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Friendly Aquaponics Newsletter
Number 132
August 13th,  2013
Images from our farmily aquaponics farm
Aloha Friend

In t
oday's "Nugget",
we continue our long awaited and oft-requested series on "Alternate Energy For Your Aquaponics System". If you want to be more energy self sufficient (even if you don't have an aquaponics system yet), this information will be extremely valuable to you. You might like to read Part 1 of this series first to catch up, if you haven't yet done so.

Our "In The Farmily" column today is about worms in aquaponics. It's good, scientifically sound information for aquaponics beginners and experts alike!

Aquaponics Nugget #132, Part 2: Alternate Energy Systems For Aquaponics

What’s Really Important To Know About Electricity?


The other day I was answering my email and I got this question from one of our hundreds of Micro System purchasers: “I bought a Jacuzzi pump for $25 at a garage sale, can I use it instead of the $54 pump you specify? I saved $29!”. I emailed him back, and asked him to read the information off the plate on the side of the pump: volts, amps, and watts, and get his cost per kilowatt-hour of electricity from his electric utility company, then email me back with the info.


Turns out his pump was a 120 volt AC pump, drew 14.5 amps, had a “Power Factor” of 0.6, and actually uses 25,056 watts in a 24-hour period (I’ll explain what all these terms mean in just a bit, for those of you who wish to get technical!). But what you should all be interested in is that the pump we recommended in the materials list for the Micro System (the “more expensive” pump for this system; $29 more, whoo!), only uses 576 watts in a 24-hour period. Why is this important?


This fellow was in Hawaii, where the cost for electricity is $0.44 per kilowatt-hour. His “cheap” pump therefore uses $11.02 of electricity in a 24-hour period, and the more “expensive” pump uses 25 cents worth in the same time! The yearly electric bill for the cheap pump is $4,023; the yearly bill for the expensive pump is $92.50. If he’d used the cheap pump, he would have spent $3,931.49 per year more on electricity, but not gotten any benefit whatsoever.


If you’re in an area where the cost for electricity is only $0.08/kilowatt-hour, you might think this makes the difference between the two pumps  meaningless, and that using the jacuzzi pump would be OK. Not so! The cheap jacuzzi pump would cost you $731 per year for electricity; compared to $16.82 for the recommended pump. You’d spend $714.82 per year more on electricity to run the cheap pump!


Now if I was mean (or ignorant!), I might have written him back and told him what a great deal he had. I wrote him these numbers, with this explanation, and he “got it” immediately!


As you need to: the message here is that the most important thing you need to know about electricity is how much it costs you! This is especially critical if you’re planning on running a commercial operation of any kind; multiply the numbers in the previous paragraphs by thirty or fifty to get an idea of the economic damage this kind of ignorance could cause.


Now that you’ve “got it”, how do you determine if you have pumps, blowers, fans, and lights that are as electrically efficient as possible?

How To Choose Electrically-Efficient Equipment:


Get a Kill-A-Watt (KAW) from your local alternate energy shop or Aquatic EcoSystems. This is a little hand-held meter that costs less than $40, which will tell you exactly how much electrical power a piece of equipment (a fan, blower, pump, or light) uses, with no lying or misrepresentation. You simply plug it into an outlet, then plug the piece of electrical equipment you want to measure power from into it. The Kill-A-Watt will show you how many watts the equipment is using, on its little LCD screen.

Equipment manufacturers often make unreliable power claims in their literature; to be absolutely certain you should use the KAW on the actual piece of equipment you’re considering before you buy it; or get the seller to plug it into his KAW and guarantee that its power usage is such-and-such.

If you're shopping garage sales, taking the Kill-A-Watt along can save you a ton of money and maybe find you a deal! You certainly won't be buying any jacuzzi pumps that will cost you $4,000 a year for electricity!


If you believe what you read and are told, then you don’t need a KAW: simply read the performance data in the equipment specification sheet and buy accordingly. However, we’ve seen time and again (by checking with the KAW) that things do not use the amount of energy they claim to use: usually it’s more, sometimes (quite pleasantly), it’s less.

(Next newsletter will be Part 3 of Alternate Energy Systems For Aquaponics. Thanks for listening!)

