Demonstration of an Agro-Ecological PoultryPonics Dome in Hay River, NWT

Regions: South Slave Region

Tags: physical sciences, food security, agriculture

Principal Investigator: Wallington, Kevin D (1)
Licence Number: 16318
Organization: 6385 NWT Ltd o/a Choice North Farms
Licensed Year(s): 2018
Issued: Jun 05, 2018
Project Team: Glenn Scott (Project Facilitator , Agri-Arctic Inc), Nick Savidov (Researcher, Lethbridge College), Lois Friesen (Researcher, East Farthing Farms)

Objective(s): To showcase the benefits of the integration of vertical hydroponics and poultry production in a dome shaped structure which will significantly reduce the inputs of nutrients and energy while maintaining high levels of production.

Project Description: The Agro-Ecological PoultryPonics Demonstration will be a showcase the benefits of the integration of vertical hydroponics and poultry production in a dome shaped structure which will significantly reduce the inputs of nutrients and energy while maintaining high levels of production. It will be able to do so with the use of a ‘BIOReactor’ that will help to safely convert manure from egg production into nutrient solution that will be used by the hydroponically grown plants. In turn, plant wastage will be fed to the chickens to reduce the need to ship feed in from the South and chicken manure will be used to reduce the need for nutrients solutions. This agro-ecological cycle will also take advantage of the heat produced by both the chickens and the digestion of their manure to heat the dome and reduce energy expenditures. Dome shaped structures are known to be highly energy efficient and heating expenditures will be further reduced by its aerodynamic shape as demonstrated by the ‘AgriDome Feasibility Study’ conducted at Yukon College during the winters of 2015 and 2016. When used in conjunction with a standard High Pressure Sodium (HPS) lighting system and a web- based monitoring, control and analytics, high levels of productivity among a wide variety of plant species will be maintained with relatively low energy expenditures, an ease of operation and a significantly reduced carbon footprint from these types of agriculture.

The PoultryPonics Dome Demonstration will be a multi-year project that will conclude in March, 2019. Once key productivity and financial benchmarks have been attained, this technology will be commercialized by offering northern communities a larger, full-scale operation. In order to realize its full commercialization potential, this scaled pilot project will be established on the property of PolarEgg in two phases: ‘Phase One’ will commence with the construction of the dome, vertical hydroponics systems and data analysis systems and ‘Phase Two’ will commence with the establishment of poultry production and the integration of both methods of production with the use of a bioreactor.

The Dome: A 20’ diameter Intershelter Dome will be mounted on a hexagonally shaped first floor that will provide 852 ft2 of floor space. The first floor (ZONE1) will be used for egg production and the dome (ZONE2) will be used for horticultural production.

Vertical Hydroponics Units: Five AKNA8 grow units will be deployed on the upper level of the dome. An individual unit consists of vertically oriented ebb & flow tables that channel water and nutrients beneath easily removable ‘grow slats’ that are capable of accommodating any desired plant density. Different grow slats have different pod configurations that the grower can easily add or remove as needed. Additionally, the slats are sized to fit into a custom-made germination rack which means that plants will never need to be transplanted once they have been seeded. These grow units will be capable of growing up to 2560 plants with a medium-density configuration.

Monitoring, Controls & Communications System: Agri-Arctic will be providing most of the equipment necessary to operate the hydroponics units, the bioreactor and the Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system. This will be based on a Campbell Scientific datalogger, a relay control bank, multiplexer, an instrumentation suite and a cellular data link.

The objective of Phase Two is to establish egg production and successfully integrate it into the hydroponics operation with the use of a bioreactor. The monitoring and analysis systems will allow for the precise evaluation of the success of the integration and will provide a high-resolution dataset that will demonstrate the overall effectiveness of the PoultryPonics Dome and the systems that make it work.

PolarEgg Poultry Production: Two hundred laying chickens will be raised on a year-round basis on the first floor of the dome. After the completion of this demonstration, an additional three hundred chickens will be raised during the summertime as they will have access to space exterior to the dome.

Agro-Ecological Systems: Critical to the success of this demonstration will be the ability to utilize outputs from one system as inputs to another with the use of a bioreactor in order to reduce operating costs. Specifically, both the hydroponics and poultry operation will generate mass, energy and gas (oxygen and carbon dioxide) outputs that are usually wasted in conventional agricultural operations. The PoultryPonics Dome will feed plant wastage to the chickens and the manure produced by the chickens will be digested into a safe, high-yield nutrient solution that will be fed to the plants. This project will ensure that these outputs are efficiently utilized to reduce operating costs and boost production. The benchmarks that will need to be achieved in order to ensure that a large-scale dome will have an acceptable return on investment (ROI) are the production of 405 dozen eggs per month with the use of less than 800 L of water and less than 400 kg of chicken feed.

The purpose of this project is to address food insecurity in the North in a tangible way. A local poultry producer, Choice North Farms, is taking the lead, in partnership with researchers, to identify new ways to approach food production.

Through relationships with other non-profit organizations in the North, the research team will share what has been learned so that other remote communities may benefit.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from June 4, 2018 to December 3, 2018.