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Friendly Aquaponics Newsletter
Number 50
August 25th,  2011
Images from our farmily aquaponics farm
Aloha Friend,

Hi! Here I am, apologizing again! I sent out our first "Aquaponics Survey" (twice!) over the last two days. I made mistakes on the survey because I wasn't familiar with the software, but the final straw came when I found out from the survey company that you had to open the link to the survey inside your email program because it wouldn't work if you opened it inside your browser. Of course they don't explain this anywhere, so you have to be telepathic to know about it before it happens.

Still, it's my kuleana, as they say in Hawaii. It happened on my turf, and I'm totally responsible for not checking it out thoroughly beforehand to make sure everything worked. So, my heartfelt apologies and thanks to you all, those who participated in the survey, and those who were unable to because of my errors. The survey company's engineering department is working on fixing this glitch, and I will make certain everything works before I send out another survey. We're going to assess the results from this one, and award the $999 commercial package to one person, and the tabletop systems package via email to ALL the responders as promised in the second survey. I just need to make sure the delivery software WORKS before I try this one! (LOL!)

We had an interesting new development in the "Aquaponics Eradicates Mosquitoes" field. We describe it (and our mosquito bites) in
this weeks "In The Farmily".

If you're interested in
commercial scale aquaponics, please take a look at our Commercial Aquaponics Trainings (Special Offer in right sidebar of this email), where you will learn more about real-life operation of a commercial aquaponics system than you can anywhere else in the world. The next training is in Florida in September 2011. For smaller home backyard and apartment systems, please read on:
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Purchase Construction Plans and Operating Info for 4 Different Sizes of Apartment/Condo Aquaponics Systems $49.95

Our Apartment/Condo System package includes new and easy-to-understand building instructions and complete operating information for 4 different sizes of small aquaponic systems based on our years of experience operating a commercial aquaponics farm. Anyone can build a system out of plastic barrels, 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 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 Apartment/Condo Systems!


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Aquaponics Nugget #50:
How To Build An Aquaponics System
From Junk!


This Nugget examines exactly WHAT an aquaponics system is in the most basic terms; AND teaches you how to think in terms of systems. When you understand the system of aquaponics, you will be able to look around you and build a functional aquaponics system out of whatever's available!

We'll cover recirculating aquaponics systems today, and just refer to them as systems after this. The basic parts of a system are: a container to hold the fish, a container to hold the water for the plants, a container or device to hold the plants in the water
, a device to pump water, and finally, a device to aerate the water. We talk about these things in general terms on purpose, so you will not be limited by what-the-experts-say thinking in putting together your aquaponics system from your junk!

FISH TANK: First, a container to hold the fish can be any of the following, starting from the simplest and cheapest to the most expensive: a hole in the ground plastered with bentonite or concrete to hold the water (only good if labor costs almost nothing at your location); a hole in the ground in smooth dirt lined with a piece of 6-mil black construction plastic; a square-bottomed circular hole in the ground with a welded plastic liner (a catfish farmer I know on Oahu used this one, and was very happy with it); a corrugated steel tank lined with a vinyl liner; a polyethylene tank; a fiberglass tank; or a plywood/fiberglass and epoxy resin tank (requires special skills and knowledge, see our "Free Plywood Tank Construction Manual" download). But what about an old refrigerator or freezer from the dump, with its seams calked with silicone, for a small system? What about an old railroad tank car, cut in half with a cutting torch, painted nicely inside and out, and set on the ground, for a big system?

CONTAINER TO HOLD WATER FOR PLANTS: A
container to hold the water for the plants can be made using any of the methods for making fish tanks. However, the usual one for commercial aquaponics is the deep-water raft trough with a polyethylene liner. These can be made with concrete brick, rebar, and filled with concrete, then lined; our cost on such concrete troughs is $56/linear foot in Hawaii (including labor). The wood-framed lined troughs we DO use cost us $11/linear foot.

The most popular alternative to troughs on the ground is elevated tables. However, they are EXPENSIVE to build
(even compared to the concrete troughs) because they need to support so much weight, and much more expensive to operate because the worker must go TO the table location to harvest and plant, rather than by having the rafts float TO the worker down a long trough on the ground, which saves labor. If conserving labor is not a concern, your plant container can be anything that holds water AND can hold the "container" that holds your plants. So, for most of us, a deepwater trough on the ground is the best, most affordable answer to this problem. But, what about the roof from an old bus, cut off at the top of the windows and buried in the ground (especially if you plastered it with an inch of high-cement mortar)?

