If you would like to know how to grow tomato in the aquaponic system and get the best results, this article is perfect for you.
The tomato is very popular crop many of us like to grow.
It isn’t only the most popular crop grown in the home gardens, but it has one of the most versatile culinary uses whether stewed, roasted, pureed, used fresh, dried or even smoked.
Tomatoes are rich in vitamins A and C, low in calories and a source of lycopene (the “red” in tomatoes), which has been tapped as a cancer-fighting agent.
If you have experience in growing tomato you know that to get the high-quality products and good yields with a limited space can be quite a challenge.
We’ll try to consolidate all important things that you need to know if you want to grow tomatoes, have high-quality products and great yields in your greenhouse.
On the way, we’ll share our experience and you’ll see great benefits of aquaponic systems for profitable commercial tomato production.
When growing tomato it is important to know…
Tomato is one of the most demanded vegetables. In the season but also out of the season.
It is used as a fresh produce but also as an input for the production of many different products. One of its greatest advantages is that it grows in the air and we can use a lot of greenhouse height for our production.
The main advantages of growing tomato in protected spaces (greenhouses) compared to other crops are:
- It is highly attractive and demanded product
- We can have very high yields per sqm
- There are many hybrids that are resistant to diseases
But, if you would like to turn your tomato growing hobby into a professional commercial business you need to have a good strategy.
To be able to develop profitable business first thing is to choose the right variety or hybrid of tomato that you will grow. If you don’t choose the right one, that will satisfy specific conditions, it will be a great challenge to get quality produce and satisfactory yield.
When choosing the right variety or hybrid you want to grow you need to choose the product that:
- is demanded on your market
- can be stored longer without extra expenses
- is suitable as an input for further production
- have a good and stable price on the market
- have that price of seedlings maximum 10% of 1kg of product market value
Tomato is one very interesting vegetable that can satisfy all these conditions and have very high yields.
Now that we have defined potential we need some tricks that will enable us to use this potential and grow the tomato with profit.
Main conditions to grow tomato in aquaponic system
When you have set up your aquaponic system and decided to grow tomato you need to pay attention to some details. If you make mistakes, in the beginning, you will not see problems usually until it’s too late to fix them:
- What type of aquaponic system is the best?
- What is the best planting density?
- How to band tomatoes for the best vertical growth?
- How to make tomato grow faster?
Each and every part of the aquaponic system that is not synched to specific natural laws can make problems in the future. These problems can be insignificant but sometimes these problems can lead to total disaster. For that reason, it is important to have all the information and to understand each part of the system.
The First and most important factor is to choose the right aquaponic system for tomato production.
Out of all aquaponic systems, BED system is probably the most convenient for many types of crops. But it is not the most profitable system. Because it is quite robust, it takes a lot of space and is quite expensive to construct.
For profitable tomato cultivation, one of the best aquaponic systems is so-called DUTCH BUCKET system.
Dutch bucket aquaponic system
In dutch bucket aquaponic system we are using a number of buckets for growing our crops in them. In buckets, we put any growing media that is suitable for aquaponics. When we are irrigating crops the water is moving through growing medium and feeding the roots of our plants.
We need to make sure that on the bottom of the bucket we always have some water. We can achieve this by drilling drainage holes on a certain height of the bucket.
For this system to work we do not need any additional siphons and parts which make it cheaper and easier to maintain.
When constructing dutch bucket aquaponic system pay special attention to the following:
- Greenhouse space usage
- Pipes and nozzle clogging
- Space for roots development
- Bucket drainage
Besides these main challenges, we are bombarded daily by many tips of different equipment manufacturers. Our experience tells us that many of these tips are quite useless and are made only for marketing purposes.
Useless tips are making you buy a lot of tools and equipment that you don’t really need. But you can see through all of this usually by using simple logic.
Aquaponic systems, although sometimes quite complicated, are in essence very logical and all you need to do is to focus on what logic tells you.
After choosing the right aquaponic system for tomato cultivation we can make next steps without fear that we have skipped something crucial that can lead to disaster. What comes later may cause some troubles but without the right selection of the aquaponic system, we will not get the best results needed to achieve profitability.
In this video, you can see our basic setup for tomato cultivation as well as a guide through water circulation. You can also see that growing tomato in aquaponic system actually does not require a lot of space
In each bucket, we have had three tomato plants but we would not recommend this to everyone. To achieve even greater crop yield next season we will grow one or two plants per bucket. This system, with three plants per bucket, has enabled us to grow almost 4.000kg of tomato last season but we were not satisfied with product size.
This is how it looked in the middle of the season.
Preparation of seedlings
Next thing you need to pay attention to is to make a decision whether to grow the tomato from seeds or seedlings.
For the profitable aquaponic system, it is not enough to have high crop yields. Economic engineering is also very important. If you make significant investments in your system at the start, it will greatly affect overall profitability. For that reason, you need to find the optimal investment for greatest profitability.
That’s why it is very useful to know how to save money everywhere you can. But not only that. In some specific cases, it might seem that you are saving money but it can actually have a negative effect on overall result and profitability. The good example is the preparation of crops that you plan to plant.
It is logical to think that cheapest way is to get seeds and make our own seedlings. But this is not always the best solution.
Production of seedlings is quite complicated and demanding process that requires some additional investments. Time is also of crucial importance because we are limited with the timeframe when we need to start planting.
