Solutions for Self-Reliance

How to Grow Food in a Drought


The drought this year is pretty severe. Worse, it’s not only dry, it’s HOT.

If you want to get a sense for how bad it is, take a look at this amazing graphic that compares this year’s drought vs. previous droughts.

Of course, this drought means it is going to be a bad year for farmers. Corn prices are already at an all time high and other crops are following its ascent. It also means that it’s going to be a bad year for many gardeners. Why? Many communities are going to impose strict water controls by the end of the summer….

So, what should we do? Like so many of the smart and (VERY) capable people in our online community, my reaction to this news isn’t to wring my hands in worry or gnash my teeth in fear.

Instead, since we are a resilient and pragmatically optimistic community of people, this drought will serve to motivate us to make ourselves less vulnerable to droughts in the future (of which there promises to be many).

Pushing the Envelope: A Self-Contained Aquaponics Solar Greenhouse

One of the solutions to growing food during more frequent and severe droughts is to use aquaponics.

Aquaponics is a gardening system that combines both fish farming and hydroponics.  It is a very good system to use during a drought, since it uses much less water than traditional gardening (more on aquaponics automation and business thinking).

Since my research indicates that droughts are going to be much more frequent in the future, I’ve been on the hunt for interesting aquaponics projects for quite a while now.

Luckily, I met the entrepreneurial innovators at Portland Purple Water, a company that provides rainwater harvesting and aquaponics systems.  They introduced me to a system designed by Franz Schreier. Franz’ design and prototype of an Aquaponics Solar Greenhouse is the most advanced I’ve seen. It’s designed to operate without any external energy input.

Technical Note: His greenhouse combines everything from special coatings on the greenhouse glass (better performance than standard glass) to rotating solar panels (to use the light energy the plants can’t use) to PAR light films (these films can shift light from green, a color that plants don’t use much for photosynthesis, to other usable colors) to a sulfur plasma lamp (an artificial light source that can mimic the sun).

Here’s a picture of the greenhouse prototype he put together (you can access his entire presentation here).

Here’s another viewpoint (you can see the fish tank to the lower right).

This looks like an amazing prototype.  The next step is to see if it can be built on a larger scale.

That’s exactly what the guys at Portland Purple Water are doing. They are trying to raise the money, using Kickstarter, to build a larger version of this system.

Here are the goals:

  • Scott Yelton (he’s a partner at Portland Purple Water) is building a blog and discussion zone for donors (like me) and CSA members to participate in the construction of the system.
  • Demonstrate the viability of an Aquaponics CSA (community supported agriculture).  The difference between this type of CSA and traditional ones is that this CSA can supply members with weekly baskets of produce throughout the ENTIRE year.
  • Use the system as an incubator for other aquaponics efforts.

Hope that you find this project interesting enough to back (NOTE:  if it doesn’t make the funding goals, the contribution is returned to you, so it’s low risk).

Growing Vertically Rocks!

Andy, a resilient member of our community, graciously sent in photographs of how he uses structurally rigid and low cost cattle panels to grow vertically with his large scale garden.

Remember. Don’t worry. Don’t fret. Just focus on the problems that are in front of  you and solve them. One by one. I’ll be here to help.

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