CONTAINER TO HOLD PLANTS: Because you can't just throw plants into a trough of water and expect them to grow (except for watercress!!), you need a "container" to hold plants inside the container that holds your water. The container that holds your plants is the raft in a deepwater system, the gravel/cinder in a gravel bed system, and the gutter cover in an NFT-type system. These systems usually use net pots outside the system to sprout the plants in, then transfer the net pots into the system for grow-out. Look at your junk! What are other alternatives? For a deepwater system in a third-world setting you could use short pieces of bamboo with holes drilled in them for net pots; and make rafts to hold your "pots" out of small bamboo and rattan or woven grasswork (to keep light out of the system). In the first world, look around and see what kind of good junk you can find; be creative! You just have to avoid stuff that will leach toxics out into your system.

DEVICE TO PUMP THE WATER: Usually an electrically-powered water pump. But we've found that there's no penalty on aquaponic growth if we turn the water pump off AT NIGHT! So, a system with a pump on a timer that operates during the day is your first move in the direction of sustainability. The best cheap water pump is powered by alternate energy: it's called a windmill. These low-tech water pumps work even when there's little wind (in contrast to electric wind turbines which require higher speeds to be worth anything), and are relatively cheap to purchase or make. Human beings can even be harnessed to power pumps, such as the child-powered seesaw water pumps in Gaviotas. You need to be careful when you choose an "alternate" pump. For instance, you can get pumps out of old washing machines that pump OK, except they use five times as much electricity as a pump that's designed for your system. This is an area where we need some new-fashioned sustainable engineering creativity to make a difference!

DEVICE TO AERATE THE WATER: This is usually an electrically-powered blower or air pump. This is the area where we will need the most new-fashioned sustainable engineering creativity, because it's mechanically difficult to make pressurized air for free. If you have free water pumping, it's fairly easy to aerate water by spraying it through spray nozzles. This would be a situation where you had good wind and could run your windmill to not only circulate the water, but to put some pressure on it and force it out of spray nozzles. Notice I say "free water pumping"; because it's not efficient if you are purchasing electricity to pump the water; if you're buying electricity, it's more efficient to use it to power a blower or air pump. A good example of using junk for aeration: a Thailand operation used a variable-speed turbocharger out of a diesel Toyota Land Cruiser, hooked it up via a belt drive to a hydro-power turbine in a nearby stream, and used the turbocharger to supply pressurized aeration for his aquaculture systems. When he added systems, he simply cranked the turbocharger up a notch (variable, remember?), because his "power source" (the stream water) was free.

(Next week, more system thinking: "Hybrid Aquaponics/ Permaculture/Sustainable Food Production Systems")

Click Here To See Our New Aquaponics Video!
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Free Farm Tours
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Aquaponics tour at the Friendly farm!

We hold a free workshop on our farm the FIRST Saturday of every month,  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!


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3-1/2 pound kalo (taro root) grown in a 2" net pot (little bump at bottom)



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4-month old prawn (macrobrachium rosenbergii) grown in hydroponics troughs of our aquaponics systems


Special Offer! Sign up for our  our September 2011 Florida Commercial Aquaponics Training, OR our October 2011 Hawaii Commercial Aquaponics Training now, and we will email you our Micro System package so you can begin studying aquaponics! ($99.95 value)

More Information on Hawaii and Florida Commercial Aquaponics Training

In The Farmily
We've been plagued by mosquitoes the past two weeks!  It started kind of slowly, with a mosquito here, and a mosquito there. We noticed them right away, because (as we've told you before) there are NO mosquitoes on our farm. This is because the aquaponics systems have eradicated them! This surprised us, because we hadn't seen ANY mosquitoes on the property for three years now.

It was puzzling too, because we went out right away and looked for places that had standing water but no mosquito fish in them:  buckets and barrels and stuff like that. We found nothing.

Then, someone remembered that we had dumped ALL of the trough water in system #2 about two weeks previously, including ALL the mosquito fish that were in the troughs (why we had to do this is another story entirely). No one remembered putting new mosquito fish back in, so we went up and sure enough, there were no mosquito fish there, but PLENTY of mosquito larvae. We borrowed hundreds of mosquito fish from the other two large systems we had and transplanted them into the system #2 troughs.

What happened? The first trough in system #2 had mosquito fish in it; because they had come in with the incoming water from the fish tank, they live everywhere throughout the system. But they hadn't made it from trough #1 into the next three troughs yet, and the mosquitoes had gotten a toehold in those three troughs. Their population had exploded because there were no natural controls on it.

So we have a new "To-Do" in our manuals now: If you dump all your trough water, be certain to re-populate the troughs immediately with LOTS of mosquito fish!
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This email, our manuals and construction plans are all copyrighted by  Friendly Aquaponics, Inc, Susanne Friend and Tim Mann, 2008-2010

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