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Friendly Aquaponics Newsletter
Number 157
January 7th,  2014
Images from our farmily aquaponics farm
Aloha Friend

If you bring a second person to our Texas or Tennessee trainings, their registration is only half price!

Although the second person is normally $1,495, we and our training partners have decided to make it more affordable for the aquaponics projects being done by husband and wife, father and son, or two business partners working together by only charging
$747.50 for the second person.

This offer continues until each training begins. To take advantage of it, just sign up for the Texas training or
sign up for the Tennessee training It's set up to sign up the "second person" at checkout.

We've been getting raves about how "complete and easy to understand" our new book is. Check out this page; you will find a free 87-page download of the Introduction, plus chapters 1, 3, 12, and 19; so you can get a feel for the information the book contains before you buy it.

Today's "Nugget #157" is about why we have no competitors. It's simple, really: we believe in sharing and cooperation rather than competition as a business model.

Our "In The Farmily" column today is about a very important person in my life: a teacher of mine who taught me Hawaiian fishing techniques from 1978 to 1981, Mr. Kawamata.

Friendly 2014 Commercial Aquaponics and Greenhouse Trainings:

Texas Training from January 13th to the 17th at Ben Godfrey's farm in Milam County, Texas (Click here for more information!).

One-day CSA (Consumer Supported Agriculture) Course given by Ben and Alysha Godfrey at their farm on January 18th, Saturday (click here for more information!).

Tennessee Training from January 27th to the 31st at Randy Campbell's farm in Elora, Tennessee (Click here for more information!).

(Below) One of Ben and Alysha Godfrey's aquaponics systems in a greenhouse in Milam County, Texas. I can't wait to taste their system water! lettuce2-385px

(Below) Another of Ben and Alysha's aquaponic greenhouses.

(Below) Tim drinking water from one of Randy and Katie's aquaponics systems at a Tennessee training. "I've been doing this for six years; I'm certain the food from these systems is safe and healthy" (Tim).


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, and include our $999 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!

(Below) Randy and Tim showing attendees at a Tennessee training how easy it is to use a DO (dissolved oxygen) meter to measure oxygen levels in the vegetable troughs.


In Tennessee: Call Randy and Katie at 256-679-9488 or email Randy to find out when the next farm tour is scheduled.

In Texas: Call Ben at 254-697-2927 or email Ben to find out when their next "Family Day" farm tour is scheduled ($15 fee per family is charged).

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.

(Below) Randy and Katie's Chinese-style Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse in Tennessee in the February snow, 2013. 70 degrees inside and you had to take your coat off when working with the vegetables!

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An Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse with the participants in our second June 2013 course in Tennessee!

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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 #157, "Why We Don't Have Competitors"

Why We Say That:


For two reasons: one, in three years we haven't run across any "commercial aquaponics consultant" or "trainer" who is willing to publish their aquaponic financial data.

We do, and we offer a free “Aquaponic Projections Spreadsheet Tool” which is based on real-world numbers from actual production. The only conclusion we can make is that no one else out there is making money on their vegetable production; I'd sure want the world to know.

And two: we believe in sharing and cooperation rather than competition as a business model. Competition is a bankrupt model that will not serve us well in the difficult times the world is facing today.

This is a typical response we send to clients who ask about productivity and costs for our commercial aquaponics systems. It compares an actual “competitor’s” aquaponics systems because you need an honest comparison to make economic decisions of this importance; it also gives real numbers based on actual production (at least for our systems; they won't give this information out for theirs).


This "competitor” has threatened to sue us if we compare our systems to theirs in print. Although we guarantee the comparison made here is true and accurate; you know that the one who has the biggest legal fund still wins. And that’s not the way we roll.

So, I will contrast a system of ours of 2,100 square feet with our “competitor’s” so-called “Commercial System” of nearly twice the size (around 4,100 square feet) so we have an apples to apples comparison. If you noticed that their system is “nearly twice the size”, it’s because I’m trying to give Goliath a little advantage here; he’s sluggish even though he’s so big.


