New anthroponics trial

Recently a bachelor student of Physical Geography will be doing her thesis in anthroponics and I will be supervising her thesis. For this reason, we will be redoing the trial with wood ash and cucumbers to confirm the initial results we obtained. Since her thesis will be written in swedish, I will write a technical report in english as well. For now, we have just placed the seedlings:


This time, we have brought the pH down to the 5,5 – 6,5 range suited for cucumbers before placing the seedlings, to prevent any shock to the plant. In the last trial (10/01/16 – 29/03/16), before removing the best performing cucumber after 79 days (from system 3, which had 72g of wood ash), I also conducted a general chemical test to the assess the water quality. Here you can see the overall size of the cucumber and some of the deficiencies. Total length was about 140cm, though there were several branches.

IMG_20160322_175015 IMG_20160329_175555 IMG_20160329_181511 IMG_20160330_182932

Based on some observations of interveinal chlorosis in the leaves and 0,00mg/L of Fe in water, it was obvious the plant had an iron deficiency. The concentration of phosphorus was also below the recommended level, though there were no clear signs of deficiency. There seemed to be some potential signs of sulfur deficiency given that upper leaves remained small, curled downwards and with serrated margins, but I do not have the reagents or the resources to test sulfur.

With this new trial, besides our own limited chemical analysis, we hope to get the support of her university to do some more depth tests, such as tissue analysis of the leaves, and water quality by the university laboratory. However, it seems the tests are very expensive and even the university cannot afford to do all the ones that we wanted. A lack of proper laboratory analysis of anthroponics systems seems to be a recurring theme given that there is still very little academic interest in the topic at the moment.

Regardless, our first water quality analysis before adding the seedlings seems to indicate an abundance of all macro and micronutrients with the notable exception of Iron, which had 0,00mg/L in all three systems. Like aquaponics systems, Iron is a common micronutrient that is lacking and must be supplemented. It seems after we have ran this trial that the next focus will be to find a way to supplement Iron in a sustainable way, and possibly any other nutrients we may find lacking.

A brief comparison of aquaponic home solutions

This past Thursday I had the privilege of being able to pitch the idea of aquaponics in a portuguese university contest, as I was one of the 16 semi-finalists. While I was not selected for the second round, I had prepared alongside with a classmate a brief comparison of all home aquaponic systems currently being marketed that we could find. I believe that information such as this might be valuable for anyone interested in aquaponics and anthroponics, and there was no reason for it to become lost in my computer, so I decided to share it here.

All of the home aquaponic systems I will talk about further on are pioneers, since they are presenting some of the first products that will make it more convenient, simple and practical to have aquaponic systems in urban environments, and sometimes in very small spaces. For that reason, I think they are very important to cover in an anthroponics blog, since these systems are paving the way for future anthroponic systems with easier maintenance and operability. So let’s start!

Home Aquaponics Systems

Name: Home Aquaponics Kit
Price: ~45€


About: This portable aquaponics system is, I believe, one of the first to show just how small aquaponic systems can be. Some people in reddit and aquaponic forums have expressed concerns over the available water volume for the fish, but nobody can deny that it is a very well designed product from an aesthetic perspective. Despite being highly portable, its size also limits its production capacity, making it suitable for a small amount of salad greens or herbs.

Name: Aquaponicals
Price: ~115€

About: This other portable aquaponics system seems like a direct response to the previous one. It has been endorsed by Murray Hallam and Sylvia Bernstein, and it is mostly fascinating for me in the way that it uses a very small autosiphon as well as a sump tank. Like the previous one (and in fact, all of the following ones), it is well designed and aesthetically appealing. However, its portability also limits its production, restricting it to growing a small amount of salad greens or herbs.

Name: Aquasprouts
Price: ~90€ (Kickstarter only)
About: This system has a different approach to the previous two. Instead of designing a whole system, Aquasprouts is a product that you can install directly in your existing aquarium, thus extending the potential users they can appeal two. It is also bigger in size, thus enabling a slightly bigger production of salad greens and herbs.

Name: AquaDesigner
Price: ~195€ – ~620€
About: AquaDesigner products are a range of aquaponic systems designed for indoor or outdoor systems with a focus on design and ambiance/tranquility, rather than systems with a food production approach. As such, they can be used both to grow some herbs as well as to have ornamental flowers to add more ambiance/tranquility to the location of the system.

Name: Aqualibrium
Price: ~490€
About: Aqualibrium is a type of aquaponics/hydroponics product with a significant increase in production capacity compared with most of the previous mentioned systems. However, its design with clear plastic in all system components could prove problematic in the future with algae blooms. It is, once more, a beautifully designed system, with a living room size and enabling the production of salad greens, herbs and also fruit plants. 

Name: Aquabundance
Price: ~1 110€
About: The Aquabundance products are big enough to enable a sufficient production of both salad greens, herbs and fruit plants as well as edible fish. However their relatively big size restricts them to a bigger living room or balcony location. 

Name: Farm Tower Renegade
Price: ~2 376€


About: This aquaponics system presents the biggest production potential of all the systems presented here. It also enables different arrangements, allowing for a purely hydroponic set-up, an aquaponic set-up, or an aquaponic set-up where the fish food comes from the vermicomposting level. Its big size might restrict it its application to garages, basements or big rooms.

And there you have it! I’m sure I’ve forgotten some systems, but this list should give you a small idea of what’s already out there and to appreciate the efforts of all the companies and individuals behind these products to spread aquaponic systems to households and urban areas.

Types of Anthroponics Systems

Like aquaponic and hydroponic systems, anthroponic systems can be made of different system components. The most common ones in aquaponics include Media Bed systems, Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) systems, Deep Water Culture(DWC) or Raft systems and hybrids containing two or more of these types. Unlike aquaponic systems however, anthroponic systems can be further broken down into two main systems:

  • urine-based anthroponics systems (u-anthroponics) and 
  • feces-based anthroponics systems (f-anthroponics).

While it may be possible for future anthroponic systems to combine both urine and feces in the same system, currently such system has not been devised.

Current constructed and idealized anthroponic systems are very similar in most of the system components to aquaponic systems, making them easy to understand by those knowledgeable of aquaponic systems.

Let’s start with analyzing a simplified diagram of a u-anthroponics system. Inputs are colored in yellow, the main system with recirculating water in a soilless environment is colored blue, and the output is colored green (click to zoom).


U-Anthroponic system overview

Unlike aquaponics, the main nutrient is human urine, which must be placed in a sealed container and aged until it is safe for used. The aged urine is then placed in the water reservoir or sump tank of the system, where the pump is located (remember, there is no fish tank in this system as there are no fish). The urine is diluted and converted into nutrient rich water after passing through the biofilter, where nitrifying bacteria convert the urine to plant fertilizer. The water is then recirculated over and over again, feeding the growing components of the system and allowing for plant growth, coupled with light.

F-anthroponics, to the best of my knowledge, have never been constructed or tested in real life. As I have envisioned them and discussed them in a r/anthroponics thread, they resemble aquaponic systems more since they incorporate fish and a relatively common fish food source: Black Soldier Fly Larvae (BSFL).You can see a f-anthroponics simplified diagram below. Again, inputs are colored in yellow, the main system with recirculating water in a soilless environment is colored blue, and the output is colored green (click to zoom).




F-Anthroponic system overview

Here, the feces are eaten by Black Soldier Fly Larvae which are frozen to kill any potential pathogens and then fed to the fish, with the following cycle resembling the well-known aquaponics nitrogen cycle.

In theory, this type of f-anthroponics should work. One major downside of using feces as a nutrient source is their handling, as they have a very uncomfortable smell and require strict safety measures. I believe the design of a system that minimizes direct human contact with feces and the harvested BSFL will be crucial in turning this type of anthroponics system into a viable and serious alternative.