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Friendly Aquaponics Newsletter
Number 94
October 12th,  2012
Images from our farmily aquaponics farm
Aloha Friend,

Today's newsletter is a blatant sales pitch. I don't like salespeople trying to sell me something, and I'll bet you don't either, so this will make more sense after I tell you something about my sales "style".

In the '90's I secured an Authorized AutoCAD dealership in my state of Hawaii, over the protests of the other two dealers in the state. This was because I was on a little outer island (the Big Island of Hawaii) that only had a population of 120,000, while the island they were both on had a population of 1,200,000.

I ran a good business; I charged less than they did and provided more service. After a while, people on their island were flying me over to solve their AutoCAD problems.  I sold more product in one year than either of them did. And this was fine, things went well, and every version of AutoCAD was better and faster than the one  before it. That is, until Release 13 came out (13, right?). I got the "dealer copy" at the same time the upgrade offering mailings went out to everyone with a licensed copy of Release 12 AutoCAD, and I started getting phone calls from my clients. An upgrade cost $500, and I would get 30% of that for doing nothing but filling in a form and depositing a check.

But I checked out my dealer copy first. I found out that the fastest version of Release 13 (the DOS version) was only half the speed of the slowest version of Release 12 (the Windows version). The Windows version of Release 13 was buggy and slow as molasses. When my clients started calling me to ask if they should upgrade, I had to tell them "No", even though this would have been easy money for me. With a database of 800+ clients, this would have been over $100,000 worth of income for my company, but ethics always wins out with me.

My unease with the product was borne out a year later when the largest 50 firms in the US that used AutoCAD were polled about whether they had upgraded or not. 76% of these firms, all with more than 500 employees using AutoCAD, were still using Release 12 because it was more productive than Release 13. What does this have to do with you and aquaponics?

There are a lot of people teaching so-called "commercial aquaponics" who have little to no experience making a living growing and selling produce. But are they ever selling training! Do your due diligence and make your choice, but be informed that there are several "Release 13's" out there that will cost you money and time and eventually leave you flat on your face with no dance partner.

Enough said, we will give a case study, and explain how to avoid this problem in today's "Nugget" by utilizing careful planning and by selecting the right growing technology for your commercial aquaponics farm.

Click Here To Find Out More About The January 2013 Tennessee Training, And Get A $1,000 Discount!

If you want to earn a living from aquaponics (or just learn the best aquaponics technology available), we also have one training scheduled in 2012 in Hawaii:

We hold our 3-day Aquaponics Technology Training, plus the 2-day Solar Greenhouse Training, plus the 1-day Commercial Aquaponics Training, at our farm in Honokaa, Hawaii, starting on October 21st, and ending on October 27th. Attend one or more of these trainings to suit your needs. You can sign up now on our webpage here or using the "Special Offer" buttons in the right sidebar of this email. You can also call us directly at 808-775-7745, or email Tim for information.

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 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 TableTop Systems!

Aquaponics Nugget #94: What Kind Of  Aquaponics System And Operating Technology Will Make Me Money? (Part 1)

The answer is simple: a profitable one. We know our aquaponics technology, system construction methods, value-added processing, and marketing methods fall into this category.

The problem is, we’re kind of lonely here: we seem to be the only ones who run a profitable system ourselves (we send our cash flow spreadsheet to anyone who asks for it), and whose students also have profitable systems (links here: Zac’s Farm, and Shumin’s Farm).

So, we’re issuing a “Friendly” challenge, to all those who give “commercial aquaponics” trainings: show us the money! Publish the names of your profitable students, with their contact information, and at least the gross income their farm is currently making on aquaponic vegetable and fish production.

If you’re doing your “due diligence” before taking an aquaponics course, call up your favorite aquaponics trainer and see if you can wiggle this information out of them. Bet you can’t! (Because they’re not profitable!).

I’m willing to be wrong about this; just publish the facts, and/or email me at with your information about a profitable aquaponics farm that I am not aware of.

Today's case study for a farm where things went wrong:

Mr. B built an aquaponics farm. He sent a friend to one of our courses, but the “friend” never delivered our manual with the complete materials lists, nor the 6 sheets of CAD drawings with 8 different sizes of aquaponics systems in them, back to Mr. B. As a result, Mr. B had to reinvent the wheel by himself, with advice from another student of ours who took our course 3 years ago.

