Growing Power

Sorry no pictures on this one, Growing Power doesn’t allow it.

First let me say that I think Growing Power is a wonderful organization and I love what they are doing in general. However, I don’t think people new to aquaponics should attempt their Aquaponics System design methods of growing fish.

It isn’t that their methods don’t work, because they are obviously working for Growing Power. However, when one without much experience with Aquaponics tries to mimic their methods and doesn’t get it exactly right, the results tend to be tragic.

Now I did not take one of their Aquaponics Workshops so I don’t know exactly what they teach at one of those sessions.

So since I did not take the class/workshop here is an edit/disclaimer to try and appease those who feel I’m being “Hateful”.
Perhaps their methods are fine if you take the class/workshop to learn the methods, since I have not taken the class/workshop I don’t know how those teachings differ from the publicity statements/advertizing about how those methods work. What I actually find troubling is what their publicity/advertizing says which has, in at least a few occasions, prompted people to build system with far too little filtration and then stock it with way too many fish and then experience huge fish kills due to poor water quality.

All I know is what their tour says and what much of their publicity videos say. Which is 1 fish per gallon and harvest once per year while I look at a tank with brown water (can’t see the fish) with a constant flow through two very shallow troughs of gravel with nursery containers sitting on top of the gravel in the top trough and water cress growing in gravel in the bottom trough. For the most part it looks like the fish tanks are the same footprint as the two troughs above them. The troughs are only about 3 inches deep and the fish tanks look to be around 3 feet deep. There is air pumping into the fish tanks and I expect fish tank water probably gets used to water much of the soil plants so there will be some water change happening as water is topped up to replace the loss.

I think some modified versions of their system could be very good but as far as I’m concerned, there is no where near enough filtration for me to be comfortable with such an aquaponics system design.

Part of the problem is in their heavily stocked Aquaponics system designs they are growing tilapia which can handle terrible water conditions but such water quality is far more likely to kill many other species of fish. I can’t tell for sure but I think the perch were in more lightly stocked systems and I could see into the depths in the Perch tanks but they didn’t really make that distinction clear to the tour.

I have since seen another Aquaponics System that was roughly based on the Growing Power methods of Aquaponic System Design but only roughly. The fish tanks were huge and the filtration totally not enough and that facility did have a pretty major fish kill.

I do wish Growing Power wouldn’t make such a strong voice telling people they can grow 1 fish per gallon with so little filtration without telling them that they need to slowly work up to such a level while learning to monitor water quality and build a strong bio filter. I’m fairly certain that growing power doesn’t stock that many fish into a brand new system that hasn’t been cycled up at all.

Now what Growing Power is good at, worms! They have a huge worm operation going as well as composting. I’m so jealous of their worms and the extent of their composting operations. I think we will be trying to expand our worm operations now after seeing growing power.

They also have goats, ducks, turkeys, and chickens.

Finally, Growing Power grows shoots to sell as salad greens. They have sunflower shoots, pea shoots, and one other variety that I forget. Shoots are bigger than sprouts and are cut above the soil they are seeded in. They seed their shoots in a mix of coir and worm castings and said they are about a one week grow out. Growing times for the shoots I’ve looked up usually show a 10-15 day growing period. Anyway, I expect we will be trying to grow some shoots for ourselves soon.

24 comments to Growing Power

  • Great blog! I really love how it is easy on my eyes as well as the facts are well written. I have bookmarked your site! Clean Energy is green energy. It will be interesting to see how the design of photovoltaic tile evolves over the next decade.

  • Eron Lloyd

    Thanks for the thoughts on this; I’ve been analyzing GP’s design for a while now and trying to work through its structure. I agree that it’s not something that looks readily scalable for new projects, and uses a very unique form of container-based wicking and vermicompost supplements. What exactly aren’t you allowed to post pictures about, though?

  • TCLynx

    Well, I think Growing Power’s methods could be quite scalable, however, it is very important for “newbies” to the idea of aquaponics not to jump in with both feet using only the one paragraph instructions that are generally thrown out at growing power.

    “1 fish per gallon” based on a glimpse of how their system seems to work for a start up system.

    I think a constant flow through stream system could work but one would need to very slowly work up the stocking on the system to see where the balance actually is for the particular system.

