GroPonix Mini Aquaponic Aquarium kit

Betta in GroPonix Mini

Hello everyone. I realize it has been a while since my last update about the GroPonix and Goldfish Garden systems. I have had a long winding summer/fall of dead ends and small failures, but everything is (finally) starting to come together to get these a number of these kits sent out before Christmas.

Goldfish Garden Name Changes

The Goldfish Garden name will be changed from here on out to the GroPonix Mini to better represent this great product. This will be the last mention of the Goldfish Garden name, and we are currently transitioning this website over to the GroPonix.com domain. All of you who are following this product on Facebook and Twitter will receive an invitation to like/follow the new GroPonix name in the next couple of days.

groponix-mini-1

The GroPonix Mini natural aquarium filter

GroPonix Mini For Sale

I am happy to say that within the next two weeks or so I will be getting GroPonix Mini aquaponic aquarium systems available for purchase! I will be making this available for pre-sale very soon for those of you who want to pre-purchase this kit. This new Mini system is shown to the right and will come complete with the following parts:

  •  GroPonix Mini planter
  • 5 net pots with 5 infused coco plug rooting sponges
  • Airlift tube
  • High quality air pump
  • 4 ft of aquarium airline tubing
  • Biofilter sponge
  • Packet of organic basil seeds
Bowl sizes for the GroPonix Mini

Bowl sizes for the GroPonix Mini

This product has new and innovative features that make it a great filtration solution for small fish bowls such as those shown above.

Features of the GroPonix Mini:

  • Unique feeding and water sampling hole at front of planter
  • Bottom ring of planter fits perfectly into selected bowls, making the system cat and child spill resistant
  • Whisper quiet airpump pumps up to 10 gallons of water per hour through the planter – aerating the water for both fish and plants
  • Quiet drip tube though biofilter sponge for exceptional water quality
  • Plant root filtration – reduces the need for weekly water changes
  • Planter cutout that allows water heaters to be used in the tank
  • Natural fertilizer infused grow plugs for robust plant growth
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Updates on the GroPonix system

Hello everyone!

Just wanted to take a minute and show some of the recent developments with our new GroPonix aquaponic system. Salad mix lettuce seeds were planted in coco plugs at the end of March and I can tell you that the amount of lettuce that has grown is simply AMAZING! A time lapse gif of the growth can be seen below.

time-lapse-aquaponic-GroPonix-kit-lettuce

As you can see the growth absolutely EXPLODES at around the 10 day mark. This lettuce is still growing now and I’ve had the luxury of gathering the freshest produce possible from my very own room. We have been pulling a few leaves off per day to trim the plants and encourage more growth, while also getting to enjoy the crisp and flavorful aquaponic lettuce in salads or on sandwiches.

Another great benefit of this system is that I have had to perform ZERO water changes  since this system was placed on top of my 10 gallon tank. I have also haven’t had to clean the glass or adjust the pH at all!  Testing the water gives zero nitrates and a solid pH of 6.5 that has been stable for almost 4 weeks now. The fish couldn’t be happier and the water is so crystal clear I am amazed at how little I have had to do over the last few weeks.

I am currently assembling GroPonix units so if you are interested in growing your own produce while maintaining an effortlessly clean aquarium, head over to our Products tab and order one today!

Here are some other picture of the great food I have been pulling off my GroPonix system:

 

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Recent Developments and the release of the GroPonix Aquaponic System

Goldfish Garden Aquaponic Aquarium Kit Developments

Over the last few weeks and months the Goldfish Garden has gone through some changes. The design of the planter has been changed slightly to be more streamlined, a removable plate has been designed so that individual net pots can be inserted into the system, and manufacturing materials have been purchased for a full production run of units.  The new design is looking great and a limited number of units are expected to be available within the next month.  For all those of you who have sent messages about when official Goldfish Gardens will become available, the answer is SOON!  A sneak peak of the new prototype planter and filter are shown below (Note- the manufactured product will be white/light grey NOT blue).  For those of you out there that would like to know when these units will become available – shoot us an e-mail at info@thegoldfishgarden.com and we will send you a message as soon as the first lot of these get produced!

goldfish-garden-aquaponic-planter-prototypeprototype-goldfish-garden-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to a change in the design, the Goldfish Garden Packages will be changed as well.  Available in the near future will be conversion kits that contain the Goldfish garden planter, net pots with coco-plug growth material, air pump, and airlift tube.  These kits will be significantly less expensive than the currently listed packages because they will not come with the fish tank (which would basically double just the shipping costs alone).  These new kits fit on a standard 2-gallon barrel style fish bowl, or a 1-gallon round fish bowl like those pictured below.