If you are located in the continental region with typical four seasons, you need to start planting tomatoes in greenhouses (without additional heating and lighting) in March. To produce seedlings you need a couple of months. In this period you usually do not have sufficient heat and light for seedlings production. If you choose to produce our own seedlings from seeds this will require substantial additional investments.
The best way is to compare prices of seeds and costs of seedlings production with prices of seedlings on a local market. Very often it is better and more profitable to buy seedlings on a local market. This can be quite beneficial to the overall profitability of your aquaponic system.
Hopefully, you have done your calculations and made the best choice and you have seedlings ready for plantation in your aquaponic system.
Believe it or not, this is where most of the people make mistakes and this is where the biggest mistakes are made. By thinking that they have done everything necessary many people start their production and run into problems later.
It is quite inconvenient not to know the causes for some problems and usually, people then need to get expert help to solve those problems.
To avoid this we will guide you through the topic with some tips and tricks that will enable you to get the best results.
How to plant tomato and perfect density
One of the most important factors in any crop production is planting density.
Aquaponics and hydroponics allow much higher plant densities but you need to be very careful here. It is not our goal to overestimate aquaponics and talk miracles if we have not seen it in practice. The spacing of tomato plants is an important component for healthy productive plants.
So how to space tomato plants for maximum growth potential in the aquaponic system?
Typically, the space requirements for tomato cultivation are minimal, with the fruit being easy to grow and adaptable to many climates. Of course, the correct tomato plant spacing is dependent upon which variety of tomato is being grown.
You also want to enable light to penetrate to the lower leaves of the plants, so proper spacing is crucial.
For determining the optimal plant density we have tested different densities and will share our experience.
In traditional farming there are many different factors that are influencing planting densities:
- Fighting for nutrition (the plants are fighting for limited nutrition in the soil)
- Fighting for water
- Bad root system due to higher density
- With greater density, we have greater humidity (closer to the ground) due to evaporations and this can create some diseases and problems
What is the case with aquaponic systems?
Well, many of these negative effects in aquaponic systems do not exist. But, even in aquaponic systems we still need to think about the light. On the other hand, in aquaponic and hydroponic systems we can improvise much easier than in traditional farming.
If we take into account all that is said the main challenge in the aquaponic system is that due to a lack of light we might get smaller products. This is due to shade that leaves produce so the light can not reach lower parts of plants.
In aquaponic systems, we can overcome this with additional lighting. But even in these cases, you need to be careful to allow oxygen to reach lower parts of the plants.
If you are interested in the process of respiration in plants we recommend this article.
Planting density is calculated based on the potential of hybrid or plant variety that we are planting and maximal yields for the growing system that we are using.
You bought tomato hybrid that gives on average 30-50kg per sqm. Regardless of the planting density we should always have the same crop yield, in traditional farming, due to genetical potential and photosynthesis abilities of specific hybrid. But if we plant more than we should we will also get smaller products which is not good.
As we have mentioned earlier, last season we have planted three tomato plants in each bucket but we have seen that this is probably not the best solution. Although we have had significant overall yield the products were not as large as we would like them to be. With this density, the light was not able to penetrate to lower leaves especially to the plants in the middle. For that reason this season we will plant only one or two tomatoes per bucket and compare the results.
Caring for your tomato plants in aquaponic system
When planting your tomato plants in the aquaponic system it is important to carefully remove the soil from the roots. The best way is to use shower or water under pressure and to remove soil and dirt from roots.
Plant your tomato in growing medium very carefully so you don’t damage roots. The plant is most sensitive during this process.
As soon as you plant your plants in the aquaponic system, with optimal density, you are facing some new challenges that you must focus on.
After planting tomato plants are in a shock. For them, it is in a completely different environment than it used to be. But when you plant your plants in the aquaponic system the shock is minimal as they have actually arrived in a better environment.
This is the moment when people usually think that the job is done. They start to relax and observe young and happy plants grow. But usually, this is not the case. The true fight for high-quality products and great crop yields is just starting.
Only when you have your plants in growing medium true ordeal starts.
In traditional farming and in amateur crop production farmers do not pay much attention to some very important things. Out of that ignorance, great prejudice comes by thinking that something is not possible.
In the aquaponic systems, each and every segment of production is very transparent. But you must react on any observable problem and consequences that you don’t like. For that reason, it is very important to pay attention to the plant development.
In our aquaponic experience, we have had many ups and downs and have learned a lot from all the failures. The purpose of this blog is to try to pass all the knowledge and experience and to help you overcome major challenges and save time and money.
Aquaponics is quite often breaking all the rules of traditional farming. The good example is crop yield that is achievable in aquaponics. If one follows all the rules it is possible to get 3x greater crop yields compared to traditional farming.
Some challenges that you might face after planting tomatoes in the aquaponic system are:
- Pests control
- Plants banding for vertical growth
- Wrong sprouts handling
- Insufficient water flow
- Nutrition deficiencies
- Insufficient pollination
- Air quality
- Oxygen deficiencies
We will try to focus more on these specific problems in our future articles.
Armed with all these facts you will easily achieve great yields in growing tomatoes in the aquaponic system. On the other hand, you will not see all the benefits of aquaponics if you do not apply necessary knowledge and tools. But if you do, instead of working hard in your garden and investing a lot of physical energy you will be learning more, working less and enjoying great yields.
For those reasons, it is crucial to learn as much as possible about aquaponics to achieve the best results. As a result, you will produce vegetables with excellent taste by applying these modern techniques.
And do not forget, use your logic, empirical thinking and experiences of well-intentioned farmers because there are many wrong tips out there that are entrapments of large corporations.
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