Independence, Sustainability, Creativity, Innovation, and integration in our community.

Welcome! Our Purpose and Intent


I am Richard Stillwagon.  My company is Zephyr Greenhouse Systems.  My goal is to introduce you to the benefits of Aquaponics and raise awareness to the issues that are making this method of gardening a necessity.  Aquaponics is a method of raising fish and growing vegetables in a symbiotic and organic fashion.  Saving water and space, no pesticides, no fertilizers, and harvesting fresh produce year round.

I also want to raise awareness to the necessity for the general public to become responsible for their own food, water, and power needs.  I believe it is important to educate those that do not know or have forgotten how it is possible to be independent of the utilities and supermarket.  “Entitlement” beliefs need to be dispelled and corrected.  Our current system is actually a luxury and convenience.  The utilities and market system are not responsible for our well being.  Should they fail or cease to exist each individual is responsible for themselves.  This responsibility and capability is attainable and accessible to those with the desire and drive to achieve it.

Our company’s purpose, and my desire is to help, educate, and provide the means for the individual to attain these goals.


Comments on: "Welcome! Our Purpose and Intent" (13)

  1. What fish are you using in your aquaponics system and where in Washington did you go to get that fish? I’m thinking about just doing tilapia.. My aquaponics system will be in a 300sq/ft unfinished section of my home- it’ll be pretty well insulated and i will be insulating the IBC totes as well. So I shouldn’t have to worry too much about the temp, though i probably will have an aquarium heater in my sump tank just in case. Do you know if there is a place in WA to buy tilapia fingerlings? I know that state law addresses needing approval for tilapia in ponds or lakes on private property but it did not address tanks or aquariums within the home??? I live in Port Orchard, WA.

    • Hi Adam, Tilapia sources are pretty much nonexistent in our state. But they are available on Ebay and a few other sites specializing in supplying AP enthusiasts. I have been using Goldfish and some native minnows that I have found in local ponds. I am about to fire up the big system in the greenhouse, about 550 gallons, and I am still trying to decide on the species I want to try.

  2. Richard – I am very excited about your philosopy and goals. You also seem very committed to education. Do you offer any tours or classes or do you know of any classes locally in the Seattle/Tacoma area?


    Deb in Auburn

    • Hi Deb in Auburn – I read your comments at Rick Stillwagon’s blog and wanted you to know about our Aquaponic meetup group out at Rick’s greenhouse down at Roy, Wa. this Sunday the 21st at 3pm. It would be great for you to visit the greenhouse and see an aquaponic system in action. We will be having some classes given by Jeb, our Horticulture expert, as well. Address is 803 317th St in Roy, Wa. Give Rick a call at 253 732-8458 to let him know if you can make it or if you have any further questions. Our group is growing and welcome your attendance. Check out our forum on line at Northwest Aquaponics and Permaculture. Take care. Hope to meet you, Randy Styer

  3. Hi Rick this is Gary Wisener inventor of the WiseWay pellet stove . After receiving your call today I looked up your web sight and I think we are perfect for each other. I can see our stove working well with almost all your projects.We are a small company just getting started although I have been buiding and testing our stove for over twelve years we just received our patent in January of 2011. I’m sure we can do specific things to our stove if we can work together.

    Thanks looking forward to hear from you
    Gary Wisener

  4. Channelfog said:

    It is well written. You may wish to add the Fukushima factor as well. Fallout is already measurable in food and milk in north America. A 7.0 after shock will tumble the unit 4 fuel pool (1,500+ fuel rods, reactor only holds 80), resulting in a fuel fire that will be worse than 10 Chernobyls. The likely hood of a 7.0 in the next 3 years is 98%. If this happens no one will be able to approach the plant for at least a century, leaving the other unattended, damaged reactors and fuel pools to follow suit. It is likely that the only safe food will come from closed aquaponic greenhouses with filtered positive pressure air systems and well water only. We stopped eating pacific tuna and sea weed and it won’t be long before it is all tainted, as the radioactive water continues to seep from the shattered nuclear plant.

    • I try not to get into too much of alarmed mode, that is something that can be worse for your health and quality of life than the possible disasters, but living in Hawaii, I have listened to groups that have sail around the pacific and collected samples and find an amazing amout of debree in each square mile. we read about docks and boats running aground in Hawaii all the time. The last tote type container washed upright on Oahu and was filled with dead sea birds that couldn’t fly out because of the space needed to get airborne. There was also an incredible amount of marine life growing on this one tote. Mutiply that by all the other debris that came from that one incident and then how much of it is not native to the Hawaiian Eco-System and for Hawaii and many places that could be as bad or worse for our islands that have already lost an amazing amount of species over the last hundred years. Each year tons of debris from all round the world wash up on our island shores. we are one world and as such subject to everyone’s choices. whether we take it all the way or just do our best to grow and support those that do grow healthy food, it all makes a difference, just don’t get sick worrying about what could happen. Chances are, judging from the last few years alone, we should all gain the knowledge and practice from day to day to grow food and teach new generations, as well as saving seed. good prentation on seed saving at our Last Maui Farmer Union United meeting and the number of generations a plant needs to be able to genetically adapt to it’s environment versus the environment the seed company grows them in. Hawaii had in the 1930’s 130 seed producing companies, today with the exception of the university, the seed companies are a few well known large corporations that specialize in soy and corn, I’m sure most people could name at least one of them.
      the issues are almost overwhelming, but taking small steps and staying healthy, including emotionally is important.

