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Friendly Aquaponics
Special Newsletter

Special Edition Newsletter Number 4
September 29th,  2011
Images from our farmily aquaponics farm
Aloha Friend,
This is our fourth "Special" newsletter. While on Maui assembling the three off-grid aquaponics systems for MEO (see newsletter #51 for details of this project), I had a chance to shoot some aquaponics system construction videos. Today's special newsletter is to announce the publication of these first five "How-To" videos detailing the installation of trough liner in deepwater raft culture aquaponics troughs. The videos are creatively titled "First Side Of Trough" (parts 1 and 2), "Second Side Of Trough" (parts 1 and 2), and "End Of Trough" (parts 1 and 2), and if you watch them in that order, you will have a complete picture of how to do this easy (but sometimes confounding if it's your first time) installation. After the video listings is a free downloadable CAD drawing that clearly shows the trough construction. This is only one of eight CAD drawings that are included with our Micro System plans and manual.

These videos are accessible through our website from the "Support" pulldown menu under the heading "Trough Videos", or  just click here for trough videos. We will follow these first five videos with more free construction and how-to videos as we have time. We've also posted the videos on YouTube so the general public has access to them.

Also, we are now giving away free copies of our "TableTop Systems" manual (AKA the Apartment/Condo manual), to anyone who is teaching kids and can verify that with a letter emailed to us confirming employment. This offer is open to public, private, and charter schools, as long as the manual is used to teach classes for which no fee is charged directly to the students,  Simply get a letter from your boss or administrator confirming your employment, email it to us as an attachment at Friendly Aquaponics, and we will email you your free copy of the manual.

We're doing our best to support the aquaponics community within the limitations of our time and finances. We have six kids; we need to run the farm, pay the bills, and generally stay a step or two ahead of life. Our apologies if we haven't been able to spend the individual time that we'd like to helping everyone with their aquaponic questions. We put these free downloads together in an effort to make the time we do have to spend go a little further.

There are other free resources on our website: If you're interested in building your own tanks, check out this free Plywood Tank Manual download,then please send us any feedback you may have that would help us improve it. Alternately, you can visit our "Free Downloads" webpage; or just click on the following links to get the other free downloads that are available there: there are documents covering "Prawns in Aquaponics", "Aquaponics System Startup", "Diseases, Deficiencies, and Toxicities in Aquaponic Plants" (which is in FULL color, woooo!), and "Biosecurity in Aquaponics", all at no charge. I'm working on the "Standpipe" download, which will be with full-color pictures

Also, to make the tips and tricks contained in past newsletters available, one Tuesday I finally took the time I normally would have used to write the newsletter and wrote the web page with the back issues of the newsletter in easy-to-use format. Just click here to go to the back issue web page, read the directions, and good reading to you! We will be updating it with newer issues of the newsletters as we have time. And for geezers like me who have trouble reading the small print:
For Back Issues of Friendly Aquaponics Newsletters, Click Here!

Now, as far as the rest of this special newsletter goes, I cheated!
I already didn't spend enough time with my kids today, so I used the body of the last special newsletter I wrote rather than stay up another couple of hours being inspiring and creative. So I hope you missed reading the last special newsletter, and this is all new to you. It's late here in Hawaii, I'm going to tuck my kids in and go to bed myself. Have a great night, all y'all!


New Friendly Training Format Makes Aquaponics Information Accessible To All

After our last four-day training, we realized we needed to add a day to the course to cover the commercial aquaponics aspects completely for those who intend to do this full-time. At the same time, we realized that many people had attended our training who were simply planning large backyard systems or to sell at their local produce outlets. These people didn’t need the full commercial training, but simply wanted the best aquaponic information, plans and operating instructions available.

So, we added a day to the course and split it into two separate sections we refer to as "technology", and "commercial". Now, you can take just the course you need. If you want to learn the best state-of-the-art aquaponics technology, the training is 2/3 of the cost it was previously. The first three days of the course is "The Aquaponics Technology Training", and the next two days "The Aquaponics Commercial Training"; detailed descriptions follow. They are available in Hawaii, dates and locations are further down on this page!

