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Friendly Aquaponics Newsletter
Number 145
November 12th,  2013
Images from our farmily aquaponics farm
Aloha Friend

In today's "Nugget", we continue with our final Part 11 of our series on "Energy-Efficient Greenhouses For Aquaponic Growing". In our next newsletter, we'll cover "yucky roots", as we've noticed a lot of buzz about that on the forums we watch.

Watch out for the announcement of our new book: "Aquaponics The EASY Way!" within the next few days. It's still available at a presale discount of 33% now, for only $19.95 by clicking here. It will be $29.95 when finished; you'll save ten bucks and get it emailed directly to you when it's finished if you buy it now!

Our "In The Farmily" column today
is Part 3 of the story of our son Lucky, and why he got the nickname "Lucky". He really is lucky, as you will understand when you read it!

Aquaponics Nugget #145, Part 11: Energy-Efficient Greenhouses For Aquaponics

(You can catch the first 10 of this series on our "Back Newsletters" page, starting with #135, if you wish!)

Geothermal Well For Greenhouse Cooling:

Last week, we ended by discussing what to do if your geothermal resource 6 feet under ground is insufficient for adequate greenhouse cooling. In some areas with this problem, there are well-drillers who will drill you a 150-foot deep geothermal well that may fit your budget. You will put the same geothermal cooling pipes down this deep well as you would have laid horizontally if you’d been able to dig a geothermal cooling trench, and get the same effect. The wells usually cost a lot more than the trench (our trench only cost us $125 to have dug) but still may be an affordable and good solution.

But, you say, pumping water up from that depth requires a big and expensive pump that uses a lot of electricity! That would be true, if you were only pumping water up from that depth. But you are also dropping it down from the top: the energy imparted by the  weight of the water in the “down” pipe largely cancels out the energy required to pump the water up the “up” pipe, for it is a closed system. This type of recirculating system in a 150-foot deep well only requires a 45-120 watt pump to circulate the water, depending on the volume of water and the speed you wish to move it at.


Another Alternative To A Geothermal Well:

If you have a lake or large pond, then you don’t even need to bother with the ditch or well; you can just put your geothermal cooling coil at the bottom of the lake, and plumb it over to your aquaponics system using insulated pipe. If the lake or pond is large enough and deep enough, the water at the bottom will be quite cold, and will transfer that cold beautifully to your geothermal cooling coil. But test this first! Don’t just assume it’s cold at the bottom; if you have a shallow lake it may be quite hot down there!


Hook this geothermal cooling coil up with some valves to the same Grundfos pump you used to pump the hot water from the solar water heaters (hold your horses, we cover this next!), and insulate the above-ground sections with standard copper pipe insulation so you don't lose heat to the environment.

Your heating AND cooling systems use the same pump; the valves are so you can switch the pump over to pump water down through the pipes in the geothermal trench/well for cooling or up through the solar water heater panels for heating. Now, when you circulate the warm water from the heat exchanger in the fish tank through the cold pipes buried in the cold ground, it comes back to the heat exchanger in the fish tank COLD, and cools down the aquaponics water.


The Grundfos pumps we use are very energy-efficient, usually running at 40 to  120 watts energy use; they're the only ACTIVE use of energy in this whole geothermal and solar heating-and-cooling-system. No huge fans, no huge energy-sucking air-conditioning units or propane-gulping heating units. Just a quiet little pump pumping away, giving you almost free access to the heating and cooling energy that Nature provides us with everywhere in the world.


Cooling The Greenhouse Air Using Water Walls/Swamp Coolers


In addition to geothermal cooling and passive and active venting, If you are in a relatively dry climate you can successfully use what’s called a “Water Wall” to drop the temperature of the air coming in through your intake vents by ten to twenty five  degrees F. Water walls, also known as “swamp coolers”, or evaporative coolers, work by moving air over dripping water. The water evaporates into the air, and as the air becomes more humid (full of water) its temperature drops quite a bit in the process. Here's a photo of one:

(Below): Water wall in the side of a greenhouse. The brown material is a type of cardboard with lots of air passages through it, that is manufactured with an epoxy resin so it is waterproof. Water drips down from the top to the bottom, and the air passing through the water wall drops from 5 to 25 degrees F in temperature as it passes through the cardboard, as a result of the water evaporating. Same as a wet T-shirt on a hot day!


