GRAND TOUR – Aquaponic Geodesic Dome Greenhouse

GRAND TOUR – Aquaponic Geodesic Dome Greenhouse

Welcome to the Aquaponic Geodesic Dome Greenhouse
tour. Throughout the video, I will provide links to past videos that will detail each
area. This is a 32.5′ 3V dome with a shed area built into the north side. It took a
little over 2 years to construct the greenhouse and setup the aquaponic system. For a quick overview, this is the main entrance
and a set of double doors which makes it handy to bring in large supplies such as pellets
for the rocket mass heater which is located in the shed area. In the north section of
the dome, is the main stock tank which drains into buffering tank that located in the floor.
Also in the shed area are a hospital tank, various supplies, and the electronics and
batteries for the solar setup. The main dome has 2 media beds along the perimeter which
drain into 4 rafts beds, and another 4 media beds in the center. All the beds eventually
drain into a central sump tank that pumps the water back into the main fish tank I added two windows into a surplus 1000 gallon
HDPE tank and I currently have around 60 koi and a few gold fish. Once the system is fully
ramped up, I’ll double the population. The water getting pumped back into this tank goes
through a spray bar which helps to aerate and circulate the water. There’s a 1″ pipe
that starts from the bottom-center of the tank and siphons the water and solids out
of the tank. I made an automatic fish feeder to provide measured amounts of food. The tank
also has an emergency overflow drain and a net to prevent the fish from jumping out….again. The fish tank drains into a buffer tank which
is used to compensate for water level changes from the flood and drain grow beds. It’s also
a handy area to add various supplements into the water. There’s a simple level gauge in
the tank to let me know what the maximum water level is so I can keep track of when water
should be added. The water swirls in the tank which makes the solids move to the center
towards the pump. The water is pumped out of the tank at around 900 gallons per hour
and runs under the floor to the grow beds. The supply line also has a tee that sends
some water back to the fish tank for aeration and supplies water to the rocket mass heater
during the winter. The rocket mass heater was designed to burn pellets at around 12
pounds per hour and can heat the 3000 gallons around 1 degree per hour and heats the building’s
air. The water is heated by drawing the hot air through 2 radiator cores, and any remaining
heat is blown under the floor for long-term storage. The remaining shed area holds the miscellaneous
supplies, a 50 gallon hospital tank, the back door, and electronics for the solar setup.
The solar currently has 2 kilowatt panels and is running at 12 volts, but will soon
be upgraded to 3 kilowatts and 24 volts to support some future additions. There are also
two electronic controllers. The first is one of our own products which is being used to
operate the fish feeder and measure the water temperature. And the second is a prototype
6 zone thermostat which is used to control the vents. Each vent is set at a different
temperature so they can open one at a time to keep the building temperature from fluctuating
too quickly. There is a total of six media beds that are
set up for flood and drain and are all filled with expanded shale. The media beds currently
are growing green beans, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, tomato, cherry tomato, radish, carrot,
strawberry, cucumber, watermelon, cantaloupe, zucchini, peas, celery, eggplant, bell pepper,
sage, oregano, dill, rosemary, basil, and parsley. Also there is one banana tree and
pineapple plant. Two of the media beds along the outer perimeter drain into 4 raft beds
which primarily grow lettuce and some spinach. When fully operating, these beds hold around
1000 plants. The six media beds use bell siphons so they
can flood and drain. They empty into the floor drains which flow to a central sump tank.
The sump contains two pumps with float switches. The second pump is used as an emergency backup
in the event the first one fails or is overburdened in the event all the beds happen to be draining
at the same time. The two pump lines run back to the fish tank which is connected to the
spray bar. There are stranded cables strung overhead
which are used to support the cucumber and tomato plants and keep them out of the way
of the other plants. Thanks for watching the tour. Don’t forget
that there are links in the annotations that will bring you to detailed videos about the
various components. Also, remember to “Like” us on Facebook so you can keep up to date
with our various activities!

100 thoughts on “GRAND TOUR – Aquaponic Geodesic Dome Greenhouse

  1. Good to hear. TBH that is why I avoid a lot of aquaponic videos is because I feel sorry for the fish. Isn't their something leafy other spinach that you could grow? Lettuce just seems a waste. Thanks for replying.

