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Backyard aquaponics project powered by sun and wind bears veggies

ABC Health logo ABC Health 30/09/2020 By Meg Bolton
a man standing next to a tree: Keith Page from Alton Downs, near Rockhampton, has created an aquaponics project in his backyard. (ABC Rural: Meg Bolton) © Provided by ABC Health Keith Page from Alton Downs, near Rockhampton, has created an aquaponics project in his backyard. (ABC Rural: Meg Bolton)

Central Queensland equine dentist Keith Page won't knock renewable energy and self-sustainability before he tries it, so that's exactly what he's doing.

The former mine worker is using a wind turbine and solar panel to power an aquaponics operation at his Alton Downs backyard.

The set-up produces fish to eat and uses the filtered water from the tank to grow vegetables.

"I sit in my loungeroom visualising [solutions]," Mr Page said.

"Other times I wake up at two in the morning and think: 'That will work'."

Mr Page said water from the fish tank was processed through two filters before being pumped into the vegetable garden, which was filled with clay pebbles commonly used in hydroponics.

"There's a bell siphon which, when this garden bed gets quite full, has an airlock in it, and the water forces the airlock out of it and there is a continual flow of water [out of the garden bed]," he said.

Every hour 400 litres of water are pumped into the garden bed from the sump tank, a collection reservoir for the run-off.

With the occasional addition of nutrients, such as iron, the filtered fish water has proved fruitful.

Mr Page said he had successfully grown mint, silverbeet, tomatoes and cabbage, although he was yet to have any luck with peas.

Would you like fish with that?

As Mr Page watches the plants thrive, within the 1,200L water tank 60 jade perch fish are growing.

He has three additional tanks to move the fish into as they grow and the project expands.

"At the moment these are only little fellas, sort of 70 millimetres long, and when they develop to the 100mm to 150mm stage I'll separate them up and put half in the next tank," he said.

"With this set-up here, when it's going and it's full production, you can be self-sustainable.

"Probably by the end of the year I'll have to get the other tank and garden bed under operation.

"I think we can have a fish [to eat] a week."

Touch and go process

Mr Page was initially sceptical of the idea of renewable energy, but now he was full of ideas.

Mr Page said his operation could expand to 8 hectares and could easily be adopted by others looking for a more self-sufficient life.

"This is just an experimental exercise," he said.

"It's not big enough to be commercial, but to understand something you've got to go and do the experimental runs and learn things.

"No-one can argue with first-hand knowledge."

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