A water wall is located at your greenhouse air intake(s), and is simply a water trough or pipe above a wall of ventilated material that drips water down onto the ventilated material. There is another water trough or tank under the ventilated material that catches the water dripping off the bottom of the material, then the water is pumped back up to the water trough or pipe at the top of the water wall to run down the wall again.

Air coming into the intake vent flows over the water wall; then the water in the wall evaporates into the air, cooling it as it passes into your greenhouse. The water evaporates in this process, so the water in the bottom trough or tank will need to be replenished at regular intervals as it’s used up.


Manufactured material to make your own water walls with is available at many greenhouse supply places; it often looks like cardboard seen from the end on, with hexagonal cells like a honeycomb; and it is treated with a resin material to make it waterproof; it is not cheap. It can also look like the “spaghetti” in the photo below.



You can also buy complete water wall assemblies (but they’re more expensive). You can also use a couple of layers of plastic mesh, window screen (tends to clog up with algae, though), or larger plastic screen (1/4” mesh to ½” mesh is ideal), and other materials that are easily permeable to the air that moves through your water wall. Home made water walls are easy to make and plumb, if you simply include a material that the air can pass through easily while water drips down it.

If you need a large water wall, rather than just a short one three or four feet long, you want to install it in a plenum for best efficiency. An example of a plenum is a box about two to two and a half feet deep and the height of your water wall material, which may be twenty, thirty, or even sixty feet long. This is installed on the outside of your back greenhouse wall.

The fans that draw the air through the water wall material are installed in the greenhouse wall itself, and when they are on, they draw air through the water wall into the “box” formed by the plenum, and from there draw it into the greenhouse. This way, the air is drawn through all the water wall material instead of just the small portion of it located behind a fan, as it would be if the water wall material were only a few inches away from the fan.


If you are in a humid climate such as Hawaii near the ocean or in Florida, water walls do not work as well. However, we have reports of 5 degree temperature drops even in humid Florida conditions, and 25 degrees in the same location during their “dry” season. Investigate the local humidity during the time of year you will need to cool your greenhouse to see if this will work for you or not. Another good source of information to help you make this decision is to look at any commercial greenhouses in your area, talk to their operators if you can, and see if THEY have water walls, as well as how big they are and whether they are passive or active.

An Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse with the participants in our second June 2013 course in Tennessee!

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(Next week's newsletter will cover "yucky roots" and what the REAL solution for them is; that is, the EASY solution! Thanks for listening!)

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 easy-to-understand building instructions and operating information for 4 different sizes of small aquaponic systems based on our years of experience. 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, and fun too!

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!


Friendly 2014 Commercial Aquaponics and Greenhouse Trainings;

Texas Training from January 13th to the 17th at Ben Godfrey's farm in Milam County, Texas (Click here for more information!).

Tennessee Training from January 27th to the 31st at Randy Campbell's farm in Elora, Tennessee (Click here for more information!).

These trainings are $1,495 per person for five days of the most comprehensive and profitable Commercial Aquaponics and energy efficient Solar Greenhouse technology on the planet. If you can't wait until Jamuary to learn about profitable commercial aquaponics, check out our Personal Intensive trainings in Hawaii.

(Below) One of Ben and Alysha Godfrey's aquaponics systems in a greenhouse in Milam County, Texas. I can't wait to taste their system water! lettuce2-385px

(Below) Another of Ben and Alysha's aquaponic greenhouses.

