Place of warmth. Walipini means “place of warmth”. In the Andes/Bolivia was quite popular to grow vegetables in these constructions. The main idea is simple. You dig a hole in earth and you cover it with glass, nylon or something similar. The sun will heat up the earth during daytime. In the nighttime: the accumulated heat in the earth will be released slowly so the plants inside the walipini won’t freeze or die. Read about the thermal mass. This method is so efficient that they managed to grow bananas at 4600 meters altitude. It worked even in the winter.
What’s the unfair advantage in the Andes? The Andes is quite “near” the equator (in comparison to N. Europe). This means the sun is above your head most of the time. Which means if you dig a “narrow” whole the Sunbeams will “light it up” quite easily. Basically the shadows won’t appear as much as in North Europe for example. In Norway the same design fails. The winter Sun will “never” hit the button of the walipini. Basically the Sun stays to low to heat up the lower part of the construction. The sunrays won’t touch the button. The earth will not have sufficient time to warm up. The walls of the walipini will remain in the shadows. What people changed in the original walipini design to match the climate?
Where energy escapes. They changed the angle of the “cover”. They tried to match the suns angle to get as much light as possible. They lowered the southern facade and heightened the northern facade. It works great …the Sun lights up the northern wall and the heat is captured. However there is a problem. The southern facade is exposed to the wind. A significant part of the energy escapes here. The ideal would be a roof with a really-really small angle. This way the wind won’t cool down the structure as much. So let’s stick “religiously” with the flat roof for a minute.
Building these flat roofed walipinis far from the equator means we have to make them wider. Making them wider will let the Sun penetrate quite easily. We face another problem. We need a structure that holds the widened upper structure. The initial construction price is going up. We have a big opening and the big opening is covered with glass or nylon. Obviously: the heat escapes quite easily here. Normal walipinis are quite good but: you can’t keep exotic fish or fruits in it. In the cold months the odds are they will die or stop growing. They don’t die always … but they will definitely struggle.
Walipinis are way-way better than a greenhouse however they are limited. Some put a fireplace inside to compensate the heat loss. That helps a lot. Walipini’s main advantage is that it’s extremely cheap to build. In Northern countries I would use insulated shutters. These shutters might move on rails. Read about the insulation materials here. A lightweight version instead of the insulation would be pumping 10C air in a “matrass” that’s positioned above the walipini. This way the cold air from outside would have to cool the air in the “matrass” first to make it to the walipini. You blow 10C air in the mattress. You can do this almost for free.
Basically you dig pipes in the earth and you start to circulate air in them. This way the earth will warm up your air to 10C. The circulated air will be 10C. Don’t make this mistake: most of the people put huge pipes in the earth to solve similar problems. However huge pipes require thick walls. These thick walls are a good insulation so the heat exchange will be slowed down. Instead of one or two big pipes use tens if not hundreds of small tubes. Just think about your lungs. The idea is the same. Notice that walipinis might have a “cold sink” that is a brilliant idea. It’s a lowered area where the cold air accumulates. Read about how we took this idea about walipinis way further. (underground lake)
Aquaponics is a symbiosis between plants and fish. The idea is simple: the fish urinate in the water and that is cleaned up by the plants. The fish’s excrements feed the plants. How simple is that:) Therefore plants don’t need soil. They take the nutrients out of the water directly. The nutrients are in a liquid form so the roots of the plants don’t have to struggle. It’s like somebody putting food in your mouth all the time. This way plants grow super-fast. Soil or earth is not present at all. There are several types of aquaponics systems.
Classical aquaponics systems use rock as soil. They flood the rocks every hour. Plants root systems won’t dry out. Meanwhile the roots will get the nutrients. It’s highly advised to put earthworms in the system … (like in nature itself). This way this little ecosystem will be healthier. Earthworms will “uncloak” and “heal’ the system from accumulated toxins. Medium sized rocks are preferable in this case. This will let the worms find their way to clean the system. They will make it for free so it’s a good deal.
Aeroponics. The new version of the aquaponics system. Why use soil or rocks? Just leave them once for all. The logic is the following: leave the “greens” in the air and spray the water on the roots directly. The results are jaw dropping! The plants start to grow like crazy and most of the diseases disappear. Parasites can’t jump or “walk” in thin air from one plant to another. Another huge benefit is the oxygen. Plants need oxygen for their roots. This way they have plenty of time to get it from the air. Basically they are in the air. Their root system spends less energy to get the nutrients. All of the bioenergy goes directly to the “fruits” and leafs. There are 2 sub types of aeroponics systems.
