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Decoupled Evolution of Aquaponics – New Iteration

Everyone had the wonderful opportunity to follow my work in the UAE on facebook, which I will write more about later.  On my return to the real world, I wrote a description of how that system was put together in terms of splitting the aquaculture from the hydroponics and aptly named it “The Earthan Cycle”.  Following that and a fantastic bombardment of emails asking how it worked, I see some very odd attempts at explaining it and calling it “Decoupled Aquaponics”.  However, as with the “Hybrid Systems”, they failed to understand to process they copied and now it is set to be the next “Worlds Best Practice Commercial Aquaponic Training”. Fascinating to say the least… Perhaps I am misunderstanding the term decoupled aquaponics because what is being pushed out there as “new” has been an integral part of all our designs since we started building aquaponic systems; The ability to isolate the fish from the plant system.  You will find it through out the Evolution of Aquaponics articles.  I suppose in terms of separating systems, they are by default being decoupled but they do not exist under normal operations as decoupled or separated it is just an single loop aquaponic system. The major benefit for separating or decoupling aquaponics systems is the ability to treat fish without determent to the plants.  Such as the use of salt (Sodium chloride).  It is a very worthwhile benefit.  However, there is a major flaw in this thinking.  Any treatment of the fish system will not be removed (unless dumping the water is on the cards) and when you reconnect the fish system the plants, that treatment will still be present.  This may not give you much of an issue in large water volume systems, like deep water culture because the treatment will be well diluted.  But in media or NFT and the like this will not be the case. Some have noted other benefits to a decoupled system using the above diagram as follows: The fish system can be in a header house.  A separate building to control the temperature of the fish.  While this is true with a correctly decoupled system, in this example it is not.  The normal operation of the diagram presented is just an aquaponic system as a single loop (without the red lines).  So there is no capacity to keep the fish water at a different temperature if it is running out to the greenhouse, it defies logic. You can have different hydraulic loading between the plants and fish.  Absolutely, but not in the example drawn.  When they are running separately, you can but when running normally you can turn on the pump that sits in the plant system sump and circulate the water through the rafts.  But to what end?  None at all because there is no evidence that suggests a raft that is aerated relies on water flow.  In fact we ran ours (3600m2 of it) 1 to 2 hours a day.  So you will use more power for no gain. Mitigates risk of catastrophic plant system failure.   I have never seen a fish system cause total loss in a plant system.  There is certainly plenty evidence of the plant systems killing the fish or more precise a poorly designed media bed or some other incarnation of a poorly deigned system causing total loss but not the in the plant system.  This is just a bit of fluff. Now it is scale-able aquaponics.  Separating the two systems definitely helps with scale.  However, giving them the ability to separate the system does not somehow make the “system” scale by default.  What’s that Queen song?  It’s a kind of magic magic magic.  You can only scale a system that is designed for the size you are targeting.  You can not take one tiny system and replicate it over and over nor can you just blow up the system in your image editing to scale it and make it bigger.  It must be designed for that size.  Adding a sump and filtration certainly helps with scale but it does not mean it can be… especially with a backyard radial flow filter (or newly named ‘clarifier”). It really is like watching a fish learning to walk… On the flip side, there are plenty of benefits to separating the systems and running them completely and permanently “decoupled” but this iteration of the design approach will not do more than give you that capacity to separate the systems from each other should something go wrong. It is great to see people having a go a different system designs.  It is wonderful to see the hobbyists and amateurs having a tinker.   However,  given this apparently new method is being delivered by people training commercial aquaponics for years, whom have only just upgraded their filtration (copied my DIY backyard radial flow filter), it makes me wonder and it should make you think too…  what he hell have they been teaching previously? I will be talking more about how an actual decoupled aquaponic system really works soon.  Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter here. Cheers Paul…

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