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Friendly Aquaponics
Special Newsletter

Number 19
April 11th,  2013
Images from our farmily aquaponics farm

Aloha Friend

Although I said we’d return in this newsletter to “Why Big Ag Will Decline And Small Farmers Expand”, we’ve gotten so many questions and good suggestions about how to improve the Verticalis that I’m going to cover them here, with technical information on why they will or will not work. You’ll see the theme of “you get what you pay for” recurring throughout my comments.

If you missed the first newsletters that described the Verticalis, here's Number One, here's Number Two, here's Number Three, and here’s Number Four.

One of the inquiries was particularly good, and suggested a program to improve the Verticalis that would only take a couple hundred hours of construction time, $6,000 worth of parts, then a six-month trial period to be certain everything works. I suggested back that the person spend the money and time developing this aspect of the Verticalis, and that we would write it up professionally for him, then co-publish it (with him as co-author) as an advanced Verticalis manual, sharing in the proceeds.

We’ve simply got our hands full of projects. Although we’d love to develop the Verticalis further (and about five other things we can think of), we have to pick what to spend our time and funds on to get the best returns. The most important things for us now are our benefit trainings this summer, and our biogas project, which will be in final approach this summer, with a manual and DIY package to be published this Fall.

We’re trying to turn the Verticalis over to you to develop further. We want this technology to spread, and to have others involved in developing it further. We don’t want all the glory, nor do we want to do all the work. Our goal since starting aquaponics has been to get others teaching and expanding the promise of this technology. So, if you email me back with great ideas about the Verticalis, pleeeease don’t expect a reply.

We want to hear about the great idea you tried out, the unexpected (but highly successful) results you experienced, complete with photos and an invitation to publish your results together. This is how we get a world that works for everyone: cooperating on projects without worrying about patent rights, who “discovered” it, or how to make the most money off it.

The Verticalis is something that could make the world a better place because it could provide a means to make aquaponics and feeding people profitable on a small scale in a small footprint. That’s not something that should be hoarded, but should be shared. That’s why we’re sharing it.

Our "In The Farmily" column today tells you how to buy a $5,000 washing machine (not!). It's a tool that will give you a sense of how to find accurate information about aquaponics (I read it on the internet, it must be true!).

We will continue our two complementary regular columns on Tuesday next week (they are covering why the combination of aquaponics and energy-efficient greenhouses is an excellent solution to many of the world's problems today).

One-day New York Benefit Training: Saturday, June 8th: TableTop and Backyard Systems
(this is a BENEFIT, by donation). Registration is open NOW! Click here to go to our "New York Trainings" page to register for this one-day benefit training. Cost: $100

New York Training;
June 10-14 (Monday thru Friday) , the 5-day Commercial Aquaponics and Energy Efficient Greenhouse Training, $1,495 per person (this special $1,000 off discount only applies until April 25th).
Click here to register for the New York Training!

Click here to find out more about the New York Training!

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 Tennessee training). . Second 5-day training: June 24-28th (register here for Tennessee second training).

(Click here for more information on Tennessee trainings).

These five-day trainings 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 $999 DIY Commercial Aquaponics package, $998 DIY Farmer's Market Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse package, $1,998 DIY Commercial 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.

More details of the Aquaponics Technology course here.

More details of the Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse course here.

More details of the Commercial Aquaponics course here.

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!

The Amicus Verticalis, Or Friendly Verticals, Part 5:

5. Fixing The Verticalis

(To save space, we’re not going to explain what we're fixing with these ideas; if you don't understand the Verticalis, you may want to read these back newsletters in the Verticalis series first to get up to speed: Number One, Number Two, Number Three, and Number Four..

The first idea was: “Use black PVC pipe” to get around the algae problem. Well, there’s no such thing as black PVC. There is black ABS (acrylonitrilebutadienestyrene) pipe, which is used for drains, sewers, and waste piping.

It is not food grade, can be considered toxic (after you’ve read the MSDS for this plastic compound you won’t want to use it in any aquaponics system your family eats out of), is not organically certifiable, and for these reasons, simply won’t do.

BTW, can you picture what happens inside a big black piece of pipe in a greenhouse in the summertime? Yes, it gets really hot! Boiling the plants is not a positive result.

There were other, similar suggestions: paint the pipe (I covered that in one of those newsletters; I don't think this will work because there’s way too much labor expense). However, one smart reader informed me about "Fusion" paint by Krylon, which is a paint designed for plastic yard furniture; using this paint would avoid sanding the new PVC to make the first layer of paint stick to it (new PVC is very glossy and non-stick, just like a Teflon pan!). But you're still supplying the labor and paint to paint the pipe, and you still probably have to put on at least a single coat of black (to block the light), and a single coat of white over that to keep it cool in the sun.

Then there was: cover the pipe with aluminum foil to block the light. We put reflective mylar inside of our first Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse. It was a big mistake!

The reflective mylar reflected the infrared light wavelength fraction of natural sunlight into the interior of the greenhouse; we figure the mylar made the greenhouse five to seven degrees F hotter inside than the white paint we have it painted with now. So the foil would block the light, but make the pipes and the inside of the greenhouse hotter as a result.

