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Friendly Aquaponics Newsletter
Number 105
January 3rd,  2013
Images from our farmily aquaponics farm
Aloha Friend,

In today's "Nugget" we'll give an economic analysis of, and comparison between our system design and other designs.

We still have a few spaces available in our second Tennessee training. If it works better for you, you can sign up for the
third 7-day training in Tennessee, from Monday February 4th through Sunday February 10th.

Although our normal price for this complete training is $2,495 we are extending this $1,000 off offer to everyone who signs up for both the second (January 27th-Feb 2nd) and third (February 4-10th) 7-day trainings.

We are limiting all the trainings to 35 persons, so everyone gets a chance to have all their questions answered. Sign up early if you want to come!

When you go to this webpage to sign up you will be offered both the second and third training dates, until the second is full. When it's full, the link will disappear, and you will only be able to register for the third training.

These trainings include our $995 DIY Commercial Aquaponics package, $998 DIY Farmer's Market Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse package, and new $295 DIY Commercial Tilapia Hatchery manual as course materials!

If you're located near Tennessee, Randy and Katie give regular free farm tours of their aquaponics systems and greenhouses to introduce the public to the benefits of aquaponics and energy-efficient greenhouse growing. Call Randy and Katie at 256-679-9488 or email Randy to find out when the next farm tour is scheduled.

1. The four days of the Aquaponics Technology training is everything we know about the techniques and methods of growing with aquaponics. Each day has hands-on segments. In addition, you will spend all of Day Four building several 12-square-foot TableTop Systems from scratch (under our expert eyes, of course). More details of the Aquaponics Technology course here.

2. You can take one of these 12-square-foot TableTop systems home, assemble it there, and begin growing with aquaponics immediately, even in the middle of winter! The cost of this kit is only $450; much smaller "kits" from others start at $1,295 and go up from there, not including shipping.

3. The two-day Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse course is everything we know about energy-efficient greenhouses, including information and complete CAD plans showing how to build a Chinese-style aquaponic solar greenhouse; and how to convert existing greenhouses to be as energy-efficient as possible. We even show you how to purchase, move, and erect a good used greenhouse for ten cents on the dollar! More details of the Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse course here.

4. The one-day Commercial Aquaponics Training is everything we know about all the different ways of making money with aquaponics, from CSA's to Costco, from wholesale to retail, from selling simple produce to producing value-added products, including Health Department Certified Processing Facilities, Food Safety Certification and Organic Certification. We also include our commercial-scale tilapia hatchery and nursery information, so you can raise your own tilapia and make money selling the fry and fingerlings to others also. More details of the Commercial Aquaponics course here.

Click Here To Find Out More About The 2013 Tennessee Trainings!

The free information in these three newsletters: last week's, the week before last week's and two weeks before last week's newsletter will meet most people's needs for tilapia breeding. However, if you want the complete story in 72 pages, with highly descriptive photos of the process and equipment we use, our new commercial tilapia hatchery manual is finished and ready for you. There's even a "micro-video" that my gorgeous biologist wife Susanne shot with her treasured Leica Microscope that explains why the techniques we use work so well.

For smaller home backyard and apartment systems, please read on:

Purchase Construction Plans and Operating Info for 4 Different Sizes of Table Top Aquaponics Systems $49.95

Our TableTop System package includes easy-to-understand building instructions and operating information for 4 different sizes of small aquaponic systems based on our years of experience. Anyone can build a system out of plastic barrels or IBC totes, but operating one successfully without good and easily-understood information can be frustrating. You simply use the "Daily Operations Checklist" in the manual and follow the step-by-step instructions on your way to success. We also cover how to make aquaponics systems out of weird things like old refrigerators and door frames; this makes aquaponics much more economical to get started in, and fun too!

We spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, hundreds of hours, and built our first commercial aquaponics systems with FAR less information than this manual contains. We included all the information learned from that experience in this manual so you don't need to make any of the same mistakes we did.

Learn about our TableTop Systems!

Aquaponics Nugget #105: Comparison With Competitor's Systems:

This is a typical response we send to clients asking about productivity and costs for our commercial aquaponics systems, and for information about how we work with new aquaponics farmers. It references an imaginary  “Competitor’s” aquaponics systems because people need an honest comparison to help them make decisions of this importance.


We can’t say who they are, because they’ve threatened to sue us if we compare our systems to theirs in print. Even though we guarantee that the comparison made here is true and accurate; you know that the one who has the biggest legal fund still wins. And ours is puny; that’s not the way we roll.

Aloha Friend,


I will contrast their “Commercial System” (which is around the same size) with our 4,096 square foot commercial aquaponics system design so we have an apples to apples comparison.


