Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Velez co-founded Back to the Roots, a company whose mission is to propagate the idea of growing produce in one’s home. The UC Berkeley graduates started with the idea of growing mushrooms using coffee waste. The idea prospered and it was realized in their first product called the Mushroom Farm. They decided to take personal farming up a notch by developing their second product they dubbed Aqua Farm (Also known as Aquaculture). After further modifications, they renamed the Aquaponics system, the Water Garden.
The Water Garden utilizes Aquaponics to simultaneously raise aquatic animals and grow plants without soil. Water usage is lessened by 90% because of the closed-loop system which lets aquatic animals (such as Aquaponics Fish) thrive while providing the plants nutrition. Fish waste is taken up as nutrition by the plants, and the plants filter the water for the fish.
Product Features and Specifications of Back To The Roots Aquaponics System
- One three-gallon tank: trapezoid in shape. Frosted near the top to indicate ideal water level
- One grow bed which includes a grow tray and a grow lid. The grow bed has an additional slot for fish food and water refills
- Five net cups for the grow bed
- One submersible pump
- One heater
- Product dimensions with grow lid attached to the tank: 3 x 9.4 x 13.3 inches
- Weighs 6.5 lbs.
Other items included in the package
- One 99 cent Betta gift card from Petco
- A letter from Back to the Roots encouraging customer feedback
- Three packets of starter kit seeds: basil, lettuce and wheatgrass
- One starter packet of fish food
- One small bottle of dechlorinator
- One small bottle of beneficial bacteria
- One packet of preventative fish bath
- One packet of Tidy Tank sludge and odor control
- One bag of expanded shale
A good number of customers have a love and hate relationship with the Aquaponics System since its inception as the Aqua Farm. Customers have consulted online community boards and other customer reviews to find do-it-yourself solutions to different product hitches. The following are complaints from customers ranked from most common to least common:
- Noisy external air pump
- Warping of tank and lid
- Kinked air tube
- Net cups’ drains are quite wide
- No heater
A representative from Back to the Roots handled the complaints well since a revamped version of the Water Garden was released by the manufacturer. Back to the Roots even replaced product parts for customers who sent their personal feedback. The latest version of the Water Garden has the following improvements:
- Silent submersible pump
- Better material for the tank and lid
- Narrower drains for net cups
- A heater has been included in the package
Persistent problems are as follows:
- Algae growth
- Sludge in the ‘Grow Bed’
Looking at the previous reviews, some customers didn’t even bother reading the manual. Their tanks were placed by the window to give their plants full sunlight. However, direct exposure to sunlight will hasten algae growth. It is better to plant shade tolerant plants (i.e. plants that we grow for the sprouts, leaves or stems) instead of fruit-bearing plants since less sunlight is needed.
Sludge comes from the filtering capability of the plants. It won’t present any problems unless it gets thick. Customers with this problem were asked if they were overfeeding their Betta. Some of them innocently replied they thought their Betta was still hungry. In conclusion, these problems can be avoided by doing enough research.
The love and hate relationship customers have for the Back To The Roots Aquaponics System is understandable since this product has a promising foundation: to cultivate produce in one’s home while saving a lot of water. No wonder the majority is trying to find workarounds if something goes wrong with their kit.
Couples with children will be hitting two birds with one stone by introducing healthy food from their personal farm and interesting facts about the ecosystem to their kids. According to teachers, some schools even have Water Garden tanks in homerooms and/or science rooms since they are ideal models for young students.
The Water Garden’s compact design is ideal for home and school use. Not everybody has ample space for a full-blown Aquaponics system. According to some customers, they bought a kit because they don’t have enough time or skill to build something from scratch. They wanted to start somewhere and Back to the Roots was able to deliver something they could work with.
Overall, there are more positive reviews than negatives. As long as the manual has been read and you do as it says, you should not encounter most of the problems stated in the negative reviews.
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