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Friendly Aquaponics Newsletter
Number 138
September 12th,  2013
Images from our farmily aquaponics farm
Aloha Friend

In today's "Nugget", we continue with Part 4 of our series on "Energy-Efficient Greenhouses For Aquaponic Growing". If you want to learn how to do this instead of just read about it, we have trainings scheduled for Tennessee in September of 2013 (see bottom of this column, and right sidebar).

Our "In The Farmily" column today
is about Bird and Boob, two members of the Farmily that came along before I even knew there was going to be a Farmily.

Aquaponics Nugget #138, Part 4: Energy-Efficient Greenhouses For Aquaponics

Where We Started:

(If you got started late, you might like to read back newsletter #1, back newsletter #2, and back newsletter #3 of this series to catch up before continuing!).

Why The Heck Are We Doing This?

Aquaponic farms (and other growing methods) need energy-efficient greenhouses to grow outside of the normal spring and summertime growing season in temperate climates. In extremely cold climates such as Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Northern Russia, and Sweden, it is almost impossible to grow anything outside of a few-month-long summer growing season.

In extremely hot climates such as Israel, Egypt, Libya, lots of Africa, and other hot dry areas have, it is almost impossible to grow anything except during their winter season, and even then you need to be near a river with LOTS of irrigation water. If you want to grow something during the “wrong season” in these areas that are too cold or too hot, you need a well-insulated, energy-efficient greenhouse to even consider doing so.

Insulation, Energy Efficient Heating and Cooling, and Thermal Mass:

These are the critical three concepts to understand if you are trying to heat or cool anything (not just greenhouses) and use (read “purchase”) a minimum of “conventional energy” in the process. We started covering insulation in our last newsletter in this series, but we’ll flesh that out more now:

We talked about the experience of “putting on a jacket” before going outside in the cold, to make the concept of insulation easy to understand. But we can’t just put jackets on our fish and plants, and putting a jacket on a 36-foot by 128-foot greenhouse would be a monstrous task! So we need to utilize commonly available and affordable insulation materials and installations to insulate our greenhouse, troughs, and fish tanks.

Why Insulation Is So Valuable:

Let's say you operate your greenhouse for several years. Whatever heating and cooling you provide will need to be provided over and over during that time. If you can reduce the amount of heat and cool that the greenhouse loses, you reduce the amount of heating and cooling you need to provide. This will reduce your ongoing costs for heating and cooling. Thus, a one-time investment in insulation will give you decreased greenhouse operating costs forever. It's that easy!

How Insulation Works; Types Of Insulation:

Insulation is any material or system that tends to retain heat and/or cool where you want it retained. Insulation is rated in terms of “R” value; the higher the R-value, the better the insulation works. We use insulation in the “cold” north wall of our aquaponic solar greenhouse, in the end walls, and under the floor, troughs, and fish tank, to keep heat and cool from escaping from the greenhouse.

Insulation is one of the most important things to understand before building your greenhouse, because it is very difficult to put insulation into your greenhouse after building it! If you get the right amount of insulation (or slightly more, even better!) in your greenhouse, heating and cooling it will be much easier, and will require less energy.


(Above) A conventional plastic film covered "high tunnel"; it has NO insulation at all, unless you install some under and around the growing troughs and fish tank (actually a GOOD solution for mild climates!).

Insulation works because it does not transmit heat energy, or because it transmits heat energy very poorly. Examples of things that make good insulation include: wood, styrofoam, spun fiberglass insulation, plastics, hay bales (only if kept dry) and air, because they do not easily absorb heat or cold. Examples of things that make poor insulation are: metals, water, oil, glass, rocks and sand, and wet hay bales, because they easily absorb heat or cold, and then easily pass it on.


(Above) A nice expensive, polycarbonate-covered greenhouse; it has a small amount of insulation value afforded by the double-layer polycarbonate covering; but that same covering cuts out a MINIMUM of 20% of incoming sunlight during the wintertime, when getting enough sunlight to your plants can be critical!

Think about being at the beach: lean over and touch a white styrofoam boogie board or cooler that’s been in the sun, then lean over and touch a piece of metal that’s been in the sun; you’ll burn your hand on the metal, while the boogie board just feels vaguely warm. That’s insulation!

Typical Wall Insulation: Insulation used in the walls is paper or foil-covered fiberglass insulation that comes in rolls from the building supply. Since this is covered with a 6-mil polyethylene vapor barrier, it should pass Organic certification inspection with no problem. But there are other places you may have insulation exposed directly to the interior surface of your greenhouse; an explanation of the insulation to use here follows:

GreenhouseSnow3Small 2

(Above) A relatively inexpensive, ETFE covered greenhouse; but it has LOTS of insulation in the walls and under the concrete slab. The resulting heating and cooling costs are quite low, and the ETFE covering allows the maximum amount of incoming sunlight during the wintertime (even MORE than glass, at a FAR lower cost!), when getting enough sunlight to your plants is critical.