(Below) Tim drinking water from one of Randy and Katie's aquaponics systems at a Tennessee training. "I've been doing this for six years; I'm certain the food from these systems is safe and healthy" (Tim).  TimWaterDrinkingNugget

These five-day trainings allow you to travel during the weekend so that you only need to take a week off your busy life to attend, and include our $999 DIY Commercial Aquaponics package, $998 DIY Farmer's Market Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse package, and new $295 DIY Commercial Tilapia Hatchery manual as course materials, plus our Plywood/Epoxy/ Tank manual, CAD construction drawings for all greenhouses and aquaponics systems, and much more!

(Below) Randy and Tim showing attendees at a Tennessee training how easy it is to use a DO (dissolved oxygen) meter to measure oxygen levels in the vegetable troughs.


If you're located near Tennessee or Texas, Randy and Katie Campbell (in Tennessee) and Ben Godfrey (in Texas) give regular free farm tours of their aquaponics systems and greenhouses to introduce the public to the benefits of aquaponics and energy-efficient greenhouse growing.

In Tennessee: Call Randy and Katie at 256-679-9488 or email Randy to find out when the next farm tour is scheduled.

In Texas: Call Ben at 254-697-2927 or email Ben to find out when their next "Family Day" farm tour is scheduled ($15 fee per family is charged).

More details of the Aquaponics Technology course here.

More details of the Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse course here.

More details of the Commercial Aquaponics course here.

(Below) Randy and Katie's Chinese-style Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse in Tennessee in the February snow, 2013. 70 degrees inside and you had to take your coat off when working with the vegetables!

GreenhouseSnow3Small 2

The Friendly  Aquaponics Way Video!
Back Issues Of Newsletters Now Available, Click Here!
Trough Liner Distributors:
West Coast USA
East Coast USA

Click here for Trout fry and fingerlings directly from the hatchery to you!

Spanish Language Micro System package now available!
Free Farm Tours

Aquaponics tour at the Friendly farm!

We hold a free Farm Tour on our farm the FIRST Saturday of every month at 10:00,  focused on growing food with aquaponics.  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!


Thousands of inch-long "fifty-cent" baby tilapia from our "backyard" hatchery.


What they turn into about a year later: a beautiful 2-pound white tilapia grown in the fish tanks of our aquaponics systems.



Sign yourself up for the Texas January 2014 (13th-17th)

Or sign yourself up for the Tennessee January 2014 (27th-31st)

Commercial Aquaponics and Solar Greenhouse Training
NOW, and receive a free Micro System DIY package so you can begin studying aquaponics, as soon as you register! ($99.95 value)


Micro System Classes!

Our four affiliates are now offering Micro System courses.

Click here
for a listing of affiliates and course locations!


"Fish Bites: Food-Grade Liners and Fish Tanks"

Corrugated steel round fish tanks come from Scafco Grain Systems,

Tell them you need an open-top tank, not one with a conical steel roof, which you don't need or want for a fish tank.

For Liner, order standard sizes AND custom-sized round and rectangular food-grade vinyl liners from DLM Plastics, 1530 Harvard Avenue, Findlay, OH, 45840, 419-424-5250. Get "White NSF-61 PVC", it is FOOD-GRADE vinyl (the "NSF" on the label means "National Sanitation Foundation").

"In The Farmily: Lucky's Story, Part 3"

We spent an anxious night, not getting much sleep, and hanging about by Lucky’s bedside as much as the nurses would let us. I remember a lot of sleeping in chairs over the next three weeks, but then, I am a natural at that; it was Susanne who was lost away from her kids and comfy bed at home.

She didn’t get much sleep, and when she did, it usually wasn’t for long; she was the quintessential mother defending her child, only with a sense of helplessness because the problem was so beyond her abilities to fix.


The next morning, Lucky was a LOT better; and by the end of the day, they had called off the arrangements to fly him to San Diego and put him on the infant ECMO machine there.

