“Aquaponics” in My Vocabulary

It’s has been in my vocabulary since June of 1992…. Austin Texas — Keith Lane, Backyard: 3,000 gallon tank, with 300 catfish average of 35 grams, with a floating “Protected flower from Florida State University. The humble attempt worked! All 300 catfish thrived and grew out in 22 weeks; we ate them all! The Plant — singular — became a thick carpet, covering over 80% of the surface — with the most enormous flowers we have ever seen.
Then, it took me until 2007 to find the folks at UVI. My wife found them online at uvi.edu.

Now, “Aquaponics”  IS in the Dictionary

Now it is my pleasure to ask you all to discover for yourself and agree with me that Aquaponics is a word in the Merriam Webster’s Free dictionary.  http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/aquaponics

World Aquaponics Day

I want to honor this moment with a salute to all journeymen, past mentors, present mentors, future Aquapons; that May 9th 2014 became “World Aquaponics Day!” From here on into the future, we proclaim Aquaponics, in all its forms / margins, to be the answer. By “Journey” we cannot see the destination? By keeping sacred the chant: “Positive is how we live.” All the time honoring the fish we proudly call our own. To the dedication of a craft! To show others you, too, can be part of this exact process. Always striving for excellence everywhere you go.  By allowing others the room to grow, even if it is in a coffee can! My family is the light to guide me home every day, every night!
Aquaponics journeymen are compassionate; we hang on your every word.
Always able to respond, Thank you Dr. James Rakocy, Dr. Michael P. Masser, Dr. Thomas M. Lassordo

A Special thanks to Don Bailey, Frankie (care taker @ UVI), R. Charlie Shultz, plus the thousands of others who made this all possible.
With great love I ask, “Can we make the day, May the 9th, “World Aquaponics Day”?.
Your pals,
 The Harwoods
(at their post) Lily Pad Farm, San Marcos, Texas.
 PS: One last word: YEAH!!!!!

No Issue With Stand Alone Systems

It is not hard to understand the difference. The main difference being the fish or other aquatic organisms. But there are numerous other differences we can cover in the future.  There are numerous ways to produce food. Please note! I am not calling these things bunk, Both types: Stand alone Hyrdoponics has 50 plus years of research; Stand alone Aquaponics has 30 plus years of research.
“Aquaponics:  a system of growing plants in the water that has been used to cultivate aquatic organisms.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 9 May 2014. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/aquaponics&gt;
“Hydroponics:  the growing of plants in nutrient solutions with or without an inert medium (as soil) to provide mechanical support.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 9 May 2014. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hydroponics&gt;.

Trans-Gardens and Hybrid-Systems

The question I want to address today arises from several new terms like Trans-Gardens and  Hybrid-Systems.   I want to introduce these terms and speak to why they exist.  This is a chance to begin to gain  a firm understanding on why we here at LilyPad Farms stay closely aligned with the UVI method outlined in SRAC#454.

Trans-Gardens & Hybrids are the  result of  people not sourcing the Proper equipment!

People adapting MIS-information results in this style of  growing.  We can show how this exact industry came to this curve. When a serious grower sets out to find Aquaponics on the shelf, instead –  they find a garden center selling Hybrids or Trans-Gardens. It’s a simple business opportunity. If you are buying, they are selling.

We must ensure that “Clean fish practices” become the path to superior grower experiences.

Trans-Gardens and Hybrid-Systems are only a  marginal portion of this exact discussion. Here, at Lilypad Farm, we have years of  Production-Production-Production while many of my fellow gardeners have lost their way. This amazing and repeatable production is due in large part to the relentless focus upon “Clean fish practices” established within the UVI model.

Please ask me questions!

Allow me the space to expose you, the  fellow grower, to balanced systems.  Here is a very important offering to you the grower. More producers, showing the Superior results from Deep-Water Raft Culture, follow the UVI St Croix offering. We do that here every day since june 6 th 2010!
Your Pal,
Adam Harwood – Lilypad Farm of San Marcos, TX.
There’s lots of confusion over this exact statement. Here, at Lilypad Farm, we have clean fish practices; the result is giant plants.
When starting a small commercial system, or even better a small backyard aquaponics home unit, you may have trouble. The nutrient levels are low. So you, the producer, must be patient.
SRAC-454 asks for fish that are 50grams average. We never talk about fish as fingerlings; the aquaponics user has to use the term teenagers and always use the term gram size.
Nile tilapia 30 weeks old/ 480 plus grams

