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Friendly Aquaponics Newsletter
Number 61
November 9th,  2011
Images from our farmily aquaponics farm
Aloha Friend,

One of the things I (Susanne) often speak of is the power of "emptying the cup". On our most recent trip to Florida, people we formerly considered friends and partners decided that they'd found a better partnership opportunity, and because of the unkind manner in which they handled our "break up", it became apparent that they had never been partners, let alone friends. For a very brief time we felt saddened and betrayed, however, upon reflection, we realized that it was the most perfect thing that could have happened. Instead of being damaged in any way, we discovered that we had exchanged an unworkable relationship with people who hadn't brought anything new to the table, for new partners who are some of the most innovative, brilliant, and fun-to-work-with people we have ever met!

With that in mind, over the next few newsletters, we are humbled and honored to introduce you to our new partners, starting with Franz Schreier, a physicist from Germany. We feel as though we have met our twin brother, from whom we were separated at birth! Not only does Franz share our commitment to contributing to the world in the most powerful and effective ways possible, he does not care in the least about the old-school paradigms of patenting and ownership - he just wants to get the word out to help the most people possible in the shortest amount of time. Our values are very much in alignment, and we are incredibly excited about the open field of immense possibility that comes out of our almost daily Skype calls with Franz.

Franz has a fully developed solar greenhouse technology - which we are calling the "World Greenhouse" technology - that will allow us to take aquaponics out of the tropic/sub-tropic regions all the way into the Arctic/Antarctic regions! And unlike other obsolete greenhouse technology, it does not rely on expensive petrochemical inputs to heat and cool it - rather it relies only on the sun, and other alternative energies, including wind and biogas. So, we are talking about a greenhouse made with space-age materials that has a 50-year life, but has a negative carbon footprint, and which has electricity as a waste product! YAYAYAYAY!!! We LIKE electricity!

Franz is utterly brilliant, but is fortunately also very humble. He freely acknowledges that what he has designed and built so far has not been value-engineered; it still costs too much for most people to be able to easily afford. That's where Tim, Adam, and I step in, with our ability (developed out of sheer necessity) to make things not only easy to understand, but incredibly inexpensive to build. To that end, we've been examining closely the cost per plant, per unit of time, and figuring out ways to maximize the plant growth. For example, our farm's current DWC raft system totals 5,500 sq ft of growing area, and produces 0.30 lbs per square foot per week.

To maximize the capabilities of the Franz Schreier/Friendly Aquaponics "World Greenhouse", we have developed a vertical growing system that grows 3.2 lbs per square foot per week! So, what we're saying is: in a 20'x25' growing area - 500 square feet of growing area - we will produce the same amount of vegetables that we currently produce in our whole 5,500 square feet of raft area - over ten times as effective!!

One of the greatest blessings in our lives has been the fact we've been vastly underfunded on every major project we've undertaken, and as the old saying goes, "necessity is the mother of invention". Had we been well-funded we started aquaponics four and a half years ago, we would have built exactly what we learned from the best training offered anywhere in the world at that time (2007), and would probably never have made improvements of any kind. Before we converted to our "low-density" system, and before we made multiple other improvements to our growing methods, we would have produced only .06 lbs per square foot per week, here in our climate, using exactly what we learned at the UVI training.

Since we are a for-profit business, you can understand how excited we were to be able to improve our results over what we learned there by a factor of five - and how utterly thrilled we are now to be able to now introduce what represents another quantum improvement that will increase our results by a factor of ten! Based on the astonishing response since we opened our first Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse training, it would appear that this is the kind of efficiency that a lot of you have been looking for. We are proud to have partners that have brought this kind of innovation to the table, and with whom we are developing the most efficient growing method in the world, that can be used anywhere in the world!

Next week, we'll introduce you to another humble man, who is helping the poorest of the poor; who is equally innovative and inspirational to us. Thanks to this lovely man, we've got a line into taking simplified, stream-lined aquaponics into the slums of India, and we're extremely excited about this new partnership as well.