System Cost And Capacity Comparison:


Our system costs $36,133 for materials only (averaged over the USA, end of 2013), which includes the cost of materials for the single 35-foot by 96-foot greenhouse required to house our system. This is a system with 2,100 square feet of raft area, and two 4-foot by 24-foot sprouting tables of our design that we will call “our” greenhouse.


Because of advances in nursery and planting technology that Susanne has made over the last three years, our greenhouse holds 27,325 plants. It produces 174,038 plants per year, at an average total weight of 20,885 pounds. You will see these numbers, and more, in this “Aquaponic Projections Spreadsheet Tool”, which we are supplying free of charge to help you make predictions on your aquaponic business.


Their system requires 3 larger greenhouses, costs over $95,000 (not including the greenhouses, or other extras such as crating and freight, which is probably another $85,000 or so), for a total of around $180,000, six times what ours costs.

That would be OK if it produced six times the amount of plants. But their system only holds 7,500 plants (+/-), and only produces from around 90,000 to 142,000 plants a year (based on their claims), even less than our system of half the size.


Other Areas Of Comparison:


Our systems are organically certifiable. Our farm was the first organically certified aquaponics farm in the world, in August of 2008. Since then, over twenty of our students have had their systems organically certified. To the best of our knowledge, it’s not possible to organically certify their systems because of the methods and chemicals they use.


A quick comparison of three organic and conventionally-grown  produce items from the April 26, 2012, USDA Daily Market Report ( for Atlanta, Georgia (selected as the closest market to your location in Alabama) shows the following prices. These items  are frequently grown in aquaponic systems :

Organic Red Leaf lettuce, 24 ct, $39-41/case; compared to non-organic Red Leaf lettuce, 24 ct, $19-20/case.

Organic Green Leaf lettuce, 24 ct, $39-41/case; compared to non-organic Green Leaf lettuce, 24 ct, $17-19/case.

Organic Romaine lettuce, 24 ct, $39-41/case; compared to non-organic Romaine lettuce, 24 ct, $17-21/case.


Organic vegetables bring in twice the income at the wholesale level that non-certifiable vegetables do. Using their systems gives you half as much income for each plant, because you can never sell organically certified produce. What farmer in their right mind would consciously make such a choice if the alternative was available for $600 to $1,200 of certification fees per year?


Our technology includes a tilapia fry and egg hatchery as well as nursery technology; the cost of the equipment for the size hatchery required is about $2,200. Using our technology, you could also build a full-scale tilapia hatchery and nursery capable of producing more than 1,000,000 fry per year for about $35,000. They don’t offer any hatchery technology. This is important not only because you should have the production for your own tilapia fry under your control, but for two other reasons also:


The hatchery operation forms another income stream for the commercial aquaponics farm, which is important for financial stability. By hatching the tilapia fry yourself, you reduce the cost for the fry to restock your own farm’s systems to the absolute minimum, thereby making your farm’s operation more profitable.


Profit/Loss Comparison Of The Technologies


Cost per plant space: Our system costs you $2.09 per plant space (including the greenhouse), theirs costs you $24.00 per plant space (including the greenhouse).


Greenhouses required: Our system requires a single 35 foot by 96 foot greenhouse; theirs requires three larger ones, for less production.


Installation cost per dollar’s worth of produce created: Our system produces approximately 20 percent more volume of produce than theirs does. However, the organically-certified produce from our system is worth twice as much. As a result, our system produces two and a half times the dollar value of produce that theirs does.


Energy Costs: By incorporating energy efficient heating systems and by using energy efficient cooling systems, combined with the natural thermal mass properties of the water contained in the aquaponics systems, the energy costs for heating and cooling our single smaller greenhouse will only be a fraction of what theirs is for three larger greenhouses using their conventional technology. The cost savings of our systems are obvious here also.


Labor Costs: It is also obvious that there would be a small percentage of the labor involved in operating a single system of ours in a single smaller greenhouse as compared to operating their three systems in three larger greenhouses. There is simply a lot more “walking around” for employees to do in an installation more than three times as large; only this extra time spent doesn’t result in greater production, but in less.


