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Friendly Aquaponics Newsletter
Number 152
December 12th,  2013
Images from our farmily aquaponics farm
Aloha Friend

Our new book: "Aquaponics The EASY Way!" is done! It covers how to successfully build and operate tabletop aquaponics gardens from 3-1/2 to 18 square feet in size, using materials and equipment you can buy locally at Home Depot, Lowe's, and Petco.

The "3.5" costs you under $100 in Hawaii (where things are expensive) and the "18" costs $320.30. Click here to get our free "System Cost Calculator", an ExCel spreadsheet that you can put your own local numbers into
(for parts) to find out what your system will cost you.

Sincere thanks (!) to everyone who purchased our new book at our presale discount. A number of you had problems due to glitches with the download service we used, Hightail. We sent you an updated email newsletter explaining this, also a new link to download your copy of this E-book from, a more dependable download site than Hightail. If you purchased the book but did not receive this link, email me (Tim) and I will fix it.

To purchase this E-book for only $29.95, click here. It's an excellent textbook for aquaponics for students from 6th grade on up. If you are a teacher, school administrator, or other faculty member, email us for information on pricing and volume discounts for textbook use.

Today's "Nugget #152" subject is "Seeding, Germination, and Sprouting" (below our sales pitch for our trainings).
We cover
how to easily and economically seed and sprout plants to get them ready for your aquaponic system; also, our invention of the "sprouting table" (in 2007, please correct me if someone else invented it first!).

Our "In The Farmily" column today
is about trust; and a practical experience we've had.

Friendly 2014 Commercial Aquaponics and Greenhouse Trainings:

Texas Training from January 13th to the 17th at Ben Godfrey's farm in Milam County, Texas (Click here for more information!).

One-day CSA (Consumer Supported Agriculture) Course given by Ben and Alysha Godfrey at their farm on January 18th, Saturday (click here for more information!).

Tennessee Training from January 27th to the 31st at Randy Campbell's farm in Elora, Tennessee (Click here for more information!).

(Below) One of Ben and Alysha Godfrey's aquaponics systems in a greenhouse in Milam County, Texas. I can't wait to taste their system water! lettuce2-385px

(Below) Another of Ben and Alysha's aquaponic greenhouses.

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

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, and 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 a Tennessee training how easy it is to use a DO (dissolved oxygen) meter to measure oxygen levels in the vegetable troughs.


In Tennessee: Call Randy and Katie at 256-679-9488 or email Randy to find out when the next farm tour is scheduled.

In Texas: Call Ben at 254-697-2927 or email Ben to find out when their next "Family Day" farm tour is scheduled ($15 fee per family is charged).

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

An Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse with the participants in our second June 2013 course in Tennessee!

June2013Class1-385px 2

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 #152, Part 2: Seeding, Germination, and Sprouting

Planting Out


Speaking of germination: seeds don’t all germinate, and don’t always germinate. Let us explain: on every seed packet (from reputable seed houses like Johnny’s) you usually see a statistic, expressed as a percentage, of their germination rate. It looks like this: germination = 94%.

What that means is that Johnny’s has taken several test batches of these seeds after they bought them from their bulk suppliers, and “test-germinated” them to see how good they are. 94% means that 94 out of 100 seeds they tried did germinate. When you plant them, that is what you should get. However,


(Below) On the left, slit and net pots from 1-1/4 inches up to 5 inches in size. On the right, a nursery tray that holds 3-inch pots (the 2-inch tray looks similar, but has 32 spaces).

slitpot 2sproutingtray 2

Something may have happened to the seeds on their way to you; they may have sat on a freezing or frying loading dock somewhere for a little too long in their little Post Office or UPS envelopes; this really interferes with the seed’s germination rate, or kills them outright. This can happen at home if you leave the seeds outdoors overnight, or if you leave them on a sunny windowsill or in the sun anywhere (where the seeds can get up to 140 degrees on a really sunny day!). So, keep seeds dry and warm indoors until you need to use them, then get them back to a protected spot as soon as you’re done.

