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Friendly Aquaponics Newsletter
Number 30
March 1st,  2011
Images from our farmily aquaponics farm
Aloha Friend,

I have no idea what I'm going to write about today. I was hoping for some divine inspiration to occur, but it was just a regular week. We harvested twice, reseeded twice, did some fish tank maintenance, and built a new chill tank. We designed and built a cinder separator for a new seeding method we are trying out that uses volcanic cinder, which is cheap, locally produced, sustainable, and reusable compared to the coco peat and vermiculite potting mix we are currently using (that is only cheap). We just did normal work on the farm. Then it hit me! We were working and making money with the farm!

To put this "aha!" in perspective: three and a half years ago my wife and I were sitting around the breakfast table
mulling over what to do next. We just signed a 30-year note on the house we'd spent four years building with our own hands. Construction in Hawaii went flat in late 2007, and didn't pick up again. Our two construction-related businesses were dead in the water, and we had $20k of credit card debt we racked up finishing the house, plus a mondo mortgage to pay. We had no work, and were wondering how long we could live on our credit cards.

We reflected on how vulnerable we were because we were tied to an industry that needed constant growth to survive. We reflected on what might not be so vulnerable, and realized it was food. It never goes out of style, and people don't stop buying it like new cars or houses when things get a little tight. It was like a light went on in our heads that said "
We need to make food!". We had no idea how to make food yet, but a week later we were on the plane to the best aquaponics course we could find. This was the turning point that led us to the farm that makes our living, feeds us, and teaches us new things all the time.

Why should any of this concern you? If you've been fired, if your house is in foreclosure because your job disappeared or got reduced to part-time, if your retirement was suddenly worth half what it had been before overnight because of stock market shenanigans, if you've had any of these experiences, you should be concerned. Maybe nothing happened to you personally, but I'm certain you know someone to whom it has.

We don't claim to have all the answers. We just know that growing food for ourselves and others has been a success even in these difficult times. We think it's a good idea for people to take growing food into their own hands, whether or not you attend one of our trainings to learn how to grow food with aquaponics.

We and seven of our students have the first USDA organically certified aquaponics farms in the world! If you want to learn how to build an organic aquaponic system instead of just read about it, we have trainings in Florida in March and Hawaii in April of 2011.

The Florida training will be held March 21st to March 24th, 2011 at the Community Center of Ridge Manor, 34240 Cortez Blvd, Ridge Manor, Florida. Susanne Friend and Tim Mann of Friendly Aquaponics will be teaching the course  with Friendly Aquaponics affiliates Tonya Penick and Gina Cavaliero, who own and operate Green Acre Organics, where the hands-on sessions will be held. These trainings will be held at Green Acre Organics on a regular basis from now on. The conference room we've hired for the Florida training only holds 120 participants, so reservations for the course will be taken on a first-come, first-served basis.

If you're interested in commercial scale aquaponics, please take a look at both the Hawaii and Florida 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. For smaller home backyard and apartment systems, please read on:
Purchase Construction Plans and Operating Information 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 diifferent 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, but operating one successfully without good and easily-understood information can be frustrating. You simply use the "Daily Operations Cheklist" in the manual and follow the step-by-step instructions on your way to success.

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 #30:
Aeration In Aquaponics Systems (Part 1 )

There are three interdependent factors that influence when and how you aerate in both the fish tanks and troughs, and what constitutes adequate aeration. The first one is amount and location of aeration supplied in both fish tanks and troughs, the second is water flow rate in each trough and length of the trough, and the third is water temperature. This discussion will illustrate the interplay between these factors:

Why do the vegetables growing in the troughs need oxygen? Well, plants need to be able to take up oxygen through their roots in order to live and grow, just as fish need oxygen. Don’t listen to people who tell you that vegetables DON’T need oxygen, they need carbon dioxide. This is true, for the LEAVES of the plants! However, the ROOTS of all plants need oxygen!

We built our first system the same as UVI’s: with airstones in the troughs, and the water flow from the single pump in the system divided up into two or three pairs of troughs. We built our second UVI-type system in a rush and didn't complete installing the aeration before it got planted. Then we noticed that things grew just as well in it with NO aeration in the troughs as in our first system with aeration in the troughs. We checked our DO's going into the troughs (5-6ppm) and then departing the troughs (they were only 0.5 to 0.75 ppm less), and concluded there was plenty of oxygen in the troughs for the plants without any additional expenditures on aeration. So we didn’t install aeration in any of the subsequent systems we built, and everything grew FINE, in a system with water temperatures of 70-76 degrees F, much colder than UVI systems.

In a systems such as these, with no airstones in the troughs, the only oxygen going to the troughs is what comes in the aerated water from the fish tank. As the water flows out to the troughs it gradually loses oxygen as it is used up by the plants and biological processes, and if the trough is a long one, the DO can get so low it stunts the plant’s growth. If there’s enough aeration in the water coming out of the fish tank, the trough is short enough, and the water flow rate is high enough, then there’s good DO all the way to the end of the trough.

