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Friendly Aquaponics Newsletter
Number 68
January 10th, 2012
Images from our farmily aquaponics farm
Aloha Friend,


This is the Friendly Aquaponics Solar Greenhouse after 5 days assembly work by 2 people: the aquaponics troughs are in and ready to put fittings in; the rear wall is partially covered with the reflective mylar film finish used inside the greenhouse; and the greenhouse is ready to cover with the ETFE film. THIS is the benefit of prefabricating these types of structures in a shop, then assembling the prefabricated pieces on your greenhouse site. The Solar Greenhouse is 19 feet by 32 feet, with about 600 square feet of usable floor  space.


A close-up of the inside of the greenhouse, showing one of the "foundation" aquaponics troughs. This trough contains four tons of water, as does the one on the other side of the greenhouse; they provide enough weight to eliminate the necessity for a concrete foundation to hold the structure down, even in hurricane country. In the foreground is one of the laminated curved wooden beams that are made with two-part epoxy glue and a simplified technique that anyone can manage.

We've extended the 50%
discount on ALL the February trainings for the entire registration period (until the courses start). The purpose of this is to make it as affordable as possible for as many as possible to attend these courses. If you've already registered, thank you for helping support this work.

If you're interested in
learning about our 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 #68:
A Primer On Sustainable Energy-Efficient Greenhouses, Part 8

This column is an ongoing series on how to understand, build, and operate energy-efficient greenhouses. If you missed the previous newsletters in this series, you can click here: "Back Issues Of Newsletters" to read them first, because understanding all the concepts presented is essential to understanding the Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse.

In the last "Nugget" in this series (in our newsletter #67), we heated the aquaponics water in our greenhouse in the winter with solar water heaters, and cooled it in the summertime with underground geothermal coolers; with the circulation run by an economical small electric pump. If you design and implement these heating and cooling systems properly with quality materials and workmanship, you will have very economical heat and cooling for your well-insulated greenhouse.

So far so good; but what happens when you have a prolonged overcast spell (or a one-week blizzard!) in the wintertime, and there's no heat at all coming from your solar water heater? And what happens during a prolonged hot spell in the summertime when your geothermal cooling area warms up and can't keep up with the heat in the greenhouse?

Let's deal with heating during a prolonged cloudy/cold spell first, because that's easiest (I'm lazy!). First, your Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse has a tremendous amount of thermal mass in the water in the aquaponics system. Once warmed by the solar water heater, it will tend to STAY warm. However, after a couple of days of completely overcast or dark weather, you will start losing heat overnight and not regaining it again in the daytime. If it's dark enough for long enough, your thermal mass will give up enough of its heat that your water gets so cold it can kill plants and/or your fish. You need to have more options that just waiting for the sun to come out again, however. Before this fatal cool-down happens, you need to turn on your backup heating system and heat your water back up to an acceptable temperature.

How do you provide this backup heating? Burn something! (That's got to be the shortest sentence I've EVER written in one of these newsletters!). No, seriously, you simply have a nicely installed modern wood-burning stove with a stainless steel water heat exchanger coil inside it, that your water circulation pump circulates water through, then to the heat exchanger in the aquaponics system water.. These modern stoves are very efficient and as a result emit very little to almost no particulate matter, while putting out a LOT of heat.


The Friendly farm's current crew of interns in the Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse, with Tim (in yellow shirt) writing something on his clipboard (his BRAIN, LOL!).

They can be outfitted with thermostatically-controlled, automatic feeder devices that will feed wood chips to the stove at a steady rate to maintain a preset temperature in your fish tank water inside the greenhouse. If you install a large enough feeder bin for the wood chips outside the stove room, it can hold several day's worth, or even a couple of week's worth of chips, which is plenty to get you through most blizzards.

And wood chips are a renewable resource, unlike propane gas, which is most commonly used for heating greenhouses in winter. You can use propane for this purpose, but just be aware that burning it creates just as much greenhouse gas as burning wood does, except that you are burning a non-renewable resource, and one that is just going to keep increasing in cost as time goes by and such resources become scarcer and more expensive.