Also, and this is in bold so it catches your attention: We do NOT make you sign anything saying you won't teach aquaponics. On the contrary, we encourage you to use what you learn in our courses to teach others, and even have an "Affiliate Program" that allows you to use our name, our website, and our course materials when teaching our aquaponics courses in your location. Please see our "Affiliates" page for more information,

The three-day Aquaponics Technology Training:

This training gives you all the aquaponic technology we’ve developed over the last four years. It includes comprehensive information on: vegetable varieties that grow well in aquaponic systems; planting, germinating, sprouting, and nursery techniques for vegetables; low-cost and efficient tilapia breeding, egg hatchery, fry care, and fish nursery techniques; aquaponics system design and construction from 2 square feet up to 100,000 square feet; site design and greenhouse design and construction, AND the full-color, with-pictures-and-plans version of "The Plywood Tank Construction Manual". The course materials include: complete materials lists and suppliers contact information that make it easy for anyone to build any size system; accompanying sets of detailed CAD plans including site plans and piping schematics for eight different sized aquaponics systems; an “Aquaponics Course Manual” covering all aspects of aquaponics, and an operations manual with checklist covering day-to-day operations aquaponics systems.

You’ll also learn everything we learned this past four years building and operating five USDA organically certified aquaponics systems, a tilapia hatchery and nursery, a State of Hawaii Health Department Certified vegetable processing facility, and most recently, improved water circulation and aeration designs that use as little as one-tenth the electricity for pumping water and aerating fish and plants that our original UVI designs did. This translates into about $8,810 per year savings on electrical costs for our three commercial aquaponics systems, two greenwater breeding tanks, two Family systems and two Micro Systems than if they were built with the original designs we started with. The technology training includes three full days of classroom instruction with additional hands-on instruction at our farm or our affiliate’s farm each day.

We have been continually improving construction economy in our systems for the last four years so that now you can build a 1,024 square foot “small” commercial aquaponics system for $15,000 in materials (in Hawaii), or about $11,000 in materials on the mainland. This type of system construction will save you tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in expense as compared to buying commercial “kit” systems, while giving you the only aquaponics systems in the world that are organically certifiable, something the “kit” systems can’t do. Organic vegetables bring from 40% to 100% more than non-certified vegetables, and this simple fact means that much more income for your farm in the same production area. We've also developed and are teaching a “sloped grading” technology for farm locations that are hilly, which saves up to 80% of the grading costs of making flat “pads” to put your troughs and fish tanks on, and that is included with these plans.

We will show you how to build your own tilapia egg hatchery for under $300 in materials, not including the cost of whatever tanks you use. Having your own tilapia hatchery means you save money you would have spent purchasing fingerlings, AND gives you an additional income stream on the farm with the extra fingerlings and young fish you have to sell to others. We spent over $25,000 on our own hatchery before discovering how to build this simple, elegant, and effective tilapia egg hatchery system!

In addition to showing you how to design and size equipment for your own custom aquaponics systems from 10 to 100,000 square feet in size, we include a step-by-step “Construction Manual” complete plans and materials lists for three different sizes of outdoors aquaponics systems: a 1,024 square foot system expandable to 4,096 square feet; a 256 square foot system expandable to 512 square feet; and a 64 square foot system expandable to 128 square feet. In addition, plans and instructions are included for four indoor/outdoor systems from 2 square feet in size up to 32 square feet. These small systems can be operated outdoors under natural light or indoors under flourescent lights, so you can easily build a small, inexpensive system to gain experience and confidence with aquaponics whether or not you have an outdoor space to grow in yet. It’s easy to graduate to the larger systems after building and operating a smaller one.

Please note: information on the specifics of commercial aquaponics is not included in this course, but is the main focus of the two-day Aquaponics Commercial Training. Cost to attend the three-day Aquaponics Technology Training is $995, additional persons from the same project are $595 each. Fees for qualifying non-profit groups are HALF this, and we have a CAP on non-profit attendance of 10 persons at our trainings, so get started early if you're from a non-profit and want to attend.

The two-day Aquaponics Commercial Training:

This training includes the additional information you need if you want to make money feeding other people, and have already mastered aquaponic technology on your own or through taking our Aquaponics Technology Training. We will show you how we got our aquaponics farm USDA Organic Certified AND Food Safety Certified (no small feats! We have gotten certified both through Oregon Tilth of Oregon, AND through Organic Certifiers of California. They have said “As long as people build their systems exactly as Friendly Aquaponics has done, then their certification process will be a slam dunk.”). Six additional Friendly students have gotten USDA organically certified as of June 2011, according to Oregon Tilth.

Specifics covered are: how to get USDA organic certification for your aquaponics system; food safety certification and how to achieve it; how to do crop variety and market research; the different ways to sell produce to wholesalers, brokers, and distributors, farmer’s markets, retail stores, to restaurants and hotels, through CSA’s, and how to build awareness of you and your products through farm tours of your farm. We also cover the ins and outs of statutory regulations, County Building Department regulations, permits required for operation, National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) cost-sharing grants, State Health Department requirements for waste water discharge, State Agriculture Department Plant Quarantine Branch regulations, processing requirements for vegetables (for value-added processing), processing requirements for fish and how to sell fish, business information and help available for the aquaponics operator, general business advice, how to find and use State Extension Agents as a resource: Agriculture, Aquaculture, State Fish Vets; how to apply for loans and grants; and how to plan and layout a commercial aquaponics operation for maximum construction cost-saving and ongoing work-flow efficiency.