    As to posting pictures. They request that any pictures taken on site be used only privately unless you get express written permission before posting or using them.

  • Joey

    Wow, I love how you rip into Growing Power without ever taking their training course. As far as I could tell, GP uses 5 foot deep fish tanks, not the 3 foot you say they have. As for the GP grow beds, they are at least double what you say in depth, they are at least 6 inches deep. I understand that watching videos on a computer can throw off your depth perception, but please don’t site your view as facts.

    I DO agree that 1 fish per gallon is a bit crowded, but they never say to start a system fully stocked. If you know anything about aquariums, it is a slow and steady process to reach a tanks capacity. It takes time to establish both the beneficial bacteria and plant life to equalize the amount of ammonia in a system.

    Do more research, and move forward without hating on Growing Powers working design.

    Don’t jump into a pool without making sure it is fillled!

    • TCLynx

      Hay, I don’t Hate Growing Power and I was actually there to see the grow beds in person. Now I have to admit that I didn’t get to take their class and I’m very glad to hear that they tell the students not to stock 1 fish per gallon at the beginning (sadly it seems not all their students paid attention to that bit.)

      As I said, I was there and NO, at least several of the “grow beds” are NOT 6″ deep, I would be shocked if there were more than 2 1/2″-3″ of gravel in some of the beds I saw, in person. And stating that the fish tanks are 5′ deep instead of 3′ deep doesn’t make me think any better of them, it just means that there is even more fish tank in relation to the (even if they were 6 inches deep) grow beds.

      Now obviously it is working for them so I’m not going to argue with something that is working for them. Unfortunately, I’ve seen a few too many attempts to sort of emulate their methods fail due to inadequate filtration. So if you are going to attempt Growing Power’s methods, I would say definitely take their class and follow the instructions closely and contact them for help since I’m not sure how they manage without problems.

      I go with twice as much gravel volume as fish tank volume for my home systems where I’m stocking more like 1 fish per 2.5 gallons of water on the MAX fish load side so I hope you can see where a 3 foot deep fish tank with only 6 inches of grow bed of the same footprint seems like not enough grow bed to me. Heck some of them have two grow beds stacked and even if they were both 6 inches deep it still seems like only a sixth of the amount of grow bed needed for my method.

  • Aqua Joe

    Take the class first before you start saying the wrong things about GP. Write from facts not fiction. We have enough of negative writings about good green products. TAKE THE CLASS AND THEN TELL US FROM FACTS. OKAY????????????????????

  • TCLynx

    I will make a minor edit above to note that using their methods may be fine, if you take the class/workshop to learn the methods, since I have not taken the class/workshop I don’t know how those teachings differ from the publicity statements/advertizing about how those methods work.

    I still stand by my statement that some one not highly experienced in fish keeping trying to follow their methods based on the advertizing and what can be seen from the tours is probably in for a few disasters. Even with tilapia, growing out one fish per gallon of fish tank with less filtration than the volume of fish tank is likely to have problems.

  • Shawn

    I took the GP workshop last weekend. After watching the videos on the internet some things did not add up so I went to find out for myself. First off what the videos don’t show is the 55 gallon sand filters that each system have. Also after the you get into the nuts and bolts of the aquaponics system the 1 fish to 1 gallon of water is miss leading and explained during the class. Fingerlings can be stocked at the 1 to 1 ratio however 20% have to be removed during grow out. 80 fish to 100 gallons of water. The “tanks” are about 4’ish wide X a tapered 4.5 feet to 4 feet deep the deepest end being to the pump end. The whole system is built using 4″x4″x8′ 2″x4″x8′ and 1/2″x4’x8′ plywood so the grow beds are 3.5″ tall with only about 1.5 to 2″ of water in them. The pots grown in them have 1 to 2″ of river rock in them and after the plants root (after being top watered) they are added to the grow bed. The brown water is from the compost that has fallen in the system from pots being knocked over during the harvesting process and from the compost in the pots. In the gravel beds about 1″ of water is over the gravel worms are added to the gravel. The class covers stocking and many other things not covered on the videos the class is worth the trip and you can learn a lot from the hands on. With the information I learned I am going forward with my aquaponics dreams ( I have been planning for 2 years ) such large scale projects need to be planed and not jumped into. GP’s Aquaponics system is solid if you get all of the details and training.

