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Friendly Aquaponics Newsletter
Number 67
January 3rd, 2012
Images from our farmily aquaponics farm
Aloha Friend,

That was fun! I've never started the newsletter with a picture before! This is the Friendly Aquaponics Solar Greenhouse after 8 hours worth of erecting walls by two people. The day before this, there was only weed mat on the ground here. THIS is the benefit of prefabricating these types of structures in a shop, then assembling the prefabricated pieces on your greenhouse site. This is a 19-foot by 32-foot structure, with a 9-foot tall rear wall.

We've decided to extend the 50% discount on ALL the February trainings for the entire registration period (until the courses start). The purpose of this is to make it as affordable as possible for as many as possible to attend these courses. If you've already registered, thank you for helping support this work.

If you're interested in
learning about our new Solar Greenhouse technology, please take a look at our Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse Training (Special Offer in right sidebar of this email), where you will learn more about how to grow affordably using aquaponics in greenhouses than you can anywhere else in the world. The FIRST training is in Hawaii in February 2012. For smaller home backyard and apartment systems, please read on:
Purchase Construction Plans and Operating Info for 4 Different Sizes of Apartment/Condo Aquaponics Systems $49.95

Our Apartment/Condo System package includes new and easy-to-understand building instructions and complete operating information for 4 different sizes of small aquaponic systems based on our years of experience operating a commercial aquaponics farm. 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!

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 Apartment/Condo Systems!

Aquaponics Nugget #67:
A Primer On Sustainable Energy-Efficient Greenhouses, Part 7 (Really part 7, last week I skipped the Nugget column)

This column is an ongoing series on how to understand, build, and operate energy-efficient greenhouses. If you missed the previous newsletters in this series, you can click here: "Back Issues Of Newsletters" to read them first, because understanding all the concepts presented is essential to understanding the Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse.

It finally got dry, and the "Sea Of Mud" we've lived in for most of November and December has dried up enough to move the prefabricated panels of our Solar Greenhouse 100 meters up the hill to its location for assembly.

Day 1-1small

The Solar Greenhouse pad with plastic and weed mat installed, and with the prefabricated walls of the greenhouse (on crane truck bed and leaning against the fish tank to the right) ready to be erected.

One of the nice things about the modular style greenhouse we're building is that it can be built one wall assembly at a time inside a barn or warehouse-type building (no matter WHAT the weather is outside), then trucked to your site and assembled when weather allows. All construction, wiring, conduits, vents, windows and doors, even exterior trim and painting, can be installed and completed in the wall assemblies before they ever leave the shop. As a result, this last two month's worth of lousy weather hasn't even slowed down our construction (except for a couple of days when the rain was blowing horizontally through the shop).

Now I know you're going to say "But not everyone has a 9-ton truck crane!". That's true. But a crane is not necessary to erect this prefab style greenhouse; it can just as easily be done by someone with a backhoe. The heaviest wall only weighs about 400 lbs, which is well within the capacity of normal backhoes. You load the walls onto a flatbed trailer, strap them down well, and transport to your greenhouse site, where you take them off the trailer and erect them using the backhoe.

You may need to arrange for two different backhoes if your shop is some distance away from your assembly site; but just look around: there are a LOT of unemployed contractors and backhoes scattered around most communities. Just make sure you get someone who is a skilled operator, and use care and move slowly when you are moving or erecting walls.


The first end wall of the greenhouse erected and temporarily braced upright, second end wall on ground.

Even though our shop is only 100 meters from the greenhouse site, it is DRY inside the shop, and we were able to build the entire greenhouse in the dry shop even though the weather outside would have made it impossible to do ANY work on the greenhouse during the months of November and December. Of course, you can also build this same greenhouse on a standard concrete slab using tilt-up wall construction (just as most homes and small commercial buildings in the USA are built); but then you have to work out in the weather.

In the last "Nugget" in this series (in our newsletter #65), we discussed solar heating of greenhouse aquaponics system water using a standard solar water heater panel(s) in the wintertime; by circulating clean water through the heater (where it gets HOT!) and then through a heat exchanger in the fish tank, where it transfers the heat to the fish tank water where it heats the whole aquaponics system.


