Aquapioneers, the aquaponics kit to cut out in a fablab
Published 11 July 2017 by Nicolas Barrial
Conceived at the Green Fab Lab in Barcelona and currently in crowdfunding, Aquapioneers is an aquaponics kit for all pioneers of agriculture above ground.
As it name suggests, Aquapioneers wants to count you among the pioneers of aquaponics, the circular ecological system resulting from the fusion of aquaculture (raising animals in water) and hydroponics (cultivating plants above ground). The system is based on an aquarium where manure produced by the fish serves as natural fertilizer for the plants, while the water in the aquarium is used as irrigation (all you have to do is feed the fish). Aquaponics is also a form of local production that is dear to fablabs. Maker-researchers Guillaume Teyssié from France and Loïc Le Goueff from Luxembourg, cofounders of Aquapioneers in Barcelona, want to leverage fablabs to disseminate the kit: “In Barcelona, we promote aquaponics as a sustainable way to produce food, and we want to spread this message globally using the power of open source.”
A kit for fablabs
The kit to make the cabinet that houses the acquaponic system is designed to be laser cut, while the code for controlling the Arduino is on Github. Since it is also designed to be installed indoors, LEDs complete the set-up. Aquapioneers promotes local, and therefore ecological, production: acquaponics is almost twice as efficient as growing in soil and can save up to 95% of water. It advocates healthy eating and provides fablabs with an all-in-one educational project.
A Fab City project
Guillaume Teyssié, 28, and Loïc Le Goueff, 29, met in January 2016 in Barcelona at the Green Fab Lab at IAAC (Institute of Advanced Architecture of Catalonia). Guillaume was working on the kit during his internship at the Fab Academy, and Loïc was writing his thesis on aquaponics at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. After several proofs of concept, they founded Aquapioneers in June 2016 and moved into the Valldaura research center for self-sufficiency (which includes Green Fab Lab). In September, the kit was adopted by the first lab outside Spain, the Sinergia Tech fablab in Montevideo, Uruguay.
Open your heart…
As the Green Lab is part of the Fab City network, the project is supported in a video by Tomás Diez of Fab Lab Barcelona in Aquapioneers’ crowdfunding campaign in progress on Ulule. Expanding the kit is the map of fablabs that signed the charter of the Fab Foundation, which also supports the project.
According to Guillaume, “Contributors will help us secure the resources to open source the files and documentation for everyone.” A few weeks after the campaign ends, the files will be registered in the public domain (CC-BY-NC 4.0). Contributors will be treated to a few extras: participation in workshops, on-site installation, etc.
Presentation of Aquapioneers on Ulule (English subtitles):
With just a few days left, their crowdfunding campaign is already a success with €27,042 raised, almost double the initial goal. Guillaume is quite pleased: “Until now, we self-funded this project with our own savings, up to €15,000. The success of this campaign gives us oxygen, time and resources to set up a business model. We’re close to our second goal of open sourcing our modular aquaponic greenhouse, which is self-sufficient in electricity, using an adapted Smart Citizen open source monitoring kit.”
Aquapioneers, a nonprofit organization registered in Spain, has the ambition to become a cooperative. “We would like to start up a B Corporation type social enterprise, but it doesn’t exist in Spain,” says Guillaume. “In the years to come, our business model will be based on providing Steam educational services with ‘open’ schools that use our kit. The Ulule campaign will fund the first school, and we just applied for a local grant of €40,000 to work with ten schools this year.”
Afterward, there’s the corporate client, team building, well-being. “We had a first successful experience with Schneider Electric, for their Barcelona offices,” says Guillaume. He and Loïc are also counting on their expertise to accompany large systems of aquaponic farms. “Once our economic activity is stable, we’ll keep the open source and school part under the organization umbrella and migrate the business part under a cooperative,” Guillaume concludes.
More info about Aquapioneers and their crowdfunding campaign