Challenge: Hydroponics onboard Ships

Master_Eeyore(7b)January 10, 2005

I have no experience, and am looking for opinions. I am going to sea soon, and want to have fresh herbs and greens. I am considering a hydroponic system. Knowing a ship is not stationary, and hydroponics include water, what system would you recommend? I do not have a lot of space, either.... The goal would be to provide a salad daily for one person for 3-6 months, so... how much space would I need?

Thanks for your time.


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Aeroponics would be a good idea for your voyages.

Unlike Deep water culture/bubblers, your won't have a large surface of water that can become turbulent with the changing water conditions,Plus you can use such small space as N.F.T and others would require a bit of a bench space.

you could have your nutirent solution is a container that is smaller then most systems, with a lid to keep the waves on the outside of the vessel.

The catch would be the water pump, assuming you can maintain the generator at all times, this would be low draw seeing how the pump only needs to be cycled. A few mister nozzles in your rooting chamber and you would have it.

Best bet is loose leaf lettuce , going take up a lot less space then the commercial style of whole head lettuce and you can pack them pretty close to one another.

Just my two cents to help a fellow boater :)

    Bookmark   January 11, 2005 at 6:04AM
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adrianag(AL z7)

Fourteen square feet.

I grew mesclun greens commercially in perlite beds. The seeds were broadcast densely (3-4/sq. inch). Yields averaged about 1/3#/sq ft. per harvest (ranging from 1/4-1/2 # depending on the variety), with subsequent harvests after 2 weeks.

2 oz. is an OK salad size, so let's say each sq. ft. yields 2 2.5 oz. salads. You would need 7 square feet of production of harvestable product, harvest half of the bed one week, the other half the next.

You will get 2-3 harvests out of a seeding, then it is time to tear out and start over. So the timetable is like this

Weeks 1-3 - intial seeding and growout
Weeks - 4-9 - harvest alternate weeks
Week 6-8 - seed and grow out replacement crop in order to ensure continuous availability.

You might give serious thought to growing microgreens instead. You can produce 12 oz. of tiny greens in a space 12" x 21" in 8-10 days. If you want slightly bigger greens, seed the trays more sparsely and allow them to grow for 14 days. You start each crop from scratch, so you use a lot of seed, but it is highly nutritious.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2005 at 7:35PM
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Clare(z6 MO)

You might want to get ahold of a paperback called "Sailing the Farm." I know it is on my bookshelf, but I couldn't find it on a quick look, so I don't have the author for you. He has lots of ideas for food growing, along with assorted tips for getting along in general. The book is kind of dated as far as info about ports, security, pick-up jobs, bartering, and fuel, but his experience in on-board food growing is timeless.

Don't forget sprouts as a salad source. Very easy to produce continuously, and you only need a film of fresh water. Quite a few kinds seed sprouts can be eaten. Just make sure you don't get seeds that are treated with fungicide!

Email me if you cannot find the book.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2005 at 9:31PM
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adrianag(AL z7)

Look into a product called Baby Blanket for use as an alternative to growing media. It doesn't take up much room and I think you can probably re-use it by drying it out after harvest and shaking off bits of stems and roots.

If you grow microgreens or sprouts you can easily do this in a space under a bunk, a flourescent a shop light will be enough to green them up and passive wicking or a tiny pump should be all that is required. In enclosed spaces fungus can be a problem with sprouts so seed sanitation and cleaning of the system are important.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2005 at 4:55AM
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If possible, I would grow the greens on deck, in a mini greenhouse with daylight.With a 12V airpump you should be able to run an airpump system.
If you are interested, e-mail me.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2005 at 8:54AM
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Adriana's setup sounds like a variation of semi-hydro culture, which I was going to suggest. Do a google search for more info.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2005 at 10:56AM
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I donÂt know how big your ship is, but if you are going out on the ocean the winds & waves it could blow/knock Perlite all over the place. Perlite can be messy even when it is stationary & is very prone to algae. If you could get an aeroponics system to work that would be ideal. Some of the RV stores sell solar panels for RVÂs; perhaps there is something similar for boats. That would help power that pump.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2005 at 12:31AM
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onewebfoot(z9 NorCal (SF Peninsula))

Here's a site i found while searching about hydroponic basil info. It appears to be a large raft with two structures and they grow hydroponic vegetables on board year round, with lots of other efforts. [BioBarge Home Page] I can't confirm which method this is but someone probably can. [Here's a good on deck pic.] There are multiple hydroponic pics on this site.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2005 at 10:36PM
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This is an interesting subject. Conditions are unusual such as varying day lengths (photoperiodism), the constant rocking of the boat, disrupted circadian rhythm, etc. Research on the subject revealed findings as shown in the following URL.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   April 18, 2006 at 7:16PM
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onewebfoot(z9 NorCal (SF Peninsula))

That link is hilarious!! Thanks!! Meantime, should this thread also include hydroponics onboard space ships? Otherwise (14 months later) still can't find much more info about onboard hydroponics. -v

    Bookmark   April 29, 2006 at 5:16PM
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Here is one for astronauts who would like to take up hydroponics in space during their free time.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   May 18, 2006 at 6:30PM
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