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Tilapia are raised in a tank containing water. The fish waste creates nutrient rich water used to fertilize the plants in the grow beds. The plants act as a biofilter, cleaning the water, which flows back to the fish tank. This re-circulating system is fully scalable and requires minimal daily water input.

Below are some of the more frequently asked questions about the details of the FoodMachine.

How big is the FoodMachine?

Although the FoodMachine is scalable, we recommend starting with a system that consists of a fish tank that is 4’W X 4’H X 10’L and two growbeds that are 4’W x 50’L.

How large a piece of land is needed for the FoodMachine?

A plot of land that is 20’W by 65’L and relatively level would be fine for the system described above. However, if the only plot of land available is of a different size, there are different ways the system can be built. For example, instead of doing two 50’ long grow beds, a one hundred foot growbed could be built.

Does the FoodMachine location have to be flat?

Generally, if the site is more level than not, the construction is easier and cheaper. However, the FoodMachine can be built in nearly any environment. Growbeds at the Kona FoodMachine site are on the ground at one end and nearly six feet in the air at the other end due to the slope of the site.

What is the cost of the FoodMachine and what does this cost include?

The cost ranges from $5,000 – $15,000 USD. The actual cost depends on current market rates for materials and airfare.

This covers the cost of locally purchased materials, the hiring of any needed local labor, materials to be brought from the states, drawings and building diagrams, two plane tickets to bring FoodMachine staff in for onsite training, ongoing email/Skype training follow-up, and a $300 administrative fee to the FoodMachine Foundation.

What percentage of the materials needed to build a FoodMachine are purchased locally? Do teams come build the FoodMachine or is it built locally?

Generally, 80-90% of all materials are acquired within close proximity to the installation site. We feel it is very important to purchase as many items locally as possible because it is paramount for the system to be able to run independently.

Do teams come build the FoodMachine or is it built locally?

FoodMachines are primarily built locally, though some of the cost of building a FoodMachine covers one or two FoodMachine staff coming to assist with its construction and startup. It is our goal that whoever will be operating the system is involved in the construction. In addition, it is our hope that some locals will be employed to do some of the initial construction.

How much labor per week is required to maintain the FoodMachine?

The best approach is to have at least one person dedicated full time to the FoodMachine. In situations where this isn’t the case, the system tends to be neglected and does not produce optimally. This person would have time for additional responsibilities, but it is important that the FoodMachine be their first priority each and every day. Following is a breakdown of specific daily and weekly tasks:
-The fish need to be fed and the water quality checked daily during the startup period of the system. 
This would take about one hour per day, 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening.
-The plants need to be checked regularly to ensure that no pest outbreaks occur.
-The air and water pumps should be checked to make sure they are in proper working order as well as the system being checked for any leaks.
-Seeds need to be planted on a weekly basis. This should only take about two hours weekly.
-Harvesting also needs to occur on a weekly basis. This should take about five hours weekly. This could be done all in one day or spaced out over a two-day period. (During the startup period, there will be no produce to harvest).

How many people does the FoodMachine feed?

The FoodMachine is able to provide vegetables for up to 50 people, eating two meals per day. Once the fish have reached maturity (usually about eight months from startup), they too can be eaten.

What vegetables have been grown through the FoodMachine in the more tropical areas?

Red and green lettuce, cilantro, basil, chives, sugar peas, broccoli, soybeans, cabbage, cucumbers, squash, kale, peppers, garden beans, tomatoes, eggplant, and celery.
This does vary in each location so asking locals for advice on what seeds do well is advised.

If the plan were to sell the produce, a visit to a local market to see what is in demand would be advised. This will ensure that what is being grown has market value.
As a general rule, vegetables that are green and grow up towards the light tend to thrive in the FoodMachine.

Do the vegetables grow at a faster rate or are normal harvesting times applicable for the vegetables?

The vegetables tend to grow a bit faster due to the constant presence of water and high nutrients. Plants can also be grown more densely than in traditional agriculture methods.

How often are the fish harvested? How do you know which fish to take out to sell or eat?

The goal is to have the correct ratio (weight) of fish in the system for the total square footage of grow-bed available. This is all part of the training we do with those running systems.
In the United States, the fish size when harvested would be a little over a pound. This size provides two six-ounce fillets.
However, in many places in the world, people eat fish whole and therefore the cycle from a baby fish to eating size is much shorter, probably only six to seven months.

Is electricity required?

Yes, a reliable source of electricity is needed. This is primarily to provide a 24/7 air supply to the fish. Electricity can be from the grid or from an alternative energy source such as solar.