  2. Do you know how much food you are getting out of this system? or how much the system is in future going to be able to produce? I would like to know how much of your own food supply it feeds for how many people around how long of the year.
    been a long time subsciber, and it has come out great.

    Thanks for sharing

  3. Beauuuutiful. Amazingly well integrated design. I might have laid something like that out in my head, but never expected to actually build it without sacrificing half the design for pragmatism.

  4. i am blown away by this dome…same as yourself i had a question just didn't formulated as nicely as you did…i am wondering what is the grand purpose for having this building…feeding myself or other people would really justify it or even selling what i produce would be a nice idea…i built in my backyard an $8000 toy for my kid with a turbo slide, 2 club houses etc etc, he played with it 10 times at most, now it sits like monument to my ego, soon to come down…

  5. I've been trying to keep track of the food…right now we're getting more lettuce and tomatoes than I can deal with so I give most of it way to various families that could use it.

  6. Hey Rj, I adapted an easy way to know when my media is drained. I have a FLOUT floating outlet as a master-siphon for all the grow beds. (It floats until the maximum water level is reached in the grow bed and the siphon chamber, then it sinks to bottom and rapidly drains to the sump)
    I simply put a reed switch under the FLOUT which is actuated by magnets inside the FLOUT. It doesn't control anything yet, but it could turn on a light, turn off a pump relay, etc. etc…

  7. I usually keep it in the low 50's during the winter and during the summer it's usually about 10 degrees warmer than the outside.

  8. Must be great to sit out in the sun and enjoy those organic juicy strawberries and cataloupe ūüėÄ Very impressive

  9. Is the dome designed for the vegetation only? Many systems like this use fish in the tanks for a food source. Just wondering.

  10. Wonderful Job!  Very inspiring.  Have you ever considered a Stirling generator incorporated into your rocket stove, for supplemental electrical production?  Grab just a bit more from those BTUs. 

  11. How did you build your dome? Did you buy a kit or make it all from scratch? If from scratch, how did you make your hubs?

  12. The time editing really shows and deserves some sort of award. Could you please talk about the research that went into the design components of the complete system? Then, if it is not too intrusive, there is the cost effectiveness and return on investment… Finally are there plans and a bill of materials? Most IMPRESSIVE!

  13. could you tell me more about your automatic fish feeder.  I have tried several commercial ones and none really worked.  I have a few ideas on building one but additional ideas would be greatly appreciated.  

  14. What do you think to crappie for a food source?  Not as rapid growth but can handle much greater variety of temps?  

  15. I've enjoyed all of your videos. Great work. Just wondering if Tilapia, Catfish, or Trout (depending on your temperatures) have been considered as another food source, while being the fish side of your system.

  16. see frnch engineer
    magnetoculture vand doomme
    yannick VD on youtube more simply
    (a few as orgonite, Obolix ,
    very simple good if well made-thought-realised,
    ¬†grow up, less diseases etc…

    Obolix would probably great light also in your geo'


  17. What do you keep your PH at? I know the plants like it around 6 but the koi like it more around 8. Can you get your water warm enough for tilapia?

  18. best videos ive ever seen ¬† full stop… ¬†i think i want to even come see this for real… ¬† you on facebook? ¬†so many questions . ¬†so so many ¬† lol.

  19. This greenhouse will never see any return on investment. You can buy a lot of food for the cost of this setup. It's nice just not practical.

  20. add in a vertical aquaponic system, you will at least double the crop output and more efficiently utilize the space. getting edible fish would be a good step too. i dont know about you but ive never eaten goldfish. also you can grow and freeze duckweed and algae for feeding the fish for practically nothing in small kid pools its not automated but cheaper than store bought feed 