(Below) Tim with part of the Hawaii Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse's alternate energy system; the PV panels are outside (in the sun, yeah!). You can see the charge controller (black box at top), the inverter (black box below that), the combiner box (upper right, where the multiple cables from the PV panels combines into a single set of larger cables leading to the charge controller), battery charge indicator (little flat black rectangle), and DC breaker panel (black box to the right of the inverter). Roll-up white plastic cover is so that all this BLACK equipment doesn't cook inside the greenhouse. See why we say: "Hire a professional!"

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!


Friendly September 2013 Commercial Aquaponics Training Schedule: Tennessee:

These Tennessee trainings are $1,495 per person for five days of the most comprehensive and profitable Commercial Aquaponics and energy efficient Solar Greenhouse technology on the planet. If you can't wait until September to learn about profitable commercial aquaponics, check out our Personal Intensive trainings in Hawaii.

SPECIAL OFFER: First 25 registrations will receive 50 tilapia fingerlings, a $100 value (shipping not included). Register before September 1st and you are automatically entered in a drawing to win a COMPLETE 64 square foot backyard Micro System. This includes everything you need to get started (just add fish, media and seeds; shipping not included). This is an $1,800 value, and the course only costs $1,495.

(Below) Tim drinking water from one of Randy and Katie's aquaponics systems at a previous Tennessee training. "I've been drinking this for six years; it's the reason I absolutely know the food from these systems is safe and healthy" (Tim).  TimWaterDrinkingNugget

First 5-day  training: September 23rd-27th (register here for first Tennessee training). Second 5-day training: September 30th-October 4th (register here for Tennessee second training).

(Click here for more information on Tennessee trainings).

These five-day trainings allow you to travel during the weekend so that you only need to take a week off your busy life to attend.

Both of these five-day trainings include our $999 DIY Commercial Aquaponics package, $998 DIY Farmer's Market Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse package, and new $295 DIY Commercial Tilapia Hatchery manual as course materials, plus our Plywood/Epoxy/ Tank manual, CAD construction drawings for all greenhouses and aquaponics systems, and much more!

(Below) Randy and Tim showing attendees at the Tennessee training how easy it is to use a DO (dissolved oxygen) meter to measure oxygen levels in the vegetable troughs.


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.

Our Affiliate Program:

For those of you who aren't yet aware of our Affiliate programs, here's the deal: we're the ONLY aquaponics professionals who teach our students how to teach aquaponics, AND let them use our manuals (under license) to teach others with. In fact, there are two Micro System trainings being given by our affiliates right now (see sidebar). If you read below the turquoise box in the middle of the newsletter, you'll see that we also encourage and work with "Commercial" level affiliates to teach our Commercial Aquaponics and Solar Greenhouse Trainings. No other aquaponics teachers offer this, but you can partner with us to do so if you wish!

More details of the Aquaponics Technology course here.

More details of the Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse course here.

More details of the Commercial Aquaponics course here.

(Below) Randy and Katie's Chinese-style Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse in Tennessee in the February snow, 2013. 70 degrees inside and you had to take your coat off when working with the vegetables!

GreenhouseSnow3Small 2

(Below) Our Farmily with our product in a "Big Box" store; the first time ever that a little mom and pop (Aquaponics!) farm took an account away from a multimillion dollar agribusiness. You'll see more of this, because you as consumers will demand it!

Costco cold room small 2

The Friendly  Aquaponics Way Video!
Back Issues Of Newsletters Now Available, Click Here!
Trough Liner Distributors:
West Coast USA
East Coast USA

Click here for Trout fry and fingerlings directly from the hatchery to you!

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 OFFER: For a FREE MICRO SYSTEM! (yes, the whole SYSTEM, an $1,800 value!):

Sign yourself up for the FIRST

Or sign yourself up for the SECOND

TENNESSEE September 2013 Commercial Aquaponics and Solar Greenhouse Trainings
NOW, and enter the drawing for the FREE $1,800 Micro System. Plus, you ALSO receive a free Micro System DIY package so you can begin studying aquaponics, as soon as you register! ($99.95 value)

Also: Micro System Classes!

Join Ben and Alicia Godfrey at Sand Creek Farm in Cameron, Texas for a Micro System training! Call Ben or Alicia directly at 254-697-2927, or email them to sign up for this course. You can visit their website here to see a list of all the other cool classes they offer!

