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Friendly Aquaponics Newsletter
Number 117
March 15th,  2013
Images from our farmily aquaponics farm
Aloha Friend,

In today's "Nugget", we cover why "Big Ag" is going to get smaller, and why small local aquaponics and conventional farmers are going to become more competitive, to the point where they are the ones growing all our food (we're not crazy, this is inevitable, and although no one can know exactly when, we'll explain why it's going to happen).

Our "In The Farmily" column today, by Susanne, will be about why we share, when so many others in the fledgling aquaponics field seem to be entirely profit-driven.

Friendly 2013 Training Schedule:

New York Training: Saturday, June 8th: TableTop and Backyard Systems
(this is a BENEFIT, by donation); and June 10-14 (Monday thru Friday) , the 5-day Commercial Aquaponics and Energy Efficient Greenhouse Training, $1,495 per person. Registration will open soon.

Commercial Aquaponics and Energy Efficient Greenhouse Training, $1,495 per person (this special $1,000 off discount only applies until April 15th). First 5-day  training: June 17-21st (register here for first training). . Second 5-day training: June 24-28th (register here for second training). (Click here for more information on Tennessee trainings).

We are honoring requests for a five-day training that we received during our last Tennessee training. Our participants suggested this format because it would allow you to travel during the weekend so that you only need to take a week off your busy life to attend.

All of these five-day trainings include our $995 DIY Commercial Aquaponics package, $998 DIY Farmer's Market Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse package, and new $295 DIY Commercial Tilapia Hatchery manual as course materials, plus our Plywood/Epoxy/ Tank manual, CAD construction drawings for all greenhouses and aquaponics systems, and much more!

If you're located near Tennessee, Randy and Katie give regular free farm tours of their aquaponics systems and greenhouses to introduce the public to the benefits of aquaponics and energy-efficient greenhouse growing. Call Randy and Katie at 256-679-9488 or email Randy to find out when the next farm tour is scheduled.

1. The three days of the Aquaponics Technology training is everything we know about the techniques and methods of growing with aquaponics. Each day has hands-on segments. In addition, you will spend the latter half of Day Three building several 12-square-foot TableTop Systems from scratch (under our expert eyes, of course). More details of the Aquaponics Technology course here.

2. You can take one of these 12-square-foot TableTop systems home, assemble it there, and begin growing with aquaponics immediately, even in the middle of winter! The cost of this kit is only $550; much smaller "kits" from others start at $1,295 and go up from there, not including shipping.

3. The one-day Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse course is everything we know about energy-efficient greenhouses, including information and complete CAD plans showing how to build a Chinese-style aquaponic solar greenhouse; and how to convert existing greenhouses to be as energy-efficient as possible. We even show you how to purchase, move, and erect a good used greenhouse for ten cents on the dollar! More details of the Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse course here.

4. The one-day Commercial Aquaponics Training is everything we know about all the different ways of making money with aquaponics, from CSA's to Costco, from wholesale to retail, from selling simple produce to producing value-added products, including Health Department Certified Processing Facilities, Food Safety Certification and Organic Certification. We also include our commercial-scale tilapia hatchery and nursery information, so you can raise your own tilapia and make money selling the fry and fingerlings to others also. More details of the Commercial Aquaponics course here.

Click Here To Find Out More About The 2013 Tennessee Trainings!

The free information in these three newsletters: last week's, the week before last week's and two weeks before last week's newsletter will meet most people's needs for tilapia breeding. However, if you want the complete story in 72 pages, with highly descriptive photos of the process and equipment we use, our new commercial tilapia hatchery manual is finished and ready for you. There's even a "micro-video" that my gorgeous biologist wife Susanne shot with her treasured Leica Microscope that explains why the techniques we use work so well.

For smaller home backyard and apartment systems, please read on:

Purchase Construction Plans and Operating Info for 4 Different Sizes of Table Top Aquaponics Systems $49.95

Our TableTop System package includes easy-to-understand building instructions and operating information for 4 different sizes of small aquaponic systems based on our years of experience. 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, and fun too!

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 TableTop Systems!

  Aquaponics Nugget #117: Why The Game's Over For "Big Ag"; And Why It's Just Beginning For The Small Farmer

That's a big claim: that "Big Ag" is going to dwindle and disappear; and that small farmers are going to take its place. Our explanation here of why it's inevitable is an exercise in logic. If you can find a logical flaw in this argument, please email us and explain why this is not going to happen the way we predict:

There are five major areas of concern (also known as "input variables" in the food equation that gets the food to our grocery shelves) that this article will consider: the cost of energy for food production, the effect of weather on food production, the availability of water for food production, and finally, the social forces that are combining to move our society away from oil-expensive, industrialized food production and towards local, energy-efficient food production. (Good! You're paying attention, because that was only four!)

