Essex Aquaponics - Update 2: Building the System
After buying all the equipment - grow beds, fish tank, pumps etc - and a bit of tweaking and testing to get the bell siphon working like a charm, we’ve now got the beginnings of a half decent aquaponics system.
Not bad for my first go if I do say so myself!
The next stage is going to be the tricky bit - introduce the fish and make sure I don’t kill them!
Nearly there - I can almost taste the veg!!
Update 1: Bite off more than you can chew!
Ever since my previous blog I’ve become slightly obsessed with aquaponics - growing fish and plants together in an integrated system. It’s the future for growing food sustainably. NASA are doing it so must be pretty cool!
For the last half-century, the global food production system has provided us with cheap food goods only by ignoring the environmental and social impacts - top soil eradication, over fishing, increased obesity and diabetes being only a few examples of these “externalities”.
Our destructive addiction to using oil to grow and ship our food across the globe has led us to be dependent on supermarket deals for our 5-a-day (or none, which is probably closer to the truth). Furthermore, the system is inherently wasteful, with recent estimates showing we throw away half of all food grown.
However, I think the “cheap” food party is coming to an end. As oil prices continue to rise, sending food prices ever skyward, families will only feel a greater pinch from the weekly shop. In light of this I think it’s imperative that we need to take a completely new look at how we grow and interact with what we eat.
Can we break this dependence on remote food production and reclaim some independence?
Well, this is what I’ve decided to work out so I’ve taken over my parents’ garage at home in Essex, to turn it into my own DIY growing experiment. This is with the aim of seeing whether it’s possible to grow all the basic veg that they will need through an aquaponics system for the next year.
There are loads of people setting up their own DIY systems - just goggle “aquaponics” to see what I mean. If they can do it so can I. It’s going to be easy - Yeah, right!
I thought I’d done all the research, and planned to be set up by now, but I hadn’t accounted for the fact that my parents’ garage is pretty cold in winter, so I’d probably end up killing the plants and fish before I’d even got started.
So back to square one. Get the garage insulated!
There’s nothing like getting stuck in to make you realise it’s harder than you’d planned - we’re a few weeks, alright, months behind (I’ve roped in my brother to help me set it all up) but we’ve finally got the insulation up on the walls and ceiling.
The fish should now hopefully be as-snug-a- a-bug-in-a-rug (or fish in a heated tank!).
It’s been fun so far - check out the little video of our endeavours to date.
The next stage will be setting up and testing the system. Look out for an update soon….ish!
Film editor, director and producer, and founder of DNR films, Farrah Drabu has had a wild ride over the past few years having worked with the likes of actor/ musician Riz MC, and most recently as one of the creative forces behind Ben Drew’s (aka Plan B) mainstream directorial debut, ill Manors.
I caught up with Farrah to find out how she came to be involved in the film, what it was like working on the project and plans for the future.
What’s the background of how you ended up being involved in the ill Manors?
I edited Ben’s first short film in 2007 - Michelle.
What was the experience of working with Ben Drew?
He is hands down the hardest working person I know – he is dedicated to his vision, very rigorous and passionate. It was really inspirational to be there every step of the way and edit this story with him.
Ben was fascinated with the world in which the character Michelle lived and there were other characters within that short film that we didn’t really meet or see. He went on to develop some of the different characters in Michelle which became the seed from which ill Manors grew.
What was it like working on ill Manors itself then?
It was quite manic but I loved the whole process of making it. I was involved from the casting to final stages – so it was a great learning experience and something film school can never teach you.
We were working mad hours from the outset, which was fine because you can’t step too far away from it when you’re immersed in it.
How has life changed? What was it like seeing the finished product?
I’m a bit head spun by the whole thing. The fact that it’s out, the fact that I was even working on it.
The premiere was amazing and it was great to see everyone again who worked on the film. We’ve really become like a family, working closely under quite demanding conditions.
Do you have any expectations for the film?
I think the film’s already started a debate, a dialogue about the current situation in this country.
It’s been great to work with people with like minds and I think that’s something I share with Ben’s vision in terms of ill Manors being about injustice, about poverty. Poverty that’s here in this capital. That we don’t really pay much attention to. So, hopefully the film will open peoples’ eyes.
Other projects have come from it already - Ben is in the process of setting up a charity to reach out to the community and give kids opportunity to believe in themselves.
But also with so much social networking going on I feel like there’s no better time for a film like this to come out and appeal to a younger generation. Because I feel like young people these days are a lot more socially activated to use the internet to really seek out and stand up for what they believe in.
And what are you future plans for DNR films?
Yeah, DNR, massive, world domination haha!
At the moment DNR is going strong – we’ve got a great little collective of people we work with us.
We’ve also just done our fifth DNR radio show on Seeks Music -
I recently interviewed actress Jo Hartley (ill Manors and This is England), which was fun, chatting with her about her favourite music.
The plan is to keep working and keep committed to telling the stories that we’re passionate about.
Another rough and ready track