2-gallon-barrel-fish-bowl_1-gallon-round-fish-bowl

Aquaponic Kits for Rectangular Aquariums

For those of you out there with rectangular aquariums, we have been developing a new system, called GroPonix that fits on top of a standard 10 gallon fish tank and can grow a large amount of edible greens in a short amount of time.  The GroPonix system will be made from water-jet cut polycarbonate sheets, feature dual airlift tubes, and come with a 2x24W T5 24″ grow light system and hood – perfect for growing lettuce, herbs, or flowers in a small space all year round!  The system measures 22″wide x 6″ deep x 12″ tall, allowing it to fit nicely above the space already occupied by a 10 gallon aquarium.  There is no other system quite like this on the market and it comes with everything you need to grow quality produce right in your own home!

 

side-view-home-aquaponic-groponix-system

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a time lapse .gif that shows the growth of the plants over 2 weeks.  I will be updating this as the plants grow larger and larger!

GroPonix-growing

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Looking back at my Kickstarter campaign

On Dec 28th, 2012, the Goldfish Garden Kickstarter completed without reaching its funding goal of $50,000. Overall a total of $9,288 via 111 backers was raised over a 30 day period, generating ~18% of the funding needed to create this Goldfish garden product professionally. Sadly, this means that all those who backed the Goldfish Garden project ended up getting their pledged money back and no Goldfish Gardens will be manufactured at this time. This does not mean that the Goldfish Garden idea is over, however, it simply means that a different route will need to be taken to get funding.

There are many lessons to be learned from the Kickstarter event, and I will try to lay out a few here to shed some light on why I don’t think the Goldfish Garden is not a failure as a product. There were a few unforeseen factors that came into play with my release that had detrimental effect on the amount of funding I could have attained. Hopefully this will shed some light on what was going on inside the Goldfish Garden campaign and hint at the future of this innovative home aquaponic product.

 1. Goldfish are recommended to have 10 gallons or larger aquarium to live a long and healthy life (of up to 20 years in some cases).

It seems that I chose the wrong fish for this product. Even though the Goldfish Garden system does a great job at keeping baby goldfish happy and healthy, as well as bettas, killfish and other small fish, a lot of people messaged me saying the tank I used for this system is too small for a goldfish of any size. I purposely chose the largest fish bowl they make, thinking I would avoid this criticism, but was wrong. A very vocal minority of goldfish ‘experts’ made it their goal to take down my project for a period of time, and attack any press I received for my project. If I had chosen bettas as my fish for this project, I could have avoided a lot of harsh criticism, but you live and you learn. FYI- this means the name of this product will likely change to something more generic in the future…

2. Glass fish bowls are heavy and fragile to ship, especially overseas.

In my campaign I had a lot of foreign customers interested in my product but not interested in paying the $50 surcharge for shipping. As hard as I tried, shipping anything over 4lbs costs nearly an arm and a leg. For some countries $50 was not even enough (I had one quote to Hong Kong for $250!) and I would lose money on the deal had it gone through.

3. The price of the units was too high.

Originally I was trying to hit the $70 mark for these Goldfish Garden units, but as I continued to develop the product and add new features to make the product easier to use and more self cleaning for the user the cost of manufacture was adding up. This linked with the fact that it is much harder to raise prices than it is to lower them, made me want to pick a price high enough to make the money needed to manufacture this product while offering a quality point to pivot from.

4. Many people were not interested in the ‘complete’ package.

When I started going about the development of the Goldfish Garden I found that I had to keep going back to the pet store over, and over, and over again to buy little things that I found out I needed after keeping fish for a while. I came up with the idea of adding all these small units to the tank as more of a ‘but wait, there’s more!’ bonus to the customer, but it seemed that this extra package didn’t sweeten the deal much. I think this is more of a problem with consumer expectations, thinking narrowly about what is actually needed to keep fish properly. Many fish tank packages come with very small sample sizes of chemicals/food/equipment needed, maybe in the future this is what will be done with this product as well.