The first end wall attached to the first section of the rear (North) wall; now the temporary bracing can be removed because the two walls hold each other up.

We cool the aquaponics system water in the summertime using the same circulation pump and heat exchanger in the fish tank, but instead of the water going through the solar water heater panel(s), it goes through a series of geothermal cooling pipes buried three to five feet underground where it's nice and COOL! When the warm water from the heat exchanger in the fish tank circulates through these cooling pipes, it is cooled down, and comes back to the fish tank COOL, where it transfers its cool temperature to the fish tank water, whence it goes out to the aquaponics system.

So far so good; but what happens when you have a prolonged overcast spell (or a one-week blizzard!), in the wintertime, and there's no heat at all coming from your solar water heater? And what happens during a prolonged hot spell in the summertime when your geothermal cooling area warms up and can't keep up with the heat in the greenhouse? We'll deal with backup methods for keeping the greenhouse warm in the winter and cool in the summer in next week's newsletter.

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Franz Schreier's FIRST Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse in full bloom, Heppenheim, Germany, 2011, showing lamellae PV panels and growing plants!

(Next week: More on energy-efficient greenhouse technology, and how you can build your own! Thanks for listening!).

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,  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! We've decided to extend the 50% discount for our February 16th-17th Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse Training and ALL of our Aquaponics Trainings for the entire registration period, right up to when the courses start.

Sign up now, and receive the 50% discount, plus we will email you our Micro System package so you can begin studying aquaponics! ($99.95 value)

More Information on Hawaii Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse Training

In The Farmily
Last week we had just replaced the 200-pound mainspring on our broken D4 in the mud and had started bulldozing the pad for our house again. We got the pad mostly flattened except for a 20-foot stretch near the uphill side of the pad; the steepest part of the land. This is where I ran into the rock layer, and the D4 started bouncing off it rather than pushing it.

I was halfway down this hill one day in the D4, pushing against a particularly resistant rock from the uphill side, when a different rock rolled like a ball bearing under one of the tracks and the dozer slid to one side, tipping up on one track.

I went flying off the other side of the dozer about 1/10 of a second later, landed on my feet, and took my bearings on the ground from about twenty feet away. The dozer blade was down and stuck in the rock, the dozer was in neutral, and it seemed to be well balanced. So I climbed carefully back on, ready to bolt again at less than a moment's notice.  I put the dozer in reverse and as soon as I applied power to the track on the ground, the other side of the dozer came back down to the ground and I had traction again.

I backed the dozer up to the top of the hill and parked in a flat spot while I sat and thought. After this close a call, I had NO interest in trying it again without a lot more firepower. And, not having the budget for a bigger dozer I just sort of gave up the idea and thought we'd just have to live with a small pad.

Then one day about a week later, I was at a friend's house when I noticed a backhoe sitting in the weeds under some ironwood trees. The machine looked in decent shape, so I walked over to the house and asked the owner if he'd be interested in selling it. He said yes, he'd wanted to get $7,500 for it, but it wasn't running, and there were some hydraulic leaks, and it had no brakes so I was able to bargain him down to $5,000 (which we fortunately HAD, this time).

I spent a couple of weekends and about $200 fixing everything so it would run, another $200 to get it hauled the 25 miles to our property, and we had a killer excavating machine! It was a Case 780 (what they used to call the "Big Boy Backhoe" when it was made), and it had a 30-inch wide bucket that could scoop out rocks the size of small cars in one scoop.

This backhoe was another good deal for us. The logic went like this: we would have to spend $1,200 to get a cesspool dug anyway, and would still be stuck with a house pad that was too small. This way, we got our pad, our cesspool, and also ended up with a backhoe.

Finishing the pad was easy now with this machine and its nearly 30-foot reach: I just sat at the bottom of the hill and, using the backhoe, raked the hill down onto the flat area at the bottom where I could get at it with the bulldozer and push it to it's final resting place. When it came time to dig the cesspool, we dug one twice as wide and twice as deep as normal, because it wasn't costing us any more than a smaller cesspool.

If we didn't have the crane, this is the machine we'd be using to move the prefabricated solar greenhouse walls onto a trailer and then erect them at the assembly site.

Thanks for listening!

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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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PO Box 1196
Honoka'a, Hawaii 96727

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