Partnership: We will partner with your organization to offer commercial and backyard aquaponics training that is comprehensive and affordable, using the proven curriculums that we have developed and used for the last six years. They refuse to train anyone to be potential competition to them. We aren’t worried about training our competition, and have done so since 2008. We simply want as many people as possible  to have access to this technology as soon as possible.




You should make your own, after informed research and due diligence. But, we hereby challenge all our “competitors” to take our “Aquaponic Projections Spreadsheet Tool” and fill in the numbers from an actual operating system of theirs, as a simple comparison. We issued this challenge three years ago, and no one has taken us up on it yet. Simply put, our systems, or variations of them that someone developed from ours, are the only profitable commercial aquaponics systems in the world today, to the best of our knowledge. Wouldn’t you rather get your information on what works in commercial aquaponics from the horse’s mouth?

In the nursery system: the poly film keeps cold winter rain (even in Hawaii) off our babies for two weeks; then they're big enough to do without it. The "secret"? Lots of plants in a relatively small area! Come to our training to get it explained to you, or you can figure it out from this photo. This is why our systems hold 4X as many plants as our "competitors" systems do. This = profitability!


In the "grow out" troughs; another two weeks here and the greens will be harvested from the far end of the troughs. The young plants on the rafts go in on the nearer end, then the rafts float down to the far end, reducing the amount of walking required to harvest.


We have no idea what we're going to do for our next newsletter! We've got four kids and it's almost New Year's, so we're going to take some time off and spend it with them. You all have a wonderful New Year's, we'll be back next Monday with something valuable and interesting aquaponic. Thanks for listening!.

The Friendly  Aquaponics Way Video!
Back Issues Of Newsletters Now Available, Click Here!
Trough Liner Distributors:
West Coast USA
East Coast USA

Click here for Trout fry and fingerlings directly from the hatchery to you!

Spanish Language Micro System package now available!
Free Farm Tours

Aquaponics tour at the Friendly farm!

We hold a free Farm Tour on our farm the FIRST Saturday of every month at 10:00,  focused on growing food with aquaponics.  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 yourself up for the Texas January 2014 (13th-17th)

Or sign yourself up for the Tennessee January 2014 (27th-31st)

Commercial Aquaponics and Solar Greenhouse Training
NOW, and receive a free Micro System DIY package so you can begin studying aquaponics, as soon as you register! ($99.95 value)


Micro System Classes!

Our four affiliates are now offering Micro System courses.

Click here
for a listing of affiliates and course locations!


Our new book: "Aquaponics The EASY Way!" is done!

It covers how to successfully build and operate tabletop aquaponics gardens from 3-1/2 to 18 square feet in size, using materials and equipment you can buy locally at Home Depot, Lowe's, and Petco.

The "3.5" costs you under $100 in Hawaii (where things are expensive) and the "18" costs $320.30. Click here to get our free "System Cost Calculator", an ExCel spreadsheet that you can put your own local numbers into (for parts) to find out what your system will cost you.

Sincere thanks (!) to everyone who purchased our new book at our presale discount. A number of you had problems due to glitches with the download service we used, Hightail. We sent you an updated email newsletter explaining this, also a new link to download your copy of this E-book from, a more dependable download site than Hightail. If you purchased the book but did not receive this link, email me (Tim) and I will fix it.

To purchase this E-book for only $29.95, click here. It's an excellent textbook for aquaponics for students from 6th grade on up. If you are a teacher, school administrator, or other faculty member, email us for information on pricing and volume discounts for textbook use.

"Mr. Kawamata, Fisherman, Part 1"


In 1978 I lived on the Big Island of Hawaii, in a plywood shack at the end of a greenhouse near Kawaihae, on the “hot ‘n dry” side of the island. When I first came, I thought I was going to die, it was so hot and the sun was merciless all the time. I got through the first two weeks by drinking a cup of icewater every ten minutes or so while I worked.


I was building the plywood shack so I’d have a place to live while I built the boat that the $10,000 pile of plywood, lumber, epoxy resin and fiberglass that sat next to the shack represented. That’s a whole nother story. This story is about Mr. Kawamata, so I’ll get on with it:


Mr. Kawamata was the reason I was building my boat there, because it was him who kindly rented me the greenhouse space. He had a couple of fishing boats, and they needed repairs from time to time. He said he’d pay me my regular wages whenever I worked on his boats, plus give me the place to build my boat.

