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Friendly Aquaponics Newsletter
Number 33
March 29th,  2011
Images from our farmily aquaponics farm
Aloha Friend,
We're back from the first mainland Friendly Aquaponics Affiliate training, and are getting ready for the April Hawaii training, which will start next Monday the 4th. Although we didn't get any sleep on the redeye going over, and then lived on coffee and Red Bull for the subsequent week, we had a great time in Florida with Gina and Tonya of Green Acre Organics, and the 48 wonderful and inspiring people who came to the training.

Gina and Tonya found us a restaurant that served 'gator, and we got to taste this Florida delicacy. I can't wait to start the first GatorPonics farm! I mean, really, if you were just a little careful when feeding them, they would work just as well as tilapia to power an aquaponics system, wouldn't they?

As part of the revolution in growing our own food that is aquaponics, we encourage and support affiliates, something no other aquaponics trainers do. We are committed to an "open source" policy and to teaching others how to spread the knowledge required to build and operate these systems. If you want to take this further than just starting a farm, and feel you can stand up in front of a roomful of people and cheerfully spout aquaponics, contact us (AFTER your commercial farm is going!). The farm is the most important part; it MUST come first (this is NOT Multi-Level Marketing, LOL!).

If you're interested in commercial scale aquaponics, please take a look at both the Hawaii 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. For smaller home backyard and apartment systems, please read on:
Purchase Construction Plans and Operating Information 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 #33:
Flow Rate In Aquaponics Systems (Part 2)

How To Scale A System Larger Or Smaller

If you want to build a system that is smaller or larger than an existing system that is working well, simply multiply the amounts and system numbers up or down proportionately, remembering that the styrofoam sheets for the rafts in a DWC system come in 4-foot by 8-foot sizes. The only exception to this is the water flow rate into each trough, which doesn’t need to vary from short trough to longer troughs.

How did we discover this? We used the information UVI gave us in the 2007 short course about scaling systems. They showed us how to scale the pump up or down in size depending on how many square feet of trough area you had in a system. They taught us that bigger systems needed bigger pumps because they had more trough area, right? Well, we scaled a system down to 64 square feet, using the following: UVI has a 2,400 square foot system with a 80-gallon per minute pump. We wanted to build a 64 square foot system, which is 0.02667 times smaller than their system, so we multiplied their 80 gpm pump by 0.02667 and came up with a 2.133 gpm pump, bought and installed a 2 gpm pump in a system with a 4-foot wide, 10-inch deep, 16-foot long trough (SAME depth and width as all our other systems).

It was only after we’d operated this system for awhile, and had seen how incredibly prolific it was, that we realized what we’d done: without even thinking about it, we had created our FIRST experiment in water flow rate in aquaponics systems. Here’s why: the speed the water flows past the plant roots in a trough is determined by how fast the water flows into the trough, NOT by how long the trough happens to be. We had systems with 20 gallons per minute going into the trough, and this system with 2 gallons per minute going into the trough, and they were both growing the same vegetables at the same speed, even though one had ten times the flow rate over the plant roots that the other had! We had a successful experiment, and new information to redesign our aquaponics systems with to save energy!

What does this mean? Although our flow rate experiments have indicated that 5gpm is a safe minimum, there’s a nice little 2 gpm pump that we recommend Micro System 64 and 128 builders use, and has worked fine in those systems. We’re being a little more conservative with our Family System and suggesting a pump with a 5 gpm flow rate. We’re being even more conservative with our 1,024 square foot Commercial Systems and suggesting a pump with a 10 gpm flow rate.

IMPORTANT! These systems all have a single set of series-plumbed troughs, so the flow rate through the trough is 2 gpm for the Micro System, 5 gpm for the Family System, and 10 gpm for the 1,024 square foot Commercial System. We’re pretty certain the little 2 gpm pump would work for all these systems, if you didn’t let it get clogged.

Here’s the specifications for the Micro System 64:

Pounds of fish in rearing tank    20
Rearing tank, depth    20" of water min.
Rearing Tank gallons    150-300
Troughs, area in square feet    64
Troughs, gallons    400
Water Flow Rate GPM    2
Troughs, depth (inches)    8-10”
Air Pump size    0.5 cfm @ 40" H2O
Total system water    550-700

REALLY IMPORTANT!  When you change system proportions you will need to find fish tanks, air pumps and blowers (or air pump) that fit the rescaled system's requirements, based on these approximate ratios:

A. 0.3 pounds of fish per square foot of raft, and
B. 4 gallons of fish tank water per pound of fish in the tank.
C. 1.5 cfm of air @ 40” H2O per 100 pounds of fish in the system.
D. 1.5 cfm of air @ 10” H2O per 100 lineal feet of trough 4 feet wide.
E. 5 gpm minimum water flow rate into each trough circuit.

Let’s do a sample system design from these numbers. Let’s say we want a system that has 8,000 square feet of raft area. The first number we find is the amount of fish required to power the system: 8,000 X 0.3 is 2,400 pounds. We need a fish tank that has 4 gallons of water for each pound of fish, or 4 times 2,400, which is a 9,600 gallon tank. A 20-foot circular tank is a little small at 8,500 gallons, so we’ll use a 24-foot diameter circular tank that holds about 11,800 gallons. We need 1.5 cfm of air @ 40” H2O for each 100 pounds of fish, so we need 24 times 1.5, or 36 cfm of air @ 40” H2O. We divide our 8,000 square feet of trough by a width of 4 to find out we have 2,000 lineal feet of trough, and we need 1.5 cfm of air @ 10” H2O for each 100 feet of this, or 1.5 times 20, which is 30 cfm @ 10” H2O.

Now, you just need to go to your catalog or supplier and find equipment that will meet these specifications.

(Next week: "Nutrient and pH Levels In Organic Aquaponics Systems" Part 1, with information on this interesting topic).

Click to see our new Video!

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 April 4-7th, 2011 Hawaii Commercial Aquaponics Training OR our October 2011 Florida Commercial Aquaponics Training (dates to be announced) now, and we will email you our Micro System package so you can begin studying aquaponics! ($99.95 value)

Sign up for Hawaii Commercial Aquaponics Training

In The Farmily
For those of you who are new readers, we call our extended family of kids, adults, farm interns, and aquaponics students our "Farmily". Our attitude is the same as the Hawaiians: they classify a person as either a family member or an enemy. So, we always assume the best about a person and have high expectations of them until they prove us wrong.

In Hawaii, we pull over and ask people stuck by the side of the road if they need help. We share our food and other resources with those less fortunate than us. And there are very few people we don't consider family. The Farmily just happens to be those who actually live on the farm with us!

Friendly Aquaponics, Inc. operates on an "Open Source" policy, which means we help others out freely and share all we know. We don't hold anything back to sell it later as "consultants". Unfortunately, we have to disappoint some people who think this means we should give away EVERYTHING we know for free. Even though there are no support contracts included with our Live Hawaii Trainings or Do-It-Myself Training packages, we give our clients as much help as we can for free while they are building and becoming operational; and even after that. We are committed to the success of everyone in our Farmily!

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This email, our manuals and construction plans are all copyrighted by  Friendly Aquaponics, Inc, Susanne Friend and Tim Mann, 2008-2010

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Honoka'a, Hawaii 96727

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