I'm throwing this out there for discussion, spawned by a recent blog, but something on my mind since first being interested in AP.  NO PUMPS. Can it happen, and how?

Why? Well, 'cause if we didn't need pumps or electricity we probably wouldn't use them, and AP might truly join the ranks as a sustainable food production method, and applicable to feeding the poor, saving the world, yada yada...and at the heart of it all, I'm cheap and lazy. I find personal victory in reaching the end goal faster, smarter, easier, cheaper than "how it normally done".

The only thing that comes to mind is a wicking bed of some sort. And I need to consult my book of wild ideas before I open my mouth.

Now I won't be a stickler about including some pumps using waste energy, or some low-tech mechanics, or human power, but try to avoid solar PV and windmill electricity (not that they are not excellent, but they are being done and discussed elsewhere).

link to blog: http://community.theaquaponicsource.com/profiles/blogs/a-no-pump-sy...

Pics, sketches, links, etc are always nice. Happy brainstorming.

Jon

Tags: cheap, easy, human-powered, man-powered, off-grid, pumpless, sustainable

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I'm pretty much with Chris in that some sort of pumping probably needs to be taking place. Now how this pumping is accomplished is another matter, one that can be open to all manner of 'creative' designs. 

Lately, I seem to be constantly drawn to technologies from the 19 century to solve simple problems that crop up here on the farm and/or in the village. I know, I know that isn't exactly 'outside the box' sort of stuff, but I really feel like the 1800's were a profusely creative and productive period in many regards, and is a good period to pilfer through for pre-massive electric grid, pre-petroleum technologies. (Or,maybe it just seems that way because of all the good documentation that exists from that period. IDK)...Anyways...

One of my favorites is the Sterling engine

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stirling_engine

Here is an interesting take on a free piston, or rather, liquid piston version

http://www.ornl.gov/~webworks/cppr/y2001/rpt/27113.pdf

Here's a neat little DIY build just to show you don't exactly have to work for NASA to build one of these things (though I'm sure it helps :)...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUnDjIyII4g

These things used to be used to pump water, turn a shaft, generate electricity...whatever...mostly good in low or mid power environments (they tried powering a whole factory with one once, but that didn't work out so well) before being displaced by the stem engine and electric motor.

It's not going to solve world hunger or anything, but it might be one of many different interesting ways (especially perhaps when combined with other more 'modern' technologies) to at least solve some of our power/pumping requirements.

Again, I do feel that for AP when used in an intensive food production model, one that is stable in its consistency to provide food, power/pumping is a requirement, though not necessarily grid, or even electric dependent.  

GEEZ I better get another cup of coffee cuz this is a very heady thread.

It's always a good thing to think and discuss various ideas. That is what makes new products, ideas and inventions. If we don't ask we won't evolve as a species. I love the fact that Jon started this thread.

I'm looking forward to see where it goes.

Bob

OK this was strange. Just 2 days ago I sent an email to my ME son with a bunch of links to Sterling engine websites. The "subject" was: "We really need to build one of these." Here in the Smokys there are old 8' sat dishes sitting around in back yards doing nothing. What a great solar mirror and tracking system to power a Sterling.

There is also the method that hydro power companies use to store power and that involves a reservoir or in our case tanks to which ap water can br pumped to during windy periods and drained thru the system as needed, Wind pumps are still a standard on many farms and parts are always available. Both solar and wind could be combined and no expensive batteries needed, just perhaps ibcs or a pond up hill.

Then there is always the bicycle powered water pump and "villagers" can take turns pedaling. There are unlimited possibilities. I still need to post a pic of that shrimp on the treadmill:-)

Vlad Jovanovic said:

I'm pretty much with Chris in that some sort of pumping probably needs to be taking place. Now how this pumping is accomplished is another matter, one that can be open to all manner of 'creative' designs. 

Lately, I seem to be constantly drawn to technologies from the 19 century to solve simple problems that crop up here on the farm and/or in the village. I know, I know that isn't exactly 'outside the box' sort of stuff, but I really feel like the 1800's were a profusely creative and productive period in many regards, and is a good period to pilfer through for pre-massive electric grid, pre-petroleum technologies. (Or,maybe it just seems that way because of all the good documentation that exists from that period. IDK)...Anyways...