(Below) Our (now) 6-year-old 24-foot-long sprouting tables with Baby Rose, about 1 year old in 2008.

sproutingtable 4

After the starts reach their optimum maturity in the sprouting table (which is when the little plants are about 1-1/2-2 inches tall, and their roots just barely start coming out of the net pots into the plastic trays) they get moved into the rafts in the Aquaponics system. If we are having trouble with germination on a particular species we will plant two or three per pot, and thin them by hand at this point back to a single plant, before they go into the rafts.


WARNING!  If you wait too long to take the sprouted pots out of the trays, the roots will be tangled with the hole or the mesh at the bottom of the tray, and will rip off, shocking the little plant. This can be so severe that the plant doesn’t recover much, or at all, and will never grow well. So be sure to take your babies out of the sprouting table and put them into the system rafts at the appropriate stage of growth.


What We’ve Discovered To NOT Do: There’s a whole list of things we’ve discovered NOT to do if we want our seeding, planting, germinating, and sprouting experience to be optimum:

1. Don’t use dirt instead of the coco coir/vermiculite potting mix! Plant roots develop differently in dirt than they do in the potting mix, and simply rot off, or “damp off”, and die when they’re put into the rafts where their roots are wet all the time.


2. There’s no need to use larger, more expensive pots: we grew a 7-pound taro and a 3-1/2 pound turnip(root vegetables) in 2-inch pots. They simply grow on top of the raft. We only seldom use 3-inch pots now, because everything grows just fine in 2 inch pots.


3. There’s also no need to use expensive potting media such as Hydroton or other expanded media. The potting mix we recommend is economical and widely available.


4. However, we had lousy luck recycling this potting mix; we found when we tried to re-use it that our “germination rate” dropped to 50% (this means only half of our seeds sprouted). We don’t know why, but we do know enough to stop doing things that don’t work.


(Below) A friend's Micro System (to the right in the distance), and sprouting table ((near left) with storage area underneath.

MSPlusSproutingTableSmall385px 2

5. We also tried “rock wool cubes” with less than inspiring results; we used the “Oasis cubes”. Our results included poor germination, much higher costs, and more labor when compared to using the potting mix we recommend.


6. We also tried using red and black volcanic cinder for potting mix. The black cinder worked GREAT! The plants grew better, faster, and had excellent germination rates. Except that after two or three planting cycles, the pots started shredding and we had to throw them away. We found that when the plant’s roots grew, they forced the cinder out through the sides of the pot, breaking them. We’d gone from throwing away planting mix that cost us $0.001 (one-tenth of a cent) each planting cycle to throwing away pots that cost us $0.03 (three cents) after two or three uses. Our potting expense went up by a factor of ten as a result of this.

This is hugely important for a commercial operation at the scale we were, since this added a penny to each month's cycle of 25,000 pots, or $250 per month, $3,000 per year. Every little bit counts when you're running a commercial operation!

Thanks to all the readers of the last newsletter who sent in suggestions for a newsletter series. We got an overwhelming vote for this week's subject. Next week, we'll continue this series on seeding, germination, and sprouting systems for aquaponics.

After this series is done, we could use another round of suggestions on the next most important topic that you, the readers, suggest. What are you interested in hearing more about?

Please email Tim and make your request for a subject, either for a single newsletter, or for a series. Thanks for listening!.

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!

Spanish Language Micro System package now available!
Free Farm Tours

Aquaponics tour at the Friendly farm!

We hold a free Farm Tour on our farm the FIRST Saturday of every month at 10:00,  focused on growing food with aquaponics.  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.



Sign yourself up for the Texas January 2014 (13th-17th)

Or sign yourself up for the Tennessee January 2014 (27th-31st)

Commercial Aquaponics and Solar Greenhouse Training
NOW, and receive a free Micro System DIY package so you can begin studying aquaponics, as soon as you register! ($99.95 value)


Micro System Classes!

Our four affiliates are now offering Micro System courses.

Click here
for a listing of affiliates and course locations!


"Fish Bites: Food-Grade Liners and Fish Tanks"

Corrugated steel round fish tanks come from Scafco Grain Systems,

Tell them you need an open-top tank, not one with a conical steel roof, which you don't need or want for a fish tank.