As a result, Mr. B’s farm missed out on several crucial improvements we developed during the last three years. Because neither he nor his advisor followed recommendations in our manual, his farm ended up with trough liner that is carcinogenic, and which also "...contains a chemical toxic to aquatic organisms...". More about this in a moment. First, what did he miss out on?

1. We developed a trough plumbing system in which you can plumb up to 1,200 linear feet of 4-foot-wide trough into a single series, fed by a single 5-gallon per minute water pump that only uses 24 watts, and costs us $94/year for electricity in Hawaii. He has a 1,200-watt water pump for a system smaller than this, and at Hawaii rates, that’s $4,730 a year for electricity.

2. He used the kind of trough end fittings we were using 5 years ago; since then we developed a better one that costs one-fifth as much for materials, and takes about a quarter of the labor to install. But this only cost him about $1,400 additional.

3. If he’s not using the trough aeration scheme we developed three years ago, he’s either spending too much on electricity for trough aeration, or is not putting enough air into his troughs for adequate plant growth. We couldn't tell from his photos how his system is set up.

4. The most important one, financially: He missed out on the plant sprouting and nursery technology we developed two years ago which puts 3.5 times as many plants into the troughs per square foot as “a well-known aquaponics consultant’s systems”, and 4 times as many as the UVI systems we learned on. This means his farm will have one-quarter of the production it could have had, in the same raft area.

What he did get is worse than what he missed out on: he used EPDM liner in his aquaponics troughs. We covered EPDM in our manuals since our first one; and recommend against using it. We have reports from students (who used it in spite of our advice) who had prolonged or difficult startups with this as a trough liner. But there’s a worse problem: if you put it in your system it will never be organically certifiable.

I went looking for data on EPDM, and found several MSDS’s on the material. An MSDS, for those of you who haven’t encountered the term before, is a Material Safety Data Sheet. These tell you what the toxic chemicals are, and the risks of exposure is, to different materials. The problem is, they are written by the manufacturers of the materials rather than to a rigidly defined template, and what the manufacturers say about the exact same substance can vary highly from manufacturer to manufacturer.

For example, I had to go through three MSDS’s for EPDM (which listed it as totally safe for everything), in order to find two more that didn't. One of these referred to EPDM as having caused “ cancer in laboratory animals after prolonged and repeated exposure...”; the other said “ATTENTION! Possible cancer hazard - may cause cancer based on animal data.” and “Environment: The product contains a substance which is toxic to aquatic organisms and which may cause long-term adverse effects in the aquatic environment.” Wow.

Two links here for these two MSDS's for EPDM inside the brackets: (, and (

You are what you poison your fish and plants with:

Anything that is described with the words "carcinogenic", or "hazard to aquatic life" is an automatic fail of any organic certification application. Now, of course, the certification agencies are all new at aquaponics, and if they miss this, you may get certified. The problem with this is that if they miss it and someone else catches it later, you lose your certification, and they may lose their ticket as a certifying agency.

Even if you are not concerned with organic certification, are you willing to raise your plants and fish in an environment that contains a cancer hazard, and that is toxic to aquatic animals? Would you eat them yourself?

If you want to know if a material Is approved for organic certification, all you have to do is read the OMRI publications for this at this link ( They have a "Products" list, and a "Generic Materials List". If the thing you want to use is not listed as "approved" on one of these lists, then you can't use it anywhere in your operation if you hope to get organically certified. If the thing is not listed, all you have to do is make a phone call to find out.

People often don't know that if you have ever operated your system with one of these "things",  your organic certification agency can require you to go through a "transition" period of up to seven years, during which you have to operate organically, before you are allowed to sell or advertise organic produce. Most of the time, the transition period is from one to two years, but this can really bite you in the butt if you're not aware of it.

In other words, if Mr. B wants to get organically certified, having the EPDM in his system can prevent him from obtaining certification for a year to two years, and up to seven at the certification agency’s discretion. Lots more on organic certification on our webpage covering this subject.

The photo below is our Solar Greenhouse. It's cool when it's hot, and warm when it's cold (hope that makes sense to you, it's the best greenhouse we've ever seen!).

GrownOut1medium 2

Friendly Aquaponic's FIRST Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse in full bloom, Honoka'a, Hawaii, March 2012, (on a grey rainy day) showing PV panels and growing plants.