5. People buy into a ‘team’ more than an ‘individual’ these days.

What can I say about this. I am an innovator with a vision of creating a whole line of home aquaponic products that allow people to enjoy fish and food they product themselves. I have worked hard to learn just about everything I can about starting a small business and being an entrepreneur. I am the website admin, the product developer, the sales force, the marketing department and manufacturing machine. Starting out any business venture requires you to wear a lot of hats.  It would of course be better to have an entire tea of qualified experts running the many segments of this business, but when all you’ve got is an idea in your head and a couple dollars in your pocket, you’ve got to do all you can on your own.

6. The number one reason this campaign failed = BAD TIMING + A NEARLY IDENTICAL PRODUCT RELEASE

For those of you who were unaware, a VERY similar product released to Kickstarter literally 5 days before I was ready to release my product. After working for over a year on the Goldfish Garden, I always had a feeling in the back of my mind that someone would come up with a similar idea on their own and beat me to market, which is why I spent so much time trying to launch this product as quickly as possible. Sadly I missed the boat by 5 days (plus another week waiting for Kickstarter approval).  In the end this other project grossed a ridiculous $248,873 in 30 days. With this other project out on the Kickstarter site, my project received very little exposure from sustainable blogs and the like, because the Goldfish Garden was deemed to be a copy-cat product. Of course this was not the case at all, and I figured that with the extra innovations the Goldfish Garden employs it would out-compete this other product when it hit Kickstarter, but that failed to happen. The silver lining here is that a lot of people are willing to pay for home aquaponic fish tanks, so market viability has been proven for this product type. Bad news is they have the money and I don’t. Yet.

So this has been a little behind-the-scenes look into my Kickstarter campaign and what will likely change for the next step of this idea. I will try to update this blog with more information about the progress of the Goldfish Garden in the future. Sorry for the delay in this post, it has taken me some time to analyze everything that went on in my campaign.  If you would like to leave comments below or ask any questions you have, feel free.

-Ryan

 

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Kickstarter campaign is LIVE!

Hello all! Starting today the Kickstarter campaign is finally LIVE!  It has taken quite a while to get everything in order for the official launch of the Goldfish Garden™ product, but today is the day!

All purchasing buttons on this site now link to the Kickstarter campaign for discounted early-bird prices for a limited amount of backers, so get there early because the discounted supply WILL RUN OUT!

ALL backers that contribute to the Goldfish Garden Kickstarter campaign will have their names emblazoned on the Backers tab, set to update weekly.  The Kickstarter campaign will end on December 28th, 2012 so don’t delay – go see the project today!  And don’t forget to tell your family and friends about this amazing product!

Follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, visit our YouTube Channel!

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Chapter 3: The Way Ahead

After the partnership dissolved I needed to take some time off from the Goldfish Garden™ concept, make some money and think about whether or not this was an idea I wanted to pursue.  After a two month hiatus I came to the realization that this was what I wanted to do and it was the time to do it.

Being a beginner entrepreneur is not an easy racket, especially when you are going alone.  Trying to figure out the best way to get this product off the ground has not been an easy experience.  For the first months of this summer I researched different business models, talked with potential customers, met with potential investors, and met with small business consultants to validate what I deemed to be the correct steps forward.  Through these meetings I developed a strategy and worked for the remainder of the summer and into the fall following on this path toward developing a complete ‘boxed product’ available for sale.  It has taken considerably longer than I had originally planned, but I sourced parts from manufacturers, designed the planter, printed a 3D model of the planter design and assembled a completed ‘official’ prototype.

3D printed Planter

Ever wonder what a 3D printed model looks like?

I have come quite a way from my original Goldfish Garden™ prototype and it has evolved into what I believe to be a truly unique, interesting, and affordable aquaponic fish tank system.  After more than a year of development I have created a system that not only works well, but has an aesthetically pleasing design that provides a healthy environment to both fish and plants making it an attractive addition to any home or office!

