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Friendly Aquaponics Newsletter
Number 82
July 10th,  2012
Images from our farmily aquaponics farm
Aloha Friend,

For those we've promised it to, the "Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse" DIY manual and CAD plans are almost finished; I'm working on them now (after this newsletter). The package has complete construction plans for three different sizes of greenhouse: 550 square feet, 1,100 square feet, and 1,650 square feet. These plans will be usable in local building departments for building permits (although they may need the stamp of a local architect attached for this purpose).

For those of you who don't already know how to build and operate aquaponics systems, the package also comes with an aquaponics operating manual, complete construction drawings and materials lists for the 3 different sizes of aquaponics systems and sprouting tables that make this greenhouse package a complete one. This package gives you everything you need to do aquaponics in extreme climate conditions.

Even if you buy a kit greenhouse and a kit aquaponics system from someone who tells you their stuff is "better" than our DIY packages, you still have to build the greenhouse and assemble the aquaponics system. Surprise! (this part of it is just like our DIY packages; there are no self-erecting greenhouses and self-assembling aquaponics systems available that we know of).

The problem with this is that you will have paid twice to four times as much for the common materials bundled into their package as if you  bought our DIY package and bought the materials yourself. According to data published in their courses and on their websites, their technology holds one-third or less the plants ours does in twice the greenhouse space! Does that make sense to anyone reading this? Making an intelligent comparison before you buy can save you a lot of grief in years to come.

For awhile, we did try to make honest comparisons on our website between their systems and ours. We got three threatening letters from three separate entities offering to sue us for "trade defamation" or other unspecified charges, in other words, telling the truth about their products and offerings. They were scared by our simply telling the truth and offering an "apples to apples" comparison of their products and ours. We don't put their names up anymore, because we don't want to waste our time and money in court when we could be using it to develop more productive ways to do aquaponics.

We're going to toot this horn one more time: if you want to attend a "commercial aquaponics training" (gee, there are a LOT of them now!), then ask your trainers how many years they've operated a commercial aquaponics farm (we have for five); ask them how long they've been USDA organically certified for (we've been certified for four years), and if they teach certification (we do, and not just "filling in the form" they show you). Most importantly, see if you can get a definite answer as to whether any of their "commercial" students are profitable (our students are; we suggest you get a phone number and a contact's name for their student's "profitable" farm) and whether they're willing to share financial data (we do). It's your decision.

In Today's Newsletter: We have a good article on biosecurity, with our latest experiences and advice in this area, for our Aquaponics "Nugget" #82. Please take a look at the aquaponics trainings we have scheduled for the balance of 2012, one in Tennessee in September, and see if there's something there that piques your interest.

Training 1: In Hawaii August 26-28, and August 30th- September 1st. Our Aquaponics Technology Training, plus the Solar Greenhouse Training, plus the Commercial Aquaponics Training. Attend one or more trainings to suit your needs. More information on those trainings on our webpage here.

Training 2:
In Tennesee, the same six days of training from September 16-18, and 20-22nd at Randy and Katy Campbell's farm, Ellibell Farm, in Elora, Tennesee. You can sign up now for these trainings on our webpage here. You can also call Randy directly at 256-679-9488, or email Randy for information.

Training 3:
The same six days of training, October 21-23, and 25-27th in Hawaii.

Now: More Training Flexibility

To Meet Your Needs

If you only want to attend one training, ie the Aquaponics Technology, the Solar Greenhouse, or the Commercial Aquaponics trainings, click here for more information. If you're thinking about attending all three trainings, we offer three ways for you to do this, and all cost the same amount ($2,495). You choose which works best for you, based on the time you have available and the amount of hands-on aquaponics experience you feel it's important for you to acquire.

Way 1: Our standard two-month internship (details on this webpage), where you live on our farm in Hawaii for two months, then get to attend the training during the last week of your two-month period on the farm. We provide meals, hot showers, and a bunk, and you work 5 days a week 8 hours a day doing the normal work on the farm, learning as you work (cost $2,500).