All I had to do in return was be available to repair his boats when they needed it, and drive the farm’s pickup truck to haul water to the farm once every couple of days. This was a great deal for me: his greenhouse was a nearly ideal place to build the boat, because (although it was essentially outside, only having a covering of shade cloth, like window screen), the climate there was warm and dry except for a few days out of the year. His wife and he were exceptionally kind and generous to me during my time there.


One of the benefits of working for Mr. Kawamata was that I got invited to  crew on his fishing boats whenever one of his regular crew was sick or too hungover to work. As a result of my years of sailing experience, I had a good set of sea legs, and although I didn’t know anything (yet) about  Hawaiian fishing, I had some commercial fishing experience, and could handle the hard work of pulling fishing lines and nets.

So I got a chance to go out on a boat every couple of weeks for the next year or so. This was great, because in addition to a little money (Mr. Kawamata was quite generous when his fishing luck was good), the crew always got some fresh fish to take home.


Being between boats, having sold my previous boat six months previously, and having no way to go out fishing, the fish was a particularly welcome addition to my diet. So we went fishing; we fished at nighttime for ahi (yellowfin tuna); we fished in the daytime for ahi (using an entirely different set of gear, and in different locations, than we’d fished at night); we fished for bottomfish that were similar to the red snapper I’d caught back on the mainland in Half Moon Bay.

We fished for ulua, a really large and tough bottomfish; we set surface flagline and caught ono (AKA wahoo), ahi, and mahimahi (which everyone knows as mahimahi now, but was called dolphin fish or dorado back on the mainland); we caught omilu and rainbow runner; we caught menpachi and aweoweo; we caught tombo ahi (albacore tuna); we caught table boss, ta’ape, kahala, gindai, kumu ula and weke ula, opakapaka, lehi, onaga, kalekale, hapupuu , ehu, uhu, and kumu.

It took me several trips just to get the names of all the fish straight. “Throw that kumu in this cooler here.” one of the crew would ask me; I’d say “point to it!”, they’d say “that fat sucker there with the whiskers!”. They laughed, and I laughed, and got the fish straight pretty quick.


Also, we caught the occasional marlin, which true commercial fishermen curse, because they take so darn long to get into the boat, are truly dangerous to the fisherman, and were worth almost nothing from the fish buyer because they were so tough, back in those days. We caught aku (skipjack tuna), kawakawa (bonito), akule (threadfin shad) and opelu (Pacific mackerel scad) and used them for bait.


And Mr. Kawamata started teaching me how to fish. He didn’t come right out and say it, but I knew that was what was happening. I listened, and watched, and tried to always get it right the first time. I only asked stupid questions every once in a while.

There were the meanings of so many new words and terms to learn, too, in addition to the fish names: palu, sugi, drop stone, palu ahi, ika shiibi, flagline, bottom line, handline, ikema, sampan, and more. They were an odd mix of Hawaiian, Japanese, and Portuguese words that were difficult to say at first, and even more difficult to understand where they’d come from.


As an example: take the phrase “make dog”, which combines the word “make”, meaning “dead”, from Hawaiian, with the word “dog”, meaning “dog”, from English, and you get “dead dog”; what does that mean? I asked them: you don’t fish with dead dogs! Nobody knew, that was just what it was called. Another guy said it came from makadogo, which was Japanese, only he don’t know what it means in Japanese.


What it is is a piece of fabric, with a lead weight, a swivel, and a long sugi (monofilament) leader with a hook; you bait the hook, wrap some palu (chum) up in the fabric with the baited hook and leader, then wrap it a very special way with some of the handline it attached to.

You then dropped it over the side of the boat, and let it down to the depth you knew the fish were at, and “popped” it with a big yank on the handline. The idea was that the chum and the baited hook would all unfold from the fabric, and there the bait would be, in the middle of a big cloud of attractive-smelling “advertising” that would lure the fish in to take the bait.

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, 2008-2014

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