Auto Bell Siphons are ingineous devices and have been the standard way of generating the Ebb-and-Flow cycles in small/medium media based Aquaponic Systems for decades. They are cheap and quite reliable after the operator manage to adjust them.
Although they do have some drawbacks:
1- They can be quite tricky to set up as they require to be precisly engineered and carefully adjusted to work on a specific system
2- There is no control over ebb-and-flow frequency, neither a easy way to adjuste the water level in the grow-bed
Our first client and long time partner Incredible AquaGarden based in Todmorden, UK was facing similar problems when we were hired to consult in their system construction. They have a quite unusual and challenging media based growbed with it’s 10 meters long. We set the goal to solve this problem and improve in their system operability. Our open source ethos and the desire to make an affordable solution lead us to join forces with the FabLab Manchester
The first version of the valve was 85 cm long and cost £70 in material (while an electronically actuated valve with similar functionality would cost £300 – 500)
     

                                                                                                                                         

Version 1 at Incredible AquaGarden


The valve perfomed it’s work well for almost two years without any mechanical problems, although issues with the electronics controllers and software maintanance required an upgrade to Version 2 with a stand-alone controller
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Close up of Valve

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Version 2 at Incredible AquaGarden

Stand-alone Grow-bed controller

Stand-alone Grow-bed controller

 
 
 Towards the end of 2015 one of our founders, Paulo Marini, was invited to join a group to start-up WeGrow Social, an aquaponics project based in Sheffield, UK.  The WeGrow project is working to bring affordable and easy monitoring systems for aquaponics and they are planning a Kickstater campaign to lunch their product this September. They tought the valve would be a beneficial addition to their campaign and ask if the Aquaponics Lab team could speed up the efforts to build a product they could use in support for their campaign rewards. The results of the last few months of the work lead by Paulo Marini and Mike Ratcliffe, with contributions from many collaborators, is a fully integrated and compact device built using off-the-shelf components and a 3D printed part.
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Version 3 at WeGrow System/University of Sheffield

Our valve enables to customize the water level in your grow-bed easily. It’s a more adjustable alternative to Auto Bell Siphons and it works straight out of the box:
If days are warmer and/or the plants are younger you can decide if you want the top layer of the grow-bed wetter providing more confort to the new seedlings.
 
During the night you can stop the ebb-and-flow to permit the bed/plants/bacteria to breath better and earth-worms to travel through it.

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