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Friendly Aquaponics Newsletter
Number 41
June 17th,  2011
Images from our farmily aquaponics farm
Aloha Friend,
We're going to show you how to set up a useful experiment in aquaponics today. Most people think of "science" as something which involves millions in research funding, and that is only done by PhDs. Not true; we'll show you how to apply scientific method to your experience with aquaponics. Using our adaptation of scientific method (which we unabashedly admit is somewhat "cowboy"), we have developed many economically successful new aquaponic methods and techniques (as well as a cheap, 100% successful method for hatching tilapia eggs) over the last four years we've been operating our commercial aquaponics farm.

The most important thing about good scientific method is the "control". This usually means that to obtain a valid conclusion about something, you have to have two aquaponics systems to use in your experiment. One system is the "control" system, in which you change NOTHING, and the other system (or systems) are the "experimental" systems, in which you only change ONE thing (or "variable") during each experimental "run". The control system shows you what would have happened in those conditions without the change, and the experimental system shows you what the results of your change are.

We'll use this experiment as an example: we want to find out what the results of using different feeding rates of fish food is, both on fish growth and aquaponic vegetable growth. We have two IDENTICAL small aquaponics systems with exactly the same amounts of fish of the same total weight in each, and the exact same vegetables that were sprouted at the same time in the same manner in the same sprouting tray and table, AND that are located in the same manner as regards sun, rain and wind exposure, ie right next to each other.

Now, we feed the fish in one system the "normal" ration of food that we have been feeding all along (and we do NOT vary from this amount during the entire time of the experiment), and we feed the other fish at a different feeding rate (we use the SAME different feeding rate for the entire "run", we don't feed them less sometimes and more at other times) for the entire time of one experimental "run". In other words, the ONLY thing that was different about these two systems during this time was the amount of fish food that was fed. We run this experiment for a reasonable length of time, say the time that it takes for the vegetables to become mature.

Now, we harvest the vegetables and weigh them, while observing any differences besides weight that we can between the two systems; and we remove and weigh the fish, noting the difference in weight and any other differences in the condition of the fish from one system to the other, and WRITING all this information down clearly and concisely. We may also take photographs if they best help to illustrate the differences between the results in the two systems.

There is other information that may have come to light during the "run"; did one system have a higher mortality and/or fish or plant disease rate? Was there a higher incidence of juvenile delinquency and mouthing off from young fish to their parents in one system as compared to the other? You get the idea. Keep your eyes open and observe ANY differences that you can; there is no bit of information that you can be certain will NOT be useful at the end of an experiment.

If, at the end of the run, you observe a measurable difference in ANYTHING, you have obtained valuable information from an experiment conducted according to good scientific method. If you do NOT observe a measurable difference, you still have valuable information: changing fish feeding rates as investigated by this experiment does NOT make any difference in other parameters (not very likely, however, this is all hypothetical and illustrative).

Now, what kind of confidence could you have in your results if you had changed TWO things in the experimental system during this run, say the feeding ratio AND the amount of fish in one system? You could NOT be certain that a result was linked to a single one of them. The result could be linked to either one of them, or to a COMBINATION of the two, and you still wouldn't know which one or if it was a combination. You would have an experiment that was useless because it had not provided you with any results that you could accurately attribute to a single factor.

So, design your experiments accordingly. Because it takes time and energy to run an experiment, use your noodle and/or intuition to determine what to investigate first; look into things that will benefit you and your aquaponics systems if you obtain more information about them. 

As we say in our manuals: "IF you’ve changed things from the “standard systems” as shown in the plans, or are starting up or operating the system differently from the way it was explained in our materials, then you are embarking on an exciting experiment in aquaponics, and we can’t predict what will happen. We may not even be able to help you, you might be in such new, unexplored territory!

Good luck with your experiment! Thank you for being willing to risk compromise or failure of your aquaponics system to advance aquaponic knowledge. Please let us know how it worked; if it was a success, we will be happy to put it in our manuals with your name as the discoverer. If it was a disaster, we will also put it in our manuals, but we will omit your name and any embarrassment you might experience as a result. Either way, the results of your experiment will be very beneficial to others! ".

Fortunately, we've had a LOT of students share the results of their "experiments" with us over the years. As a result, we've rewritten our manuals many times to warn people to NOT do stuff we never imagined they might even try! Because of the possibility of failure in an experiment, we recommend doing aquaponics experiments with relatively small systems that you can afford to
sterilize and start over if the result is a total mess. Ideal small system size for such experiments would be our Apartment/Condo systems.

SPECIAL OFFER! If you're willing to do an aquaponics experiment and share the results with us for publication, we'll send you a FREE copy of our Apartment/Condo manual with plans and materials lists for four different sizes of aquaponic systems from 2-1/2 to 32 square feet in size, that can be built for $50 up to $350, and can be stocked with 17-cent goldfish from PetCo. Just email me (Tim), mention this newsletter, and I'll email you the manual.