For Liner, order standard sizes AND custom-sized round and rectangular food-grade vinyl liners from DLM Plastics, 1530 Harvard Avenue, Findlay, OH, 45840, 419-424-5250. Get "White NSF-61 PVC", it is FOOD-GRADE vinyl (the "NSF" on the label means "National Sanitation Foundation").

"Trust In The Farmily"

How much do you trust people? (as far as you can throw them, right?). We've been meditating a lot on trust and its application in our daily lives. We feel let down when someone fails to do something they promised, or lies to us. While we don't lie, sometimes people feel we've let them down, or not delivered something they expected. Here's an example of why this has been on our minds lately on the farm:

We have an iron-clad "no-smoking, no tobacco products on the farm" rule. This is not because we're against people committing suicide by cigarette. We're aware of the population problem and applaud anyone's personal efforts to help out. It's because most tobacco products carry tobacco mosaic virus, which easily transfers to lettuce and tomatoes and is deadly to them.

A friend of Susanne's learned this the hard way when she had a cigarette-smoking friend help out in her garden. This person touched some of the tomato plants, and 24 hours later, every tomato plant in the garden had mosaic virus and all were dead within 48 hours.

Personally, we've lost our entire tomato crop three times to tomato mosaic virus that smokers (who told us they weren't smokers!) brought onto the farm. This is not a risk we can afford to take, with so many people's livelihoods depending on the crops from our farm. We tell friends and interns that they are welcome to smoke whenever they wish, off our property, and that they must wash their hands thoroughly before working in the aquaponics.

Our idea of trusting people collided with the real world yesterday, when we found a fire burning in a patch of dirt about 3 feet square out near the farm driveway. It was far enough away from the house that we might not have noticed it.

Our friend Chris Smith visited yesterday with two farm interns of his, had walked right past this spot (it wasn't burning then) then given his interns a one-hour tour of the farm. When they walked back past the spot on their way out, it was burning, and Chris told us right away.

We're in the middle of a drought, and the spot in question was covered with dry horse manure (it looked like the dirt was burning). Downwind from the burning patch was a dry log pile, with some dry bushes downwind from it, with a dry log pile downwind from that. Guess what was downwind from the dry log pile? Our neighbor's dry million-dollar house, and it was a really windy day.

We put out the fire. Then we thanked our lucky stars that this hadn't occurred on our day off, when we'd gone to the beach early in the morning; because we might have come home to our neighbor's house in ashes and a multimillion-dollar lawsuit (or possibly a criminal charge) on our hands.

Then we called Chris to make sure his interns hadn't smoked on the farm, and he assured us they had not. We trust him. When we finally put it all together, we realized a guest staying at the house who had departed four hours earlier (cigarette butt ashes were clearly visible in the fire area, four hours later!), must have been the culprit. When he arrived, we informed him of this rule, but it seems he didn't honor his promise not to smoke. We just trusted him. There's that difficult word again, trust.

What do we do now? Well, it's raining hard this morning; that removes the possibility of fire for awhile. Soon, we clear and burn the brush, we consolidate the log piles, we bulldoze the horse manure into a pile that can safely burn all by itself if it catches on fire without spreading to the next flammable item. But what do we do about trusting people? It's not safe, is it?

As Susanne says, "Life is a sexually-transmitted terminal disease". We can't protect ourselves against everything; in fact, we would circumscribe our lives to the point they're no longer worth living if we followed that philosophy to its bitter end. What we can do is develop our antenna to be a little more sensitive, and help people keep their word when they've given it.

How would that have looked in this situation? The guest who had been smoking (even though he promised not to) should have been asked to leave the moment we found out he was a smoker. Our failure was that we wanted to be nice people and be liked. What we should have done is keep our word and take care of our responsibilities to everyone else, including our neighbor, who would have been negatively affected.

We didn't realize what a serious game we were playing; we were just lifing along thinking everything was grand and we were being nice people by letting him continue to stay here even after we discovered he was a smoker. I think we've learned our lesson.

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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Honoka'a, Hawaii 96727

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