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Friendly Aquaponics Newsletter
Number 103
December 19th,  2012
Images from our farmily aquaponics farm
Aloha Friend,

Today's "Nugget" is about how to do aquaponics. It's not what you might guess, but it's solid information. I hope it hits the mark and supports you in attaining your aquaponics dreams and goals.

We've filled our January 20-26th training in Tennessee, so we've opened an additional 7-day training. Our second Tennessee training is from Sunday, January 27th, until Saturday, February 2nd, 2013.

Although we charged $2,495 for this complete training the first year we gave it, we were offering a "super-saver" offer of $1,000 off (or only $1,495 for all 7 days) until December 25th on the first training.

Since we filled that one by December 14th, we decided it wouldn't be fair to the people signing up for the second January training to charge them more, so we have extended the $1,000 off offer to everyone who signs up for the second 7-day January training, from January 27th to February 2nd.

We are also limiting this second training to 35 persons, so that everyone will get a chance to have all their questions about aquaponics, greenhouses, and making a career with them answered. Sign up early if you want to come! We have committments, and can not schedule another one right after the second one!

These 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!

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 four 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 all of Day Four 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 $450; much smaller "kits" from others start at $1,295 and go up from there, not including shipping.

3. The two-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; along how to convert existing greenhouses to be as energy-efficient as possible. We even show you how to purchase 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 the various 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 Food Safety Certification and Organic Certification. More details of the Commercial Aquaponics course here.

Click Here To Find Out More About The January 2013 Tennessee Training!

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 #103: What's Necessary For Success With Aquaponics:

It's funny how many people claim to be "commercial aquaponics experts", but have never done it for a living themselves.

From a couple of people who have done so, here's our short list of what's necessary for success in commercial aquaponics, then a story that illustrates these points:

1.   Research thoroughly and learn everything possible you can about aquaponics before starting. Doing your due diligence first can save you from mistakes costing thousands of dollars, or even worse, thousands of hours! Remember: "I read it on the Internet so it must be true!".

2.   Don't let #1 delay you, though: start building and operating an aquaponics system now! Build a small backyard system if that's all you can afford; the food you grow with it will save you money. You will gain valuable experience with even a small system.

The confidence you gain, and the experience you get from operating your small system are two of the most important factors in whether or not you will be successful with commercial aquaponics. 

3. Find money and put together a business based on what you learned in #1 and #2. If you don’t have capital and can’t get a loan, start small. Get your cash flow going, then expand off cash flow. You won't owe anyone if you do it this way.

4. Business experience is critical! If you don't have it, hire or marry someone who does! Aquaponic produce practically grows itself. If you have economical systems that are energy and labor-efficient, then the only thing you have to worry about is getting the produce to your customer and getting paid for it: the business part!

Businesses fail because the people running them don't know enough about business to make them work. Aquaponics is not a "magic bullet", and is no different from any other business in this respect. Business skill is what will make your commercial aquaponic farm a successful reality. As we say: "Don't quit your day job yet!".

5. BTW, this is farming! It's real work! We had some out-of-work realtors come to a course once, and somehow they got the idea they would make the same $10,000 each per month they used to (back when the market was booming) by sitting behind a desk and fielding phone calls.

Didn't happen! But we've got another student (who used to be in real estate also, but who wasn't allergic to hard work) who is now making around $85,000 a year working 48 hours a week on his aquaponics farm, at home.

We had three other students take our courses over the years; these three all spent 20 years or more farming; either growing up on the farm or operating a farm as an adult. Their feedback to us after they'd started their own commercial aquaponics farms was all the same: "It's half as much work, and my back doesn't hurt anymore!".

6.   Work your butt off until you are successful. If you fail, go back to numbers 1 through 5 and figure out what went wrong, then try again until you succeed. Don't ever give up, and don't ask for guarantees, because there aren't any. Welcome to Real Life!

Our illustrative story is in the column to the right: "Bulldozer Blues, Part 1".

(We'll have something interesting and useful about aquaponics in next week's "Nugget", thanks for listening!)

The photo below is our Solar Greenhouse. 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!).

GrownOut1medium 2

Friendly Aquaponic's FIRST Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse in full bloom, Honoka'a, Hawaii, March 2012, (on a grey rainy day) showing PV panels and growing plants.

Click Here To See Our New Aquaponics Video!
Back Issues Of Newsletters Now Available, Click Here!
Purchase Trough Liner Directly From Manufacturer!

