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Friendly Aquaponics Newsletter
Number 64
November 29th,  2011
Images from our farmily aquaponics farm
Aloha Friend,

First, our Florida affiliate Sahib Punjabi (The Man From Punjab), is holding his FIRST aquaponics training on December 10th, 2011, and we wish him the best of success! What the word "success" means in the context of aquaponics for us is that most (if not ALL) of the participants in his course go out and build and operate aquaponics systems with the knowledge and empowerment that Sahib imparts during the course.


Sahib is dedicated to "feeding the villages" in India, his words for teaching the poorest people in the world how to feed themselves using aquaponics. He is developing aquaponics systems in Winter Park, Florida, that are the prototypes for affordable systems that will be appropriate for India and other developing nations.

And, he's doing this in the most interesting place we've ever seen an aquaponics farm: in the "dead space" of a suburban strip mall in Winter Park, near Orlando in central Florida. This is not only innovative on Sahib's part, but perhaps prescient also. Although the politicians all say "we're on the road to recovery", there are others who talk of going back to basics and being responsible for our own food security. I can't think of a better use for a lot of those empty strip malls we see nowadays: imagine housing the farming community in the buildings and growing the food in the empty parking lot!


So please do your best to support Sahib in this new enterprise by signing up for this life-changing course. He is using the profits from this to fund the development of aquaponics for the villages in India. You can contact him for information regarding classes in Florida by calling 909-575-8334, or by emailing sahib@sahibaquaponics. You can also visit Sahib's website for more information by clicking here. Sahib's next course is on December 10th and 11th from 10:00 am to 4:30 pm.


If you're interested in learning about our new 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 FIRST training is in Hawaii in February 2012. 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 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 Apartment/Condo Systems!

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Aquaponics Nugget #64:
A Primer On Sustainable Energy-Efficient Greenhouses, Part 5


This column is an ongoing series on how to understand, build, and operate energy-efficient greenhouses. If you missed any of the previous newsletters in this series, you can click here: "Back Issues Of Newsletters" to read them first if you wish.

If you don't want to build a Chinese-style solar greenhouse from scratch as we're doing, there are other options open that still incorporate most of the benefits of the Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse. We began covering one of them, the " buy a used greenhouse and re-assemble it on your farm" option, in last week's newsletter, and will do more with that subject today.

We'll start this week where you finished last week: you should have a U-Haul truck or trailer full of neatly labeled bundles of metal beams, columns, tie straps, braces, and buckets and cans of bolts and screws; and also a camera full of pictures and a sketch book full of sketches of the used greenhouse you purchased for ten cents on the dollar, disassembled and packed up into the U-Haul with your crew, and drove home with. Now, we'll explain the steps you will take as you reassemble the greenhouse at your site to make it more energy-efficient, durable, and economical to operate.

First, think about how you will grow in the greenhouse. If the way you grow has a lot of thermal mass built in, as deep water raft aquaponics systems do, you already have a built-in advantage for heating and cooling, and do not have to install extra thermal mass in the greenhouse (at extra cost).
This is one benefit of the deep water raft culture system for greenhouse use: you do not have to install a whole separate system just to get thermal mass in your greenhouse. Another benefit is that you can heat or cool the aquaponics system water directly to keep the greenhouse warm or cool; this is MUCH more efficient than trying to heat or cool the greenhouse air directly.

Other types of aquaponic systems have less thermal mass in the same area and/or volume than deep water raft culture systems do, and using them may require you to install extra thermal mass such as an insulated rock bed under the floor, or an insulated underground masonry water tank, AND extra insulation to keep the temperature in the greenhouse stable. In addition, there are other problems involving over-heating and over-cooling to overcome if you wish to use these kinds of aquaponic systems
in a greenhouse in an inclement weather situation.

One type of these, the flood-and-drain media-based system, doesn't work well as a thermal mass because it exposes the media and the plant roots to the greenhouse air on every single flood-and-drain cycle. This cools the media and plants down when you want to keep them warm, and warms them up when you want to keep them cool. However, these flood-and-drain media-based systems are not as difficult to heat and cool as NFT (Nutrient Film Technology) systems are, with their extremely shallow water depth in narrow channels. A trough in an NFT system that experiences decreased water flow because of a clog or pump or valve failure can heat up or cool down catastrophically in an amazingly short time, killing plants and wasting your time and money.

Both of these types of systems usually have FAR less total water volume in them than deep water raft systems do, and function poorly as thermal masses, requiring you to make a separate installation of a thermal mass to keep your greenhouse cool in summer and warm in winter, and possibly extra insulation too. Why would you want to use them, if you are going to have to go to extra expense to keep your greenhouse temperature stable? Well, if you were CERTAIN they had a much higher production level per square foot than the deep water raft systems do, you would have a good reason to go to the extra expense. However, we don't know of a single successful commercial aquaponics farm that is based on either of these technologies; that tells you something.