    • TCLynx

      Thank You Shawn. I’m very glad to hear some of the missing details. I even got the tour and I don’t remember seeing any sand filters so it is good to hear confirmation that there is more filtration on hand and that they recommend it in the workshops.

      Thank You very much for sharing.

    • Robert

      Shawn I read your response and i am considering taking there workshop I have been running my aquaponic system now for 2 years and want to expand what I want to know is about them using the coir/coco husk and compost/worm droppings what type of coir are they using as I have been playing around with it outside my system and I can see it can stain the water plusfine particles will tend to leach out not including what the compost will do as well is the case at GP and have you built your system based on there design and is the a way to eliminate the water problem

      • TCLynx

        Robert, definitely take the class if you intend to build based on their designs. I’ve heard too many bad stories about people who build based on the hype, hearsay and sound bites about their systems only to have major system crashes.

        Luckily you have been doing aquaponics for 2 years and probably have a better handle on coping with water quality than the average newbie building a new system.

        What type of system do you currently have Robert? I use a fair amount of coir, peat, worm castings etc about my systems. I don’t have any pretty fish display tanks and my water is mostly kinda yellow to tea color but I haven’t had any major issues with the particles as far as I can tell. I have lots of filtration though compared to the amount of fish tank and I stock way lower density than Growing Power (I like to grow out about 1 fish per ten gallons of fish tank) so my bio-filters (gravel beds, towers, net tanks and raft beds) have no problem with the extra organic matter.

        • Sandy

          I agree with you TCl, the GP model is a strange beast and I cant imagine how it can work- it doesnt seem that the plants need the fish since they are in vermicompost, it seems the fish need the plants for filtering- and if it needs a drum to clean the system, what is the point of the plants- seems inefficient but it seems to work if you add all the worm tea to the tanks and vermicompost. Portable farms uses rock dust and vermicompost- how this system is different than hydroponics when you used mined rocks verses minerals and is rock dust healthy?? granite is somewhat radioactive right LOL! seems we need to work on getting aquaponics to work with green waste so it is truly a sustainable growing system!

  • Paula

    I didn’t feel you were hating on GP, just making it clear that their methods aren’t completely obvious and shouldn’t be undertaken without going through the training. As I don’t live anywhere near them, it will likely never happen that I take their course. However, I’m new to aquaponics and am trying to learn everything, so I was intrigued by the idea of incorporating composting into the system and happened upon them. (The idea started when I came across this instructable: )

    While I may try a mini vermiponic system along the lines of the one in the instructable, I now believe it would not be wise to try it as part of an aquaponics system, at least until I am much more experienced.

    Thank you for giving your thoughts and opinions on this!

    • TCLynx

      I think growing power is great, I just object to some of their sound bytes that tend to encourage people to build systems with outrageous stocking and not enough filtration. There are far too many people building systems based on UTube videos and some other unreliable internet instructions. It is possible to learn all you need about aquaponics from the internet but it can take time to sift through the information to learn what will work long term as opposed to simply plumbing a few bins together and putting water fish and plants in.

      Now I’m not against vermiponics or using compost or recirculating wicking beds but I also think you are wise to save experimenting with those until you are more experience with basic aquaponics first.

  • RedMan92

    The fish tank is definitely a minimum of 4 feet deep, most aquaponics experts recomend a stalking density of 1 fish per 5 gallons. Any one looking into building an Aquaponic system should always consider a solid filtration method, worms also help, the reasion being is that the solid fish waist and the dead roots of previously harvested plants can build up in your grow beds making it so you have to take out the medium for cleaning every year or so. As far as going by what they say on their public videos, they also say that their farm is 3 acres, that is wildly modest, they are growing on maybe 2.5, but if you are being honest, you have to admit that they are by far one of the most successful urban farms this one of the most successful farms all around that this world has ever seen. A second thing you will find is that not all of their greenhouses are dedicated to aquaponics, they also grow plenty in the ground.

    • TCLynx

      If you have plenty of media beds (at least twice as much media volume as fish tank volume) and you stock reasonably, you don’t necessarily have to clean out the media beds. I’ve got media beds that have been running for over 2 years without any need to clean them out. Only reason I don’t have 7 year old media beds is I moved.

