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Friendly Aquaponics Newsletter
Number 55
October 4th  2011
Images from our farmily aquaponics farm
Aloha Friend,

We have great news for aquaponics growers this newsletter!
Raven Industries, which manufactures the wonderful DuraSkrim R20WW 20-mil LDPE liner we use to line our troughs, is now selling in small quantities directly to aquaponics end-users as a result of all the requests from Friendly Aquaponics students for this material. As of now, 50-foot and 100-foot rolls are available (with FREE shipping!), but soon they will be selling the exact lengths needed for Micro System 64's and 128's, Family System 256's and 512's, and the small 1,024-square-foot commercial system. They will also be quoting for and cutting custom lengths for larger farms and systems. If you need liner right now, just contact their representative, Courtney Mendelson, directly at 800-635-3456; Courtney is great to work with!  To go directly to their web page for 50-foot and 100-foot rolls of R20WW click here.

Last week, we introduced the trough videos that are now posted on our website here. We are filming an ongoing series of construction and how-to videos that illustrate various portions of aquaponics system construction: we will post these on YouTube and on our website for viewing at no charge.

The next video (that we're shooting sometime this week) is going to be a construction video showing the assembly process of a 10-square foot tabletop aquaponics system that you can build for under $250. We will also post a downloadable materials list for this system on the same page. This is a mid-size system out of our "Tabletop Systems" manual, and is comparable to kit systems costing from $970 to $1,295 (these kit systems are also 15-25% smaller, and you still have to assemble them). These small systems are easy to assemble, and will get you started in aquaponics at a low cost. They only require a small space; you can install them on a table or counter, or on the floor. You can run them entirely indoors, and light them with a couple of compact flourescent lights (complete info on lighting requirements is in the manual). They also work great outdoors, and are easily movable so you can grow outside in the summertime and bring them inside when inclement weather begins!

We're also making a new offer in this email: We will give a free copy of our Tabletop Systems manual free to schools and teachers. If you know a teacher or school administrator who would be interested in teaching aquaponics in their school(s) using this manual AT NO CHARGE, please have them email us directly, and we will email them a copy of the manual as soon as we have received a letter from the teacher or administrator's employer confirming that they are, in fact, who they say they are.

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:
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, 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 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 #55:
Compost In Aquaponics Equals Dangerous Aquaponics Systems

It is a little-known fact that humans are the ones who created E. coli H0157:H7, the only E. coli that as few as eleven of can kill an otherwise healthy adult human being. The story is quite simple: someone had a good idea to take cows, which had been eating grass for tens of thousands of years; put them in a confined space (a feedlot), and feed them corn and other grains to make them grow fat and valuable in a relatively short time.

Unfortunately, this idea didn't take into account the fact that cow's digestive systems are NOT designed to digest grain; and they become acidic when they try to do so. A new bacteria that had never before been seen grew in the newly acidic cows stomachs, and that bacteria was
E. coli H0157:H7. So, as with the fabled Snake in the Garden, the Fall occurred. We can't go back to a time where there is no E. coli H0157:H7, we simply have to deal with it and keep it from killing us. How does this apply to aquaponics, and to the vegetables in YOUR system?

Some aquaponicists are doing really good things with their projects. However, others don't have a clue how dangerous what they're doing may be.

If you introduce compost and/or worms into your aquaponics system, you run the risk of bringing in dangerous or deadly varieties of E. coli such as H0157, 11 of which can kill an otherwise healthy adult human. There are 13 other species of E. coli that will make us very sick but not kill us, and they all come from warm-blooded animals and their excrement. This is why pure aquaponics systems where the only animals involved are cold-blooded fish are safe from these deadly bacteria. In fact, we 
drink the water from our systems and have for nearly three years now without ever having a reaction, illness, or even a bout of intestinal discomfort.

Worms that have been bred in compost with LOTS of E. coli contamination, or compost containing
LOTS of warm-blooded animal manure are safely usable on field crops according to organic certification standards. However, there is a requirement that the most recent application of such compost or worms (or worm castings) be at least 120 days prior to harvest of the produce. If your compost doesn’t contain manure, the problem is something else entirely, especially if you want organic certification.

If this is the case, you can’t use the compost because there is no way (currently) to prove to the satisfaction of the organic certification agencies that the compost truly does NOT contain any E. coli, and is safe for use. If you go ahead and use the worms or compost anyway, doing so will jeopardize or eliminate the possibility of your ever getting organic certification. This not only means your produce is worth less to the market, but also that you cannot ever legally use the word organic in your packaging or on your product or you will face a $10,000 fine per occurrence (which can mean per 1/2-pound bag of product!).

The REAL problem with incorporating worms that may have been in manure and may carry E. coli with them is not the inability to achieve organic certification, but the very real possibility that your produce (contaminated with E. coli  H0157 from the compost and/or worms you added to your aquaponics system) kills someone who eats it uncooked.

If we can develop composting systems that only use vegetable inputs and never any from warm-blooded animals, and keep them uncontaminated, then there’s a chance that we can obtain organic certification for the use of these systems (and their worms) in conjunction with aquaponics. Unfortunately, a visit from a single housefly that visited a pile of excrement ten seconds before is all that’s necessary to contaminate the compost, and compost is attractive to houseflies in a way that a row of aquaponic plants is not. This kind of technology needs to be carefully and methodically developed and tested before we depend on it to give us healthy food.

Now, having said all that, IF you are going to cook EVERYTHING that comes out of your aquaponics system to at least 165 degrees for at least 5 minutes (as the Chinese do), then you are safe from E. coli  H0157, and you can go ahead and use whatever you wish in the system (even “night soil” as the Chinese have been doing for thousands of years!).

(Next week: something interesting (though we're not sure what!). We're still putting out fires from our two weeks of training and being-on-the-road, and we're pretty fried right now. Aloha!)

Click Here To See Our New Aquaponics Video!
Back Issues Of Newsletters Now Available, Click Here!
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 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! 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

I was big enough to really do jobs and help, my guess is about seven or eight, and we had these old-fashioned christmas lights with big bulbs all around the eaves of our house. When one burned out, it was my job to get out the ladder, climb onto the roof with a replacement bulb and replace the bad one. So I was doing my job. Having replaced a couple of bulbs, I moved down the roof to where I could tell the last one was, by the fact that there was a dark space in the string of lights. I reached into the dark space, feeling for the light, and found it.

I noticed that the bulb was broken but it still had electricity in it when my arm jerked, my whole body jerked, and I spasmed off the edge of the roof right onto the top of the fence that was between our house and the neighbor's. I bounced off the top of the fence, knocking the wind out of me, and into a bush on the neighbor's side.

The neighbor's Weimaraners went off, barking at the top of their lungs at the normally quiet bush that had suddenly become a threat to their people and house. I started freaking out, thinking the dogs were going to eat me or something. Then I got a little wind back and started thrashing around in the bush; and the dogs went off louder. The people were outside the house by now, a few feet away from the bush saying "Who's there, is someone there?" I grunted in a choked voice, "me". I'm sure that explained a lot.

When I got my wind back and explained who I was, they helped me out of the bush, and my parents were called. This was handled by yelling over the fence; as we were in Suburbia, where the houses were only separated by fifteen feet and a six-foot redwood fence. Mom and Dad both came over and took me home. I think I got ice cream or something, while they both fussed over me and were relieved. I  was sure going to take a flashlight next time I changed bulbs!

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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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Honoka'a, Hawaii 96727

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