Join David Lindemann in Melbourne, Florida, in one of his Micro System classes: Call David directly at 321-604-6684, or email him to sign up for this course. You can visit David's website here for details of the class and to see all the other cool things he's doing!

These Texas and Florida one-day live trainings use our $100 Micro System DIY manual as coursebook, and are a real deal!

The Farmily of Worms:

One of the big questions we are asked at our farm tours is: "Can I feed worms, black soldier fly larvae, bugs from bug traps, etc to my fish". The next question is often: "Can I put (chicken manure, pig manure, horse manure, compost, compost teas, supplements, fertilizer, worm castings, etc) into my aquaponics system?

We’ll address these together, because they involve the same issue: potential contamination of aquaponic produce with dangerous germs such as salmonella, E. coli, and others.

We don't have PhD's (Susanne has a BS in Chemistry and Biology), but we still use good scientific method in doing our aquaponics research and investigations. We look into things we think will make an immediate bottom-line difference in our commercial aquaponics farm.

We don't always fully understand WHY everything we've developed works, because some of this stuff occurs on the microscopic level with a microbiological and chemical basis that would truly take a lab, some PhD's, and half a million dollars in funding to figure out properly.

But when we see that it works the same way every time, and means more money or less work for us, understanding why is secondary; for we've got bills to pay. We also know that what we develop makes a difference to you out there who are following in our footsteps; this is an additional important motivation for our continuing research in aquaponics.

We've been interested in the possibilities of combining worms and aquaponics systems for years. However, we do not know of any true peer-reviewed scientific studies demonstrating that compost, manure, and/or worms are safe in aquaponics systems. We have wanted to test earthworms in our small experimental aquaponics systems for a long time, but have found no scientific evidence that doing so would be safe, so we never tried this.

Why don’t we just “try”? Because we could kill someone without even knowing that a danger existed. This is because we don’t have the microbiological analysis capabilities (this would require a fully-equipped lab) and the budget to be able to do a proper scientific study that would demonstrate the safety of worms. Without a proper scientific inquiry, we'd simply be "guessing" whether the food that came from the worm/aquaponics system was safe or not.

Although this is disappointing to us, we’d rather be safe than sorry. A lot of people listen to our advice. What if one of them did something we had guessed was safe (but not
known), and it wasn't? We'd bear the scars of that stupidity forever.

In fact, we recently found studies indicating that worms help spread E. coli through soil and vermicomposts (FEMS Microbiology And Ecology, #58, Oct 2006, pp 54-64). This research is by the Federation of European Microbiology Societies, a recognized world leading organization in medical and biological research.

It describes how earthworms spread dangerous strains of E. coli and other bacteria  vertically and horizontally through both compost and soil. As this is good peer-reviewed scientific research, it means we need to pay attention.

So, in light of this research, and in the absence of proof that worms are safe, we are constrained to be careful and conservative in the way we operate our systems and in the advice we offer.

You should be too. To paraphrase: depending on where your worms, black soldier fly larvae, bugs from bug traps, compost teas, supplements, fertilizer, worm castings and so on came from, they may or may not be contaminated. Using them in aquaponics systems may be safe; it may not. Or, as Clint Eastwood/"Dirty Harry" said in that movie: "Are you feelin' lucky?".

We do have a "worm bin" that we put our kitchen vegetable waste into. We use the vermicompost from it on our crops grown in the soil, as farmers have done for many years. And we wash any produce three times that comes from the soil (that we are planning to eat raw).

If we were doing this on a commercial basis instead of just for ourselves, the USDA Organic Certification law mandates that we wait a minimum of 120 days from the time any manure is applied to a field (which also includes vermicompost) until we are allowed to harvest from that field. That's what the real experts in the field think; and it's part of a Federal law!

Aquaponic systems should have a solid basis in proven science AND in proven experience. There's too much nonsense arguing going on between people with no background in science and no substantial experience with aquaponics. Get some science, get some experience, or better yet, get BOTH.

Time's short, and there's enough exploration in aquaponics needed for everyone to participate in. We want to make a better world for our kids, and their kids. Don't you think?

Aloha, Tim....

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This email, our manuals and construction plans are all copyrighted by  Friendly Aquaponics, Inc, Susanne Friend and Tim Mann, 2008-2013

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