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Friendly Aquaponics Newsletter
Number 56
October 11th  2011
Images from our farmily aquaponics farm
Aloha Friend,

It's October; we're heading into the cold season here in Hawaii, which for us means that daytime temperatures will get down into the low 80's, and nighttime temperatures down into the mid 70's. Although that's pathetically warm compared to what many of you will experience this winter, we've unfortunately gotten used to it and we get coooold! We realize we're living in Paradise and that few in other places have our advantages.

With that in mind, our "Nugget" today is on the subject of how to grow indoors economically. W
e'll cover specifics of how to grow aquaponically with systems from 2-1/2 square feet in size up to 128 square feet in size INSIDE during the wintertime with artificial lighting, and OUTSIDE the rest of the year with natural light. In a future newsletter we'll cover how to build and operate a simple and affordable greenhouse. These deep water raft systems are movable, and if you're not taking advantage of this feature, you're missing out on fresh vegetables and fish for part of the year!

If you're interested in commercial scale aquaponics, please take a look at our 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. The next training is in Hawaii in October 2011. For smaller home backyard and apartment systems, please read on:
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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!

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Aquaponics Nugget #56:
How To Grow Year-Round With Deep Water Raft Aquaponics Systems


If you are a backyard gardener producing food in the soil in a temperate climate you are limited as to how many months of the year you can grow; first, by the shortness of your growing season, and second, by the cost of greenhouses and climate control technologies to extend your growing season through both cold months and super hot months. Let's address these two problems with the same solution: economical, movable small aquaponics systems. Until you get up over 150 square feet in growing area our system designs are made to be easily movable.

What's the benefit of this to you? If you have unused indoors area, you don't need to go to the extra expense of building and maintaining a greenhouse, and can grow year-round simply with the addition of a few flourescent or LED lights! In those areas where your Building Department requires engineered plans and a permit for ANY structure, even a small greenhouse quickly becomes cost-prohibitive. Why not simply park one of the cars on the driveway this winter and have fresh vegetables all winter long; you can't eat a car in a garage!

Here's how it works; we'll use our Micro System 64, with two 4-foot by 8-foot troughs and a 150-gallon fish tank (stock water trough) as an example. We've constructed it outside and it is ready to fill with water, fish, and vegetable sprouts right at the beginning of your normal outdoors growing season. This particular Micro System has PVC pipe "unions" installed at the ends of the piping from the fish tank to the troughs, and between each trough to the next. These are fittings which are designed to be easily disconnected and then reconnected later. Let's also assume that you have a somewhat protected indoors area such as a basement or one side of a covered garage, where you can put that same system for wintertime growing.

Start up your system, start growing normally, and harvest vegetables and fish right through spring, summer, and into fall.  When you see the cold signs coming, here's what you do:

Get a cheap outdoors swimming pool at WalMart or Costco for $39.95 that will hold at least all the water from one trough in your Micro System (4-foot by 8-foot trough with 200 gallons inside) and put it up halfway between your outdoor system and your indoor growing area. Turn off the water pump in the outdoor area, and hook it up so it will pump the water from one of your troughs to the swimming pool, using garden hoses and the water pump from your Micro System. When that trough is empty, simply pick it up and move it (that's right, it only weighs about 40 pounds dry!), to your inside growing area and put a threaded plug into the inside trough fitting so you can transfer the water back in and it doesn't leak back out. Now simply pump the water from the swimming pool back into this inside trough, and do the same with the next trough.

You may have to bucket and sponge the last of the water out; and remember to take all that good gucky stuff from the bottom of the trough and put it back in the same trough after moving it; it's full of nutrients and aquatic life that helps to keep your "aquaponic ecosystem" balanced and healthy. You don't even have to stop planting and growing vegetables, because it doesn't matter at what stage of growth the vegetables in the system are; just move them, rafts and all, back into the troughs after each one is inside and has been refilled with its water from the swimming pool.