Way 2;
Our new two-week internship, where you provide your own meals,  accommodations and transportation, work 8 hours a day as an intern on our farm in Hawaii for your first week, then get to attend the training during the second week of your two-week internship. This costs $3,495, because it's more training: we spend most of the first week training you also. Although you provide your own meals, you are also welcome to join us for breakfast and lunch, where we have open discussions on aquaponics and what's happening on the farm.

Way 3;
Attend just the six days of the trainings,(provide your own meals, accommodations and transportation). The $2,495 cost is a $500/17% discount over the individual costs of the trainings.

If you're interested in our 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 next training is in Hawaii in August 2012 and in Tennessee in September 2012. For smaller home backyard and apartment systems, please read on:
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!

Aquaponics Nugget #82, Part 1: Biosecurity Update: Snails, More Snails, And Catfish

We now have two types of aquatic snails in our aquaponics troughs. The first is a round snail up to a half inch in diameter; and it showed up about a year ago. It was a "gift" from one of our interns, although neither we or they knew it at the time. This gift came on three aquatic plants that were purchased at the local PetCo pet store, from their aquarium department.

You see, the little plants had cost $5 each, and the intern reasoned that $5 for such a little plant was a lot of money. They thought we could make some money on these plants if we grew them in our aquaponics systems. The intern who did this showed initiative and some creative thinking. There were a couple of problems, though: the thinking didn't quite go far enough: it didn't take into account the fact that we would have to ship the little plants back to the mainland to have a big enough market (there's only ONE PetCo on our island, and they sell twenty of these plants a week!), and back on the mainland they only cost about $1.29 each, with the plant grower only making about $0.50 each on the plant. So, we could never make any money on the plants, despite the fact that they were expensive here.

The second place their thinking didn't go quite far enough was in the area of biosecurity (Bio-what? You mean, like bug, lizard, and fish terrorists?). Yeah, exactly, we mean bug, lizard, and fish terrorists. The intern brought something alive from off the farm without checking with us first, and put it into one of our aquaponics systems to "keep it alive" overnight. That was enough to deposit snail eggs or larvae into that system. If they had called us to check if it was OK, before buying the plants, our scream of protest probably would have broken an eardrum over their cellphone. Unfortunately, we only heard about it after the plants had been in our system for a day, when it was too late to do anything about it. We stressed about this for a while, then something else happened that made us relax considerably: we got another, different snail. And this one literally came out of the blue.

About eight months after the first snail showed up, we found a
different snail in our systems: this one had a pointed end instead of being rounded, was quite a bit smaller, and had also shown up in a student's system on the island of Maui about eight months earlier than this. The curious thing was, both our student and we were very aware of biosecurity hazards and procedures to prevent contamination from outside, and neither of us had brought anything onto our farms or put anything into our systems except fish food, potting mix, and plant seeds, during the six months or so previous to the pointy snail's appearance.

We tried decontaminating our aquaponic systems; but there are limits to how much work you can afford to do when you're not making any money doing it. There are also limits to how you can sterilize an aquaponics system, created by the organic certification regulations and ordinary physical and economical limitations. You can't use chlorox (because it's NOT an organically certified substance for sterilization). But you can use hydrogen peroxide, it is an approved substance.

But you can't pour hydrogen peroxide into a fish tank with fish in it, for it would kill them. So, to completely sterilize an aquaponic system, you would have to either dump all the water, then spray everything, tanks, troughs, inside all the piping and pumps, with a large amount of hydrogen peroxide, or get all the fish and plants out and put a HUGE amount of hydrogen peroxide into the system (hundreds of dollars worth), let it "burn off", and then somehow sterlize the fish on their way back in, and then you would have to restart this now-sterile system. You can't run the fish through a hydrogen peroxide bath, because it would burn eye membranes and cause other problems, so sterilizing the fish is problematical.

We tried the approved substance, hydrogen peroxide, but found that either the troughs got reinfected from the fish tank or that the snail eggs weren't completely killed by the hydrogen peroxide. We managed to get one small (64 square feet of trough area) clean of snails by dumping all the trough water, sterilizing with hydrogen peroxide, rinsing, bailing all the water out, and baking it in the sun for three days before refilling with hose water. This probably took five or six person-hours, or a person-hour per ten square feet of system. The snails stayed out of this system for maybe three months, but are back in now. And we have thousands of square feet of systems; imagine doing the same with that every three months.