But I am certainly not at the finish line yet!  Starting on November (? waiting to get approved for almost a week now)th, 2012 I am launching a Kickstarter campaign to raise the initial capital needed to get molds and purchase inventory for the first official manufacturing run.  I will be pre-selling three versions of  the Standard Goldfish Garden™ as seen on this website.  If I reach my funding goal I will be able to produce the first lot of Goldfish Gardens and hopefully start a whole line of Goldfish Garden™ designs with different tanks using a variety of aquarium fish.  So pre-order today and be sure to tell your friends and family about this unique and attractive product!

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Chapter 2 : The Partnership

Nicks Goldfish Garden Prototype

In late September 2011 I took a trip back to Minnesota for a wedding and later that week I was invited to a party being thrown by an old college friend.  At this party I ran into my old roommate Nick and started talking about what I have been up to out west etc. etc.   Later on in the night I showed him and his wife Amanda a picture on my phone of the Goldfish Garden™ prototype and his wife immediately said she wanted one.  After some contact negotiation and signing on napkins I was commissioned to make the second Goldfish Garden™ for use in their home. I threw something together using an old brownie container and some expanded clay pellets known as hydroton which are used to grow plants hydroponically.  I buried some cuttings off an apple mint plant in the hydroton and delivered the completed product to them a week later.

 

 

Nicks Garage Workshop

Over the next few months I worked full time on developing this product, making prototypes in a makeshift lab in the extra room of my apartment.  Nick and I talked on and off about the Goldfish Garden™ idea and then I flew back to Minnesota for a ‘small business retreat’ at Nick’s house to see if he and I would be able to work together in a small business setting.  During this time we set up a production facility in his garage and registered the name Effortless Aquaponics LLC as the business for producing the Goldfish Garden™.   In this production facility we built around 20 initial prototypes and sold some of them to family and friends.

At the end of the retreat we decided that we were willing to work together to make this business happen.  I flew back to Oregon and set up a lab in  my apartment in which I built new and better Goldfish Garden™ designs and tested the new configurations. Over the next couple months work went well and progress was being made with the Goldfish Garden™ design, but all was not well with the partnership.  Long story short, Nick and I had different ideas about Effortless Aquaponics LLC as a company and where we should go with the Goldfish Garden so we decided to dissolve our partnership in April of this year.

Goldfish Garden Development Lab

Goldfish Garden Development Lab

 

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The Goldfish Garden™ Development Blog: Chapter 1

The Beginning

Let’s start at the end of my old life and the beginning of my new one. In 2009 I quit my job as a Senior Production Scientist to pursue a Masters degree in Molecular Biology and Business from Oregon State University. This program required an internship rather than lab work as is typical for an M.S. so for my internship I worked at a small aquaponic greenhouse operation in Wisconsin. This greenhouse had a very unique aquaponic system

aquaponic greenhousein place that used cow waste from the neighboring dairy farm to generate heat from burning methane gas using an anaerobic digester. This methane gas heated water in a boiler which then was used to hydronically heat the greenhouse all winter long for very little cost. It was during this internship experience that I learned about aquaponic technology- namely using live fish to grow plants in a recirculating system.

From this internship I wrote and presented a thesis on this small aquaponic business and how they used aquaponics and various green energy components to run a successful business. After graduating from Oregon State in March, 2011 I started thinking more and more about the aquaponic processes and though about its real-world applications toward other markets. I had been toying around with the idea of shrinking a full scale aquaponic system down into a more individual greenhouse size, but found that the initial costs with testing such an idea were too high to be feasible at the point I was in my life. I reasoned that an entire aquaponic system could probably be turned into a very small system, using the plant bed as a filter device for a small fish bowl. In July of 2011 I purchased materials for the first of what would be dozens of goldfish garden prototypes.

First Goldfish Garden Prototype

I developed a simple airlift system to pump water up into a bed of rockwool planted with mint and basil in a plastic tray and found that, amazingly, my first prototype worked fantastically! I began showing a picture of my prototype to people and received lots of ooohs and aaaahhs, thanks in part to my original photogenic goldfish Adrian. It was after more than one of these reactions to this product that I figured this idea just might generate enough interest to warrant starting a company to develop this product into something professional.

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