After both troughs are inside, pump half the water from the fish tank into the swimming pool; net the fish out of the tank and put them in the pool. Pump the other half of the water out of the fish tank into the pool, move the fish tank inside, and reconnect the plumbing. Pump half the water from the swimming pool into the inside fish tank, and move the fish into it, then finish pumping the pool water into it. Check for leaks and turn your Micro System back on; only now it's inside, plants, fish, and all!

If possible, you should locate this indoors system where it can receive some light through a window; this will reduce your electric bill during winter growing. If not, you will be relying entirely on artificial lighting for your indoor vegetables. As a simple guide, each 4-foot by 8-foot trough area will need four 2-bulb, 48" T5 High Output  (HO) flourescent fixtures suspended above it on adjustable cords or chains so you can adjust them as plants grow in height. You need to get bulbs that have a color temperature of 6,500 degrees Kelvin (it will say this right on the bulb box, like "6,500 K" or "6,500 Kelvin"), because this is as close as possible to the light of the sun. Bulbs with lower "color temperatures" such as 4,200 or 3,100 may work, but they will work poorly. DON'T compromise here, get the right bulbs. Also, the larger bulbs and fixtures (T8's and T12's) are cheaper to buy, but DON'T put out as much light per kilowatt of electricity. You may save some money at first buying them, but you'll be paying for their inefficiency forever. Because flourescents are cool, they can be operated within four inches to a foot above the plants so the plants get the maximum amount of light from the electricity you are paying for.

For purposes of pricing your electricity, this is 32 watts times 8 bulbs, times two troughs, which is 6.144 kilowatt hours per day, or 190 kWhrs per month (this is how electric utilities price their electricity, by the kilowatt hour). To find out what electricity for your indoor growing will cost you per month for this Micro System, just multiply your cost per kilowatt hour by 190. For you math geniuses, that's eight 2-bulb fixtures with two 32-watt bulbs in each one, on for 12 hours a day in a 31-day month. If you've got affordable electricity, simply continue growing just as you did outside. The only difference is that these lights need to be plugged into a $15 Ace Hardware Store timer that turns them on at 6 in the morning and off at 6 at night; your outdoors light source already had a built-in timer so that was taken care of. Plants need dark and rest just as we do!

If your electricity is very expensive, and/or HO fixtures and bulbs are really expensive in your location, you can still do this affordably using LED grow lights. You want to get those lights that have alternating blue and red bulbs, NOT white bulbs. The reason is that plants primarily use blue and red light, which the blue and red LEDs supply. Here are two sources for LED lights: Google Products, and Amazon.com; they compare surprisingly well in price to the HO flourescent fixtures when you add the cost for bulbs (not cheap!). Two of these LED fixtures will light an 8-square-foot area (2 feet by 4 feet), exactly the same area that a 2-bulb T5 fixture will light, so for a Micro System 64, you will need 16 of these LED's as compared to the 8 2-bulb T5 fixtures you would need for the same system. In Hawaii the cost for a 2-bulb T5 fixture plus two bulbs is close to $50; so the cost for two of these LED's is close at $46-60.

There are some other considerations when growing indoors that you don't have outdoors: where does all that water go if your system develops a leak? This might not be a problem if you're in the garage, or in a basement with a sump pump, but if you're upstairs or have any usable space below the room you're putting the aquaponics in, you want to put in a containment dam, which is simply a membrane on the floor under the troughs and fish tank that extends up to about 4 to 6 inches high on the walls.

Although we don't use EPDM pond liner in the troughs because it's not food-grade, this dam is a great place to use it if you can afford it; it's tough and durable (just smells like new tires for the first few weeks!). If you can't afford it or find it, use a double or triple layer of 6 or 10-mil black construction plastic, and take your shoes off when you enter this room if you want to keep from putting holes in it and causing leaks into the room(s) below!

Another consideration is weight. An 8-foot long Micro System trough weighs roughly 1,800 pounds when full; and an entire Micro System 64 weighs 5,000 pounds! If you are putting this onto a wooden floor, make sure the floor joists and beams underneath can support this weight, and also consider having a knowledgeable builder or carpenter friend reinforce them before you transfer the troughs, fish tank, and water in, not AFTER!

