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Friendly Aquaponics
Special Newsletter

Special Edition Newsletter
Number 11
August 21st,  2012
Images from our farmily aquaponics farm
Aloha Friend,

We're going to step into fuzzy new territory today. We're not going to talk about religion (Heaven forbid!); we're not going to talk about sex (this is a Family newsletter!). But we are going to talk about politics!


The Politics Of Aquaponics:


No one thinks about politics when they first get interested in aquaponics (you're thinking fish and vegetables, right?), but you'll get bushwhacked by it pretty quick as soon as you spend a little time on one of the forums or chat groups; or if you purchase a hugely-marked-up "kit" aquaponics system from one of the kit sellers.


The biggest problem with aquaponics is that it isn't common knowledge yet: most people can't tell the difference between nonsense and good technology. It's not like a washing machine; we've had those around for so long that even people who don't know anything know about washing machines. Here's an example:


Imagine you just discovered "washing machines"; you found out you can buy a home-sized one for only $5,795 (plus shipping!) from a "washing machine consultant", and you are so excited you write a check immediately! You didn't even think twice about your new washing machine having a hand cranked wringer instead of an automatic spin cycle, because you didn't know anything about automatic spin cycles yet, and the consultant who sold you the washing machine told you it was "state of the art".


Imagine (at the same time) that your consultant knew about a second washing machine that sold for only $495, that did three times the clothes in the same time, had both hot and cold water wash and rinse options, an automatic spin cycle, and that anyone could purchase at a local outlet.


If they were ethical people, they might change their line of work; but unfortunately many are not. What they do instead is tell you how inadequate that "other" washing machine is; how the supplier's claims are misleading, and how their washing machine is based on many years of experience in the business.


That's true, it is. It's based on many years of selling stuff to people who can't make an informed decision about the quality and value of the stuff they're buying because they don't know anything about the stuff. This is why we say: "The politics of aquaponics is about people trying to sell you nonsense at a 500% markup".


Another Great Example:


When you attend a commercial aquaponics course, your goal is to learn what you need in order to make money with your aquaponics system. It’s easy to understand: unless you have a trust fund, your aquaponics system needs to pay for itself and turn a profit. If the people selling the aquaponics technology or system you’re looking at cannot prove its profitability, it’s a bad choice. It may not be easy (as any soil farmer can tell you!), but it is possible.
 
Profitable and commercially successful aquaponics operations DO exist, and you can use them as models for your successful aquaponics farm. There are also unprofitable and out-of-business aquaponics operations that you can use as guides as to what to avoid (sometimes just as important as knowing what to do). Selecting  the “commercial aquaponics” course that gives you what you need can be difficult in today’s world, when everyone who has a fish tank and a plywood box with gravel in it is claiming to be doing “commercial aquponics”.
 
(Here's the example): we saw an ad on the internet the other day advertising “commercial aquaponics classes”; we followed it up out of curiosity, and cracked up laughing! The photo in the ad was one of our 64-square-foot “Micro Systems”! These are good backyard systems, but cannot by any stretch of the imagination be considered a “commercial” aquaponics system. The owner is definitely NOT someone who could guide you to a successful commercial aquaponics farm.


So What Do I Do?
 
Everyone who teaches commercial aquaponics has one goal in common that you can count on: they’re doing it to make money. However, some teacher’s goals stop there: they made their money when you signed up for the course, now it’s your problem to make money with aquaponics. You wouldn’t think of getting training in running a small business from someone who had never run one, or had never run one profitably, so why choose someone who doesn’t actually make money from a commercial aquaponics farm for your commercial aquaponics guru?
 
Here are some questions you can use to weed out the posers from the teachers who really can send you on your way to a successful and profitable aquaponics operation (you can just cut and paste these questions right out of this newsletter into an email to them):
 
1. How many years have you operated a commercial aquaponics farm; what crops have you sold; in what markets? Ask if they’re still doing it.
 
2. How large is the farm, in square feet of grow beds, pounds of vegetables/fish sold per year, yearly gross income, or any other normal measure of business success?
 
3. How did you fund the farm; what percentage was loans, what percentage was grants, and what percentage are you at risk for personally, if any?
 
4. Do you supply support after the course for free if I didn’t understand something, or is there an additional cost for this? Do I get free technology upgrades from you forever, for just a year, or not at all?
 
5. How many years have you been teaching?


6. Can you give me the names and contact information for a few of your commercially successful students? Can you give me income and expense numbers for even one of them?
 
Last thoughts: I’d hate to find that I was in one of the first classes taught by someone who never made money selling produce from their 500 square foot “commercial aquaponics farm” that has only been operational for six months (and that they got a grant to start) and that they were going to charge me more money if I had questions after the course.
 
Thank you for listening, with Aloha, Tim Mann,  training@friendlyaquaponics.com

We have an open source, and free ongoing support policy! We upgrade our students aquaponics and greenhouse technology on a regular basis for FREE as we develop new applications and designs.


Our live trainings and DIY courses ALL include free ongoing email support for student's questions while building and operating their systems, from Susanne and Tim.


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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!


TaroIn2inchPot2

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 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!

The biggest problem we've found with aquaponics is that people are looking for the magic potion that makes $500 a day with little or no work. We tell them time and again that business experience and training is necessary, and doing the work oneself is necessary; but people often hear only what they want to.


Aquaponics is work, and someone needs to do the work. It's not like having stocks and bonds that you just receive a dividend check from (I know, that isn't working so well now either). You need to know about business, for you can grow great vegetables and fish and then not know how to get paid for them.


These systems do grow great vegetables and fish with very little skill required, and half as much labor as growing in the soil. It is work, however. You can't pay someone $20/hour to do all your work and still make money yourself. But in this economy, it is going to be a lot easier to find farm workers than it was five years ago.


After the construction industry on the Big Island collapsed five years ago, aquaponics is the best alternative we've found. Our past thirty years has included stints in the computer business, boatbuilding business, home construction, advertising, tourism, drafting and design, heavy equipment operation, sailmaking, cabinetwork, and furniture making. All those businesses are at a standstill now, and we'd be in foreclosure without our aquaponics farm.

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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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