Nile tilapia 30 weeks old/ 480 plus grams

Feed Rate Schedule

  • We have a feed rate schedule, it conforms to a commercial growers method.
  • The fish are small. At times, we have started with 1 gram fish.
  • We hand inspect each fish for abnormality, deformity. We use the visual guide too.
  • Fish can never be away from the water more than one Human breath. If you need to re-breath, so do the fish.
  • This is a rule number 1 in fish handling: fish can recover from this stress; it takes months for the fish to overcome hypoxia.
  • We make sure the teenagers get the proper proteins, too — the fats are a must here.
By protecting and grading the Fish in the first stage, you will then get to the nutrient levels needed to start you engine. This is reason why we establish the rules of Aquaponics versus any other type of grow unit.

The fish are the KEY element. Make no mistake!

Aquaponics belongs in the hands of the fish farm/hobbist. The result of good fish practices is awesome plant growth; now we are making the robust plants we want over and over again — never once endangering the fish stock. Simply put, the media beds displace the water needed to grow density for profit; the other method is a hobby, plus it is not aquaponics. This much I am sure.

Other methods work — just not safe for the fish health

It is not possible to grow healthy fish when other unbalanced elements are present. Killing fish stock is not cool. Stay away from hybrids, it takes up too much time and it will crash. Here, the system has yet to crash.  Our fish to gallon size is proper, fish are safe during time of low or no plant production. Follow the UVI method and find your way to profit.

Positive is how we live   — Adam Harwood

Keep up the numbers. Please ask questions, read SRAC-454 and get informed.

Hybrids /trans gardens work just not as efficient as UVI method….period

Yes, we grow huge tomato on rafts, giant plants definitely grow here — no need for a media bed ever.. That’s hydro folks talking. Next, is the margins of what it is others do!!!!!

Stay tuned

We have never once used clay media or rock wool in our aquaponics system. Ever!

Using a “media bed” with clay, rock wool or pebbles is strictly a trans-gardening and hydroponics industry notion. People, often unknowingly, have created a hybrid or a trans-garden from this exact discussion and labeled it aquaponics.

Media Beds = Unhealthy Fish Practice and Premature Plant Death

Please be aware that we here at Lilypad Farm have THE wholesome approach.  By using the other media, one encounters a number of problems. Beyond the fact that it’s not as clean as coir which allows removal of the plant, roots and all. And then there’s transportation. It’s harder to move clay media, such as Hydroton balls, so typically, you have to remove the plant. Alternately, we can easily transport the plants with their roots intact, while still in the cup. Put another way, when we harvest (or transplant them), the plants themselves remain alive and 100% nutrient rich. But when you remove the Plant from the other media, the plant is now dying. It’s no different from traditional terrestrial farming. Oh well, back to the dirt we go!

People ask us, “How do you get the crop to be so uniform?”

Here, at Lilypad Farm, we sell and hand over clean, wholesome, live food allowing you, the customer and gardener, the option to enjoy the connoisseurs’ food we are known for.
The coir itself is carefully hand inspected, 3 gallons at a time in a 15-gallon shallow bucket. Every small objection is removed, and then after a thorough, obsessive hand combing — only then, do we let the farmer/producer install the plant in the system. This will make your outcome OUTSTANDING.

We put Living Food in the hands of people!

We put Living Food in the hands of people!

It is partially due to the hand seeding, then the inspection of the coir itself.
 We will curate the process and the quality of each and every cup.  The coir itself is very ph neutral.
We here at Lilypad Farm put food in the hands of people. The coir is not dirt! It is a place to hold the root ball in place. We ask folks to display the goods in a small stand of water. If you change the water in the stand daily, the plants will remain for a long time – far longer than plants with no roots attached. Plus, are you going to put gravel in the hands of others? Rock wool?
Coir offers the customer several options, but to what end??? You get live plants all the time. Making for superior product over and over again. Please note, it is a real answer to trans-gardening and hybrid production; aquaponics is a balanced system — fish and plants.
Keep up the numbers! Positive is how we live at lily pad farm!
-Adam Harwood
LiliPad Raft (tm)

Switching deep water rafts from styrene foam to lifetime durable poly plastic

Here, at Lilypad farm, we have finally made the Cross over… from Dow blue board to LiliPad ™ raft.

