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size-grading harvester

Our size-grading fish harvester results in zero fish mortality

We invite you to our fourth Commercial Aquaponics Training and First Biogas Training being held April 19th through 23rd, 2010, in Honoka'a, Hawaii. Your trainers Susanne and Tim guarantee it will be the most valuable training of any kind you have ever taken or your money will be cheerfully refunded in front of the entire class!

You can do this too! We'd never farmed before in our lives, and just two years after breaking ground we're delivering 650 pounds of organic lettuce mix per week to our local Costco!

squash and melons in our aquaponics

Squash and melon plants in our aquaponics system

Our students now operate 12 commercial aquaponics farms (3 are USDA certified organic), as a result of the training we gave in October 2008 alone. Many more projects by students are underway.

Complete plans, manuals, materials lists, and contact information for suppliers are all included in your course. Our training will hugely reduce your learning curve with aquaponics, save you a ton of money, and allow you to do this in months instead of years! And it's fun! We've had more fun working outdoors on our aquaponics farm than we ever had in our office- or construction-based businesses.

freshwater prawn

Freshwater prawn from our hydroponics troughs

New Aquaponics Technology at April Training:

  • Energy-efficient Aquaponics System uses one-tenth the energy, produces the same volume of vegetables
  • New system configuration means you can build more grow bed area for a lower cost than ever before
  • Economical fish hatchery/nursery technology
  • New, faster sprouting and growth technology
  • No-hormone fish culture retains organic certification for vegetables, same fish yields
  • Most important: how to sell high-quality aquaponics produce to the "Big Box" stores
  • Aquaponics training in the classroom

    Sign up now for your Aquaponics training ($1,500) and we will email you a free copy of our Micro System package for you to begin studying aquaponics now! ($49.95 value)
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    aquaponics hands-on

    Hands-on aquaponics training in the field

    First-time ever Hawaii biogas training

    This training will be held on April 23rd right after the Aquaponics Training and will be hosted and taught by David House, the author of the "Biogas Handbook", which will also be included as the course textbook. The training will cover:

    The many uses of biogas (methane) on a small farm: heating, cooking, hot water, light, engine fuel, refrigeration, and more

    Explanation of the use of diverse substrates (the "stuff" you feed the biogas digester) allows you to use available wastes for energy from biogas

    Use of appropriate technology (read cheap!) to build and operate economically

    Hands-on sessions at the farm give you practical experience in building and operating systems


    Sign up for Hawaii BioGas training ($250) and receive your copy of the "BioGas Handbook" to begin study now!
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    watercress in aquaponics system

    Watercress loves aquaponics!

    Aloha Aquaponics Enthusiast,

    Forgive us for cheating on this newsletter; we've been so busy building the biogas lab and getting ready for the aquaponics training in April that we are using the same pictures and captions in the left column that we used in our last newsletter. Here are two more "nuggets" of aquaponics information though, one of which we (unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how you view it), we just learned yesterday. If you have specific questions about aquaponics, biogas, or sustainable food production, please either check our website at, or email us at training@friendly with your question, and we will include the answer in future newsletters as well so everyone can benefit from it. Thanks for your interest in the future of aquaponics, biogas, and sustainable food production!.

     Nugget #7: What do you feed your fish, and is it organic?

    A friend with one of our aquaponics systems purchased a BioPod (an expensive way to make Black Soldier Fly Larvae). He thought he'd throw his compost in the pod, harvest the larvae that came out, and not have to pay anything for fish food. When he harvested his first larvae and fed them to his tilapia, he was dismayed to see them sink straight to the bottom of the fish tank without the tilapia showing the slightest interest in them. Tilapia are hard-wired to only eat things that float, and the sinking soldier fly larvae did not fire off the necessary gestalt that informed the fish that "this is food!". You need to feed tilapia a floating fish food, period.

    If you read our earlier Nugget #3 (in newsletter #2) you will remember our abortive experiment growing duckweed to feed our tilapia. The fish didn't eat it, and we had an ongoing problem cleaning the duckweed out of our systems. People at our farm tours ask "Why don't you just make the food yourselves?". We could, if I didn't have to pay my labor force or pay for electricity. To address this situation, we've designed an efficient small fish food manufacturing plant with a solar-powered fish food dryer that we can build for about $50,000.

    This plant will put out 1,000-1,500 pounds per day of fish food at a cost of about 35 cents per pound. We've got thousands of pounds a week of great free waste protein, fat, and carbohydrates to make the fish food from within a few miles, just for picking them up and hauling them off. The only problem is that this plant needs to run a minimum of 2-1/2 days per week to break even (and would make 2,500 to 3,750 pounds of fish food in those 2-1/2 days), and the entire island only uses 300 pounds of fish food per week, of which we use 150-200 pounds.

