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Friendly Aquaponics Newsletter
Number 89
August 29th,  2012
Images from our farmily aquaponics farm
Aloha Friend,

Today's "Nugget" revisits prawns. Not the kind you saw in the movie "District 9", but the kind you eat with garlic butter.

I'm writing this from sunny Hawaii, during a small breathing space between the last day of our 3-day August Aquaponics Technology training and the first day of our 2-day Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse training. We've had attendees from Oregon to Hong Kong to local Hawaii residents this week; and because of the one-day mid-training break we've learned to make ourselves take, I'm really enjoying this training.

When we started training in 2008, even though the trainings were only four days, it was always a marathon, and we were usually exhausted when we finished. We'd spend days beforehand preparing for the training, then work 12-hour days during the training, putting everything we had into it, plus catering the event ourselves.

In 2011 we added a day to the training, because the amount of information we had to impart had expanded dramatically. Then in 2012 we added the 2-day Solar Greenhouse training, and in February we did our first seven-day training. This resulted in an almost total breakdown of my grey matter upstairs after the training was over, and the desire for several days at the beach to recover. However, our schedule didn't allow several days at the beach, so we had no recourse but to get the flu the day after the training and then go on working as usual while we got well. As a result of this experience, we now make ourselves take the one-day mid-week break to keep our batteries charged.

This August training  has been better (for me) than any training we've done before. The reason is really simple: Susanne got a cow. She'd wanted a milk cow for a long time, because our goal has always been to have a diversified farm that produced as many of the food items we consume as possible; the milk cow is a step in that direction. But I wasn't prepared for the emotional result: Susanne really likes the cow, enjoys milking it (our eleven-year-old Jack helps a lot), and says that the cow is totally fun.

I thought the early hours for the morning milking and the fact that now we'd be totally tied to the farm every day morning and evening would seem like a burden to her. But she's really happy with it, to the point where I'm wondering when we're going to get the second and third cows. She's making yogurt, cottage cheese, and butter, and we're all drinking as much milk as we want now, instead of worrying about running out and how much it costs per gallon. Our seventeen--year-old, Victor, practically drinks a gallon a day by himself.

If you want to earn a living from aquaponics (or just learn the best aquaponics technology available) , we have two trainings scheduled in the balance of 2012:

Training 1: In Tennesee, from September 16th to the 22nd, we hold our 3-day Aquaponics Technology Training, plus the 2-day Solar Greenhouse Training, plus the 1-day Commercial Aquaponics Training. Attend one or more trainings to suit your needs. Trainings are at Randy and Katy Campbell's farm, Ellibell Farm, in Elora, Tennesee. You can sign up now for these trainings on our webpage here. You can also call Randy directly at 256-679-9488, or email Randy for information.

Training 2:
The same six days of training, October 21st to the 27th in Hawaii.

If you're interested in our Solar Greenhouse technology, please take a look at our Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse Training (Special Offer in right sidebar of this email), where you will learn more about how to grow affordably using aquaponics in greenhouses than you can anywhere else in the world. The next training is in Tennessee in September 2012, and then Hawaii in October 2012. 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 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 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!

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 #89, Prawns Revisited, Part 1:

Prawns are sexy. Prawns are expensive! Everyone loves prawns! Newcomers to the aquaculture or aquaponics fields jump to the conclusion that prawns will make them the most money of any species. Seeing that they sell for $10/lb when tilapia sells for $4 or $5/lb inspires them; they ignore the business reality that if it was that easy to do, everyone would be doing it. We'd have lots of prawns, and the price would only be $2/lb. There are places in the South Pacific that are like that: the locals don't eat the lobster because there's so darn much of it, they would rather eat the reef and ocean fish.

The problem with this kind of thinking is that it ignores all the natural behavior, breeding habits, and other facts about prawns that one must know to be able to raise them successfully. A 5,000 gallon fish tank that can easily hold 1,500 pounds of tilapia will house 50 prawns at best, or about 4 pounds.

Prawn Behavior:

There are several things you must know to successfully raise prawns in an aquaponic system. Tilapia will eat the prawns, so you need to keep the prawns separated from the fish in different tanks or troughs. Everyone likes to eat prawns, even other prawns. To raise prawns commercially, breeders stock PL's (Post Larvae, or juvenile prawns) at 3 to 4 per square yard of pond space, and harvest 1 to 2 per square yard of pond space.

The reason they are only able to harvest half of the prawns they stock is that the prawns are territorial and fight with and eat each other. A lot of the mortalities come from large prawns being eaten by smaller prawns when the larger ones are molting and unable to protect themselves because their shells are quite soft for a long time during the molting process. The only way to successfully raise prawns commercially is to have tens or even hundreds of acres of pond space, and even then success is difficult to achieve because the prawns are very susceptible to disease, and predation by human thieves.