In prior years, we planted in the “dow”- blue board, cleaning them every 30 days on average using a gentle water stream and a soft nylon brush. These new rafts details are below:

  • 2′ x 4′ x 1.3″ thick.
  • Have 12 tapered holes per raft which equals 48 holes per 4′ X 8′ area.
  • The geometry is identical spacing  to the UVI model with one exception.
  • We moved to a 3 inch cup, allowing The highest quality food possible. 
  • The output of a 2 inch net pot or cup is not equal to a 3 inch net pot.

With  3 inch pots, we have posted healthy plants for over 56 months.  When a seed pack reports 10 ounce average. The plants here post 14-16 oz.

By using a 3 inch pot or cup, it just works! 

When a plant needs the room to grow, it gets to fruition quicker -larger here, year round. When a plant is too small or too close together the plant matter displays DSCF8179numerous signs of weakness leading to insects and other problems directly placing the harvest at risk. Also consider that we use a high density(fish) stocking and(fish) feed rate. This makes for a higher free and available nutrients period. We are confident you too will get the same results if you follow the UVI method of stocking and plant spacing.  High-production is the result. We display and sell the largest or the large!!!! – week in, week out – making the profits we need to sustain Lilypad Farm.  Our move to the “poly raft” – LiliPad Raft ™ – strategy  last month was to an even better result than first thought. Each raft is 2’x4’x1.3″ making it fast and easier to harvest and load cutting down significantly on labor! This modified chore set makes for even higher profits here!

Buying lifetime rafts vs. buying “blue boards” every 24-30 months. 

These new poly LiliPad Rafts ™ come with a lifetime no question asked guarantee. It is the #1 raft of it’s kind. Yes, it is 3 inch holes and we have a 2 inch coupling that works also if you prefer. Please ask me any questions here about the change over. We’re convinced that this is a no brainer decision when considering lifetime costs and reduced labor costs.

Major PDSCF8133ROS for choosing LiliPad Raft ™

We are happy to tell you the reasons we choose LiliPad Raft ™ over Styrene. These rafts are the Best hands down.

  • Wholesome is the first answer. No fear or concern around chemicals leaching from the foam or pieces breaking apart and strying in system.
  • The second is lifetime replacement. They will replace the raft for free. They just want to know “HOW in the world did it break”.
  • Made in America pat pend

 Thank you, Adam, Susan, & Lily Harwood “Positive is how we live”  here at lilypad farm San Marcos Texas

We had a great time at the Texas Aquaculture 44th Annual Conference and Trade Show last January 29-31, 2014 in Fredericksburg, Texas. It was a true honor to provide an overview of our aquaponics practice at Lilypad Farm and provide a point of view to the amazing group of Texas aquaculturists. Let’s start with the basics – SRAC# 454 – Recirculating Aquaculture Tank Production Systems: Integrating Fish by James E. Rakocy, Thomas M. Losordo and Michael P. Masser.

Recirculating aquaculture systems are designed to raise large quantities of fish in relatively small volumes of water by treating the water to remove toxic waste products and then reusing it. In the process of reusing the water many times, non-toxic nutrients and organic matter accumulate. These metabolic by-products need not be wasted if they are channeled into secondary crops that have economic value or in some way benefit the primary production system. Systems that grow additional crops by utilizing by-products from the production of the primary species are referred to as integrated systems.

There are several key points that can help us gain clarity when understanding aquaponics:

  • —The UVI model grows plants at a abnormally high rate.
  • —This is the confusion. Growers some how forget the fish are paramount, it is not “hydroponics”.
  • — The profit is in the plants, the fish can pay the bills.
  • —Growers must adhere to “clean fish practices”.
  • —Contact me if you want a break down of this information.

Below I’ve provided further information shared at the conference.

SRAC-454 is the method we follow

  • —Srac -454 is the citation we follow. The UVI model, is the bible. 30 years of study from the NST .
  • —Others have innovated around it.
  • —The UVI method is “taking care of business”
  • —Our farm is the largest of the residential and the smallest of commercial affairs.
  • —Live where you work.
  • —We  can be larger , we choose to remain a family operated business

Largest of the residential and the smallest of commercial affairs

  • —1,800 plants in each greenhouse X 3 greenhouses = 5,400 plants
  • —Each plant is in the system and average of 4 weeks
  • —We germinate 2,160 plants every 7 days.  We select the best seedlings
  • —The ergonomics(chores) are broken down into 45 minute compartments
  • —This is why I cannot make the farm larger!
  • —More systems mean more skilled biologist, larger (meaning more systems), will entail a full time staff.
  • —We are at capacity , proving the 45 minute compartment “skill sets to run the facility.

