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Friendly Aquaponics Newsletter
Number 49
August 22nd,  2011
Images from our farmily aquaponics farm
Aloha Friend,
The Payoff! (From Susanne)

For those of you who follow our story by reading our newsletter (THANK YOU!), you’ll know that we had a major opportunity to “re-create” ourselves and our Farm this past April, with the conclusion – for now anyway - of our Costco adventure. Like many such opportunities that Life offers, at first this looked like a disaster. It took a few days (ok, weeks) to see how we could make lemonade out of this lemon, as the old saying goes. Almost four months have passed, and our blessings have been revealed. Our farm is virtually unrecognizable. For those of you who have seen our entire 5500 square feet planted in only lettuce, you would be amazed! I certainly am, every time I go “up to the Aquaponics”, as we say here, as the house is below the Farm area.

There is REAL food growing there now, more than we can possibly eat, so we are harvesting and giving it away, while we experiment with what grows best, and what our market most wants. It is so amazing to have real, hearty, substantial FOOD growing within easy reach, ready to be picked fresh before every meal! We’re harvesting dozens of different cultivars of peas, beans, squash, watermelons, bok choy, tatsoi, fennel, and incredibly luscious tomatoes. We’ve got kale, cabbage, broccoli, leeks, onions, okra, peppers (both sweet peppers and hot peppers) coming on strongly – we’ll have all those to give away in the next few weeks.

I went up to harvest yesterday, and was so moved that I cried at the sheer abundance and wealth of food present in our systems. Never have I felt so rich, so safe, and so blessed! I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to “empty the cup”, as the loss of the Costco lettuce account offered, and for the refilling of our cup that is so much better than I ever could have imagined. It is my hope that  aquaponics journey is as rewarding and fulfilling as ours has been, and that you have even half the fun we’re having with it all!

If you're 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, followed by one in October 2011 in Hawaii. For smaller home backyard and apartment systems, please read on:
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!

Aquaponics Nugget #49:
Food Safety In Aquaponics Systems

We've noticed there is a lot of confusion about what Food Safety is, even among people who are fairly knowledgeable. First, what it's NOT: it's not the same as organic certification. USDA Organic Certification is a certification that shows the farmer is growing their crops in accordance with approved USDA organic practices, using approved materials (AKA consumables) such as potting mix, seeds, fertilizers; pest control sprays; and approved products (AKA devices) such as plastic pots, Schedule 40 potable water piping to carry irrigation water, and food-grade vinyl-lined fish tanks.

Organic certification is done by private companies who have passed the USDA requirements to become certifying agencies. This certification is necessary if you sell more then $5,000 worth of product a year that has the words "organic, organically grown, organically certified" anywhere on the packaging or in the advertising for the product. As best we understand it, you also cannot use "Blablabla Organics" as a farm name unless the farm is USDA organically certified.

Certification is "necessary", in the same way having a driver's license to drive a car is necessary: you risk a $10,000 fine per incident, if you are found to be selling more than that $5,000 per year, and are claiming the product is organic. Per incident can mean per bag, so imagine what happens if the Federal inspector decides your operation is big enough to sell more than $5,000 a year, and he finds 80 bags of produce labeled "organic" from a grower who is NOT certified in a retailer's cold storage room. Can you do your math? Yes! $800,000 Federal fine!

To make this even more complex for those of you who thought "organic" meant it was guaranteed safe, pure, and healthy: you can easily have an organically certified product that is NOT food safe and that can kill you, if it's contaminated with dangerous or deadly bacteria such as salmonella or e. coli.

True "food safety" simply means you don't get sick or die if you eat it. This is more easily accomplished with foods that are cooked; no one has ever gotten e. coli from a baked potato still hot from the oven. This is because all the bad stuff dies if it is heated to 165 degrees F (this is Tim's oversimplification of sterilization technique, but is fairly accurate). In other words, if you cook it, you don't need to worry about food safety. The Chinese, who have used human "night soil" in their agriculture for thousands of years, cook EVERYTHING from their fields, and don't get sick from eating raw foods.

Us Westerners, on the other hand, with our love of salads, raw spinach, sprouts, and raw greens on healthy sandwiches, are really skating on thin ice as far as food safety goes. We're totally dependent on the cleanliness and honesty of all the people who grew and processed those raw greens. These items are not very appetizing if they're heated to 165 degrees F, so if we want to keep eating them raw, we need to get educated and learn what it means to be food safe with raw foods.