One of my favorites is the Sterling engine

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stirling_engine

Here is an interesting take on a free piston, or rather, liquid piston version

http://www.ornl.gov/~webworks/cppr/y2001/rpt/27113.pdf

Here's a neat little DIY build just to show you don't exactly have to work for NASA to build one of these things (though I'm sure it helps...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUnDjIyII4g

These things used to be used to pump water, turn a shaft, generate electricity...whatever...mostly good in low or mid power environments (they tried powering a whole factory with one once, but that didn't work out so well) before being displaced by the stem engine and electric motor.

It's not going to solve world hunger or anything, but it might be one of many different interesting ways (especially perhaps when combined with other more 'modern' technologies) to at least solve some of our power/pumping requirements.

Again, I do feel that for AP when used in an intensive food production model, one that is stable in its consistency to provide food, power/pumping is a requirement, though not necessarily grid, or even electric dependent.  

instead of trying to think of an "aquaponic" system with no pump, and creating a "self sustaining" environment, go with what works.. build a pond, fertilize, stock with feeder fish, then stock with gamefish..

put some floating rafts on the pond (probably best to use with cage cultures), and you have plants and fish with no pumps

Good input Chris. I suppose by definition AP needs to be a recirculating system, and the only pumpless way I can so far conjure is a convection loop. I'll try to build a test unit tonight. I've no idea the flow rate that is possible. I'll shoot Carey a note. He's been MIA for a bit.

Loki and Kai, yes it would be nice to live by a stream and tap into that energy source. There is a pre-1900 estate here in Santa Cruz (Wilder Ranch) that uses a Van Pelton water wheel to power a wood shop. It spins a power shaft that runs overhead and a dozen different tools gain power by old leather belts, including table saw, drill press, lathe, etc, even a generator which powered light bulbs throughout the house. Pretty cool. But this source is only possible for a handful of locations, so not really applicable to the "pumpless" conversation here. Unless...one were to use a large rainwater catchment tank on the roof, a tower, or a hillside above your AP, and use that elevated water to both supply top-up water and power a circulation pump? Hmm. Might work in an area of high rainfall, or a very large water res.

Another interesting pump is called a Humphrey. This device is like a four stroke engine, only instead of a metal piston, the water itself is used as the piston Each time a combustible mixture of vaporized fuel explodes, the water is pushed up a pipe. This could certainly be powered by methane from a biodigester that processes fish waste. Yes, it's a pump, but it could be powered by the AP system itself.

Keep them thoughts coming. I'll start building some mock-ups.

Keith's point is well proven over many centuries.

I sure like the way my aquaponics system works - plants fed, watered and roots oxygenated  24 times a day with very little or no effort on my part.  The plants grow really well too.

Vlad, good links. I'll have to brew over the liquid sterling pump in the wee hours tonight. And the walking beam video was awesome.  The water flow they achieved was enough to supply a fair amount of water, and if AP water was the cold sink, then at least some of the energy in the flame would be captured by the system to heat the water. Again, the flame source could be methane supplied by a biodigester, and thus self-powered pumping for AP. 

Keith, the rafts on the pond idea is cool, and I've played a little with it. The problem I had is the struggle between oxygenation and raft area. Without any pumps, you rely on surface gas exchange to expel the CO2 and replenish the O2, which of course  actively happens in every body of water on Earth. The problem I had was that rafts severely cut down on the O2 levels (decreased surface area), not to mention that the plant roots increase DO demand. Another approach would be to use wicking beds in lieu of rafts and located away from the pond. The bed reservoirs could be drawn from the deep settling area of the pond (higher nutrient levels) and top-up water would keep the pond fresh. This is not "recirculating", but it is "circulating", with water flowing from pond surface, to pond floor, to wicking beds, to atmosphere, by way of transpiration. Vlad...could this not be a form of intensive ag using AP principles, resulting in both fish and plants without pumps?