First, The Cost Of Energy:

The bulk of the world's food for export is produced in a few well-defined, heavily industrialized areas: wheat and corn in the US; wheat in Russia and central Europe; and rice in China, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Vietnam. These producers are typically highly mechanized and farm huge acreages of these grains. Grains are what is important.

(The reason we're focusing on "grains" is that tomatoes, lettuce, and fruits aren't really "food" in the sense that we're talking about here: for the purposes of this article, we'll define "food" as the basic nutritional content required to keep you alive. When you come right down to it, that means grains, not the processed foods, salad vegetables, fruits, meats, and stir-fry ingredients that we wealthy and fat Americans have become used to having at all times of the year. Grains are the foundation for most people's diets).

Back to grain producers: being mechanized means they use huge amounts of diesel fuel (oil) to power their planting and harvesting machinery, and also huge amounts of petrochemical energy (oil and natural gas) to power the processes that create the chemical fertilizer and agricultural chemicals that they depend on for their productivity just as much as they do the diesel fuel.

The huge amounts of food that are produced in these relatively small and centralized areas (using huge amounts of oil) are typically shipped (either before or after being processed, which uses even more oil!) thousands of miles away to the end consumers via a transportation system that (guess what?) also requires huge amounts of oil to operate!

Any centralized food producing area has a "shipping range" beyond which, even now, it's considered uneconomical to ship their product because other producers with a shorter shipping range can supply it. An example is Russia, which supplies much of the wheat that Europe has historically used: Russia's not very far away, so their transportation cost is less than if US producers tried to get their wheat to the European market (more on this in a bit!). This is also why you won't see much Russian wheat on the US market, even if they have a good year.

This is a simplified picture which is subject to many economic variables (because we live in a global economy) but the principle applies to all food producers everywhere: your cost to produce, plus your cost to transport to market, must be lower than what the market's willing to pay, or you have no sale!

The reason this system has worked for so long is because of cheap oil! Although there are stirrings about producing food locally, we are totally dependent on this oil-powered system now. But this is going to change: as oil becomes more expensive, both growing the food and transporting the food becomes more expensive. What happens next?

Food becomes more expensive at the outer range of the "shipping radius", is what happens next. There is nothing that the industrial ag complex can do about this; they can't make more oil; they can't make the price of it go down, they just have to pay more for it and raise their prices accordingly. What does that mean for local farmers? They just got more competitive in price with industrial ag because the cost for Big Ag's products just went up!

This is also the first area of concern because it is an area where one of the "inputs" is completely beyond our control; the cost and availability of oil. Certain things on the supermarket shelves and in the produce coolers will get more expensive; and then yet more expensive (Oh, you've seen that already?). At some point, those items will just not be there, or will only be found in high-end stores catering to the rich.

Although we'll notice right away when things like mangoes and strawberries are no longer on the shelves, what's more insidious is the "downsizing" that package sizes have taken recently. Here are links to two articles: Yahoo! Finance, and MoneyNews, about how food companies are "hiding" higher food costs by simply reducing the amount of food they're selling in packages that look the same to the consumer. Yes, it's sneaky! 

More important than the rising prices is the possibility that the whole system could grind to a halt as a result of a catastrophe: maybe a global economic crisis (now that will never happen, right?), or some breakdown involving the oil-producing countries. If a Middle East country nuked another, and then the other guys retaliated, half the world's oil supply could become radioactive literally overnight (remember Fukushima? That wasn't supposed to happen either!).
That would certainly affect whether or not you got your strawberries! 

"Jesus Nut" is a colorful and descriptive term that American airplane and racecar mechanics use; it means if that nut on the engine comes loose, your only option is to pray!

This is where the problem lies: the "Jesus Nut" that the world's industrial agriculture machine depends on is cheap oil; and oil is no longer cheap or dependable. The world's greatest oil production occurred in 2005, and has declined steadily since then, with constantly increasing prices the result. No one knows whether the Jesus Nut is correctly tightened, or is in the process of vibrating off the engine!

Costco cold room small 2

Our Farmily with our product in a "Big Box" store; the first time ever that a little mom and pop (Aquaponics!) farm took an account away from a multimillion dollar agribusiness. You'll see more of this, because you as consumers will demand it!

(In next week's "Nugget", we'll cover the next part of "Big Ag 0, Small Farmers 3". Thanks for listening!)

The photo below is our Second Generation Solar Greenhouse, at ten in the morning in the Tennessee winter. It's growing plants inside right now, and you have to take your jacket off because it's so warm! It's cool when it's hot, and warm when it's cold (hope that makes sense to you, it's the best greenhouse we've ever seen!).

GreenhouseSnow3Small 2

Watch The Friendly  Aquaponics Philosophy Video!
Back Issues Of Newsletters Now Available, Click Here!
Purchase Trough Liner Directly From Manufacturer!

New Source! Trout Fry/Fingerlings Shipped Directly From the Hatchery To You!

Free Farm Tours
Aquaponics tour at the Friendly farm!