I'm sure someone noticed we've only addressed providing backup HEAT during our hypothetical one-week blizzard. What about electricity for some lighting for the plants so they can also keep growing? First,
light is not absolutely necessary for plants to survive, and the plants can easily do with minimum light for a one-week period. They won't GROW (experts agrees that plants need a minimum of 5 hours of normal sunlight a day for decent growth), but they also won't DIE, unless they get too COLD. Losing a week's growth is much better than losing all the plants in your greenhouse to the cold.

IF you have plenty of economical electricity, the answer is simple: just turn on enough supplemental lighting in your greenhouse to make sure your plants get plenty of light, and don't even slow down their growth during your blizzard. If your solar greenhouse is completely off-grid, you have a different situation as regards electricity and using it for lighting. Unless you have a HUGE battery bank with a couple of weeks of what's called "cloudy-day capacity" in it, you should not use it for lighting, but should save your electrical capacity for pumping hot water from your wood chip stove through your aquaponics heat exchanger, and for the pump that circulates the water through the plants in the aquaponics. If THEY freeze, you have a big mess on your hands and a lot of work just to get everything up and growing again, not to mention the loss of all the FOOD they represented.

We'll deal with backup methods for keeping the greenhouse cool in the summer in next week's newsletter.

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Franz Schreier's FIRST Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse in full bloom, Heppenheim, Germany, 2011, showing lamellae PV panels and growing plants!

(Next week: More on energy-efficient greenhouse technology, 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

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! We've decided to extend the 50% discount for our February 16th-17th Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse Training and ALL of our Aquaponics Trainings for the entire registration period, right up to when the courses start.

Sign up now, and receive the 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
Last week we had just finished grading the pad for our house on the 7.2 acres we purchased for our farm; once again, we were out of money. As funds came in, we first built a 16-foot by 20-foot building that we called our "music room", because it has a 16-foot double folding door on the front of it. The idea was that we could use it to put the band in when we had "the Big House" finished and hosted parties, then open up the big door so everyone could hear and see the band inside.

Well, being short on funds, we didn't put the band in right away, but moved in ourselves instead: all six of us! Isabelle, Susanne's 78 year old Mom, 1 year old Lucky, two year old Jack, nine year old Victor, and Susanne and I completed the list of inhabitants of this cozy little structure. We put up privacy partitions inside, moved in a paltry amount of furniture (because there was no ROOM for both furniture and us), but mostly just tolerated each other.

There was no bathroom in the structure, and no kitchen, so we built a platform and put one of those 10-0foot by 20-foot Costco carport tents up for a "cook tent". It was about thirty feet away from the music room. We had tables and chairs in there, a huge six-burner commercial Wolf range that Susanne had gotten a deal on at a local auction house, a fridge, and a temporary sink in a plywood cabinet.

To complete our living arrangements, we had a portable outhouse that was located away from the cook tent and music room, a trek of about 150 feet across the "Sea of Mud". Yes, we've had the sea of mud before on our property.

The truck that serviced the outhouse could only get to the end of our graveled drive: it got stuck when it tried to get any closer to our little music room/house to drop the outhouse off, so we were stuck with walkng just like pioneers through the rain and wind if we needed to use it. At least it was dry inside and out of the wind once you got there!

We spent two or three nights a week at the music room on our land, and went back every couple of nights to our rental house to get showers and clean clothes. We worked six and seven days a week to finish our living arrangements, and literally the week when we got the first shower working in the downstairs of our new house, we moved in to the music room permanently. Well, not permanently, but we lived there until the house was done enough to move up into the house.

That's a whole 'nother story, of how we had chickens roosting in the house with us because the house didn't have any doors yet; and how, because the roof wasn't finished for a long time, how we had to walk through an inch of water to the bed, sit on the edge, then dry our feet off with the towel we kept there for that purpose before swinging our feet up onto the bed, tucking ourselves and the kids in, and taking our rest.

Thanks for listening!

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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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PO Box 1196
Honoka'a, Hawaii 96727

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