So, let's assume we're just going to put deep water raft troughs in our greenhouse. We mentioned earlier that it was much more efficient to heat and cool the water than trying to heat or cool the gtreenhouse air, so that's what we're going to do. However, once we've heated or cooled the water, we will need to insulate it to keep its temperature stable. This is much easier and less expensive than insulating the entire floor of the greenhouse: simply install 2" cheap white styrofoam under and on the sides of your raft troughs when constructing them. When the 2" styrofoam rafts that hold the plant pots are on top of the trough water, your trough water is now insulated on all sides against heat loss.

Do the same for your fish tank: install 2" insulation underneath it, on the sides, and on top of it. You can make a lift-up panel in the top styrofoam to feed them through; they won't mind the dark a bit. If you are in a location where the ground freezes in winter, you need to insulate your below-ground pipes.
You can get round tube-type insulation for pipes as large as 1", but TBMK they don't make it for the 3" PVC that we use in these systems between troughs, so consider lining the trenches you put these larger pipes in with styrofoam before laying them down.

In winter, you would get the greenhouse "closed-in" as quickly as possible so it was WARM inside; THEN install insulation, build the troughs, install fish tanks and plumbing. If it was summertime,  you could install the structural members of the greenhouse and cover them with a temporary white tarp that left a 4-foot air gap near the ground for ventilation. Then you could install the insulation, troughs, fish tanks, plumbing and all in the shade before doing the greenhouse skin, vents, and ends, (if you're careful).

Unless your greenhouse already came with glazing that was in very good shape, that you were easily able to remove and reinstall, I would seriously consider recovering it with ETFE film. The long life of this film, and the fact that it transmits more light than glass does, made up my mind for me.

Now that you have a well-insulated aquaponic installation inside a nice cheap used greenhouse with good opening vents, roll-up sides, and perhaps a water wall for summer, you are ready to heat it in the winter by heating the aquaponic water; and cool it in the summer by cooling the aquaponic water. How do you do this? Next week! (But I can guarantee it's NOT by burning hundreds of gallons of propane in the winter and spending thousands of dollars on electric air-conditioning in the summertime!).

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Franz Schreier's FIRST Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse in full bloom, Heppenheim, Germany, 2011, showing PV panels and growing plants!

(Next week: More on energy-efficient greenhouse technology, and how you can build your own! Thanks for listening!).

Click Here To See Our New Aquaponics Video!
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Back Issues Of Newsletters Now Available, Click Here!
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Purchase Trough Liner Directly From Manufacturer!

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 February 16th-17th Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse Training before December 15th, and receive a 50% discount, plus we will email you our Micro System package so you can begin studying aquaponics! ($99.95 value)

More Information on Hawaii Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse Training

In The Farmily

We were so busy being in love and exploring our new life together that we somehow put off getting married until Susanne was five months pregnant with Jack (now 10). She had gotten the dress a few months earlier, then finally realized we HAD to do it soon, or she wouldn't fit into the wedding dress.

So, on relatively short notice to our friends, we had what for every guy has to be a dream wedding: early in the morning, we drove down to a nearby black sand beach called Waipio (place of many waters), and I surfed while Susanne took a swim and relaxed on the beach. We washed off in the river, then drove up to the top of the valley where we were planning to get married. The ceremony was on the Waipio Lookout, a promontory high above the ocean with a view of Maui and miles of coastline in both directions.

We had a simple ceremony: we'd asked all our friends to bring us a lei, instead of buying a gift for us. The lei is traditional Hawaiian style, and represents the love our friends have for us in a way that no gift ever can. We got loaded up to the ears (literally!) with leis, walking down a double line of our friends as they hugged and kissed us while placing their lei around our shoulders. Many of the leis were made by our friends, which made them even more cherished.

We got married both by Susanne's kumu (teacher), and by a friend whose participation was necessary to officially and legally marry us. We did unrehearsed, extemporaneous vows.

Susanne says she knew she was in trouble when I promised "to listen" to her. She promised to love herself as much as she loved me, and I knew I was in trouble, because she always takes care of everyone else first before taking care of herself (IF she does find time to).

The reception was easy: we had NO money to rent a hall or hire a caterer, which made for very simple fare. Susanne had drafted all our friends to help, and had done all the organizing work beforehand, so we were free to make a grand entrance:

Susanne and I came in handcuffed together, with her Mom behind us brandishing a shotgun (unloaded, of course). Everyone had a good laugh, and unlike most shotgun weddings, this one turned out great! I'm still married to my best friend after 11 years and many ups and downs. What a ride! I always tell her I'd do it all over again, every bit of it.

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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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