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Friendly Aquaponics Newsletter
Number 15
August 12th, 2010
Images from our farmily aquaponics farm
Aloha Friend,
We just sat down and wrote our Friendly Aquaponics vision and mission statement after three years of operation. It's been hectic starting a new business during the most drastic economic downturn of our lives, but we thought this was important. So here goes:

Friendly Aquaponic's Vision:
To empower people to be able to take care of their own food needs.

Nice and compact, but it says so much. How many people in developing countries suffer from lack of food? How many people in First World countries are disconnected from their food supply to the point they don't even know where it comes from, let alone how to grow some themselves? How much more confident would you feel in this economy if you knew how to grow some or all of your food yourself?

We started our aquaponics farm because our two construction businesses collapsed in 2007. We knew people wouldn't stop buying food the way they stop buying cars or houses in an economic downturn, and that has been a good decision. We've been growing increasingly more food since then, and learning more about taking care of our own needs in this critical area.

Friendly Aquaponic's Mission Statement:

To bring affordable, sustainable food production to everyone everywhere.

The world depends on cheap oil and something called the Haber-Bosch process (how chemical fertilizer is made: look this one up if you want a REAL education in how close we are to the edge) for cheap food. It's been estimated that we can only feed from two-thirds to half the world's population WITHOUT chemical fertilizer and cheap oil. Aquaponics is the only food production method we know of (besides draft horses) that does not require oil, but can run on alternate energy sources. This isn't a complete solution to the problem, but it's many steps in the right direction. And we think spreading aquaponics to as many places and people as possible will help defuse this situation. There are viruses that go all over the world now and threaten us, why not an aquaponics virus that spreads information and confidence to people?

If you're interested in commercial scale aquaponics, please take a look at our Commercial Aquaponics Training (Special Offer in right sidebar of this email), where you will learn more about real-world operation of a commercial aquaponics system than you can anywhere else in the world. For smaller home systems, please read on:

Special Introductory Offer on our Apartment & Condo Aquaponics Systems: for August only, this $49.95 package is $29.95!
Construction Plans and Operating Information for 4 Different Sizes of Indoor Aquaponics Systems $29.95

This manual is written so understandably that it makes it easy for a twelve-year old to build and run these systems. Build four different sizes of stable, durable, and productive indoor aquaponics systems that can be operated indoors OR outdoors, or even MOVED between indoors and outdoors, depending on the season. These affordable systems range from a COUNTER TOP 2.5 square foot system to one with 32 square feet in grow bed area. The 2.5 square foot system costs $95 for materials, the 32 square foot one costs $250 for materials. Most materials are available locally; some items may need to come from suppliers whose contact information is given in the materials lists. In addition to the four standard sizes of systems in the manual we show you how to build small aquaponics systems out of Igloo coolers, discarded refrigerators and freezers, plastic garbage cans and barrels, concrete mixing tubs, and other easily-procured items. Most importantly, we show you in complete detail how to OPERATE them successfully!

The Indoor System package includes new and easy-to-understand building instructions and complete operating information for 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 without good and easily-understood information can be frustrating. Operating information is given in the form of a "Daily Operations Manual" where you simply use the checklist and follow the step-by-step instructions on your way to success with aquaponics.

We've 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 spending that money and time in this manual so you don't make any of the same mistakes we did.

Learn about our Apartment/Condo Systems!

Aquaponics Nugget #15:
System Start-up (Part 3)

In the last nugget we talked about how you inoculate your system with ProLine nitrifying bacteria to start it up quickly. Now we will talk about what's next: how to modulate the nitrite spike! to keep your fish safe. Here's how you do it: the first day that your nitrite side of the test strip shows up as 5 ppm or over, take about half the rafts off your troughs. Keep monitoring nitrites each day, and if they continue to go up from 5 ppm, take the other half of the rafts off your troughs (leaving the cover on the fish tank). This works because the nitrifying bacteria are light-sensitive and will get inhibited by the sunlight coming into your system, thus reducing the nitrite and nitrate production and "softening" the nitrite spike. This should bring the nitrites down to about 5, where they will stay for seven to ten days or so. At the end of this phase, you will see the nitrites go down to 2-3 ppm and you can put all the rafts back on the troughs. You only have to do this startup ONCE with a system when it is new. You can plant your sprouts (which you need to have seeded into the net pots two to three weeks EARLIER than this) into the rafts as soon as NITRATES first show up on your test strips. During normal operation you will see ammonia levels from 0.25 to 1.0 ppm; nitrite levels in the same range; and nitrate levels from 3-5 ppm in the winter and 10-15 ppm in the summer, in systems that use pH buffers (calcium carbonate, potassium carbonate) rather than pH adjusters (calcium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide).