If you're interested in learning about this 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:
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 #61:
A Primer On Sustainable Energy-Efficient Greenhouses, Part 2

Aquaponic farms (and other growing methods) need energy-efficient greenhouses to grow outside of the normal spring and summertime growing season in temperate climates. In extremely cold climates such as Germany, Norway, and Sweden, it is almost impossible to grow anything outside of a few-month-long summer growing season. In extremely hot ones such as Israel, Libya, and the Arabic states, it is almost impossible to grow anything except during their winter season, and even then you need to be near a river with LOTS of irrigation water.

We've been working the last year to increase our understanding of the technologies available for growing in modified or controlled environments (AKA greenhouses), so we can incorporate them with our "Friendly"  aquaponics technologies to create complete systems that allow you to grow year-round ANYWHERE without too much concern for the weather.

You probably know from reading last week's newsletter that the "Conventional Wisdom" (or CW) on greenhouses relies on cheap, oil-derived energy for heating in the winter and cooling in the summer. You often see a couple of thousand-gallon propane tanks sitting outside the greenhouse to provide wintertime "heat", and a huge three-phase electrical service leading into the structure, hooked up to several 400,000 BTU air conditioners to provide summertime "cooling". These are methods that are very costly in terms of petrochemical energy AND dollars. And the cost only increases as the price of oil increases.

So what do we do? How do we design and build our greenhouses so that they don't require these huge and expensive energy inputs to control temperature inside? Well, there's a built-in benefit to growing aquaponically in greenhouses that gives the aquaponic farmer a HUGE advantage over growing in greenhouses in the soil, or in Dutch buckets; and it's called thermal mass. Thermal mass is anything that tends to hold heat when it's cold and hold cold when it's hot. But, what's hot and what's cold? We need to define this term to be completely accurate, AND to understand better how heat transfer works.

Although we talk about hot and cold, and don't have any confusion about which is which, to a physicist or mechanical engineer, anything above zero degrees Kelvin ((or minus 459.67 degrees Fahrenheit), is called heat. This is not because it feels hot to us, but because at zero degrees Kelvin there is NO movement of the atoms in a substance; they are completely at rest and transmit no heat. An engineer can talk about something at 2,705 degrees Fahrenheit, or a different something down at -40 degrees Fahrenheit, and they're still talking about heat, or heat energy. Now that you know this, we will use the normal terms "hot" and "cold"  as well as "heat" throughout this article, and you will know what we're talking about.

Back to thermal mass: it is anything that tends to hold heat. The reason it's GOOD for you and your aquaponic greenhouse is that it tends to hold heat in the greenhouse when it's cold outside;and hold cold in the greenhouse when it's hot outside. What do we mean by this? Well, if you can get your thermal mass inside the greenhouse to cool down at night time, it will help keep the inside of the greehouse cool in the daytime. If you can get your thermal mass nice and warm in the daytime, it will warm the inside of the greenhouse and help keep it from freezing during a cold night.

What are good examples of materials that perform well as thermal mass? Generally, anything that's heavy is a good thermal mass: rocks, concrete, steel, water, gravel, sand, and oil. What kinds of things make poor thermal masses? Generally, anything that's light: including the air inside the greenhouse, the plants, the potting mix inside a Dutch bucket, wood, hollow metal tubing (filled with air); all perform poorly as thermal masses.

Some of these materials are very useful because you can easily move them somewhere to pick up heat,, and then move them to another place to release the heat. Some of these materials don't move around easily: such as rocks, steel, sand, and gravel. But it's easy to move water and oil, and they are commonly used as thermal masses or a means to transfer heat from one location to another in alternate-energy heating and cooling systems.

Your aquaponic greenhouse already has a huge advantage in holding heat because it literally has tons of water in it ( a good thermal mass), AND this thermal mass is easily movable.