If the greens we eat were overhead irrigated with contaminated water (as the spinach was that 16 people died from eating in 2003 in California), if they weren't washed thoroughly, if someone was sick and still went to work that day in the processing facility because they needed the paycheck, we may end up with a fatal illness as a result. Even washing the leaves at home (until they're shredded shadows of their original selves) doesn't guarantee food safety if they were contaminated badly enough before the washing. What does guarantee food safety?

Consistent awareness all down the line, from grower, to processor, to wholesaler/packer, to retailer, to consumer, coupled with good education about the practical application of germ theory (this is called "wash your hands!", when you first learn it in elementary school) is what will guarantee food safety.

If  you grow your own leafy greens and other vegetables that you eat raw, there are some simple rules to follow that will make sure  your vegetables get to the kitchen with the least possible contamination on them

1.  Don't harvest any food crops from ground that has had raw manure applied to it within the last 120 days (this is an organic certification requirement also!). Apply manure, grow cover crop, till in, replant with food crop, harvest after this time limit to ensure safety of manure-fertilized raw vegetables.

2.  Don't allow animals to poop in your growing areas; if this occurs, it totally invalidates any efforts you've made to comply with #1 previously. Fence them out, set traps, keep dogs in kennels instead of letting them run loose. In Hawaii a fence is necessary anyway because pigs will destroy everything in your garden in one night if they can obtain access to it.

3.  Make certain your irrigation water is clean, and doesn't have toxic or pathogenic runoff going into it somewhere upstream; or pass through a livestock pasture where livestock have free access into it. This is difficult, because irrigation ditches frequently have dead drowned pigs or mongoose in them (in Hawaii); there is NO way to know by just looking at the water. Rainwater from a catchment system is pretty guaranteed (as long as there's no way for a rat to get into the tank and drown!), and city water is by definition safe; it's just too expensive to use for irrigating crops in some locations; ours is, at $5/1,000 gallons.

Finally, after you harvest the vegetables, wash off slugs, snails, and any insect poop that may be on the vegetables using clean water in a clean container with clean utensils (like a scrub brush that is only used for vegetables and never to clean the cat box with!!), before you eat the food or give it to others to eat. When you prepare food for yourself or others, wash your hands first!
When you store food, keep it covered so flies can't land on it and redeposit that stuff that you spent so much time keeping off the food and washing off the food in the first place.

And if that seems like too much work, you can just cook everything!

Next Newsletter: How To Build An Aquaponics System From Junk! (Part 1)

Big Aquaponics  Conference in Florida:
Aquaponics Video!
Back Issues Of Newsletters Now Available, Click Here!
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 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

This past week, we had one of our amazing interns, Russ, make bruschetta (pronounced “brus KETTA”), an antipasto dish from the Tuscany region of central Italy.

It was originally developed as a way to salvage bread that was going stale by adding oil and seasonings. The name derives from bruscare, meaning "to roast over coals", and it was a staple of the poor.

It’s a wonderful fresh tomato and basil topping, sometimes with mozzarella, onions or spinach, mixed with olive oil, put atop toasted baguette slices that have been generously rubbed with a garlic clove. It’s a perfect recipe for aquaponics enthusiasts, as our systems grow tomatoes and basil so very well!

Bruschetta Recipe Ingredients:

Baguette, ideally freshly sliced
Raw Garlic clove
Extra virgin Olive oil (organic if you can get it)
Fresh Basil
Balsamic Vinegar
Optional: Onions, Spinach, Cheese for garnishing
Pinch of Salt

Bruschetta Recipe Directions:

Toast bread, and gently rub with a cut clove of garlic, then drizzle them with the olive oil.

Chop other ingredients into relatively small pieces, add a splash of balsamic vinegar,
mix them together well in a bowl, and place on top of the bread slice.

Season with salt and pepper to taste, cut the slices in half if they are larger than bite-sized, and serve.

THANKS RUSS! We miss you!

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This email, our manuals and construction plans are all copyrighted by  Friendly Aquaponics, Inc, Susanne Friend and Tim Mann, 2008-2011

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PO Box 1196
Honoka'a, Hawaii 96727

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