We cover a lot of ground in this information-packed two days, and these commercial aquaponics systems grow a lot of food in a small space with high energy efficiency. However, our commercial aquaponics training will not magically turn you into a success (as we say “Don’t quit your day job just yet!”), so please make sure you get business training from local sources in addition if you do not already have experience running a successful business. Please note: information on general aquaponic system construction and operation is not part of this course, but is covered in the separate three-day Aquaponics Technology Training. Cost to attend the two-day Aquaponics Commercial Training is $995, additional persons from the same project are $495 each. If you wish to save money and attend BOTH the Aquaponics Technology Training and the Aquaponics Commercial Training, the cost is $1,495 ($500 discount if you attend both trainings), additional persons from the same project may attend both days for $795 ($295 discount).

To sign up for either the "Technology Training", or the "Commercial Training",
at our Hawaii location, please go to Aquaponics Trainings, where you will have all your questions about the trainings answered.

Click to see our new Video!

Free Farm Tours
Aquaponics tour at the Friendly farm!

We hold a free workshop on our farm the FIRST Saturday of every month,  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!


3-1/2 pound kalo (taro root) grown in a 2" net pot (little bump at bottom)


4-month old prawn (macrobrachium rosenbergii) grown in hydroponics troughs of our aquaponics systems

Special Offer! Sign up for our October 2011 Hawaii Aquaponics Training now, and we will email you our Micro System package so you can begin studying aquaponics!

Sign up for Hawaii Aquaponics Training

In The Farmily

I started my career with a hammer and nailbag early: my Mom bought me a paper bag of 4d (four-penny) nails when I was 20 months old, a little hammer, and a Sunkist orange crate. This was waay back in the days when orange crates were made out of real WOOD, so this was a great nailing project for me.

Even though I was only about two feet tall, I hammered and hammered until the entire bag of nails was in the crate and I had to ask Mom for more nails. The neighbors, who were just curious, came over after awhile and asked if we were doing any kind of construction (they'd hear all the hammering), and Mom had to explain that it was the little kid who was doing it. So I guess building stuff was in my blood from an early age.

I first noticed the nails bending sometime in 1991, when I was building my house on the Big Island in Hawaii. I had been using a hammer since 1954 when I was two years old and had that old orange crate and a paper bag of nails my Mom bought me to practice with. After using hammer and nails for 37 years, you'd imagine I would have gotten better at it. But all of a sudden, I'd start a nail and it would bend over when it was halfway sunk. I'd bend it back and try again, and it would bend the other way. I looked for knots or hard spots, and found nothing behind the nail but good clean wood.

At first I thought I'd lost it and was getting old. I thought this was a natural consequence of being almost 40 (ancient!). However, eight years later, I noticed that I still had the same trouble with the nails. In fact, it had gotten worse. Even after the bendy Chinese common and box nails hit the market, finish nails had still been made in the USA or Germany. They were dependable, iron-hard things you could drive through an oak plank. In 1999, they just bent like the other nails.

What I found is that a 16d (sixteen-penny) common nail would bend as easily as a 16d box nail (much skinnier nail) used to. The box nails were nearly unusable, because they would bend if you even looked at them crosseyed. I found myself taking extra time on jobs, and drilling pilot holes for critical nails.

If I hadn’t looked deeper than that, I would have just thought there was something wrong with me. The problem was, I'm a blacksmith and an amateur metallurgist and know how production metal items are made. Nails are made from a big roll of nail-sized hard wire in a machine that has two or three dies. One die cuts the piece of wire to length, one makes the head, and one makes the point.

If the wire is nice and hard, the resulting nail is nice and hard, and can be pounded forcefully into rather hard wood without it bending or causing the pounder any difficulty. BUT, if you make nails out of hard wire, the dies that cut the wire and make the head and the point wear out much faster, AND the machine has to be run more slowly, making fewer nails per hour, than when making nails out of softer wire.

The "solution" was obvious to the manufacturer: using softer wire to make nails from results in more profits. The only problem with this is that the nail-pounders out in the world thought they had all gotten retarded overnight when confronted with the new, improved, bendy nails.

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This email, our manuals and construction plans are all copyrighted by  Friendly Aquaponics, Inc, Susanne Friend and Tim Mann, 2008-2011

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

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