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Active experiments.


Experiment Farmer Status Last Update Note (link)
Moringa IAF blocked 10/8 Some success with pipeline; but not yet able to scale light boxes for full size trees to grow to seed. Really need to invest time in building new, tall "tree grow boxes" -- or buy the tallest gorilla grow tent for $500+ :p Moringa
Spirulina IAF 10/9 Have a consistent harvest coming from the 40gal algae tank. The 30gal tank bit the dust for reasons explored here. Next will be to do second phase of tests: a low-/no- power "tank in the window" approach, to see if it will even produce anything, let alone be worth the time and space dedicated to the effort. Spirulina
LED Chains ZeroDivide32 10/8 phat -- new shipment in -- pending update
Fish Food IAF 10/6 Still working out proportions Aquaponic_Fish_Food
100% Self-grown diet IAF ongoing This is on hold while I recover :) TODO
Crickets (protein) IAF 10/8 Pinheads hatched!! Can we incubate them successfully? Crickets


Electroculture / Alternative

I am experimenting, admittedly not with the highest priority, with techniques that mainstream ag has summarily ignored, yet remain well known in some circles, such as:

Just Going from Seed to Seed

This is harder than it sounds -- better to start practicing today. For instance, did you know you can only save seeds from one plant in the brassica family -- which is a huge family (broccoli, arugula, mustard, cauliflower, kale, turnip, radish) -- without worrying about them cross-pollinating and becoming some weird variety? So it really takes planning around multiple seasons to ensure you have continuity in your seed stock and production.

As a result, I consider getting every plant I can get my hands on, from seed germinated to seed saved, just to gain that experience. It's fun, and none are insanely hard, but they are worth practicing!


Following are those from which I've managed to save seed. Feel free to ask me any questions!


The hard part is simply waiting long enough for the seed packs to dry! I also had to keep aphids away. After that, it was trivial to open the pods and save the seeds:

Specific success this year with:

  • Mustard
  • Arugula
  • Radish
  • Potato, went from small cut with eye, to a cluster of smaller tubers
  • Tomato, from seed to gorgeous tomatoes :)

Very straightforward: leave the pods on the plants longer than you would if you were harvesting. We want them to dry out a bit more.

  • Peas: seeds saved. 2nd generation not yet tested.
  • Beans
    • Mung: seeds saved. 2nd generation not yet tested.
    • Garbanzo
    • Lentils,

These were terrifically easy to grow to seed -- outside in the California sun! I did hear reports from other folks who said their summers were dark and their sunflowers suffered. Sunflower may NOT be the most resilient crp to grow in a period of rapidly changing climate.

See Sunflower as well.

  • Outside: Managed to save many seeds from a single sunflower; great ratio. Still would be hard to power a constant supply of trays of microgreens, but not impossible.
  • Inside: My indoor sunflowers had thin stalks, the flowers did not grow larger than a silver dollar, and ultimately they fell over and languished. I did not do a great job at tracking the flower with a light, but on first blush, these seem difficult to grow indoors (or at least, require some effort).

Anyone have different experiences here?

Generating oil from sunflowers -- any experiences here?


It's particularly important to be able to generate enough protein for our bodies to continue rebuilding themselves. Here are some efforts at doing so, particularly within a small footprint (energetic, spatial, or otherwise):

Moringa Oleifera

This "superfood" tropical tree is prolific under the right conditions, and grows highly nutritious shoots with good protein content. See Moringa for more on its nutrition.

  • Indoor: growth was spectacular until August, when it stopped, leaves became spotted.
  • Outdoor: seeds might start, but wouldn't grow more than a few inches given that my back yard only gets 3-4 hours sun.
  • Dwarf variety: did not do well at all; perhaps started too late in season

2017 Results

Outdoor (N. California): Growth Indoor: Decent growth for 3 months (June-Sep); either cooler temperatures stemmed growth, or they filled their containers


See the Crickets page for more on why this experiment is ongoing: suffice to say, it's a requires relatively low-energy inputs, and rapidly produces decent protein with some good, nutritious healthy fats.


  • 9/10/2017 First experiment begun. Things went well, until their home was invaded by ants, who ruthlessly destroyed the crickets. Lesson: keep crickets secure from invaders.


See Spirulina for more information on why this merits growing. The nutrition and protein per watt from this algae is impressive.


  • 40-gallon tank: produced well for 6 months; seems to be thinning now.
    • Lights: 2x 45W Kingbo LED
    • Heat: 1x 200W pro heater @ 88'F
  • 30-gallon tank: produced well for 6 month
    • Lights: 2x 45W Kingbo LED
    • Heat: 1x 150W pro heater @ 88'F

Next Experiment

After preparing new media in both tanks, run one with power (heat + lights) and one without (just access to sunshine next to a window, if possible). Compare production. This will be helpful to plan capacity given different levels of available energy resources.

Vertical Farming

I did some work to attempt to extend the reach of the Aquaponics system up into a third dimension. These PVC tubes were a huge pain to construct -- not worth the effort (I did something like this -- but did prove the concept that water could be dripped down a dripline.


Another option I have seen used, is to use the thick, blue pond filter material as a substrate to hold moisture/nutrients and let the roots grow through there. But that stuff is pretty pricey, and doesn't exactly grow on my property.

It seems you can basically go with one of two approaches:

Vertical towers

Vertical "walls"

There are some cool wall designs as well, both using the pond filter medium and dripping down solution, or with aeroponic atomizers. Be warned atomizers do have a limited lifespan (like anything -- but especially true when you're atomizing nutrient-rich liquid).