The reason prawns work in an aquaponics system is that they are detrivores. This means they eat organic garbage: anything that falls to the bottom of the troughs; a dead mosquito fish, some roots that fell off a plant, another prawn that just died or was drygulched by a group of prawns while molting. As a result of this feeding behavior, we don't need to feed them anything, and having prawns in the system does not increase the amount of feed we need to purchase. Our opinion is that in the process of eating the detritus of dead roots and other organic refuse that falls to the bottom of the troughs, they further break up this stuff and liberate nutrients that the plants thrive on, as well as add their own excreta to the system, which then turns into nutrients for the plants in the system.

As mentioned, the prawns are raised in the hydroponic troughs under the vegetables to keep the tilapia from eating them. We have never seen any damage to vegetable roots caused by prawns, or any decrease in system vegetable production after we introduced prawns to one of our systems. In fact, we have noticed that the smaller ones will shelter in particularly large root groups, and come zooming out when you lift a raft to inspect the roots.

You CAN Make Money With Prawns:

I know a prawn farmer in Honduras, and she makes money raising prawns. But she has 600 acres of ponds, expert labor that costs her $6/day, an $8/pound price for her prawns (she ships them to Europe), and says if her operation was any smaller, she couldn’t make a go of it.

When we raised prawns in our aquaponics troughs, we stocked 300 or so PL's into a total of 864 square feet of hydroponics troughs in a commercial system (a stocking density of 3 per square yard), and 4 months later harvested 20-30 lbs of prawns from that system. These prawns can be sold off the back of the truck for $10/lb in Hawaii. So this would total 60-90 lbs of prawns a year (or $600 to $900 of gross income) from a system that produces 4,500 lbs of organic lettuce at $5.92 a pound ($26,732) and 600 lbs of tilapia at $5/pound ($3,000), per year. You can see that the prawns are not the largest or even the second largest system output.

Next newsletter: Part 2 of "Prawns Revisited", with more information on how to breed your own prawns and where to get PL's to stock your system with.

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.

Next week: Something interesting and valuable to know about aquaponics. Thanks for listening!

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,  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!


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


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

Special Offers!
For Hawaii Residents ONLY: 3-day Aquaponics Technology Training for $195

For Hawaii Residents ONLY: 2-day Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse Training for $195

For Hawaii Residents ONLY: 1-day Commercial Aquaponics Training for $195

For Hawaii Residents ONLY: Attend all three for only $395

Special Offers If You Don't Live In Hawaii (Sorry, we just got lucky!)

Sign up for our HAWAII August 30-31st
Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse Training
or our
HAWAII August 26-28 Aquaponics Technology Training,
or our
TENNESSEE September 20-21 Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse Training
or our
TENNESSEE September 16-18th Aquaponics Technology Training,

and receive a free Micro System DIY package so you can begin studying aquaponics! ($99.95 value)

More Information on  Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse Trainings

"The Fish's View"

Today's column is NOT about fish at all! I was searching my memory chips for something that might appeal to readers when I came across this bit:

I have a time-honored connection to Japan. In 1998 I began learning kendo; "The Way Of The Sword". Kendo began as a technology for practicing swordfighting that would allow warriors to experience full-contact combat without killing or injuring each other.

Even wooden swords, when wielded in practice by experts, are as capable of killing or injuring as a steel sword is. When a daimyo's (Medieval Japanese lord) army practiced, the daimyo did not benefit from injured or maimed warriors; they still needed to go up against the other side with as many competent men as possible.

Ergo, kendo, which is practiced with protective armor and bamboo swords. The kendo practitioner is one of the few modern martial artists who can "execute fully" that is, go ALL-OUT in practice without worrying about more than a bruise or two.

My kendo sensei (teacher) was taught by a line of sensei who came from Okinawa to Hawaii in the late 1800's. As a result of his teachers' teachers leaving Japan almost 130 years ago, the style of kendo my sensei taught me was unchanged from that which was taught in Okinawa in the 1860's to 1870's. When I practiced with mainland kenshi before (kendo practitioners), they laughed at me because they didn't recognize my style of kendo. They got a lot more respectful when I explained my sensei's lineage and philosophy of teaching kendo.

My sensei emphasized "The Spirit Of Kendo", which was not about winning tournament matches, but about doing "beautiful kendo". He was very serious about kendo not being a "sport", but a way of life.

When I had been practicing with him for eight years, he said that he was moving to another island to take a better career position (as headmaster of a new private Buddhist high school on the island of Oahu), and that I would be sensei now.

I protested that I was not ready to be sensei, and he just smiled at me. He left for his new position, and I continued teaching the dojo (kendo school), which had from six to twelve high school students as kenshi, for another three years.

We had one or two adult students, but they didn't last very long; their minds were full of nonsense, and they didn't apply themselves or concentrate as well as the teenagers did.

We could only afford to rent a church building to use as the dojo practice room, and because of changes in my financial situation, we had to stop doing that in 2008. I am trying to find funds or a patron so we can build our own dojo and I can begin teaching again. It was one of the most rewarding experiences and periods of my whole life!

Konnichi-Wa, and 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, 2008-2012

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