Organically-Approved Insulation Types: If you plan on seeking organic certification at some point, you need to use approved materials in all permanent installations. This includes insulation materials underneath and on the sides of troughs and fish tanks, because they can bleed out whatever evil things they might be made with into the somewhat sealed greenhouse environment.

The one type of foam we currently know is  approved by the certification agencies is the EPS foam known as Dow Blue Board. This is  very strong and durable (for foam!),and is what we use for the rafts in our systems. Another foam that is approved is the white styrofoam board that looks like a bunch of little styrofoam beads glued together. A type of foam we know is not approved, and can cause you problems because of its possible toxicity, is any brand that is “polyisocyanate foam”. It is, however, a lot cheaper than the Blue Board while being as strong; and thus is tempting to use.

As Important As Insulation; Paint Color:

Color (Paint): In addition to the insulating properties of whatever material you’re dealing with, you also have to consider the color of the item. Paint a wooden board flat black, and another flat white, put them in the direct sun for an hour, then touch each in turn. The black board will be about 170 degrees F and will burn your finger, while the white one will be 85 degrees F, even though they are both made from an insulating material.


(Above) That attractive turquoise trim measures 147 degrees F in the sun on a day that the outside air temperature is 90 degrees; the white painted surfaces and the rafts measure 85 degrees. A real education in proper paint colors for greenhouses!

So pick paint and material colors carefully for anything inside your greenhouse that the sun will shine on. If you install a black piece of equipment (such as a charge controller for a PV array), you should cover it with a piece of white, roll-up plastic to keep it cool. White is safest and coolest. PAINT IT WHITE!!!

(Below) A Chinese-style greenhouse, complete with roll-down straw insulating mat to keep daytime warmth inside at nighttime. The small entrance building serves as an "air lock" keeping the warmth inside, as well as storage for tools and supplies.ChineseGHPinkNewsletter

(Next newsletter in this series will cover energy-efficient heating, the next will cover cooling, and the next will cover thermal mass. Most important for those of you who are "lightly funded", a bit later in this series we will explain how to purchase and erect your own energy efficient greenhouse for pennies on the dollar, even if you never purchase any of our offerings! Thanks for listening!)

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!


Friendly September 2013 Tennessee Commercial Aquaponics and Greenhouse Training:

These Tennessee trainings are $1,495 per person for five days of the most comprehensive and profitable Commercial Aquaponics and energy efficient Solar Greenhouse technology on the planet. If you can't wait until September to learn about profitable commercial aquaponics, check out our Personal Intensive trainings in Hawaii.

SPECIAL OFFER: First 25 registrations will receive 50 tilapia fingerlings, a $100 value (shipping not included).

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

First 5-day  training: September 23rd-27th (register here for first Tennessee training). Second 5-day training: September 30th-October 4th (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.

Both of these five-day trainings 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 the Tennessee training how easy it is to use a DO (dissolved oxygen) meter to measure oxygen levels in the vegetable troughs.


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.

Our Affiliate Program:

For those of you who aren't yet aware of our Affiliate programs, here's the deal: we're the ONLY aquaponics professionals who teach our students how to teach aquaponics, AND let them use our manuals (under license) to teach others with. In fact, there are three Micro System trainings being given by our affiliates right now (see sidebar). You'll see that we also encourage and work with "Commercial" level affiliates such as Randy and Katy Campbell (with whom we're offering the September Tennessee courses) to teach our Commercial Aquaponics and Solar Greenhouse Trainings. No other aquaponics teachers offer this, but you can partner with us to do so if you wish!

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!

GreenhouseSnow3Small 2

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 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 yourself up for the FIRST

Or sign yourself up for the SECOND

TENNESSEE September 2013 Commercial Aquaponics and Solar Greenhouse Trainings
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!

Join Ben and Alicia Godfrey at Sand Creek Farm in Cameron, Texas for a Micro System training! Call Ben or Alicia directly at 254-697-2927, or email them to sign up for this course. You can visit their website here to see a list of all the other cool classes they offer!

Join David Lindemann in Melbourne, Florida, in one of his Micro System classes: Call David directly at 321-604-6684, or email him to sign up for this course. You can visit David's website here for details of the class and to see all the other cool things he's doing!

Join Kevin Crawford in Longmont, Colorado, in one of his Micro System classes: Call Kevin directly at 720-363-5069, or email him to sign up for this course.

These Texas, Florida, and Colorado one-day live trainings use our $100 Micro System DIY manual as coursebook, and are a real deal!