Next week: Something else interesting and valuable to know about aquaponics. Thanks for listening!

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

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 Offers!

Sign up for our HAWAII October 25th-26th Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse Training

or our
HAWAII October 21-23 Aquaponics Technology Training,
or our
HAWAII October 27th Commercial Aquaponics Training,

and receive a free Micro System DIY package so you can begin studying aquaponics! ($99.95 value)

More Information on  Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse Trainings

"Martin's Fish, Part 2"

We were trolling for tuna in the Marquesas aboard my 37-foot cutter "Spice". We had found a school, and with four husky handlines in the water proceeded to pass through the squawking mass of diving birds and surface splashes from the big fish below.

We hit all four lines! Each fish stretched the shock-absorbing  bungey cord on the handlines out to their full lengths, and we luffed up into the wind to slow the boat down and pull the fish in.

I put the boat on self steering so I could pull fish too, and (wearing my safety line), went to the rail, braced myself, and started hauling in a 120-lb yellowfin tuna.

Paul's nephew Martin was pulling in a line next to me, and he was a little slower on the draw; I got my fish up to the boat, and put a gaff into it while he was still pulling his in.

I saw Martin's eyes go wide when I hauled my gaffed fish out of the water, and, distracted for just a second, he lost his balance, then fell off the boat. I had my hands full still, and had to fling my 120-lb fish into a net area in the wingdeck, more or less one-handed (since I was hanging onto the boat with the other hand), stow the gaff, then make my way to the stern, where I dropped the man overboard gear into the water.

For those of you who have never fallen overboard before, or done a man overboard drill, the gear was a tall fiberglass pole with an orange flag on the top, with a bouy in the middle of the pole and a lead weight at the bottom to make it float vertically when in the water. It was coupled to a life ring, a floating strobe light, and some other miscellaneous boat "stuff" designed to help rescue people.

It all went in, and I turned and yelled to the others: "Get the lines IN!" as I scrambled back to the helm to get the boat turned around and back to Martin.

One of the guys was a little slow because he still had a fish on the line that he didn't want to let go of; and when I started screaming the F-word at him, combined with "Cut it, cut it, cut it!", I think it just confused him more.

So I grabbed one of the deck knives out of its socket near the winch handle holder (the deck knives are a whole 'nother story!), and in about three seconds I had gone over to him, cut his fishing line OFF (it could have hooked or wrapped around Martin!), and gotten back to the helm. I turned the boat around, checked for lines in the water (none), and headed back for Martin.

I'd kept sight of the flag on the pole the whole time, sort of a built-in human radar sweep thing that sailors do, but hadn't really noticed Martin until we got turned around and headed for the pole, and started looking for him. He was trying to climb the pole!

It didn't work, of course: Martin weighed about 170 lbs while the pole had a float that could hold maybe 15 pounds out of the water. It didn't stop him from trying, though. We got there as fast as we could, and hauled Martin up out of the water. I noticed him shivering, which surprised me, given that the water was about 86 degrees, and we hadn't taken that long to get back to him.

Martin didn't have much English, I didn't have much French (they are a French protectorate), and I was just learning my Marquesan, so I didn't understand what he was trying to tell us until we got back to shore and talked to Paul about it.

"Mano, mano", Martin had been saying. Well, what the heck, it means "hand" in Spanish. Turns out it means "shark" in Marquesan, and not just any kind of shark, but the huge, open ocean types: mako shark, tiger shark, and blue shark.

Martin had been trying to climb the pole to get away from the oceanic sharks which always accompanied large schools of tuna in their islands. We hadn't known about this, but a little later in the week we saw it demonstrated to us when we went fishing again.

This time, we hooked up three, and while pulling them in, one of the 200-foot trolling lines stretched WAY out, then came back to the boat with a snap, with just the head of a 100-lb tuna on the hook. My friend Chuck almost got clobbered by the tuna head; and we knew in our guts now what Martin had been trying to climb the pole to avoid. The tuna was just one bite of lunch for the creature who ate it!

Someone out there had lunched on what we thought was our lunch. After that, we never trolled without everyone on the boat having safety lines on and understanding the stakes.

(Something fun next week!)

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This email, our manuals and construction plans are all copyrighted by  Friendly Aquaponics, Inc, Susanne Friend and Tim Mann, 2008-2012

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PO Box 1196
Honoka'a, Hawaii 96727

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