Growers Network Staff

May 21, 2018 6 min read
May 21, 2018
6 min read

An Introduction to Closed-Loop Aquaponic Systems – Part 1 – Preparing for the Future

Darryl Cotton of Inda-Gro and 151 Farmers introduces readers to aquaponics — creating a living system for fish and hydroponically-grown cannabis.

This series of articles will demonstrate how commercial cannabis farmers can optimize their annual crop production values, on a gram per meter basis, and do so in response to new and emerging government-mandated energy and water savings standards.

The following is an article produced by a contributing author. Growers Network does not endorse nor evaluate the claims of our contributors, nor do they influence our editorial process. We thank our contributors for their time and effort so we can continue our exclusive Growers Spotlight service.

Why make a closed-loop system?

A closed-loop aquaponics system is an ideal organic design, such that the system sustains itself and doesn’t use harmful chemicals. A closed-loop aquaponics system, by design, will never rely on any nutrient, pesticide, insecticide, or fungicide that could harm the fish or the plants, or those who would consume any of the products produced, in any way. This is because a closed-loop aquaponics system relies on the basic ecological underpinnings of the nitrogen cycle and carbon cycle. By using nutrient-rich fish-water to fertilize and water the plants and the leftover plant matter to feed the fish, you can create a system wherein only a few inputs are ever needed, primarily energy and some of the basic plant nutrients.

Additionally, under increasing government-mandated regulations, the environmental impact of your farm will become vital to your success as a company. What is apparent to cannabis cultivation is that the rules are not yet set in stone, and probably will not be for some time. To the traditional cultivator trying to maintain compliance to these ever-evolving standards, this will represent a real challenge to day-to-day operations that are compliant. In a regulated cannabis industry this will be important because what might have been legal one day may not be the next.

As these articles pertain to cannabis cultivation, we will also employ some not-so-traditional techniques that improve crop quality and yield while reducing our energy, water consumption and times to harvest.

What Being Legal Means to the Cannabis Farmer

It should come as no surprise to anybody in the legal cannabis industry that environmental agencies will play an increasingly important role in determining who can cultivate and who can not.

Don’t misunderstand, we’re not saying that environmental protections are a bad thing. What we are saying is that cultivators need to be aware, that within the language of these laws, new and existing governmental agencies will now have authority that will forever change the way we cultivate cannabis. For example, in California, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, aka AUMA, specifically addresses water diversion and wastewater discharge issues. It is within the language of this law, and within the discretion of up to 13 government agencies, to revoke a cultivation license when defending the environment as detailed within the AUMA language in Section 2 – Findings and Declarations paragraph (F):

A reasonably prudent business person must ask themselves, “is all this risk and uncertainty worth the time and the money being spent to maintain compliance?”

Fortunately, the lawmakers recognize that risk, and even warn those who will venture into the industry, that the regulations and the measures are yet to be defined but will need be followed. This may in fact make the entire endeavor “Unreasonably impractical” according to language in AUMA under Division 10, Chapter 1 General Provisions 26001 (2) (dd).

Should the regulations become too burdensome and the business is ultimately forced to close their doors, it cannot be said that you were not warned.

Cannabis Farmers Can Save the Day!

Cannabis farmers are by nature, a creative and resilient group. If you have been cultivating for any significant period of time, you have likely dealt with disease, pest infestation, theft, interdiction, lack of water, and a host of other issues that would have most people giving up and walking away. But that’s not most cannabis farmers.

Cannabis farmers are tough cookies who will work within the law if they intend to stay in business. What many of today’s cannabis farmers are concerned with is whether compliance in a regulated system will be the final straw that puts them out of business. This is an entirely legitimate concern, but we can be environmentally compliant before regulations even come about.

To accomplish that, cultivators need to be at the forefront of any and all energy and water savings strategies. It is through this approach, of leading by example, that we show how to be the good stewards for the planet while not running afoul of environmental agencies who oversee any and all licensed and unlicensed cannabis cultivation activities.

With the cost of power ever increasing and the fact that our aging utility grid is often overloaded during certain times of the year, cannabis farmers will play an increasingly important role in proving how responsible cultivation methods can help set the standards for other industries to follow.

Okay if you’ve made it this far congratulations! In the next part of the article series, we are going to move into the technical aspects of what a closed-loop aquaponic system looks like and how it will serve to address the issues we raised above.

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Want to get in touch with Inda-Gro or Darryl Cotton? They can be reached via the following methods:

  1. Website:
  2. Email: [email protected]
  3. Phone: (877) 452-2244

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