Aquaponics Research Kit (ARK)

What it is:

  • A standardised and Open Source Aquaponics system
  • Suitable for temperate climates.
  • Affordable but capable of producing useful food

Basic Kit

£400 parts target (Ballpark £600 shipped cost)

  • Well insulated single IBC system with media grow bed above tank
  • Dual Airlift pump
  • < £30 ESP Temp & EC sensor
  • Transparent Polycarbonate inner cover
  • Automated inner cover opener (Fish welfare)
  • Insulated cold weather cover (10+ cm foam) – Manual operation

Add ons

Citizen Science

  • By standardising certain parameters we can more easily tweak our systems and know what’s working
  • Creation of a ‘reference system’ will enable citizen scientists to compare their trials to others.

Imagined Timeline

  • We build 5 -10 systems this year, find we can’t keep up with demand.
  • We outsource some of the fabrication to friendly local fabricators. They identify design simplifications and improvements. We iterate the Open Source design.
  • We throw up some documentation on our forum, people improve it, versions happen.
  • Schools buy the system, kids learn about food, about nutrient cycles. The older ones do some microprocessor coding to tweak and improve the sensor systems.
  • A bunch of universities build them, the postgrads have neat ideas, there’s forks, the community builds momentum, we get a bit of press in glossy magazines.
  • The community establishes a food waste feed pathway, via black soldier flies we can now feed our fish sustainably.
  • We’re producing significant protein-rich food in urban environments using circular economy principles. What was once waste is now a valuable resource.
  • The systems pop up in deprived & Low income areas, people increasingly feel agency and empowered to grow fresh greens and fish.

In software there’s this idea of minimum viable product 

In aquaponics the IBC system is pretty much the basic system, but in colder climates the system will not operate all year.

So my thought is; what is the minimum viable IBC system for year round operation in a UK climate?

The solution should:

  • Be as efficient as possible – Use as little energy as possible for heating and lighting
  • Not require more attention than a regular garden

The system 

  • Will be well insulated with polypropylene foam
  • Will include a insulated cloche
  • Will include super insulated ‘night cover’ that closes over the cloche in the dark or when exterior temperature is very low.
  • Will include LED lighting
  • Will include ventilation to keep humidity acceptable
  • Using Carp or Perch so that heating and cooling are not required


Extensions to the basic system it might include: