Some people who have come by for a tour asking about the duckweed or azolla, which is what I feed to fish, chickens, and use as a fertilizer. Both the duckweed and azolla are higher in protein than soy and corn which is what many feeds for chickens and livestock are based on. Duckeweed has 5-6 times as much starch as corn and is being looked at as a new biomass fuel. Both plants will double in 24 hours of sun, and only need about 2-3 inches of water to grow. So you can grow in small kiddie pools. If you are growing it in the same area as where you have fish they may decimate your plants and you will have to reorder. It you experience an overgrowth simply skim some off and add to your compost pile. Azolla is also a nitrogen fixer. If you have a nice blanket of wither plant it will block out the light and also greatly reduce any algae buildup.
Below is the link where I originally got my starts. You can also look for it naturally here in Indiana. Many farms and places with a pond will spray to remove the duckweed. But if you can find it locally saves some money and time. The nice this is, if you are feeding to your fish they have an automated order process and you can have it shipped as your fish eat. For instance get a pound ever week delivered. I have only ordered from this company twice both time shad a good interaction.
I have also grown water chestnuts. Yes the same thing you find in oriental dishes. It is an annual and you will need to start it after it warms up in spring. It will grow fast and by fall you will have a nice crop. It likes to grow in the mud/bog area. While I grew it as an experiment to see if I could, I was told we couldn’t grow it here in Indiana. WRONG. I grew enough in a 55 gal drum cut on the side (along the long side) to have water chestnuts for about 6 stir-fry meals. That was only from 3 plants starting as the size of a coffee cup (combined). Never let anyone tell you, that you can’t do something.
I did get snails into my system by ordering from them. I originally thought this as a problem but they have been eating the dead plant matter and eat scum/algae off the pond walls. If you get too many snails, red ear, or sunfish a type of bluegill will eat snails. We added these to one system and snails below 3″ of water do not exist. They are very common here in Indiana in ponds. You can even have them stocked or go fishing. I do not believe there are any limits on size or amounts from DNR.
Here it is growing on one of my aquaponic ponds
We plan on putting a much larger grow area at The Farm specifically for azolla and duckweed as this is what we will try feeding the meat birds next year. While they will be tractored and allowed to eat whatever bugs they come across or scratch up, we are going to try and not do any grains at all. If we have to it will be Non-GMO grains. We plan to experiment with two batches on azolla and duckweed and two batched non-GMO grains. With all things being equal if the duckweed and azola birds do as well or better we will switch to 100% water plants. It may take a bit longer to reach weight or it may be done in the same or less time. We will just have to see. It will all be documented and posted. But the benefits of growing your own feed is well worth the experimenting.
Our current birds will eat the azolla out of the ponds if we haven’t given them grains in a while. So if we are up at The Farm all weekend I will find them in the pond eating Sunday evening. But, they were raised on grains. If we never give them grains would they just eat the azolla?
I should also add, if you are local to Indiana and would like some azolla, contact me and we can make arrangements. Bring your own container for transport.