    If we make 2,500 pounds of fish food in a week, our cost to produce is $875, or 35 cents per pound. If we make 1,500 pounds in a week, our cost to produce is $875, or $0.58 per pound. If we make 400 pounds per week, our cost to produce is STILL very close to $875, and the fish food costs us $2.20 per pound. So, until there is a big enough market on the island, it is simply cheaper to just buy the fish food. The food we have available at our local farm supply Co-op or ranch store (always a BIG factor in deciding what food to use), costs $0.90 per pound and is Rangen 1/8" (3 mm) floating catfish food, with an approximately 34% protein and 8% fat content, along with vitamins and minerals to constitute what is called a "complete diet". Tilapia CAN survive on an exclusively vegetable diet, but they won't thrive or grow very much.

    People also ask "Is the fish food organic?". Our organic certifying agency, Oregon Tilth, did not require an organic fish food, for two reasons: first, none is currently available anywhere in the US, and second, there are no USDA organic standards in place for fish yet. Organic certification rules allow you to feed a non-certified diet to the livestock that the manure to be used to fertilize organically certified produce is derived from.

    We are still actively researching alternate fish foods. If you have any suggestions or ideas please let us know. To be useful in a commercial farm setting, however, a made-at-home fish food has to have cheap ingredients and a low labor and infrastructure cost to produce, so remember to take that into account in your suggestions. If we get a good suggestion, we'll try it out on our dime and give you the credit for the idea.

     Nugget #8: Biosecurity for Aquaponics Part 1:

    Biosecurity is really simple: just keep all the bad stuff that can grow in aquaponics systems off your farm. Although our first experience with duckweed was costly and annoying, we (actually our excellent Chinese farm intern Xiao Cheng) have almost eradicated it from our hydroponics troughs. However, I (Tim) confess that I wasn't done with duckweed yet. I had brought some salvinia (another aquatic plant) onto the farm to try out as a fish food. I kept it carefully quarantined in a bucket, and tried feeding it to some fish in an isolated tank. No luck, they didn't touch it!

    So I gave up on the salvinia. Then I noticed some small-leafed, "innocent-looking" duckweed that was in the bucket with the salvinia. This was different from the first duckweed we tried; this duckweed looked cute and harmless. So I fed a bit to some juvenile tilapia that were in a small floating cage that was inside one of our breeding tanks that had a small-mesh hapa liner inside the normal vinyl liner material (the hapa allows one to collect tilapia fry and eggs, which would otherwise be very difficult and time-consuming). This is a stand-alone tank, with no way for the duckweed to get out of it into an aquaponic system. The small floating cage was made from very small-mesh screen, and I thought it would keep the duckweed inside. I was safe.

    Two months went by, and although the fish in the floating cage hadn't eaten much of the duckweed, there also wasn't very much on the surface of the breeding tank. It didn't appear to be a problem. Then one day I noticed eleven of my best breeder tilapia floating on the surface of this tank, quite dead. I got out the DO meter, read the tank and found a DO reading (dissolved oxygen, what the fish breathe) of 2.2 ppm in the middle of the day, in a green-water tank that normally would have 10 ppm at that time of day because of all the algae in the tank that were making oxygen.

    I immediately jumped to the conclusion that the fish had died from low DO, but couldn't figure out why the low DO had occurred. Measuring our second, identical breeder tank gave me a DO of 5.75, quite acceptable. Then I peeled the fine-mesh hapa liner away from the side of the bad DO tank and found a huge wad of duckweed that had grown between the mesh liner and the vinyl liner. I pulled the hapa liner out of the tank, found eleven more dead fish which went into the wheelbarrow, and 26 live fish which went into another tank that had a good DO. The hapa was covered with stinking black goo that was just barely discernible as once having been duckweed before it died and sank to the bottom of the tank to get caught in the hapa liner.

    So what happened was that the duckweed had grown out of control behind the hapa liner where I couldn't easily see it, then died and sank to the bottom of the tank where it used up all the available oxygen in its process of decomposition. I didn't notice it until the damage was done. To fix this, we need to drain the tank, scoop out the goo and clean the tank, sterilize the tank and the hapa, refill the tank, put the hapa back in, then finally put the fish back in after dipping them in an intermediate tank to rinse any possible remaining duckweed spores off them. It's going to be a big job, and I'm not bringing ANY more duckweed onto the farm.

     Stay tuned for more Nuggets!
    Forward this to a friend
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    Special Offer! For any students who have taken either one of our Commercial Aquaponics Trainings or Personal Intensives in the past, you may audit this course for $75 to cover printing of materials and refreshments. Please respond and let us know you are coming so we can expect you!


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    Friendly Aquaponics, Inc
    PO Box 1196
    Honokaa, HI 96727

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