Now, by a LOT better, you need to picture Lucky as we saw him: he was this little comatose baby inside a plastic box, with tubes stuck into him in various places: a catheter into his hand for medication and fluids, another going into the top of his chest (called a sub-clavian line) for feeding him, and his ventilator tube, which went straight down his throat.

Drugs: Lucky was getting a surfactant to open up his alveoli (the little “air sacs” in his lungs); a blood thinner and blood pressure medication to keep his blood moving as well as possible through his damaged lungs; a paralytic to keep him from moving around and disturbing all these tubes; and what the nurses euphemistically referred to as “a sedative” to keep him from waking up screaming because he’d had a tube shoved down his throat, this was morphine, or as it’s known on the street, heroin.


We were told that the new surfactant and ventilator technology that was saving Lucky’s life had only become available a year earlier. That was sobering to us, because we realized that if this had happened to our son Jack, born a year and a half prevously, Jack would not have made it.


We joked (not really!) with the nurses about “was it time for Lucky’s heroin?”. The doctors orders said “as needed”, and one of the nurses interpreted this to mean if he was quiet and his vital  signs were good, to wait. Another nurse interpreted this to mean that Lucky got his shot of heroin as soon as he came on duty.

We had some arguments with this one because we didn’t want our son to end up as a heroin addict because of his time in the hospital. I think Susanne ended up getting him moved to another area of the ward, because he disappeared after awhile.


So we sat by our comatose baby’s plastic incubator; we reflected, we hoped and prayed, we talked to each other a lot, and we didn’t get much sleep. I cried a lot. I tried not to let Susanne see me, for I knew it would just make it harder on her; she was crying a lot anyway.


We dropped everything when we left the Big Island; we didn’t have toothbrushes or a change of clothes. After living in the same clothes for two or three days, and to “celebrate” the fact that Lucky had obviously turned a corner of some kind, we went to the local Salvation Army and shopped.

This was a Salvation Army store in a relatively ritzy area of Honolulu, and it had an awesome selection! I got shirts, shoes, and pants; Susanne found silk blouses, dresses, and pants by well-known designers, in the $12-20 range.


We talked with people at home on the Big Island about Lucky’s turnaround, cautiously at first, then more and more hopefully as the days went by and he seemed to be doing well. After the first week, the nurses said that we would be doing well if we were able to take him home after three months or so.

Three months, six months, what was the difference? We were still in a daze, and not really tracking things too well. We had an up-close and personal issue that overrode everything else in our lives.


During that first week, I’d had several sessions with Lucky where I sat by the side of his incubator and talked to him. At the first session, I closed my eyes, and said this, even though it almost broke my heart to say it: “If you’re here only for a short time, and need to leave us, I will love you and understand. My heart will be broken, but if that is what you’ve come to do with your life, it’s OK. But, if you have come to live, and are willing to fight to do so, I will do everything I can to help you.”


I thought I heard him reply: “I want to be here, and I’m going to fight”. After that, I started calling him my little lion; brave heart and fighting to be alive. Susanne had been seeing posters for a music show around town given by a reggae artist named “Lucky Dube” from South Africa. She liked the name Lucky, but had trouble with the idea of calling him “Lucky Friend”. She mentioned it to me, and I started calling him “my lucky lion” right after.


I don’t remember where or when “Lucky” became permanent, for his given name was Athen Lucas Friend. We’ve never called him Athen; except we had to when he went onto FaceBook to set up his account and they would NOT allow him to use “Lucky Friend” as a name, cause their software thought it couldn’t be a real name.

It’s supposed to be your REAL name, right; so people don’t get to fake other people out? Well, it is! So we had our Lucky, and it is his real name. It’s what everyone calls him.

It was also obvious to us, based on what had happened so far after his birth and during the transport to the hospital, that he was quite lucky; one thing had gone badly wrong at the beginning, but after that, everything else had gone as right as possible. Yes, he was Lucky.

(to be continued)

Aloha, Tim....

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