With this solution there is also the problem of attaching a metal foil (which has a slick surface) to a PVC pipe (which also has a slick surface). This is the same problem you will have with any film or fabric covering that you try this with. Also, you've added more expense and labor to building a Verticalis; you have to ask yourself: is it still affordable?

Another area addressed with the good ideas was the PVC pipe clogging up with roots from the cut-and-come-again plants that we had growing in the Verticalis. Someone suggested making the ends of the PVC racks removable so we could scrub out the inside of the pipes.

OK, even if there was a way to make the ends easily removable (to keep labor costs low), it is difficult to make such a joint watertight, especially when there are plant roots inside the pipe, which will grow into every little crack, get bigger, and widen the crack (think of tree roots cracking concrete sidewalks). Also, large quick-release watertight joints such as this usually cost an arm and a leg.

Even if you put such joints in the pipe, all you’ve done is gotten easier access to the inside of the pipe; one still has to solve the problem of physically reaming the roots out of the pipe, which has gotten jammed full of roots. Even if you did have removable ends, the roots clogging the pipe wouldn’t just slide out the end: for when we clogged our Verticalis, we had to spend hours cleaning just this single one after this crop.

You also can’t "just clean out the pipe” as someone suggested because you can’t reach inside the little 2-inch pot holes with a tool or your hand and pull the root masses out wholesale with any ease- we had to use pliers and go back for another "bite", then another "bite", to get all the roots (this is what we were forced to do, and it took hours!).

For real production, in a commercial setting, with 12 to 18-foot tall Verticali (tall and heavy when full of water), there are also going to be stability issues and structural problems to solve, especially if you’re in an earthquake zone. A 12-foot tall Verticalis weighs around 1,800 pounds when full of water and plants. Even when empty and being wheeled off to the harvest area, it will still weigh from 250 to 300; and there will need to be “bumpers” on the frame so it doesn’t break things it gets run into by a careless worker. 

There are many other considerations that need to be addressed to make the Verticalis a truly "commercial" growing technology: for instance, floor areas where the Verticali are operated will need to be level, because a 250-pound Verticalis getting away from a worker on a slope could cause a lot of damage.

There will be connectivity issues, where you have to source economical quick-release fittings for the supply and drain water and the electrical supply. And guess what? The drain water fitting has to be a sanitary one, since the water drained will be going back into the Verticali installation. This means that you can’t just dump the water into a floor drain and pick it up somewhere else; this whole thing has to be sealed to meet Food Safety sanitation requirements.

In short, whoever develops this for true commercial use will have a lot of considerations to work with and provide solutions for. Are you up to it?

Thanks for listening! Our next newsletter will resume our series on why we think the game's over for "Big Ag", and just beginning for the small diversified farmer.

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 Intro 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

Sign up for New York!

Sign up for the New York June 10-14th, 2013 Commercial Aquaponics and Solar Greenhouse Training
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)


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)

The $5,000 Washing Machine:

There's so much information out there on aquaponics that it can be daunting to sort out the useful and good information from the nonsense.

We know you know how to do your due diligence. But to help you, we've constructed a "ruler" which you can use to "measure" aquaponics information with:

This what someone finds when looking for aquaponic knowledge now:

1. There’s a $5,000 washing machine for sale; it's cold-water only, and has a hand-wringer to get the clothes partially dry before hanging them out on the line. But it’s a washing machine!

It’s way better than banging those clothes on a rock down by the creek and wringing them out by hand, isn’t it?

This is how “aquaponics consultants”, “kit sellers”, and other shysters make their livings. People just haven't realized yet that something better is available.

2. But wait! Right across the street (if you’d thought to look) is a washing machine store that offers $500 washing machines with hot, warm, and cold water wash and rinse; that have five different wash modes for delicates, normal, dirty, etc; and a spin cycle that gets the clothes almost dry enough to wear!

The best thing about this washing machine is that you can build it yourself using a $50 DIY manual and $450 worth of parts you can buy at Home Depot or Lowe’s. This is the Friendly Aquaponics washing machine.

The reason people get away with selling all kinds of poop as “aquaponics systems” or even as “commercial aquaponics” is that there isn’t a generally competent level of knowledge about aquaponics in our society as there is about washing machines.

No one would buy a $5,000 washing machine, but people who don’t know any better routinely buy $5,000 aquaponics systems all the time, when they could have built them themselves for $500.

As the general level of knowledge about aquaponics increases in our society to the point where people know about aquaponics the way they know about washing machines now, the shysters will be able to sell less and less of their poop, because people will be able to see it for what it is.

Susanne and I both broke out laughing the other day when someone sent us a link about a "competitor" who is selling mosquito fish at 15 for $50! They were also selling tilapia fingerlings at 15 for $50!

Susanne read this to me, and we both cracked up! We sell tilapia fingerlings for $1 each when someone buys 50 or less (because of the labor involved), and in quantities over 50, sell them for fifty cents each!

You know what really made us laugh? When anyone buys tilapia fingerlings from us, we give them a couple hundred mosquito fish at no extra charge! That's so funny: $50 for mosquito fish that you can go catch yourself down at the creek!

So, learn all you can about aquaponics. Teach it to your friends, community, and your kid's class at their school; as you spread the word, you'll be creating the day when aquaponics is commonplace, and the shysters are all history!

Aloha, Tim.....

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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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PO Box 1196
Honoka'a, Hawaii 96727

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