When we went looking for ways to improve energy efficiency on the farm, we reduced the water flow rate into one trough in our test system, keeping the water flow rate the SAME in the other trough in this system as a control. Although the DO of the water coming into both these troughs was the same (in the 7’s) we noticed that the further you got down the test trough from the only aeration in the system (the airstones in the fish tank), the vegetables weren’t growing as well. Why? Even though the DO coming into this trough was good, the water was now flowing so slowly that the plants used up the oxygen quickly and depleted it. When we measured and found increasingly low DO's along the trough, we knew we had to add aeration in the trough as part of our experiment to save electrical costs by reducing water flow rate.

So, we added airstones to the test trough with the reduced water flow (we’ll tell you how to determine how many in Part 2 next week), and turned on the air. After the air was on we waited a day before we took new DO readings, because it takes 24 hours for the water to do a complete system circuit in this large system and for the DO to stabilize.

We now got excellent DO readings in the 5-6 ppm range at the exit end of the test trough, and over the next two weeks, the vegetable growth in the test trough was phenomenal compared to the “control” trough in the SAME system, which had the same system water, the original high water flow rate, good vegetable growth, the same DO of water entering the trough in the 7’s, and DO’s exiting the trough in the 4 ppm range. We made some estimates of how much energy it took to power the new airstones in the test trough, and how much energy we would save by pumping water at the reduced flow rate, and concluded that we could save money by reducing water flow rate in the system troughs and adding a small amount of additional aeration in the troughs.

After coming to this conclusion, we installed airstones in both troughs in this system and reduced flow rates to both troughs. Because the water exiting the troughs and coming into the fish tanks now had a higher DO of 5-6 ppm instead of the 4-5 ppm it had before, the fish tank water DO immediately went up from being in the 7 ppm range to being in the 8 ppm range. This meant we could safely reduce the amount of aeration supplied to the fish tank, thus saving us about 30% energy overall compared to our previous scheme of aerating only in the fish tanks and pumping lots of water to get good DO’s in the troughs.

(Next week: "Aeration in Aquaponics Systems" Part 2, with more information on this important and interesting topic).

Click to see our new Video!

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 antyime. You DO need to email us first to schedule, or we might be out on errands!


Taro 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 April 4-7th, 2011 Hawaii Commercial Aquaponics Training OR our March 21-24th Florida Commercial Aquaponics Training now, and we will email you our Micro System package so you can begin studying aquaponics! ($99.95 value)

Sign up for Hawaii Commercial Aquaponics Training

Sign up for Florida Commercial Aquaponics Training

In The Farmily
Our Farmily now consists of  ten people; here are a few:

Rose, Queen of the Known Universes, is five going on 21. She knows what everyone should be doing, and tells them what to do and how to do it frequently. We are doing our best to teach her that she lives in a world where there are other people (just like her) that deserve consideration. The trick is to give her a sense of respect for others without chasing her powerful spirit away.

Jack, our 9-year-old,  works in the aquaponics with us. Jack  understands how the systems work and always asks intelligent questions. Jack is a saver, and  took the money he made working;  bought his first surfboard and leash recently, and is on his way to becoming a grommet (young surfing newbie).

Lucky, our eight-year-old, has traditionally been interested in the kitchen cabinet where the sugar treats are kept, as well as the X-Box, but lately he's been working in the aquaponics almost as much as Jack. He's learning that with regular work comes regular rewards for that work.

This is how we let our kids work: they work until they want to stop, then they quit. We look at how much they helped out, and pay them accordingly, and/or take them to movies, out to dinner, etc, letting them know it was because they pitched in that we could afford these luxuries. We feel this gives them valuable experience in how the real world works, as well as confidence and abilities that will come in handy their whole lives. What do you mean, you worked an hour but want to be paid for four? LOL!

Jenna, the 22-year-old daughter of a friend, just graduated college with degrees in psychology and sociology, and joined the Farmily to get real-world experience and a line for her resume. We really appreciate Jenna being here because all the male interns are moving faster, trying to impress her. But it's a shame that the bureaucrats who manage our country's economy have turned it into a place where a smart woman with education can't even get a minimum wage job because there are none. What can you do about this besides wait for the Federal Reserve to order another round of "Quantitative Easing" (this is known as "printing money" when South American countries do it)?

You can start growing food! Put in a Victory Garden now, even though it's not wartime. It doesn't matter whether you learn how to grow things in the soil OR with aquaponics, but start doing something about your food security now. You will feel more control over your life and destiny if you're moving in a positive direction. The worst that can happen is that you'll have extra to give away to the neighbors.
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This email, our manuals and construction plans are all copyrighted by  Friendly Aquaponics, Inc, Susanne Friend and Tim Mann, 2008-2010

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Honoka'a, Hawaii 96727

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