  21. IF…if the system doesn't generate revenue of and by itself exclusively, then it's nothing more than an incredibly elaborate and beautifully engineered illusion you use to make money; or at least get others to pay your food bill.¬†
    IF it isn't a net gainer minus tours, youtube click revenue and expanded shale (which a greenhouse doesn't produce), then it's a net loser. Especially given the time and up front investment.  
    It's like a huge snake oil sales pitch. ¬†The rag time music is fitting. ¬†ūüėȬ†
    Unless of coarse, you disclose that the entire operation is a net loser of money unless one commercializes it and markets it to the next unsuspecting sap. If the physical operation of a thing doesn't make a net profit, then selling the idea is exactly "snake oil" sales. You may actually be unaware that's what you're doing…IF I'm right. ¬†
    More than likely I suspect, you are also thinking of, or have applied for 503(b) non-profit tax status, exempting you from paying property taxes as an "educational center", thereby looking to save even more money on the backs of the average tax payer for an education on how to spend more money on food.
    Let's not mention all the strip mining and devastation to the earth that the solar industry requires to make panels and batteries for the energy. ¬†Before anyone comments that I don't know what I'm talking about, do a little homework on the requirements for copper, lead/acid, nickel hydride, plastics, poly carbonates that will around until the end of time. Look at the big picture of how much of this operation is made up of components that will be on earth…forever, regardless of their service life. ¬†
    Crunchy, intellectual delusions are the most insidious, because they suck it and influence good, well meaning people's desire to live sustainable, earth conscious lives, so it's wrapped in a "doing good" package. Not unlike every person that's tried to sell free power with perpetual motion devices. 
    I wonder how many people will dive into something like this thinking they're going to self sustain and wind up broke and hungry. 

    Are you prepared to disclose your full investment of time and money, maintenance costs and revenue of the system itself?  Or forfeit any claim of being of positive value since it would be regressive?  

  22. Every once in a while I get a fairly nasty comment left on our YouTube channel.  Since they serve no benefit to this world, I usually just delete it.  Today is an exception and I responded to these rantings (mainly because I didn't want to go out and work in the cold).  I encourage you to read (and even respond) to the comment left by "LUVallova" on the Greenhouse Tour Video. I'm looking forward to reading everyone's opinions!

  23. Some people just like to watch the world burn. What has LUVallova personally achieved in this life that they perch them self on such a high horse? This person must live a miserable existence to try and sully what you have achieved. A wise man once told me that lions don't bother with the baying of sheep.

  24. @LUVallova If you went through all the videos (admittedly there a lot of them), you would note a few things.  First, that this greenhouse and related technologies such as the rocket stove are proof of concepts, and prototypes at best, not production units.  They are exploring what is possible, practical comes next, either from @Bigelow Brook Farm (Web4Deb) efforts, or others who learn from the information in these videos.  The effort is worth it simply to learn, teach, and develop; not everything is about a financial return on investment.

    I too am working on a proof of concept aquaponic system, and mine too will never show a net profit.  That is not the point of the experiment.  The points I wish to test include soil enrichment (hybrid aquaponics), the use of inexpensive LED lighting, and the ability for others to emulate the design, meaning off the shelf parts, low cost, and easy build are important factors.  Since I am giving away the plans and data once complete (open hardware and open source software) I will never see direct profits, but I will learn a few things, teach others, and hopefully have some fresh produce. 

  25. Geez LUVallova.  Not everything has to be profit driven.  Knowledge is worth far more than money.
    What Rob has done here is beyond most average people's understanding of biological and physical sciences as well as ingenious engineering that he openly shares with others so that they may learn more about what it takes to grow food, how complex ecosystems work, etc. ¬†I've built my own geodesic aquaponic greenhouse as well and have been running it year 'round in MN for 3 years now. ¬†Could my family live off it? ¬†No… it's too small and that's not the point anyway. ¬†It's about learning and enjoying something I'm passionate about… growing health organic food. ¬†Many other people love to do this as well (clearly… looking at Rob's following) and quite frankly this is one of the most generously shared projects I've seen in this genre. ¬†
    Thanks to you Rob for all your time, money and energy as well as generosity in sharing what you've done for other's to enhance their lives.

  26. that's the best set-up i'v ever seen in a dome,,,I manufacture Bamboo Geodesic domes in the Philippines for Calamity victims,,,this idea can help many family's set up there own food production,,,thank you so much,,,your an inspiration,,Salamat
    (thank you in Filipino)

  27. O my goodness your mind is beautiful, this is a creation that almost made me cry from its beauty thank you so much for sharing!

    God Bless

  28. Hi Rob, I am thinking of doing something similar to what you have done here – aquaponics in a greenhouse in a northern climate. Did you insulate beneath your exterior walls before putting up your dome? Have you considered putting on an additional layer of polycarbonate on the inside of your dome triangles? The greenhouse I will be constructing will be completely on the cheap with recycled construction materials and multiple layers of sheet poly and bubble wrap probably. I am also planning on digging it down and putting the fish tank in the ground to take advantage of a bit of geothermal effects. Any comments?