We discovered this during our third system start-up. We remembered what we learned about nitrifiers being light-sensitive and getting killed off by too much sunlight, and we pulled the shade covers 2/3 of the way off the fish tank and half of the rafts off the troughs (this was a big commercial system). This inhibited the nitrifiers enough so that nitrites dropped to 4 to 5 ppm within two days and we didn’t have the hard nitrite spike we’d had in previous system start-ups. We monitored it for about another week and when the spike appeared to be over and nitrites had dropped to 3 ppm, we put the covers back over the tank and the rafts back in the troughs. We planted our little vegetable sprouts into the rafts we’d left in the troughs six days after we first put in the inoculant bacteria, then added the balance of the rafts and planted them when nitrites dropped to 3 ppm. We ended up with 1 ppm nitrites and 20 ppm nitrates ten to twelve days after inoculation; perfect!. This is the easy way to control nitrite spikes during system start-up yet still start the system quickly.

Important- One Way to Foul Up The System Start-up!  Two aquaponics system builders who purchased our plans tried to inoculate their systems with ProLine nitrifying bacteria and failed because their ammonia levels were too high (over 6 ppm). Although the information on how to do this correctly is included in the Construction Manual, is included in our Aquaponics manual, and is also repeated in the instructions on the bottle of ProLine bacteria concentrate, we forgot to write it in six-inch high letters so everyone would realize how important it was.

Nitrifying bacteria are sensitive to ammonia levels in the water above 3 ppm, which will inhibit their growth or kill them outright. When starting your system with a nitrifying bacteria inoculant such as ProLine, your system MUST have less than 3 ppm ammonia, preferably 1 ppm ammonia.

The only thing you can do if you have a system with 6 ppm ammonia or higher is to dump (yes, dump out onto the ground!) about 3/4 of the system water. The easy way to do this is to turn off the water pump, cap the pipe from the fish tank that leads to the hydroponics troughs so that no water goes out there, put a hose (the bigger the better) into the troughs, and siphon the trough water off downhill or just pump it out.

Then refill the troughs with water containing NO ammonia, let it sit for 24 hours to dechlorinate if it's chlorinated tap water, then remove the cap and pump for six hours or so to fully circulate and mix the new water with the high-ammonia water remaining in the fish tank. This dilutes your system water ammonia levels to around 1-2 ppm (check and confirm it this time with the test strips to make sure). Now put a new gallon of ProLine bacterial inoculant in. Forty or fifty gallons of system water from an operating aquaponics system that has NO diseased fish, NO diseased plants, NO parasites, NO crawfish, and NO duckweed dumped into your system at this point will work just as well as the Proline inoculant.

(Next newsletter will have more information on how to correct problems sometimes experienced during system start-up)

Only one more week to our  Free Workshop

Organically Certified is worth more to your farm!

We invite you to our first  "Organic Certification and Tilapia Breeding Workshop". This FREE one-day workshop will be held August 21st at our farm in Honoka'a, Hawaii, just off the main highway between mile markers 40 and 41.

Training starts with a two-hour free farm tour from 10-12, a potluck lunch from 12-1, then the workshop from 1-4. See you there!

Installing the HapaInstalling a hapa in a tilapia breeding tank.

Tilapia fry

White tilapia fry from our nursery system

Special Offer! Sign up for our October 4-7th, 2010 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 Commercial Aquaponics Training

In The Farmily
 Our Farmily experienced a scare a few months ago when a tsunami (tidal wave) was predicted to hit our local shipping port of Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii. We weren't worried about getting clobbered by the wave, in fact we'd planned to go to a friend's house that overlooks Waipio Valley beach to see the wave hit the beach! There were warnings out from the night before, and eveyrone knew to stay off the beach. That wasn't the problem.

The problem was that we'd realized we were out of propane. We threw the propane bottles into the truck, and found ourselves in a line twenty cars and trucks long at the propane store. On the way to the propane store, we passed three gas stations with lines from twenty to thirty cars long each. And it hit us that if Hilo got clobbered by the tsunami, there would be no more gas or propane coming onto the island for months until the docks got rebuilt.

We got our prpane, got our diesel and gas, and made it to our friends in time to see nothing at all, because the wave (which had been six to ten feet when it hit Tahiti earlier), was not even visible where we were.

This experience underscored how dependent we are on imports in Hawaii, and especially how vulnerable we are to interruptions in our oil supply. If the wave had been destructive, we would have had about two weeks of gas and diesel on the island. We would have had two weeks of electricity from the local oil-fired utility plant, then we would be walking wherever we needed to go and heating water and cooking on wood fires.

They would have made the docks on the other side of the island (which were never designed for fuel off-loading) serve the purpose temporarily with temporary facilities, about six weeks after the wave. We then would have had about six months of heavy rationing at two or three times the regular price for these "necessities" before they got the docks rebuilt and we were finally back on our blissfully ignorant way.

To find out what we're doing about this situation, and to learn more about what you can do to promote your own energy independence, visit our pages Alternate Energy on the Farm and Biogas on the Farm.  Our goal at this point is to live as sustainably and independently as possible, and to teach others everything we learn to shorten their learning curves and make the world a better place for everyone.
This email, our manuals and construction plans are all copyrighted by  Friendly Aquaponics, Inc, Susanne Friend and Tim Mann, 2008-2010
Email: Friendly Aquaponics

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Friendly Aquaponics, Inc
PO Box 1196
Honoka'a, Hawaii 96727

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