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. 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 #41:
How To Eliminate Malaria With Aquaponic Systems:

An additional benefit of farming aquaponically (that we noticed after our first system was operational for six months) was that the mosquitoes on our seven-acre farm had COMPLETELY disappeared! We live in Hawaii, where there are as many mosquitoes as any other tropical area in the world. Although we are fortunate not to have malaria, typhoid, or any of the other dangerous diseases that are transmitted to humans by mosquitoes, we DO have dengue fever, which can be fatal in the young, elderly, or those with compromised immune systems.

    Before we built our first aquaponics system, our farm was like any other place on the green windward coast of the Big Island: even during a drought, when the soil was dusty and dry and there was no standing water visible anywhere, there were still clouds of mosquitoes at dawn and dusk. If we left a door or window open in the house during the day, even for a few minutes, we knew that we would be tormented by the buzzing of hungry mosquitoes all night long as we tried to sleep.

    When we built our first aquaponics system, we knew we were creating additional habitat for mosquitoes to lay their eggs, so we introduced a few mosquito fish (gambusia affinis), and neon tetras into our system water. They thrived and spread throughout the systems we built, and soon had become a self-sustaining population numbering in the tens of thousands. Six months later one of us noticed there were simply no mosquitoes around any longer. It’s easier to notice the presence of a pest that the absence of one, so we’re not certain when the number went to zero, but it was sometime during that six-month period.

Since then, we’ve had the pleasure to live on a beautiful farm in the tropics that has NO mosquitoes! How does this work? We live in the center of a deadly efficient mosquito trap: every female mosquito in the neighborhood can sense the roughly 50,000 gallons of water in our aquaponics systems, and comes to them to lay her eggs. Each egg hatches into a larva, which is then promptly consumed by one of the hundreds of thousands of mosquito fish in our water BEFORE it can ever develop sufficiently to hatch into an adult mosquito. That mosquito’s bequest of future generations is GONE, down the gullets of little fish who thrive on these meals and produce even MORE little fish hungry for mosquito larvae.

We don’t know what the effective radius of our mosquito eradicator is, but we’ve gone to the corners of our seven-acre property and haven’t found any mosquitoes there; we think there’s a good chance it is significantly reducing mosquito populations on the farms around us. We need help and funding to continue research into this phenomenon in order to understand it better, and to develop it to the point where it can easily be implemented in any location or culture. This could make a huge difference in the lives of people worldwide who currently lose family members to malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases.

(Next week: "Cheap Fish Food is NOT Cheap!" (We just figured this out last week after getting "clues" for two years!)

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 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 October 2011 Hawaii Commercial Aquaponics Training OR our September 2011 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 and Florida Commercial Aquaponics Training

In The Farmily
This week's "In The Farmily" is going to be about Gratitude. You may have to read all the way to the end of the column to understand why I've titled it this way, because it certainly won't seem so at first.

 We lost our Costco account and half our income as of the beginning of May, resulting from food safety certifying standards that had changed (politics that we understand but don't like).  This was after spending thousands of dollars and many hours getting ready for the Food Safety audit. We also had some kind of lettuce blight hit about that time, apparently from infected seed that we had mixed with ten other varieties, that killed ALL our lettuce.

We're also shorthanded because three interns left months early on a moment's notice, so Susanne and Victor have been tapping away at the farm cleanup after the lettuce blight, replanting and moving in the direction of diversified vegetable production and selling through a CSA since then.

Susanne had a cataract develop in her right eye rather suddenly a few months ago, had an operation to replace the lens, and the operation went well; her vision was much better. However, after a week there were some minor misalignment problems with the new lens so the doctor had her come into the office for a "minor readjustment" of the lens. Sus woke up the next day unable to see out of that eye. That was two weeks ago, and it's been scary for all of us since then; her vision is coming back slowly but isn't even yet as good as it was when she HAD the cataract!

I was out diving the other day in poor visibility water, trying to catch fish for dinner and see the coral for fun, and kind of complaining to myself about the poor visibility. Suddenly I was not in 20 foot deep water any more, but hitting my head against a rock inside a breaking wave. I fortunately didn't lose consciousness underwater, but reoriented and swam, with some difficulty, back out into deep safe water.

When I knew I was beyond the reach of the breaking waves and rocks in the shallow water,  I immediately went into great gratitude for what I'd just missed by a hair. Then I went into guilt because I knew how this was going to stress Susanne when she saw it. I mean, she already had enough on her plate to worry about. I had to swim a long ways to find a channel through the rocks and breaking waves that I knew would be absolutely safe to use to get back in to shore. I wasn't about to risk this again!

I washed the blood off my face and head as best I could in the park shower, dressed, then came back to the picnic table we had staked out and explained to her what had just happened to me.

I still haven't recovered from seeing the look on her face of worry and stress, and knowing I'd caused that to someone I love. I was still feeling very "quiet" inside, in the presence of a close call with dying, but gradually I became more aware of a deep and fervent gratitude taking the place of the quiet.

It was a beautiful day, and the light in the clouds over the park and beyond, shining off one of the great mountains on our island, Mauna Kea, was like nothing I'd ever seen before. Life was suddenly full of color and meaning, and my beautiful and beloved family, and I was ashamed of complaining about the poor visibility I'd had when I started the dive adventure. Simply finding yourself alive when you could easily have died tends to have that effect on one.

It's been quite a month!
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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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PO Box 1196
Honoka'a, Hawaii 96727

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