Now, think of how amazed your friends will be when you've invited them over for dinner. They've put their snow coats and scarves in the hall closet, you served them fresh arugula and greens salad, and maybe a fresh pesto on pasta; with some broiled tilapia with wild rice, then after dinner you ask if they'd like to come out to the garage to see the garden you grew all this in?

This technique is quite effective and economical for handling inclement COLD weather, but if your summers get really BAD, you
can deal with summertime heat problems this same way; it just means two in-out moves a year with your system instead of only one. The only problem with this technique is that it doesn't lend itself well to use with media-based systems, because there's no way we know of to pump gravel. You would still have all the work transferring the water, plus buckets and buckets full of heavy gravel that would have to be moved by hand.

If you are planning on building a system larger than you can put in any available inside space you have, we'll handle questions about how to build economical and durable greenhouses and techniques for successfully growing with them in a separate newsletter in the future.
Good growing!

(Next week: A Primer On Aquatic Eco-Systems And How To Understand Them).

Click Here To See Our New Aquaponics Video!
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Free Farm Tours
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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!


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3-1/2 pound kalo (taro root) grown in a 2" net pot (little bump at bottom)



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4-month old prawn (macrobrachium rosenbergii) grown in hydroponics troughs of our aquaponics systems


Special Offer! Sign up for our  our October 2011 Hawaii Commercial Aquaponics Training now, and we will email you our Micro System package so you can begin studying aquaponics! ($99.95 value)

More Information on Hawaii Commercial Aquaponics Training

In The Farmily
Adam, our amazing Intern from Nebraska, has taken the level of organization on our farm to a whole new level! A few examples: We are printing out plant tags, instead of writing them out by hand - which was "so last century", Adam says! We are tracking results and putting everything into spreadsheets! We have new, automated watering systems in place for watering our in-ground crops! THANK YOU, ADAM!

The level of interest, enthusiasm, and hard work that Adam brings is a true gift, and it is matched by Katie, who accidentally arrived here  six weeks ago from Boston. Katie was ambivalent about college, and did not want to commit to a very expensive course of study when she was unclear how she would fit it into her life (much less pay off the student loans!), so she came to Hawaii through the WOOFer program (World-wide Opportunities on Organic Farms).

For a multitude of reasons, it did not work out for her on the farm she planned to join, and so we got her! Her parents found our Farmily online, when they were in the middle of being hit by Hurricane Irene! We are profoundly grateful to have Katie here, willing to do the worst of jobs with a HUGE SMILE!

The two of them, as well as Victor, Jack, Lucky - are all working in the Aquaponics daily, getting ready to launch our "Farm-to-Fork" CSA. We've been planting in cycles for the past four weeks, and have planted out enough to provide 40 large boxes, for a $49 share per week, per box.

Our farm's total capability will be around 200 boxes, and we'll work up to that gradually. We will completely replace the revenue lost with the Costco account with around 60 boxes, with far, far less labor. We're excited about the future, our partners, and our Farm Vision!

On a note of "How To Change Our World For The Better", please check out the Occupy Wall Street movements, which have - since September 17th, gone viral, and launched over 150 sister peaceful protests, called the "Occupy Together" movement. (Read http://www.thenation.com/article/163844/occupy-wall-street-most-important-thing-world-now for an excellent story as to why this movement is the most important thing in the world now.)

Today, in Waimea, here on the Big Island of Hawaii, I passed an Occupy Together protest of about 15 people. I was proud to stop and offer them a spot in our training, coming up in two weeks. I passed out cards, and told them about aquaponics, and thanked them for being there, and for speaking out on behalf of the 99% of us that represent the bottom of the financial pyramid.

It is easy for those at the top of the pyramid to forget that they are held up by the bottom. Aquaponics represents the best "bottom-up" technology on the planet. We are honored to be teaching this appropriate technology, and to be a part of restoring this great country to the status envisioned by our original Founding Fathers.

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Free Speech in Hawaii: An American Tradition!
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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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