Lily Pad Farm Overview  12 month “outlook”

  • —Feb 15th  thru October 21st  This season has the best case scenario.
  • —October 22nd thru Feb 14th Production is Half.
  • —Hot weather is hard on the plants and easy on the fish.
  • —Cold weather is hard on the fish ..very hard on the plants.(lack of sunshine)
  • —Cold weather we use clear covers
  • —Hot weather we cover in 47% woven shade cloth

Why it makes money

  • —We built our farm.
  • —“Designed to fail, hope for the best.” (explain)
  • —Incorporate used equipment. Trucks, Storage sheds, racks, tables.
  • —Our expenses are under control.
  • —Never over burden the actual outcome, this is no place for a spread sheet.
  • —Farming is the key to profit.
  • —Hard work every day, then more hard work.
  • —Mature decisions.
  • —We sell retail, this eliminates sharing profits with wholesalers.
  • —We know our limits
  • — Ask questions , Follow the rules.

Clean fish practices – Wholesome horticulture practices

  • —Fish are introduced at .085 grams – 1.1 grams, we use a crib that floats. This crib is where the farmer can examine and count the stock. Each week they are inspected for growth and uniformity, After day 37 they are allowed to be introduced to the system. (22<> grams)
  • —  Average of 180-210 days to harvest. 550<>grams
  • — SRAC-454 ensures proper stocking rates.
  • —Growbeds result in Clean fish practices.
  • —We use 3”grow cups-Roots become the filter.
  • —Plant growth allows higher feed rates.

The fish are paramount

  • —Using clean fish practices allows the farmer a chance at this enormous plant cycle.
  • —SRAC is a “Balanced system” Fish & Plants
  • —If you use more than fish and plants, this is called hybrid /Transgardens (they work)
  • —Hybrids- transgardens make the fish Stressed due to lack of environment.
  • —“Low density” fish stock is not the goal of SRAC-454
  • —The industry makes new comers reach towards Hydroponic equipment, this is the Transgardens  evolution.
  • —Transgarden works, Hybrid works.
  • —Elements of this practice ignore “clean fish practices”
  • —Aquaculturist have the correct approach. Fish are paramount.


  • —Hybrid aquaponic systems that incorporate vermiculture and/or ebb and flow components or gravel beds
  • —Transgardening systems are not based on research
  • —Potential problems:  gravel displaces the necessary water to ensure fish health, gravel may contain potential bio hazards to fish and plants ie pythium etc.

We’re getting more and more inquiries for help to address the broken promises of transgardening. We do not practice transgardening. Therefore, we cannot assist here. If you have inquiries about aquaponics as defined in SRAC# 454 with a real interest in becoming an aquaponics farmer, please submit a contact form explaining your desires and situation. I’ll happily follow up with you to help you find the right path forward.

Positive is how we live!

It’s been some time since we last posted on this blog. There’s a great explanation for this. We’ve been taking care of business!

We continue to farm and to explore the boundaries of aquaponics all while living a healthy lifestyle. This is part of our positive living here. But, we do have an exciting event to share with you. I’m coming out from behind my fence to speak at the upcoming Texas Aquaculture 44th Annual Conference and Trade Show. Save the date – It’s January 29-31, 2014 in Fredericksburg, Texas.  See the details below on what I’ll be covering at the conference.

Aquaponics versus Hydroponics versus Hybrid Production

Texas Aquaculture Association

Adam Harwood, Lily Pad Farm, is in the business of aquaponics. He is bringing us his expertise in this field. He will give an explanation of the industry’s current methods and how the industry has come to be.  Mr. Harwood will discuss what makes a business aquaponics versus something different.  Then, he will share with us what’s happening at Lily Pad Farm, their current production, and how they are “taking care of business”.

Mr. Harwood has several years of experience in aquaponics. He > designed, built, and currently operates a small scale aquaponics/aquaculture operation. He maintains, cultures, retail sales for profit. Mr. Harwood built his farm in 2009 and has been involved with fish research/aquaculture since 1990.

SAVE THE DATE: Texas Aquaculture 44th Annual Conference and Trade Show – January 29-31 in Fredricksburg, Texas