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Our son Jack

Jack with fish

Our son Jack invites you to our fourth Commercial Aquaponics Training being held April 19th through 22nd, 2010, in Honoka'a, Hawaii. Your trainers Susanne and Tim guarantee it will be the most valuable training of any kind you have ever taken or your money will be cheerfully refunded in front of the entire class!

You can do this too! We'd never farmed before, and now, just two years after breaking ground, we're delivering 650 pounds of organic lettuce mix per week to our local Costco!

Our students now operate 12 commercial aquaponics farms (3 are USDA certified organic), as a result of the training we gave in October 2008. Many more projects by our students are currently underway. Complete plans, manuals, materials lists, and contact information for suppliers are all included in your course. Our training will hugely reduce your learning curve with aquaponics and allow you to do this in months instead of years!

Building the troughs

Building the troughs

New Aquaponics Technology at April Training:

Energy-efficient Aquaponics System uses one-tenth the energy, produces the same volume of vegetables

Economical fish hatchery/nursery technology

New, faster sprouting and growth technology

No-hormone fish culture retains organic certification for vegetables, same fish yields

Most important: how to sell high-quality aquaponics produce to the "Big Box" stores

Sign up now for your Aquaponics training ($1,500) and receive a free copy of our Micro System package and begin studying aquaponics now! ($99.95 value)
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First Hawaii biogas training

This training will be held on April 23rd right after the Aquaponics Training, hosted and taught by David House, the author of the "Biogas Handbook", which will also be included as the course textbook. The training will cover:

The many uses of biogas (methane) on a small farm: heating, cooking, hot water, light, engine fuel, refrigeration, and more

Explanation of the use of diverse substrates (the "stuff" you feed the biogas digester) allows you to use available wastes for energy from biogas

Use of appropriate technology (read cheap!) to build and operate economically

Hands-on sessions at the farm give you practical experience in building and operating systems

Sign up for Hawaii BioGas training ($250) and receive your copy of the "BioGas Handbook" to begin study now!
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Aloha Aquaponics Enthusiast,

We hope this newsletter and these "nuggets" of aquaponics information we've learned over the past two years of operating a commercial aquaponics farm are useful to you. If you have any specific questions about aquaponics, please either check our website at friendlyaquaponics.com, or email us at training@friendlyaquaponics.com with your question, and we will include the answer in future newsletters as well so everyone can benefit from it. New growers like you are the friendly future of aquaponics!.

 Nugget #1: Get Rich With Aquaponics?

The problem with aquaponics is that people are looking for the magic potion that makes $500 a day with little or no work. We tell them time and again that business experience and training is necessary, and doing the work oneself is necessary; but people often hear only what they want to. We have structured our courses now in a manner so that our listeners MUST hear this clearly. Even though we've never made any promises about economic returns, some people still hear that $500/day.

Aquaponics is work, and someone needs to do the work. It's not like having stocks and bonds that you just receive a dividend check from (I know, that isn't working so well now either). You need to know about business, for you can grow great vegetables and fish and then not know how to get paid for them. These systems do grow great vegetables and fish with very little skill required, and half as much labor as growing in the soil. It is work, however. You can't pay farm workers $20/hour to do all your work and still make money yourself. But in this economy, it is going to be a lot easier to find farm workers than it was four years ago.

After the construction industry on the Big Island collapsed three years ago, aquaponics is the best alternative we've found. Our past thirty years has included stints in the computer business, boatbuilding business, home construction, advertising, tourism, drafting and design, heavy equipment operation, sailmaking, cabinetwork, and furniture making. All those businesses are at a standstill now, and we'd be in foreclosure without our aquaponics farm.

 Nugget #2: When The Nutrients Disappeared:

Getting more nutrients and better plant growth in a deep-bed aquaponics system is not exclusively dependent on the amount of fish in your system, nor how much you feed them (except in a very general way). We'll qualify that sweeping statement: When our first commercial aquaponics system was three months old and growing plants like there was no tomorrow, the nutrients started disappearing. The nitrite/nitrate and ammonia test strips started coming out lighter and lighter over a period of two weeks until they were pure white. We got more test strips in case ours had gone bad, bought a very sensitive $450 titration test kit, and got the SAME results. No nutrients. So, completely panicked, we called the Good Professor at Aquaponics U. He told us that it happened to them two or three times. Their nutrients went away for a few weeks, then came back. They didn’t know why they went away, and didn’t know why they came back. The plants kept growing just fine though; and that is what we also found. The Good Professor said, “This would be a good subject for a research project."

Our nutrients came back too. Later the same year we had 60 inches of rainfall in a two-month period. This diluted our nutrients down to nothing by refilling and dumping each system’s water out onto the ground five times. Our three large systems and one smaller family system showed NO nitrites/nitrates or ammonia AT ALL for a three-month period. Yet everything kept growing just fine, so we relaxed.

You may hear “aquaponics experts” telling you about “minimum levels of nutrients” you need, and possibly even “how to adjust them”. Ask these experts how many years they have operated a commercial aquaponics system. Ask them if their system is USDA organically certified (or if they can even guarantee it’s certifiable). Our systems have been certified organic for two years now. That means instead of using calcium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide (lye) for our system pH adjusters as Aquaponics U does (not organically approved substances), we use calcium carbonate and potassium carbonate (which are organically approved), both of which are buffers (not the same as an adjuster, look this word up), and which keep the pH at the proper level over long periods of time.

Before we were certified organic, we used the standard Aquaponics U method of calcium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide as system pH adjusting additives for eight months, and noticed large, fast swings in both nutrient and pH levels. While ammonia and nitrites stayed between 0.5 and 1.0 ppm, nitrates would vary (on a fairly short time scale) between 40 ppm on up to 160 ppm. We noticed that we had to add a lot of these chemicals as often as once every two to three weeks to keep the pH around 7.0. When we switched over to the organic buffers, and our systems had steadied down from these “mood swings” in the nutrients, we noticed that ammonia and nitrites were roughly the same, but that nitrates would stay steadily in the range of 3-5 ppm during the colder wintertime and in the range of 10-15 ppm during the warmer summertime.

Instead of adding the non-organic pH adjusters every two to three weeks, we only need to add the organic pH-buffers to the systems every four to six months, because the pH stays so steady over long periods of time. Our systems have been operating 1-1/2 years now in this manner, through two winters, with no significant fluctuations from these numbers. The funny thing is, we have excellent plant growth at these nutrient levels which are far below the minimum that the “experts” say are necessary for growth at all. Why?

Here’s part of our current working hypothesis (the whole thing is a 20-page research paper, which we present as part of our commercial aquaponics courses): It appears that these low levels of nutrients, combined with the steady pH that lacks huge swings over short periods of time, result in the exceptional plant growth we’ve seen in our aquaponics systems. As part of this research, we tried adjusting nutrient levels upwards by stocking more fish in a particular system, then feeding the fish at higher rates; this only resulted in increased ammonia levels, up to the point where the increased ammonia actually depressed the nitrite and nitrate levels from the normally low levels these systems operate at. This is because, at concentrations over 3 ppm or so, ammonia has an inhibiting (or even mortal) effect on the nitrifying bacteria that create the nitrites and nitrates.

We also discovered that reducing the flow rate of the water past the plants does (at some point) result in reduced growth. We are continuing research in this area in order to define what minimum flow rates (and thus electrical consumption) are necessary for good growth in a commercial aquaponics farm.

 Stay tuned for more Nuggets!
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Friendly Aquaponics, Inc
PO Box 1196
Honokaa, HI 96727

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