System Cost And Capacity Comparison


Our system costs $17,450 for materials (East Coast USA 2012). Most materials are sourced locally. Their system costs more than $85,000, not including crating or freight. Because of advances in nursery and planting technology that Susanne has made over the last three years, one of our systems holds 26,420 plants. One of theirs holds 7,500 plants+/-.


The greenhouse required for one of our systems is 7,200 square feet. The greenhouse required for one of their systems is 12,000 square feet.


Our systems are organically certifiable. To the best of our knowledge, it’s not possible to organically certify their systems because of the materials, methods, and chemicals used.


A quick comparison of three organic and conventionally-grown  produce items from the April 26, 2012, USDA Daily Market Report ( for Atlanta, Georgia (selected as the closest market to your location in Alabama) shows the following prices (these items  are frequently grown in aquaponic systems):

Organic Red Leaf lettuce, 24 ct, $39-41/case; compared to non-organic Red Leaf lettuce, 24 ct, $19-20/case.

Organic Green Leaf lettuce, 24 ct, $39-41/case; compared to non-organic Green Leaf lettuce, 24 ct, $17-19/case.

Organic Romaine lettuce, 24 ct, $39-41/case; compared to non-organic Romaine lettuce, 24 ct, $17-21/case.


In your market, organic vegetables bring in twice the income at the wholesale level that non-certifiable vegetables do. Using their systems gives you half as much income for each plant, because you can never sell organically certified produce. What farmer in their right mind would consciously make such a choice if the alternative was available for only $1,200 of certification fees per year?


Our technology includes a tilapia fry and egg hatchery as well as nursery technology; the equipment cost for a hatchery big enough to stock your farm is about $2,200. Using our technology, you could also build a full-scale tilapia hatchery and nursery capable of producing more than 1,000,000 fry per year for about $35,000 of equipment and materials. They don’t know hatchery technology, and don’t offer any.


This is important not only because you should have the production for your own tilapia fry under your control, but for two other reasons also:


The hatchery operation forms another income stream for the commercial aquaponics farm, which is important for financial stability.


By hatching the tilapia fry yourself, you reduce the cost for the fry to restock your own farm’s systems to the absolute minimum, thereby making your farm’s operation more profitable.


Profit/Loss Comparison:


Cost per plant space: Our system will cost you $1.51 per plant space, theirs would have cost you $11.33 per plant space (not including greenhouse cost).


Greenhouses required: Ten of our systems require 72,000 square feet of greenhouse space, or 20 30-foot by 120-foot greenhouses, holding a total of 264,200 plants; while ten of theirs require 120,000 square feet and only hold 75,000 plants. You need 48,000 additional square feet of greenhouses for their systems, and they still only hold one-fourth of the plants our systems do.


Cost per unit production: You will find that three of our systems hold 79,260 plants, while ten of theirs only hold +/- 75,000 plants. Our three systems only require 21,600 square feet of greenhouse as compared to the 120,000 square feet of greenhouse space their ten systems would require.


Installation cost per dollar’s worth of produce created: The organically-certified produce from our three systems holding 79,260 plants in a 21,600 square foot greenhouse is worth twice as much as the non-certified product from all ten of their systems holding a total of +/- 75,000 plants in them, because it sells for twice as much per unit (see previous citation of Atlanta, GA USDA market report for April 26, 2012).


Energy Costs: By incorporating energy efficient heating systems and by using energy efficient cooling systems, combined with the natural thermal mass properties of the water contained in the aquaponics systems, the energy costs for heating and cooling your greenhouses can be reduced to a fraction of what they would be with their conventional technology.


Labor Costs: It is obvious that there would be a small percentage of the labor involved in operating only three systems of ours in 21,600 square feet of greenhouse (as cited in #4 previously) as compared to operating their ten systems in 120,000 square feet of greenhouse; and our three systems would be twice as profitable in terms of gross dollar value of organically certified produce created than the conventional produce from all ten of their systems combined.


Partnership: We will partner with your organization to offer commercial and backyard aquaponics training in Alabama that is comprehensive and affordable, using the proven curriculums that we have developed and used for the last five years. They do not want to train anyone to be potential competition to them. We aren’t worried about training our competition, and have done so since 2008. We simply want as many people to have access to this technology as soon as possible.




Thus, it is obvious that three of our systems, costing $52,530 (plus the cost to build and operate the three greenhouses, of course), produces roughly the same amount of produce at double the dollar value in a given time as ten of theirs costing $850,000 (plus the additional cost of building and operating ten greenhouses).


To extrapolate further: If you build ten of our systems you will have 3.5 times the vegetable production as from ten of theirs, which will also be worth double the price per unit because of the organic certification your systems have.