  29. Thought I'd share the episodes we did on the Visionary Aquaponics podcast with your audience here:
    You can listen to Part 1 here:

    "A well-known pioneering aquaponics innovator, hobbyist, and Youtube contributer, Rob Torcellini is the founder of Bigelow Brook Farm. Listen as we discuss Rob's journey, trials, inventions, and experimentations: why he chose a geodesic dome for his greenhouse, or why a rocket mass heater, and topics including his modified bell siphon, greenhouse heating, and the different kinds of wood stoves he uses. We discuss his video series on YouTube, his experience with solar energy, and what the biggest barrier is from being a pioneering hobbyist to becoming a ¬†commercial producer, such as licensing, planning your greenhouse systems, and running your numbers. He talks about why you should diversify your business, the benefits of Grow Grips and why Rob invented these and other innovations, and his use of expanded shale for media beds. We discuss why he chose to grow Koi fish, the winter nitrogen cycle, and what crops grow best in his systems, including various types of tomatoes, culinary herbs such as thyme, oregano, sage, and parsley, as well as vegetables like green beans, celery and cucumbers. Discover which plant grows surprisingly well in an aquaponic system! Understand Rob's motto: "Slow and steady." Finally, learn what kind of beneficial bacteria he uses to deal with caterpillars, why he chose to grow June-bearing strawberries instead of ever-bearing strawberries… and which type of system is most ideal for growing strawberries! This is part 1 of a series with Rob. Keep your ears flexed for more! "

  30. Here's Part 2:
    27: Bigelow Brook Farm Pt 2, w/Rob Torcellini

    Part 2 of my talk with Rob Torcellini of Bigelow Brook Farm. We talk about cut and come again perennials, strawberry towers, wicking trays for seeding, and the massive die-off that happened in Rob's greenhouse that we can learn from. Hear about the rocket mass heater failure, growing banana trees aquaponically, using solids from mineralization tanks for fruit tree fertility, grafting, and the biggest barrier to mainstreaming aquaponics. Listen as we also discuss "Aquasheisters," aquaponics for drought and water conservation, Food Safety Issues and Organic Certification, as well as building customer relationships in your local community.

  31. We are starting a system and we love to see how flexible, expandable, and just beautiful these systems can be. We also want to go strictly solar and use rocket mass heating.

  32. Hi again, I notice that you have changed the backup battery setup for the Li-Ion backup system; how do you rate it? Is it worth the extra money?
    Kind Regards

  33. I've been trying to find a price to round up on your design I love it and me and some friends want to throw in together to remake it what a average gess on how much it came to over all?

  34. Instead of removing those triangle panels for windows I would have installed intake vents along the bottom of the southern stretch of the dome and then built some kind of a cupola in the north shed roof so the dome itself could be totally solid. Did you consider this type of design at any time?

  35. This guy really helped motivate me to get started on my greenhouse. If anyone is interested in what I'm doing and maybe willing to help out hit the link.
    Check out "Family Aquaponics Geodesic Greenhouse" on Indiegogo

  36. It's pronounced 'Bah-sil', with a short A. Why are you saying it that way? Why are Americans, who used to say it the correct way, when no other language with similar words used anything but short As, starting to say it that way?

    On the one hand, language evolves, etc, on the other hand it's wrong and stop it.

  37. Awesome video series. I started with a geo dome and ended up with a ton of stuff I'm also into: aquaponics, solar, construction… damn best series ever on Youtube.

    Thanks mate, this is a work of art. Great craftsmanship, great ideas.

  38. looks very nice man, profitability is not an issue for you I presume, you could pump out a ton of microgreens instead…

  39. I have not watched your progress in over a year. I built an Aquaponic system in Texas. I to used goldfish in my tank. I used a IBC tank 220 gallon which did nicely for a small system. I grew Okra, Tomato and mustard greens in mine. My pump quit and I lost all my fish after the 2nd growing season. So I tore the system down and hauled it off. I can grow just as much in the ground here because we have a double growing season in East Texas.
    Good luck with yours. Live long and prosper.

  40. About the water buffer tank does this mean I can add a media bed before a degassing tank in a commercial dwc farm? Basically adding one media bed in a UVI unit!! Your thoughts?

  41. I dont know why you arent using a corona generator or some other form of atmospheric generator…water carousel generator etc?

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