- Low pressure. You buy the pump, pipes, water sprays at your local store quite “cheap”. You spray water for a few minutes on the roots, and then you let them “dry” for an hour and so. The problem is the following: if the roots get to much water they might start to rot. Mold might appear. Compared to the high-pressure system plants “struggle” to get the nutrients out of the water. If a failure occurs you have a few hours to get the system working again. Otherwise the vegetables will die.
- High pressure. You make a “fog” by spraying roughly about 50 micron sized water droplets for 1.2-1.8 seconds. Then you stop spraying for 2-3 minutes. The roots will never get really wet. They will be able to get the nutrients out of “thin air”. That’s the formula 1 of growing plants. Especially if you pair it with specialized led lightning. This high-pressure system works 20% better than the low-pressure version. The technology is developed by NASA. The sprayers nozzles can cloak quite easily and the pump and components cost way more. If the system stops you have minutes to get it back again. Some people substitute the fish with chicken (yes you heard it right chicken poop), crabs, or ducks etc. These animals leave their waste in the water. The waste is then cleaned up by the plants. As insane as it sounds.
ok … don't use them.
Aquaponics is an extraordinary thing but you have to be extremely cautious with what you feed the animals and plants in the system. I like the system but I’m quite sure that the nutrient depletion is a serious problem. It can be solved and we solved it in our underground lake. We put hundreds of species that compete and eat each other. We will recreate nature itself. For example hundreds of species of plants instead of … 10-12 species will boost the variety. Crabs then eat the fallen leafs and the dead fish. Turtles, even small mammals like snails and frogs would increase the biodiversity. The minerals would remain similar to what they would be in nature, especially if the external food intake is pure organic.
The system doesn’t need to be closed from the external environment. For example larvae and grasshoppers could be fed with “organic grass” collected in a nearby non-polluted area. This way the fish will have a food source that is A1 quality. I will not get into all the details now; I just wanted to show the idea. This way you have to “purchase” the “organic grass” and that’s considerably cheaper than buying first quality organic fish food. That would cost a fortune. Seriously. Problems in case of normal walipinis and aquaponics systems.
The repeating problems are: building cost is inefficient, water tanks, purchase of pricy water pipes, parasites, agglomeration of same species, heating bills etc … and the nutrient depletion. That’s by far the biggest problem. Walipinis without heating systems are not capable to sustain the growth in winter time. Animals and plants can die easily if are not heated. If one or two species die or stop their activity, then the other five or six species will be directly affected. And they will die or stop growing. It’s an extreme difference between a 12C 18C or 22C temperature. In one of these situations the fish might grow and breed quite fast.
In lower temperatures it might start to “hibernate”. Fish not eating will cause the death of plants. They will “starve”. The water won’t be cleaned so the fish will die also. Most people put their aquaponics system in normal green houses. That is not the best idea. The wind cools it down almost instantly. They can’t insulate it in evenings. Putting the aquaponics system in a tilted angle walipini is a much better solution. Check the pinterest images (hyperlink). However in the winter there might be problems. You have to keep the temperatures as high as possible. Normal walipinis are not that efficient. You have to pay some extra bills to heat it up.
nutrients … how to?
Instead of aquaponics systems I would pick the tomatoes and the onions grown in earth… Even if they spray all of the chemicals on it. It’s simple. From earth I might get some nutrients here and there. These nutrients will help my immune system repair most of the damage caused by the chemicals. However in normal aquaponics system with 3 to10 species I’m not sure about that. It might work if the food provided for the fish or crabs is live insects shipped from the middle of a rainforest. In this case it might work.
Solution | nature itself. That’s why we build the underground lake; to mimic a rainforest where are hundreds of materials and hundreds of species that struggle to survive just like in real life. This way the nutrient depletion won’t be a concern. I’m crazy enough to claim that our underground lake will beat all of the farms on the globe and will compete with nature itself.
Just think about a tomatoes and an organic farm. There it might be a just a “few” species in the vicinity. We’ll have hundreds. And much of the external “food intake” will be organic. Like nature itself. It will be like planting a tomato in the middle of a rainforest. The challenge here is not how you can do it. The big challenge is how you can automate literally everything in such way that you and your family can stay in a “suit”. For this we use this cheap robotics and for example the Arduino systems. You can’t compare this with farms. Read more about the underground lake.