We hold a free workshop on our farm the FIRST Saturday of every month at 10:00,  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!


Thousands of inch-long "fifty-cent" baby tilapia from our "backyard" hatchery


What they turn into about a year later: a beautiful 2-pound white tilapia grown in the fish tanks of our aquaponics systems

Special Offer!

Sign yourself up for the FIRST

Or sign yourself up for the SECOND

TENNESSEE June 2013 Commercial Aquaponics and Solar Greenhouse Trainings
NOW, and get a $1,000 discount, plus you receive a free Micro System DIY package so you can begin studying aquaponics! ($99.95 value)

"In The Farmily": Why We Share

Aloha All! 

I am often asked what motivates us to share as freely as we do when all the other players in our emerging field of aquaponics are profit-driven and hold their information as proprietary.

I've put a lot of thought into that question, and I've decided to share it here.

I believe that over the next fifty years, Aquaponics can make a life or death difference for many of the people on our planet. We have a tremendous population problem, and because of it, we are far, far past the point of the sustainable carrying capacity of our finite planet. 

The Reverend Robert Thomas Malthus was the first to solve the population equation, and to realize the inevitable limits to the growth of the species Homo sapiens. 

In 1798, based upon his solid understanding of mathematics, his calculations on population growth showed him the obvious, inevitable, overwhelming consequences of exponential population growth, and he anonymously published "An Essay on the Principle of Population".

It went on to become one of the most important books of all time, and he added his name to subsequent editions.

Forty years later, in 1838, a Belgian mathematician and doctor of number theory, Pierre-Francois Verhulst, added a term to the Malthus differential equation to reflect the finite "carrying capacity," or the number of individuals an environment can support. 

There are only two ways to stabilize the population: reduce the fertility rate, or shorten life expectancy. As a believer in human perfectibility, Malthus elected to reduce fertility by abstinence — but he didn't get many followers, and has virtually no credibility, to this very day.

Everyone is terribly afraid to utter the "P" word (population!), as it indicates we must mature as a species or die as a species - and that there is no "infinite growth", no matter how smart we think we are!

The 21st century is barely a dozen years old, and there are already one billion more people than there were in October , 1999, with the outlook for future energy and food supplies looking more bleak than it has for decades.

It took humanity until the early 19th century to gain its first billion people; then another one and a half billion followed over the next century and a half.

In just the last 60 years the world’s population has gained yet another four and a half billion. Never before have so many animals of one species anything like our size inhabited our beautiful planet.

In addition, our species interacts with our surroundings far more intensely than any other species ever has.

Planet Earth has become Planet Humanity, as we use its carbon, water, and nitrogen cycles so completely that no other force can compare.

For the first time in planetary history, one form of life — ours — condemns to extinction significant proportions of the plants and animals that are our only known companions in the Universe.

Homo sapiens is by far the most invasive species on the planet.

In early May of 2011, the UN released a new world population projection that reaches 10 billion in 2100. That's one billion more than they projected just three years ago!

How much confidence can we have in a 90 year projection that is off by 15% in the first three years? The world is already so far beyond the sustainable carrying capacity of our planet that we could potentially face a major die off at any time (population dynamics are very well understood in the scientific branch called Ecology).

Huge cultural/religious obstacles remain firmly in place, particularly in Africa, where Nigeria is expected to soon surpass the United States as the third most populous nation in the world. There is already a serious shortage of fresh water, rock phosphate (critical for agriculture as it is currently practiced on the large scale), and fuel for mechanization to sustain the "green revolution". There will not be another green revolution.

Yet Monsanto continues to dominate our planet with their bioengineered solutions, all dependent upon the continued availability of cheap oil and tremendous quantities of water. We are not in agreement with either their philosophy, their application of science, or their "top down" methodology.

What Tim and I believe CAN happen is a "bottom up" food production revolution based upon Aquaponics, and it can make the difference between life and death for as many as three billion people. It will also mean the difference between freedom and slavery for that many - or more - as well. We need aquaponics to go viral, in this country and all around the world, and I believe that is exactly what is happening.

That's why we do what we do. And when people come along to help in this mission, it makes our hearts sing.

The hurdles can be daunting. But as Martin Luther King said, "you do not have to see the entire staircase at once. Just take the first step." If we'd known how hard this would be, we might not have begun. If I'd known the mistakes that we would make, and what they would cost us, it certainly would have made us think twice.

But I can assure you that the past five and a half years have been the most rewarding of my entire life, and I am a far, far better person than I ever would have been without aquaponics.

I'll talk more in the next column about the problems we face that were brought on by our tremendous over population of our species on our beautiful, bright planet, and the concept from Ecology called "overshoot", which accurately explains where we are, and how we got here.

Thanks for reading,

Aloha, Susanne.....

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This email, our manuals and construction plans are all copyrighted by  Friendly Aquaponics, Inc, Susanne Friend and Tim Mann, 2008-2013

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