Jim Fisk, I admit I searched for the shrimp on a treadmill. And I felt like such a schmuck doing it. The item is a story not because of any merit, but because of an expo on government abuse of taxpayer funds. Apparently a boat-load of dough was spent to "exercise sick shrimp" and see if they had less endurance than healthy shrimp. Duh! The treadmills were not powered by shrimp, in case anyone cares, but were externally powered to force shrimp to run. On a positive note, the activity of fish and composting worms does provide substantial mixing of water, and aeration of beds. Especially catfish. Those suckers are constantly polishing the floor of my tanks, and that activity plays a large role in keeping solids suspended to be broken down quicker with aerobic activity, and minimizing anaerobic gunk pockets.

how about this 2 ibc 1 as the fish tank and the other filled with grow meda linked with external u-siphions! you may need to have the fish tank higher so all of the water does not drain from the fish tank. you may also need to have a 55gallon drum that will air tighly conect to the grow bed and build pressure from the grow bed to send water back to the fish tank.

so your build would goe something like this:

your 2 ibc and u-siphions

a air tight seal conected to a 55gal drum with a pipe going tdown the top of the drum to the bottom or a bulk head fitting in the side that "should" force a siphion to compleet the circut back to the fish tank.

this may be hard to under stand but to further explain the 55gal drum is take a mason jar and punch 2 holes in top and place 2 straws 1 that goes to thebottom fo the jar the other just needs to be just inside the jar make it air tight with gum or clay fill jar and blow air into the staw that just goes just inside ther jar and cover your face you might get wet!

you'll need to play around withe the hight of the fish tank hight of the siphion on the fish tank(you dont want to have a dry fishtank),how much water will get displaced by the media(you could do a water culture but the roots may be exposed to the air for to long). you may need to use water traps to get them siphions to start and stop?

i may not have built this but i did design if it does work i would like a little credit if you dont mind.

 

 

I was also thinking of an elevated rain water reservoir powering a pump by slowly draining into a second reservoir like you would power something from a stream.  This would allow for predictable power output and ability to store energy at times of opportunity. Maybe overkill and not cheap to do as the amount of water you would need to store is likely a lot. It would have the advantage of not wearing out like chemical cells, unless I guess the tanks wears out over time.

If a greenhouse was heated for part of the year, jacking a stirling engine into a rocket mass heater would be a nice way to tap into the energy source and reuse the stirling's heat waste as well. In the summer maybe fuel a stirling with a cooking fuel source while also cooking. Maybe that's from a biodigester.

Much cooler than a PV system and the components function as being multipurpose, but more work, takes more room, and probably not as efficient.

Well one of the reasons for circulation is to up the oxygen levels right? You can raft to grow veggies. So a paddle wheel hooked to a windmill/bicycle could do it as long as you can diffuse enough oxygen to sustain them through low wind/bicycling breaks. 

I looked into compressed oxygen ala the CO2 tanks the hydroponics people use but apparently CO2 is alot more water soluble than O2. 

Oh and another idea is a water tower that dribbles a bit into the system via gravity. Though typically a pump gets the water into the tower.

And another stupid idea, make the container out of a membrane that is larger than an O2 molecule but smaller than H2O. Then you have that much more surface area! It would probably cost way too much if it exists. And the diffusion rate would likely be hindered by such a membrane as well... Haha found an example, ice can hold water and allow oxygen through but the rate is low. 

Aeration is important but if it is an intensive system where the plants and fish are in separate containers, you also need to scrub ammonia from the water via the nitrification process so this will require some circulation between containers. If it is something like a pond I guess wont have that problem as much and aeration is the concern.

I was thinking more about using elevated water as a stored energy source and I am having a hard time wrapping my head around how it would be feasible to power a pump at the capacity needed. Just as an example, lets say you wanted to move 100gph as a systems fishtank was 100gallons. How much water would you need to store at a given height to be able to achieve this pumping power over a 24hour period?

Lets say you had 2400 gallons stored at 2 feet of elevation and you had a 100% efficient way to convert this potential energy into lift. That means you could power 100gph for a day, at 2 feet of lift. That is a lot of water in comparison to the system volume. Factor in how efficient you actually can be with this, and that is a lot more water as I assume it isn't that efficient at all.

What may be interesting is, can you use 100gallon of water at 10 feet to lift 1000gallon at 1 foot? I have a feeling it would be difficult to convert that potential energy efficiently but who knows. Trying to use water as a gravitational potential energy sync may not be all that feasible or I just have no idea of how it could be done.

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