Here's an example of how you could combine two of these thermal masses intelligently to make a good system for transferring and holding heat in an aquaponic greenhouse: in the daytime, circulate water in pipes through a solar water heater on the roof then down into a foot or two of rock or gravel fill under the greenhouse where the water in the pipes transfers heat to the rocks. The warm rocks then radiate the heat back into the greenhouse during the cold night time, OR you could run the water from the same pipes through a radiator inside the greenhouse to transfer the heat to the greenhouse air. An even better way to do this would be to run the heat from the rocks through a heat exchanger into the aquaponic water itself; this would keep the water and the fish warm, which is more important than keeping the air warm, because the air is a poor place to put heat anyway, remember? It's a poor thermal mass.

This is why we start our design of an energy-efficient greenhouse with consideration of the thermal masses we're going to include in it. This is also why you can only keep a greenhouse with plants in Dutch buckets or growing in the soil warm or cold is to apply a lot of supplemental heat or cooling to the inside of it, where it just radiates away into because of the poor thermal mass properties of the air inside the greenhouse. This is why conventional greenhouses are so energy-intensive and cost so much to operate: there is little to no thermal mass. As we mentioned in a previous newsletter, they are dinosaurs, just waiting for their time to come.

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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 the Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse, and how you can build your own! 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 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

I fell in love with my wife Susanne a little over eleven years ago in a health food store on the Big Island. I remember standing behind this woman at the checkout counter who had this gorgeous red hair down to the back of her knees and thinking "any woman with hair like that has got to have a face like a horse, they never get both", then she turned around and totally changed my world. She was beautiful!

I had just taken my dog to the vet, and had gotten a depressing diagnosis of epilepsy. "Dog" is kind of misleading; Max was my 145-pound male Rottweiler who had been having convulsions for a week or so. I'd never seen anything like this and was scared.

The day I met Susanne, I had Max and my female Rotty, "Honey Girl" in the back of my pickup truck, and after we met at the checkout counter and walked outside the health food store, still talking, Susanne just walked right over to 250 pounds of Rottweiler saying "I love Rottweilers!" and stuck her hand out for them to lick. Which they did, with lots of
rear-end butt-wagging activity. Needless to say, I was impressed.

I talked to Susanne about the epilepsy, and she said she was going to Chinese Acupuncture College, and that acupuncture was a treatment for epilepsy, and that it should work on dogs, and that she'd treat Max for me if I brought him over to her house where she had her medical kit and needles.

So I go in the truck and followed her Mazda Millenia (with the gold trim package) over to her house, thinking things like "She's too pretty to be useful" and "she's probably a real estate agent". She was going into the house to get changed so she could work on the dog (she was wearing a silk skirt, blouse, and vest with high heels), when the dog went into an epileptic fit in the back of my truck.

Susanne instantly climbed into the bed of the truck and cradled Max's head so he wouldn't hurt himself. Max was flinging himself from side to side and throwing spit all over the place, and just as Susanne grabbed him, he lost control of his bladder and began urinating all over her. She just held onto him tight and waited until the fit was over before she left to clean up.

My estimate of her immediately went up several notches. It went up several more when, as she headed for the front door of her house, a little guy burst out of the door and came running up, yelling "Mom!" (this was her five-year-old, Victor). At the time, I had two kids of my own, and didn't have much time to spare for people who "didn't like" kids.

I obviously needed to re-examine preconceived ideas I had about this woman. Fortunately, this only took me about ten seconds. It was ten days later when she moved in to my luxurious converted garage. I was recovering from a difficult divorce and had lost everything, so I knew she couldn't be attracted to my money! (LOL!).

It's a little more complex than that, as I had my two kids two days a week, and she had her 75-year-old Mom in addition to Victor. How she tells it is: "I moved in and never left!".

Somehow we fit all these people into a 400-square foot apartment with a small sleeping loft, and became the happy family we've been ever since. The house has gotten bigger; now we have about 2,500 square feet with raw plywood floors that she knows I will cover "some day" with beautiful varnished hardwood.

See why I love her so much?

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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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