  5. Harold Maxwell said:

    I have built an Aquaponic Recirculating raft system using the UVI format. I have joined with the Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE) team at Western Kentucky University to study and research how to do this off the grid. It is our goal and intent to take this to places such as an orphanage in Cambodia where electricity is unavailable or unreliable at best. Could the Wiseway pellet stove not only heat the water but perhaps with modification, also provide some steam powered energy? How cost efficient would that be both in initial cost and operational cost compared to solar/battery setup? Thoughts, suggestions?
    Thanks, max

    • I had the opportunity to meet Dr. James Rakowcy last weekend and listen to his experiences in the Virgin Islands about his development of the UVI system. It was inspiring to say the least. For that system, reliable electricity is necessary. Solar panels and a battery system would be advisable, as well as a generator. A steam powered generator would make using local fuels possible. Use the Wiseway stove for steam?
      Max, it is great that you ask that question. We have been using the Wiseway Pellet Stove to generate low pressure steam for distillation. This is something else you may be interested in for areas with bad water issues. We are also working on a high pressure steam boiler using the Wiseway stove as our heat source. I have a steam engine I had manufactured in India a couple of years ago that is waiting for a power source. To run the engine I have, it will require 80lbs of steam at 150 psi. That is vaporizing a great deal of water! So our plan is to use 3 or 4 of the stoves in a series, installing the water-tubes inside the stove body with the mud-pot below and the steam chamber above, as well as all the safety mechanisms, to achieve our steam requirements.

      I think one of your main issues with this stove will be a supply of pellets. If this is a rural location, with access to plenty of wood or bio-mass fuel, I know where you can have a simple Yarrow style, water-tube boiler built, and possibly shipped to a port closest to your destination. This type of boiler requires constant attendance while operating, but can be used with any burnable fuel. A simpler option for operation would be a wood gasifier and a generator powered by an internal combustion engine. These gasifiers are relatively simple to make. I am looking into it myself. Another possibility is Bio-gas or a methane digester. This would provide fuel for a generator and or cooking fuel as well as fertilizer when the material is spent of its gas producing properties. The issue with the IC engine of course is maintenance and parts. Steam engines tend to be a lower wear and tear and longer lived engine. I hope this spawned some new ideas. Let me know if you have any further questions I can answer or if I can be of any other assistance.

      • I attended dr. Rakowcy’s presentation at the aquaponics association and although informative and i love learning the history, i,m afraid that if I saw that before jumping in to aquaponics and having help Glenn Martinez build a system for a week, I probably would have thought twice before I ever started. Like Dr. wilson spoke of in a presentation i saw online, we somehow always want to reinvent the wheel. For me reinventing is like the journey and murray Hallam made a comment that everyone is in too much of a hurry to get to the end of the journey, they miss out on the journey it’s self. Loose quote, I wrote what he said somewhere on this phone, but I hope you all get the meaning.

  6. I am in Chicago right now posting what I learned while at Growing Power in Milwaukee yesterday. I also visited a facility in Chicago this morning.

    I was primarily interested in their composting operation and how it was set up. They create a lot of soil through the use of composting and vermiculture .

    What they do is have wood chips dropped off from the city who have been collecting tree branches and running them thru a chipper.

    They have also contracted with cafeterias, restaurants, breweries, coffee shops, etc to collect their food wastes such as thrown out produce waste, brewery mash, coffee grounds, etc.

    They also have a source of straw, hay, paper, and cardboard which they use to add in with the food waste in layers

    This material is collected and then mixed together in layers. They construct a storage compost bin out of wood pallets. They use 1/4 inch mesh wire wrapped around the entire bin to keep critters out. Floor pallet laid down, then 4 walls screwed together with front removed to load bin in layers. First layer is about 6 -8 ” of wood bark to keep critters from crawling thru from bottom. Then a 6 – 8″ layer of food scrapes/ mash/ straw,hay,paper,cardboard, then another 6-8″ layer of wood bark, then 6-8″ layer of food scraps/mash/straw/hay/paper/cardboard then bark again, then food scraps/mash/straw, hay, paper/cardboard up to top of bin with last layer being wood chips. Cover with plastic. Water down everyday from top till water runs out the bottom to keep moist. Allow this bin to compost for 8 months.

    This 8 month process can be shortened to 4 months if the compost pile is mixed on the ground in layers just like in the pallets but rotated every week either by hand or a bobcat type machine that can flip it over.

    After about two months material is taken out of the compost piles and loaded into 3×5″ by 2 feet high worm bins in layers with worms interspersed between layers. About 5 lbs of worms are spread out thru the bin. This compost with the worms takes around 12 weeks long. Cover with burlap sack.

    The 11th week of this 12 week process the bin is covered with a fine mesh screen with juicy food scraps added on top mixed with composted soil to draw the worms up out of the bin below. After a week the worms are collected out of the food scraps and the mesh removed.

    The soil is then shoveled thru a sifting process (1/4 inch mesh screen attached to a framework) over an empty bin. What goes thru the sifting screen is considered worm castings which can be loaded into pots for planting. Stuff caught in the screen mesh is recycled through the composting pallet bins.

    When loading seedling trays they have a certain process as well as follows. They take 2 parts worm castings and 1 part fine coconut coir mixed up thoroughly to form what they call their sprouting mix. About 5 lbs of this mix is used to fill a standard seedling tray.

    Once the seedling trays are filled up close to the top the seeds are then planted then covered with a light layer of sprouting mix then a light layer of fine coconut coir. Ready to go to grow your starts. Water with a fine mist spray everyday.

    Making your own worm castings tea is another whole process I will post as well as growing mushrooms.

    I have taken a ton of pictures which I will post when I get back so you can see all these processes. Hope this information will give you an idea of what it takes to build your own great soil. Soil you can use in your aquaponic potting plants set into your gravel media as well as making deep soil beds to grow your root crops with a drip system from your fish water.

  7. Hi there, I enjoy reading all of your post.
    I like to write a little comment to support you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s