  • Thanks for the info TCLynx, do you know of anyone running a vermiponics-only system rather than a vaquaponics system? I’m keen to get started with a worm-only system and am keen to find out as much as possible. got me particularly interested.

    • TCLynx

      Search on the Backyard Aquaponics Forum because there used to be some one on there running worms only.
      The truth is, it isn’t the worms or the fish providing the nutrients, it is whatever you are feeding to those creatures that provides the nutrients. So the biggest challenge is if you are not feeding a good complete commercial aquacutlure feed, you need to make sure what you are feeding is providing the right nutrients for the system to provide the right nutrients to the plants while not creating any problem spots.

      Sorry I don’t have more complete instructions but as I’ve not really done more than have worms live in an aquaponics system, I don’t have experience with all the variables.

  • big fire baker

    Amateurish and irresponsible analysis. Berating a proven , tried and true model based on zero information and research does not prop you or your systems up. This is the sort of misinformation which abounds on the internet. matters posing as experrts

    • TCLynx

      I’m not saying their model doesn’t work! I’m saying, the “advertising” and “sound bites” of their methods is Misleading!!!!!!! I’ve been doing aquaponics since late 2007 so it isn’t as if this is a new post or like I’ve just discovered aquaponics. The comments were based on a first hand look at the systems during an in person tour of the facilities and I made the comments after hearing things like.
      Look we have these plants filtering the water for the fish, simple system we stock one fish per gallon and harvest once per year (there was no disclaimer of, “we are not telling the whole story here so you better take the class before you try it yourself.”) And after being asked to help fix many problems people have had when they built their systems based on what they saw on YouTube, I feel like I’m doing a public service announcement when I tell them that the sound bites and youtube videos on Growing power are not the whole story about how to build an aquaponic system. I don’t really see how that is amateurish or irresponsible. And comments here seem to support that analysis (like there needs to be more filtration than just the small amount of gravel beds they have and they are not growing out 1 fish per gallon.)

  • Don

    This is a seemingly obvious observation from someone who is just starting to learn about aquaponics. Does everyone harvest their fish once a year? Looks to me like the tanks should be sectioned off so that the fish could be birthed and harvested periodicly. This, in essence would reduce your stocking rate, by weight, but not your annual yield (after the first year)50%. Feeding,filtraion and yield would also be the same year around. I guess 10,000 fish in one shot isn’t many in Milwakee, but it would be where I live.

    • TCLynx

      For most “backyard” type systems, people will stock fish about once a year but they will usually harvest them over several months as they get big enough.
      Sectioning off a fish tank is actually much more difficult than it sounds. The way most larger operations handle staggered harvesting is by having several fish tanks to stock and harvest through the year.
      If you are trying to breed and raise your own fish to stock, that usually takes many fish tanks to keep the tilapia separated and graded by size and the need for separate breeding tanks from your grow out tanks etc.
      I don’t raise tilapia myself, I have channel catfish and bluegill. For the Channel Catfish I like to have 4, 1000 gallon tanks (to stock quarterly) for grow out and one smaller separate system for quarantine of the new fingerlings before I put them into the bigger system.
      Keep in mind that if you are trying to sell fish to a processor commercially, there is usually a minimum weight of fish to make it worth bothering. If you are only wanting to harvest 100 fish or so at a time, it may be hard to sell them unless you have a small commercial kitchen on site and you can do it yourself. For very small scale harvest it is likely to be just for you/family/neighbors etc. In which case, don’t over think it too much.

  • Farmer John

    I’m a GP supporter of sorts. One of Will Allen’s talents besides urban farming is urban fundraising. Without corporate donations, this place would not exist.

    • TCLynx

      I think Growing Power and Will Allen are doing great things, I’m a supporter too!
      But I do want to make sure that people actually LEARN the details by taking a growing power workshop before they attempt to follow the Growing Power Methods because if you simply take the tour and try to build an Aquaponic System based on the little bit you see and hear in a tour, or worse yet from a youtube sound bite, you will be dissapointed by the results (due to killing lots of fish or having poor results in the plants because the tour and the sound bites don’t tell the complete design or operation.)

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.