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 Offers!

Sign up for our TENNESSEE January 20th-26th Commercial Aquaponics and Solar Greenhouse Training
and receive a free Micro System DIY package so you can begin studying aquaponics! ($99.95 value)

"Bulldozer Blues, Part 1"

When we bought our land we were so happy to have been able to afford it. It was an incredible combination of a seller who loved us and a bank president who trusted us far more than our credit rating deserved. We got started: the first thing we needed was a flat area to start building the house on.

We didn't have any money for materials for the house; but things like that had never stopped us in the past, so we weren't worried. We did get a quote for grading the flat area: $15-20,000 "or so". The "or so" kind of unsettled us, so we went looking for other alternatives.

Grandma Isabelle, who was living with us, came to the rescue when she said: "Why don't you just buy a tractor and bulldoze the pad yourself? I'll help you some with the money". We looked around, found a couple of pretty sad, ancient bulldozers, then finally located one that was only 54 years old; it ran really well.

With Isabelle donating the $6,700 that our new 1948 Cat D4 dozer cost, we were ready to go!

We went up on the hill and I pointed out to Susanne where the front of the house would be, the back of the house, and tried to explain how far underground we would be going to make a nice big flat area for the house. It was just a big hill at the time, all covered with grass, so I can see it didn't make much sense to her. We got the dozer hauled over to the property by a friend with a dump truck and big trailer, and we were off!

I started spending some quality dozer time on the property, between having to do real work to earn money for the family. After a couple of weeks of part-time work a couple of hours a day, the pad started to take shape: we could see the approximate location of the house, as I cut deeper into the hill in the back, and pushed the dirt and rocks out to fill the front of the pad.

We were pretty much hand-to-mouth then; we hadn't sold the house we were living in yet, and we had a mortgage payment on it to pay, as well as a mortgage payment on our new land, plus all the normal expenses of a growing family. When we had an extra $50 or so, we filled the 'dozer's fuel tank and I was able to do another five or six hours of grading.

One day as I was wrestling the D4 around on the new pad, it started raining. My response was to put on my rain jacket and hat and keep going;

I could still see OK because the drips were all falling off the brim of the hat and not blowing into my face. It got a little cold, but I figured I would be home in an hour or so in a hot bath, so I just kept going. I still had an hour or so of light before it got too dark to work. I was pushing a pile of rocks, and realized I had to get on the other side of it, so just went over the top.

I'd done moves like that before, and I did this one carefully and gently, but got a different result this time: the front end of the bulldozer sat down onto the ground right after I cleared the rock pile. I could see I wasn't going anywhere with the engine pan and the radiator in the mud, so I got off to figure out what had happened.

Looking under the dozer, I could see that the mainspring had snapped in half. This was like a car leaf spring on steroids; it was five times thicker and wider, but it had still just broken in half.

Later, when I got the bulldozer jacked up and removed the spring, I found the spring had broken along some old cracks that were obviously there when we bought the machine; I just hadn't known to look for them.

Tired, wet and cold, and finished for that day, I slipped and slid back to my truck, got in, and drove home. The next day, I got up early and called Cat dealers on the mainland, looking for a mainspring for my 54-year-old dozer. I finally found one; it only cost $750, but as it weighed 200 pounds, it cost another $450 to ship to Hawaii, for a total of $1,200. I think we had $700 in the bank at the time.

Susanne and I got a little despondent, but only for a short while. I got back on the phone and started ringing the "Coconut Wireless". After five calls, I had found a guy with a running D4, that not only had an intact mainspring, but also brand new tracks and all kinds of other good stuff, and he only wanted $500 for it. Oh, and he said he'd deliver it to our farm for another $120. This was when the "standard" charge for hauling a bulldozer or backhoe was $300.

The total bill was $620. We had $80 left! I had a few difficult moments getting the 200-pound spring off the other dozer, through the mud, and onto our D4, but got it nicely installed without any pinched fingers or other incidents. She (her name's Katy) started right up with her bulletproof new mainspring, and we tackled the rest of the pad together.

(You're wondering what this has to do with commercial aquaponics, right? I'll wrap it up nicely in the next newsletter, and promise it will make sense to you then. Part 2 of "Bulldozer Blues" in our next newsletter!)

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This email, our manuals and construction plans are all copyrighted by  Friendly Aquaponics, Inc, Susanne Friend and Tim Mann, 2008-2012

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PO Box 1196
Honoka'a, Hawaii 96727

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