauty of the system is that it can be as simple as a couple of tanks for the average person and then the plants of course or a full scale farming operation . It's all about the ambition of the person or people, cooperation and support ,their dedication and their abilities to make it work . Also your entirely right about how you can scavenge things for free or low cost .I got several of my fish tanks from 10 gallo up to 200 gallons and plastic and fiberglass ponds for the price of the gas I spent . Craigslist can be your friend if you get the jump on everyone else and most importantly follow through . Anyway excellent video, I subbed 👍
Rock Alvey (4 months ago)
What is the plant at 6:35 that sounds like Morita?
dodoshlodo (4 months ago)
Pretty cool... a note on Polystyrene... styrene is classified as a carcinogen to humans according to the National Research Council. Back in 1986, a study by the EPA detected Styrene in 100% of human tissue and breast milk samples.
FARMGADGETS (4 months ago)
Geez, I do really like the way you Yanks do arithmetic... So let's see: 1,7 kilowatts is 1700 watts. Last time I did maths in school, 45+45+80 was 170. How is that 1,7kW?
Ricardo Monteiro (4 months ago)
Ahahah just noticed it too
RatedMark (4 months ago)
Btw isnt tilapia illegal to have in california... plus thats a bad fish for my area since you have to heat the water.
watcher9412 (4 months ago)
How big is yr over all land what is the length and the width
STUDIO LIVE (5 months ago)
Do you have to put nutrition in plants as well or you only feed the fish nothing else
KF_isher (5 months ago)
Smart dude, props
USSBB62 (5 months ago)
So Solar power for the pumps maybe ? Great Setup. Just remember LA. will tax you on your permits. And the new Socialists will tell you what to grow. Have fun.
350pauli (5 months ago)
Luv this 👌
Jakub Woziwodzki (5 months ago)
It's like I'm talking to someone over the phone.
Dumitrascu Claudiu (5 months ago)
Meen ,You should get a Nobel Orice,for ALL your Efort!)):
Dumitrascu Claudiu (5 months ago)
Thank's for shering!))
oscar orozco orejel (5 months ago)
He should really get some solar panels to make this work off grid, especially living in Southern California
Novacification (5 months ago)
I feel sorry for those fucking fish
M King (5 months ago)
Great job man
Soulrebel Organics (5 months ago)
Awesome man I think it’s awesome
H Max (5 months ago)
is a nice set up. Can everyone do that? Maybe as you point out, when food gets so expensive that it makes it feasible for one person to stay home and take care of the system, yes. Very few people knew about moringa until Fidel Castro claimed he ate it to fight off cancer. In the dominican Republic people were stealing leaves and whole trees from other neighbor's yard after that claim. So stupid. Many Asian countries eat insects, they too are packed with proteins.....raise insects like crickets feed them to your tilapia? good video. I know this video is almost 5 years old, are you still doing this? An update?
BubblewrapHighway (5 months ago)
Growing in styrofoam in the smoggiest US city? ...lemme think about it.
Gaming With Lachy (5 months ago)
Hes using one method, the method I use is a flood and drain bed and the plants are in clay balls if you would like to know more I recommend robbobs aquaponics and backyard farm
Xeno Phanes (6 months ago)
Guy looks like he's right out of Fallout4. Awesome setup!
Spencer Mann (6 months ago)
Grow weed and actually make some money bud instead of just salads
George Henry Moore (6 months ago)
Can't help but wonder if there are harmful chemical agents in that floating stuff. Like fire retardants. ?
Clarrissa Zamora (6 months ago)
have you thought about a mobile 100W solar panel you can buy at an RV supply shop? condensation tanks to pull water from the air? https://www.amazon.com/LCS-100-Watt-Solar-Panel/dp/B01CHTRENM I'd have to find the video where in Africa they make these tear drop tanks for water gathering in arid places. its a tear drop frame made of bamboo or some osrt of other bendable woody stuff, then a drop sheet people use for water ponds inside then metal coils inside of that then a spout on the bottom to drain the water captured from the metal wires inside , in cali this would be good probably only in summer but here in Tucson it would be great year around mostly. I too am starting my own aqua and hydro ponic farming so am coming up with ways of doing everything off grid in case water gas electric get shut off from city. i saw the coolest 100w system that simply folded out like opening a small suitcase and it had the cable for running small things easily and quickly mostly used in rv travels for outside use when camping but can save you that 30 cent a day thing....just thinking another example https://gpelectric.com/products/120-watt-portable-solar-kit/
Joshua Jackson (6 months ago)
HEY SCOTT do you thing i can get an email for an internship. i would love to set up an interview and learn your system.
Scott A (7 months ago)
what grow lights are you using?
Plant Matters (7 months ago)
This is a great set up! Awesome work!
Craig Slaunwhite (7 months ago)
Having a good time struggling ;)
geeftw69 (7 months ago)
Great video thanks 4 info I'm gonna look into this type of garden 👍👍👍
giantred (7 months ago)
Huh, I thought Tilapia were herbivores?
Doc Atheist (7 months ago)
If the styrofoam roofing of the rafts sits in the water that supplies the plants, is it a food-grade plastic, or is there risk of carcinogens leaching from the styrofoam into the water and being absorbed into the crops sold for human consumption? If so, perhaps there is some waterproof, food-grade coating that can be applied to seal the plastic and prevent such leaching.
Vance Mac donald (7 months ago)
If you insulate the black tubes in a Woden box with a glass face them pipes will heat up a lot more,
Corey Mondello (7 months ago)
Not a fan of using fish or any living being in slaughter houses, to get vegetables.
Genius1107 (8 months ago)
Hrs saying California will tax you to death even though you want to be your own business.
Rosa Isela Uscanga García (8 months ago)
Is a lot investment I think ., isn't?