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Balsa Food Production System

Balsa Food Productionn System (side view)
Fig. 01. "Balsa" Food Productionn System (side view). The food production system uses bamboo (thus the term "balsa"), as shown in the side view image.  Since the bamboo is hollow inside, it floats, when constructed as above, just like a floating raft. The second layer of bamboo is cut in the middle (see Fig. 02) for reasons that should become more clear later.

 The "Balsa" Food Production System is part of our "Ecological Intensification" initiative, i.e., how can you optimize the productivity of an ecosystem, even more than it already is?. It came to fruition during a brain storming to find what more could be done to make a water sequestration pond even more productive aside from its already very significant role to store water during the rainy season and then use the said water for use during the dry season, when "water is more precious than gold" or as added reserve during the height of drought when El Nino.arrives.

Well, one solution that came to mind was: Grow crops on top of the water sequestration pond. This itself came from another inspiration, my immersion into Aquaponics [1}. So, why not bring the plants directly to the water? And, that's what can be done with the "Balsa" Food Productionn System.

Balsa Food Productionn System (top view)
Fig. 02. "Balsa" Food Productionn System (top view). The second layer of bamboo shown in Fig. 01 is cut hollow in the middle so that the unit where crops are grown would be partially immersed only (at the bottom) in the water. This idea here was inspired by wicker action in candles. In the food production system above, capillary action will induce water to rise to replace the water being consumed by the plant or lost in evapotranspiration.

Balsa Food Productionn System (top view)
Fig. 03. "Balsa" Food Productionn System (top view). Several "Sako" are used instead of a single unit to simplify and make the system even more cost effective. Think also of the many advantages of having multiple "food" production units in a single balsa. It sure came to mind when I was brainstorming about the "Balsa" Food Productionn System.

The other limitation of Aquaponics is that the plants that work best in aquaponics system would be aquatic plants or those that tolerate root immersion in water -- excluding many desirable plants eaten by human beings. This isssue has challenged many Aquaponics enthusiasts, and a number of innovations have been proposed and tested.

An alternative solution to the problem would be to keep the plants above the water, so that its roots are not completely immersed in water [2]. 

 Challenges:

Composition of the soil mix
Fig. 04. Composition of the "soil mix" inside the sako.

Well, the "Balsa" Food Production System has its own challenges that need to be addressed. And, I pose one of them as questions here rather than simply provide answers to them.

  • How do you prevent nutrients (fertilizers and other growth enhancers) aded to the sako "soil mix" ot leach out into the pond below? 
  • How would nutrients from the pond move up to the various "soil mix" layers and reach the plants grown in the sako units?

Leaching of fertilizers and other nutirents -- coming from agricultural lands and home gardens are amont the greatest source of water pollution of lakes, rivers and other bodies of water. This leads to algal bloom and subsequent eutrophication that was found to have destroyed many water ecosystems worldwide.

Some ways to minimize algal bloom and subsequent eutrophication would be the managed and controlled used of organically stabilized nutrient sources, e.g., vermicompost, rather than readily soluble nutrient sources found in commercial fertilizers.

Another solution that we would explore in our EcoCulture studies is manipulation of the soil mix layers shown in Fig. 04. The ideal situation is a unilateral flow of nutrients from the pond to the soil mix up to Layer A, as shown in Fig 4A, and exemplified in the unilateral flow of melted wax in a lit candle. And, if additional nutrients are added from the top, the said nutrients will not leach out to the pond. Achieving this goal will involve understanding how nature works and a good understanding of the laws of physics and chemistry to come up with bio-engineering and eco-friendly approaches to solve the challenge posed.

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[1]Aquaponics is a food production system that uses water in aquaculture to remove the fish urine and waste, that is detrimental to the fish but nutrient source for plants. Plants unitizes the  urea and other organics present; thus cleansing the fishpond water so that the cleaned water can be returned back to the fish pond, again. [Recycling, another key ecosystems strategy in EcoCulture.] The thing with current Aquaponics system is that it is is very elaborate and requires all sorts of additional gadgetry to implement.

[2]The roots of many plants, including rice do not thrive well when completely immersed in water for a long time. This discovery about rice roots became the foundation of the rice cultivation using alternate "wetting" and "drying" cycle to give the rice roots a chance to be aerated.

 Concept design by CGC. Photo copyright ©2012 by Kalikasan Philippines.