In other words, ten of our systems compared to ten of theirs will give you a gross income of seven times as much, with far less labor required, in a 40% smaller greenhouse space that costs you 40% less to heat and cool. Isn’t this an obvious decision to make?

(We'll have something interesting and useful about aquaponics in next week's "Nugget", thanks for listening!)

The photo below is our Solar Greenhouse. It's cool when it's hot, and warm when it's cold (hope that makes sense to you, it's the best greenhouse we've ever seen!).

GrownOut1medium 2

Friendly Aquaponic's FIRST Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse in full bloom, Honoka'a, Hawaii, March 2012, (on a grey rainy day) showing PV panels and growing plants.

Click Here To See Our New Aquaponics Video!
Back Issues Of Newsletters Now Available, Click Here!
Purchase Trough Liner Directly From Manufacturer!

Free Farm Tours
Aquaponics tour at the Friendly farm!

We hold a free workshop on our farm the FIRST Saturday of every month at 10:00,  focused on growing food with aquaponics and permaculture.  Click here for information. See you there!

If you are a school, a non-profit organization, an organization working with the poor, Native Hawaiians, or ex-inmates, or if you are a church, we will hold a free farm tour for you anytime. You DO need to email us first to schedule, or we might be out on errands!


Thousands of inch-long "fifty-cent" baby tilapia from our "backyard" hatchery


What they turn into about a year later: a beautiful 2-pound white tilapia grown in the fish tanks of our aquaponics systems

Special Offers!

Sign up for the SECOND or THIRD TENNESSEE 2013 Commercial Aquaponics and Solar Greenhouse Training
and receive a free Micro System DIY package so you can begin studying aquaponics! ($99.95 value)

"In The Farmily"

I fell in love with my wife Susanne a little over twelve years ago in a health food store on the Big Island. I remember standing behind a woman at the checkout counter who had this gorgeous red hair down to the back of her knees. I was thinking "any woman with hair like that has got to have a face like a horse, they never get both", then she turned around and totally changed my world. She was beautiful!

Earlier that day, I had just taken my dog to the vet, and had gotten a depressing diagnosis of epilepsy. The word "Dog" is kind of misleading; Max was my 145-pound male Rottweiler who had been having convulsions for a week or so. I'd never seen anything like this and I was scared.

The day I met Susanne, I had Max and my female Rotty, "Honey Girl" in the back of my pickup truck, and after we met at the checkout counter and walked outside the health food store, still talking, Susanne just walked right over to 250 pounds of Rottweiler saying "I love Rottweilers!" and stuck her hand out for them to lick. Which they did, with lots of rear-end butt-wagging activity. Needless to say, I was impressed.

I talked to Susanne about the epilepsy, and she said she was going to Chinese Acupuncture College, and that acupuncture was a treatment for epilepsy, and that it should work on dogs, and that she'd treat Max for me if I brought him over to her house where she had her medical kit and needles.

So I got in the truck and followed her Mazda Millenia (with the gold trim package) over to her house, thinking things like "She's too pretty to be useful" and "she's probably a real estate agent". She was going into the house to get changed so she could work on the dog (she was wearing a silk skirt, blouse, and vest with high heels), when the dog went into an epileptic fit in the back of my truck.

Susanne instantly climbed into the bed of the truck and cradled Max's head so he wouldn't hurt himself. Max was flinging himself from side to side and throwing spit all over the place, and just as Susanne grabbed him, he lost control of his bladder and began urinating all over her. She just held onto him tight and waited until the fit was over before she left to clean up.

My estimate of her immediately went up several notches. It went up several more when, as she headed for the front door of her house to clean herself up a bit, a little guy burst out of the door and came running up, yelling "Mom!" (this was her five-year-old, Victor). At the time, I had two kids of my own, and didn't have much time to spare for people who "didn't like" kids.

I obviously needed to re-examine preconceived ideas I had about this woman. Fortunately, this only took me about ten seconds. It was ten days later when she moved in to my luxurious converted garage. I was recovering from a difficult divorce and had lost everything, so I knew she couldn't be attracted to my money! (LOL!).

It's a little more complex than that, as I had my two kids two days a week, and she had her 75-year-old Mom in addition to Victor. How she tells it is: "I moved in and never left!".

Somehow we fit all these people into a 400-square foot gaarage/apartment with a small sleeping loft, and became the happy family we've been ever since. The house has gotten bigger; now we have about 2,500 square feet with raw plywood floors that she knows I will cover "some day" with beautiful varnished hardwood.

See why I love her so much?

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This email, our manuals and construction plans are all copyrighted by  Friendly Aquaponics, Inc, Susanne Friend and Tim Mann, 2008-2012

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Friendly Aquaponics, Inc
PO Box 1196
Honoka'a, Hawaii 96727

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