•10 months ago
•6 min read
You will most likely be farming your aquaponics, hydroponics or aquaculture system for a few years before you enter the world of lab tests. It should absolutely be sooner.
But there are all these reasons why we don't reach out to labs...
In your system you will always want to do a water quality test. This will tell you the contents and nutrients of your water which is valuable if you want to know what is bioavailable for your plants and bacteria. The awesome results of these tests will probably include a combination of the following:
Nitrate-Nitrogen, Ammonium-Nitrogen, Phosphate, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, Boron, Copper, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Sodium, Sulfate, Fluoride, Chloride, Carbonates, Bicarbonates, pH, EC, Aluminum, Iron, Manganese, Zinc, Copper, Molybdenum, SAR, Alkalinity, Total Dissolved Solids (TDS), and Hardness
There is a lot of information hidden deep within those metrics. Unpacking them, understanding them, and reacting to their current state will be both challenging and rewarding.
This is a hard question. Living in a developing context for almost 10 years we're very familiar with the difficulties of trusting tests within labs that don't specialize in water quality testing (that is, if you're lucky to have labs). Many of the labs we dealt with were soil-focused and had limited options for water.
Fortunately, we're gathering and partnering laboratories around the globe that can support next-gen water farmers. They support mail in samples and international customers. We've already partnered with MMI Labs for water testing and Regen Aquaculture for sap analysis.
We thought so too. There are many labs that charge a large amount for their tests. By nature, some tests are naturally expensive. However, we're diligently working to find the labs that balance the quality of the tests and the price for customers. Some tests can be as low as USD $25 which means there is always something you can test to improve your system.
The time and patience required to learn how to use a lab for aquaponics, while also trying to balance a production system, staff, compliance, and audits can be overwhelming. There is a counter argument that preventing disaster with lab tests can be just as good an investment as saving money from doing them.
Once you've established a habit of testing you'll be much more informed about the health of your aquaponics system and significantly decrease the risk of crop loss and fish death.
We have to remember, it's just data. Not only that, we're all thinking this very thought. If we all convince ourselves that this data can enhance our farms, we can change this culture of hesitation.
This data can be used to enhance our farm and when we're dealing with a commercial farm we don't want to be guessing and hoping. Use this data to take your farm to the next level, increase your revenue, improve your fish health, and maybe implement systems that prevent catastrophies.
This shame is tough to overcome, but imagine what you could do for your farm if you had this information?
If you're a STEM educator, then you don't need to be told the numerous benefits of this data. You can observe changes in the biology and how certain metrics change in relation to other metrics. You can inspire students to discover new insights like the relationship of dissolved oxygen to light or pH.
If you're a commercial grower, this really becomes your livelihood. I can't tell you how many commercial farmers say, "I have a dead fish!" or "Pests are taking over my farm..." or even "why are my crops discolored?" and have no idea about the quality of their water.
Many of them have heard about tracking pH (which they did on a weekly basis) but didn't realize it fluctuated based off numerous other factors like time of day.
What we recommend is looking at your greatest risk (probably fish death or water filtration/quality) and then add tests where this is critical. This will give you the maximum return on your investment. If fish deaths are important, look at the metrics for your fish health (like pH, DO, and others) and create habits of testing those metrics. This might mean installing a sensor, or regularly sending water samples off to a lab on a weekly basis.
If you're a hydroponic farmer then you'll be more concerned with the nutrients in the water and EC. Your mitigation tactics for avoiding disaster will include water/nutrient testing, and you need to keep a closer eye on temperatures and pH for nutrient uptake.
There is a big difference between looking at a specific metric and looking at a metric over time.
With a single reading you can determine if there is anything wrong right now. It doesn't give you the ability to see trends, where it came from, where it's going. The more data you track the more likely you'll be able to mitigate disasters.
What we've done is partner with the leading laboratories across the globe to provide an easy way for you to order, sample and manage results.
Up until now, you've had to fill out long forms, PDFs, send them back in snail mail, wait for a week and hope it made it. Now you can order (and re-order) your tests with a single click.
Each test you order can be mapped to your own notebooks. This means that when a test is complete the results will be automatically recorded to your notebooks! It will immediately trigger any alerts and insights you have setup in your system.
You can even install insights directly from the labs for particular crops!?
Yep. Our lab partners created marketplace addons for specific crops and system performance! You can install them today.
Gonna be good.