Interactive Lessons

It seems every introduction to aquaponics begins the same way:   stating the environment of an aquaponics system is a compromise between the ideal preferences of the plants, fish and nitrifying bacteria.   While the statement is factually correct, it is nearly useless for people new to this unique growing method.   Inevitably, to backup our statement, we pour on the detail.   For example (using wide ranges here for emphasis), fish prefer a pH of 6.5-7.5, plants a range of 5.5-6.5 and bacteria from 6.5-8.0.   That's when the glassy-eyed look of someone suffering from information overload sets in.  Can't you picture them trying to mentally map the overlaps?

Outside of the startup price, this phenomenon of information overload is the primary barrier to entry in aquaponics.   The irony is that the information is all readily available, but all too often in a format difficult to process.   Professional Commercial courses attempt to solve this barrier in three ways:

  • Whiteboards / shiny slideshows with a ton of dry statistics and cute pictures.
  • People to read the slideshow to you in the voice of Professor Binns (that's right, I made a Harry Potter reference)
  • Hands-on training

Lets face it, the hands-on training is by far the most valuable, giving you a visual and tactile connection to the data, i.e., providing context.

With today's modern technology, it's time for a modern approach, so we've been putting together a series of lessons where you get the horribly dry statistics (sans Professor Binns) paired with interactive widgets  that you can revisit over and over without the $1,000+ price tag.

To give you a sense of what these lessons are like, take the case of pH, which is a great starting point when teaching the concept of the system as a compromise.   In our example, we'll assign an ideal range to each component of the system, and to the system overall.

  • Overall system:  6.7 - 7.1
  • Plants:  5.5 - 7.0
  • Fish:  6.5 - 8.0
  • Bacteria:  6.7 - 8.0

Start with a neutral pH and slide the toggle button up to simulate an alkaline system.   Notice how quickly the plants are outside of their range.   Slide the toggle the other way and the system shifts towards an acidic enviornment, which is great for the plants but not the fish or bacteria.   You can see from the System gauge the narrow window you have to work in, while at the same time you can get a sense how the pH shifts affect the individual system components.

This is a simplistic example; it gets more complicated when you factor in each type of plant and fish with their own preferences.   When they are posted, you will be able to find these lessons in Learn, but hopefully this gives you a sense of where we are going with these and the scope they entail:

  • Water quality
  • Environment
  • System design
  • Fish and plant disease occurrence and progression

This concept of giving data immediate context is the principle behind Tracker.

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