- Associated Press - Sunday, September 17, 2017

TIMMONSVILLE, S.C. (AP) - Using a sustainable system, hobby farmer Dan Fox cultivates fish, fruit and vegetables in a backyard greenhouse.

Water from fish tanks pumps into grow beds for plants, the plants extract nutrients from the water and the clean water drains back into the fish tanks. The water can cycle continuously.

“These grow beds have enough nutrition in there that you can literally pack them with plants,” Fox said. “They’ll grow as many plants as you can put in there.”

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This method of cultivating aquatic animals and plants is called “aquaponics.” However, those like Fox who use plastic barrels for grow beds are using “barrelponics.”

Fox said setting up a barrelponics system is inexpensive and fairly simple.

Plastic barrels cut in half and pea gravel make up the grow beds, and fish are contained in lined wooden tanks. PVC pipe, an aquarium pump and timer are materials used to circulate water every 15 minutes.

Fox set up his barrelponics system approximately six years ago. A student of healthy, sustainable farming methods, Fox was fascinated with the approach after reading about it in a pamphlet.

Now, his 100 tilapia have multiplied to more than 200, and he has harvested fish several times throughout the years. Tomatoes, lettuce, strawberries and pineapple are examples of fruits and vegetables harvested from the greenhouse.

“It goes to show you the sustainable nature of it,” Fox said.

Fox said barrelponics is a simple, healthy approach to gardening.

“One of the things that is really attractive about this is that you can grow healthy food with no herbicides or pesticides, and it’s stuff that can be grown year round,” Fox said. “It’s valuable.”

Once the system is set up, Fox said, it doesn’t need much upkeep, mainly just pulling weeds and picking fruit.

“It’s got tremendous potential,” Fox said. “All it needs is a little bit of effort put into it.”

Fox remembers occasions when he walked into the greenhouse to find tomatoes covering the floor only because he hadn’t had time to pick produce.

Fox said barrelponics is versatile, and gardeners can do it on as small or large a scale as desired. He recommends reading a manual by Travis Hughey, which can be found for free online at aces.edu.


Information from: Morning News, https://www.scnow.com

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