We have both the pointy and round snails in all our systems now, despite efforts to remove them and keep them from spreading. Fortunately, compared to some aquatic snails that eat aquatic plant roots (like aquaponic lettuce and other commercially valuable crops), these little snails are happy just grazing on the algae that grows on the liner at the sides of the troughs where the gap between the rafts and the troughs lets a little light in. So they found an innocuous niche in the aquatic ecosystem that earns us a living.

We lucked out this time, because the "contamination" from this breach in our biosecurity was not a system- or income-threatening problem as some biosecurity problems could be. It was a warning shot fired across our bows, so to speak, and we took it very seriously.

Next week, we'll go into detail about the methods we found to control and minimize the snails in our systems. They're natural, relatively easy to use, and have given us an additional system income item.

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: Part 2 of "Biosecurity Update: Snails, More Snails, And Catfish". 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 Offer! Sign up for our HAWAII August 30-31st Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse Training
or our
HAWAII August 26-28 Aquaponics Technology Training,
or our
TENNESSEE September 20-21 Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse Training
or our
TENNESSEE September 16-18th Aquaponics Technology Training,

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

More Information on Hawaii Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse Training

"In The Farmily"

Aloha All!

In this week's "In The Farmily"Column, I'd like to introduce you to one of the most wonderful, grounded, literal, REAL people I've ever met. Our oh-so-recently (July 2nd) turned 17-year-old son, Victor.

It was Tim's idea to make this column about Victor. As much as I adore him, it had not occurred to me to introduce him in our newsletter...perhaps I am too close to him to see the magnificence of him, that I am honored to now share. He left home at the age of 16, and just turned 17 (the first birthday I did not get to spend with him!), while fishing off Kodiak Island, in Alaska.

Victor left on 5/26/12, surrounded by his best friends, who descended en masse to see him off.
The photo below shows him being lifted (all 6'2", 220 pounds!) to the ceiling of our kitchen by his wonderful friends, at his going away party the night before. Most of these kids have worked here on the farm for several years, spent the night here dozens of times, and we consider them all part of the "Farmily!"

Victor lifted

Below is Victor at the airport, surrounded by and almost smothered by his friends, in a last minute group bear hug. That's him, up at the very top of the photo, gasping for a breath. What you can't see are all the other people on the back side of this massive pile of kids!

Victor Group Hug

Victor left to fish for the four-month summer season on a good friend's (and fellow aquaponicist's) boat. I spent two years finagling to get Victor on our friend's boat, never fully understanding the conditions up there. Victor has discovered the life in the Great White North is harder than we expected, but for some rather unexpected reasons. Below he is standing to the right of the "Kaiwik", which is as I understand, is Alutiq for "wife"....says a lot, doesn't it? She's a 48'. 33,000 pound capacity working vessel, and Victor is lucky to get a chance to work on her for a season!

Victor Kaiwik 2

Turns out that daily life on a fishing vessel in Alaska is REALLY different than his life here in Hawaii. And NOTHING I could have done would have prepared Victor for the challenges beginning the moment they set sail, aside, perhaps, from sending him to public school in Hawaii.

Hazing is the proper term for what he has endured, and it's how every "greenhorn" is treated for at least the first part of their first season. Victor is willing and able to endure it. He tells me "Mom, it's unpleasant, but I can handle it." I think it's the way they filter out the ones who aren't tough enough to endure the harsh conditions up there, in an age-old tradition. And he's done well enough in his first month that he says things are getting a lot better. It's been a big challenge for a home-schooled kid.

The work is not as hard as he expected, nor is the cold, grey weather, though he finds it deeply depressing. He realizes that this is growing up, in all it's grit and glory, and that nothing worthwhile in life is easy. And the really good news is, he's going to come home with a far deeper appreciation for how wonderful his life is in Hawaii, with warm, sunny days!

I love you, Victor. You are my Hero.

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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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