In The Farmily; the story of Bird and Boob:

I had a little house and a much bigger boat shop under a huge tree right next to the Old Dock in Majuro, Marshall Islands, from 1985 to 1990. Majuro was a quintessential “South Pacific lagoon”; a necklace of coral sand with the deep blue ocean on the outside and a brilliant turquoise lagoon on the inside.

It was a crowded and interesting neighbor hood, with 20,000 people living on a strip of land about a half mile long, that ranged from 300 feet to about 600 feet wide. A fair number of the people spoke English, and I learned some Marshallese. I was part of an English-speaking minority of maybe 100 American, German, Australian, and Kiwi expatriates living on the island during my time.

It was quite an unsanitary neighbor hood during the time I lived there, because they were just starting to install sewage lines and a sewage treatment facility. In keeping with the way the country worked, it was unknown when these would be finished and functioning. In the meanwhile, those of us with better funding and sanitary awareness used our outhouses, and those of us with less funding and sanitary awareness went down to the reef at night, at low tide, and made our deposits there. Or at high tide, if they just needed to go.

(Editor’s note: Just so you’re clear which side I was on, I was one of the very few who rented a backhoe, dug a regulation cesspool, capped it with concrete, and installed “modern” plumbing inside my bathroom at my house, (well, shack). But it was a nice shack, on a South Pacific lagoon, and the sunrises and sunsets were classic).

There were also a number of local residents who had perfected the art of making deposits during broad daylight, by utilizing the method of hiding behind a bush or tree. So not only was the neighborhood fragrant most of the time, you also had to be real careful whenever you were walking on the beach at low tide, or around trees and bushes near any populated areas.

But that’s not what I set out to write about when I began this story; this is the story of Bird and Boob.

Just so you’re clear, this is a perfectly sanitary Farmily story that is appropriate, yea, even perfect, for small children. For Boob was simply the nickname I gave my blue-footed booby; it had nothing to do with human anatomy.

Bird actually came first, so I’ll talk about him first. I assumed he was a he, but didn’t actually get that confirmed until I’d had him awhile.

One day, as I was walking home from the grocery store (this was only a couple hundred yards away from the boat shop, as nothing at that end of the lagoon in Majuro was very far from anything else), I walked past my nearby neighbor’s house, and spying them at home, called out “Yokwe yok!”, which is your basic Marshallese “hello”.

They replied, smiling and laughing, and then I noticed they had a large, butt-ugly baby bird perched on a large concrete brick on the ground; its leg was tied to the brick with a piece of string. I asked what it was, and they said Manoo Eeva (manuiwa), and I immediately knew what it was, for this was the same word in Hawaiian; this was a frigate bird!

Now I’d never seen a frigate bird this close, nor seen such a young one. The ones I’d seen were usually out to sea on the windward coasts of relatively big islands, fishing and riding the wind currents.

They have a 6-foot wing span, with long slender wings with a slight bend in the middle; they are very distinctive even when seen from a long distance away, and almost impossible to mistake even for the other very large sea bird, the albatross.

I asked them what they were going to do with it, and they said “pet”, or the Marshallese equivalent. I don’t know what inspired me; the bedraggled look of the bird, or something else, but I asked, with my poor Marshallese and hand signs, if they’d consider selling him to me.

Someone said “five dollar, five dollar”, and because I was a rich “dribelli”, I said “ten, ten? OK?”. We all smiled, laughed, and joked (they joked that I liked “eating chicken”!), and I walked away with the ugliest bird I’d ever seen perched on my arm, digging in with his claws and holding on for dear life.

(Just an aside here: dribelli does not mean “white person" as you might think; it translates literally as “clothes person”, or “person who wears lots of clothes”. It is what the Marshallese called the first white people they saw, for they insisted on wearing what (to the Marshallese) seemed like way too much clothing, all the time. Traditionally, the only time the Marshallese put a tapa cloth cloak on was when it got cold, and to cover the thighs, which they considered the most special part of the body).

Back to Bird: we went home, to the little shack under the big tree, and I got out some frozen mackerel I’d been using for fishing bait, cut a chunk off and left it to thaw. I sat Bird on a 2x4 in the shop while I made a perch for him right on the front of the house, using a vertical post with a 2-foot long piece of 2X2 on top that it would be easy for him to grab onto.

It was under the overhang of the house so it gave him some protection from the rain and wind (do frigate birds need that?), but otherwise basically out in the open.

By the time his perch was done and he was transferred over, the mackerel had thawed and I offered him a chunk of it. Boy, did he ever know what that was! I had to get my fingers out of the way quickly, as even at this tender age he had a big strong beak.

Sea birds don’t chew the way other animals do, they simply honk whatever-it-is right down, or spit it back out and try to make it smaller with their beaks so they can honk it down.

Aloha, Tim....

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