Aquaponics: Growing a Bright Future!
By Clayton Garland

Turn a Passion for Permaculture into a Profession

The story of how one young man is turning his passion for permaculture into a profession feeding people.


Realizing my system would require some financial capital to get started, I decided to experiment with crowd fundraising, and created a Kickstarter campaign. After a successful 30 day campaign, I had enough funds for a 10 X12  foot ( 3x 3.7 meters) greenhouse and the basic materials to build a DIY aquaponics tote system. After construction of the greenhouse, the aquaponics system was installed. The lid was removed with a sawzall and after inverting the tote, there was a pvc border added to protect from the sharp metal points. A bell siphon and a small pond pump were added. The system’s energy use was approximately 60watts. I added recycled glass purchased from a hydroponics store as a growbed media and  place for the bacterial life and plants to grow.



I decided to try and find a local expert to learn from. Learning from someone else’s mistakes and successes can save much time and many resources. Unfortunately, it isn’t uncommon for rookie mistakes to kill a full batch of fish, but shouldn’t be a reason to give up.  After searching far and wide, I found a man growing aquaponically less than a mile away from my house! Kevin Childerley, owner of Santa Barbara Aquaponics, had a commercial sized system he and his co-founder, Randy Turner, had built from scratch a few years before. He showed me the basics of seed starting and transferring plants into net pots. He also shared some helpful tips, like adding Iron to the system on a regular basis. Kevin had some very large catfish that he had grown from fish fry (babies) and an experimental worm systems he was creating to add additional nutrients to the system.



I went to a local pet store and purchased some goldfish and Koi, and decided to use the fish for nutrients rather than as a human food source. After a few weeks, the plants in the system started growing quickly. The media bed worked great for a variety of vegetables including tomatoes, basil, lettuce, and rainbow chard. They tasted great, and took less room and overall water usage then if I had grown them in the soil.

Recently, Julian Cantando and I started an aquaponics business after taking over a pre-existing greenhouse system just north of Santa Barbara, California. We call it Eco Conscious Aquaponics. We removed the old system and upgraded to a deep-water culture beds that grows up to 135 heads of lettuce. We evolved it into a farm stand, and now grow in a much larger raft system, based on Friendly Aquaponics system on the Big Island of Hawaii. Our larger system include three 4,000 gallon (15 cubic meters) tanks and over 3,000 square feet of deep-water culture grow space.



Julian and I are passionate about growing food in both water and soil, and believe there is no one solution to meeting the demand for growing healthy food. A comprehensive approach of grow mediums incorporating living soil is considered by some experts to be better than straight aquaponics for many applications. However, aquaponics is a great way to produce a very sustainable, nutrient-rich growing solution. I encourage people to learn more about aquaponics and experiment themselves, from pre-made small home systems that can be found online, to large production projects that can be for commercial use.


Eco Conscious Aquaponics is now selling at local farmers markets and directly to restaurants and through our CSA. As the desire for organic, locally produced vegetables increases, so does the potential of aquaponics. It is a great avenue of permaculture to dive deep into!


Eco Conscious Aquaponics:

Santa Barbara Aquaponics: