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Friendly Aquaponics Newsletter
Number 137
September 10th,  2013
Images from our farmily aquaponics farm
Aloha Friend

In today's "Nugget", we continue with Part 3 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 the Farmily going snorkeling.

Aquaponics Nugget #137, Part 3: Energy-Efficient Greenhouses For Aquaponics

Where We Started:


(You might like to read back newsletter #1 and back newsletter #2 of this series!).


We had been alerted to the declining state of the mainland ornamental flower industry by one of our Personal Intensive students, and realized it was caused not only by the economy ("we" as a nation couldn't afford luxuries like flowers as much anymore), but also by the fact that the conventional greenhouses the flowers were grown in were huge energy hogs, both to heat and cool!


We thought: "If the flowers could have been grown for a lot less (in energy-efficient greenhouses, let's say), that would have given the industry a better chance of survival". Then we had the thought: "Lots of people like flowers, but everyone needs food! If the greenhouses were used to grow food, the economic equation might be entirely different!".


This was an intriguing opportunity that we had to investigate; as many of our students had written us over the years with questions about greenhouse growing we hadn't been able to answer at the time. Although we didn't need a greenhouse at our location (Hawaii, right?), we felt responsible for providing complete, integrated solutions to our clients; not just telling them: "Sorry, got to figure that out yourself". So this was a "must" for us.


Our education in "greenhouse-ese" began by looking at the drawbacks of existing conventional greenhouse technology to see where improvements were possible. There were many obvious areas, most having to do with energy consumption and conservation. The real reason conventional greenhouses can no longer compete is that energy has gotten much more expensive over the last ten years. There's very little a greenhouse operator can do about that, once they've spent their money on a greenhouse that is inefficient.


Most commercial greenhouses have been designed around "cheap energy, cheap greenhouse". What this means is that they have little to no insulation. To keep them warm in the wintertime you need to burn lots of propane or oil; then pay for lots of electricity to run air conditioning units and huge fans in the summertime. This is simply no longer affordable


Many greenhouse designs are simply intended to extend the growing period into the winter (not always through the winter), and are nearly useless for growing during the summertime because they have no technology for getting rid of heat, and no affordable way to provide "active cooling". The next two photos both exemplify this type:


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(Above) A conventional plastic film covered "high tunnel"; one of the simplest and least expensive of greenhouses. Unfortunately, it has no venting for summertime use, just a single teeny fan at this end and a vent at the other. This greenhouse is only good for wintertime growing in rather mild climates.


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(Above) A nice expensive, polycarbonate-covered greenhouse; it has a propane fired heater (right hand corner inside) for the winter, but absolutely no way to keep it cool in the summer except the two teeny fans you see on either side of the door. The BEST those fans can do is bring in HOT outside air; there is no energy-efficient venting provided, nor any means of cooling this greenhouse. Although this can handle much colder weather than the greenhouse in the previous photo, this is still just a "winter house", and will be nearly impossible to grow anything in during the summertime. What good is a greenhouse that you can't use for half the year?


Rather than tell you a lot more about what doesn't work, we're going to cut to the chase and tell you what does: Our next greenhouse photo (below) shows a greenhouse of our design in a snow storm in February 2013 in Tennessee. The temperature inside was in the 70's, and if you'd stepped inside with your boots and jacket on, you would have been roasting in short order and in a hurry to get them off!

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Here's another one (below), this one has 18 degree air outside; 72 degree air and 80 degree water inside. It's in Vermont, and it's NOT summer outside, but look at the happy little plants!


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The reason these greenhouses are warm even though it's 18 to 25 degrees outside is simple: insulation combined with energy-efficient heating combined with thermal mass. Let's cover these one at a time:


You know what insulation is; you put it on every time you go outside in the wintertime: a jacket. If you went outside in a T-shirt in 25-degree weather it's obvious what would happen; you'd get really cold! Well, it's just as obvious what happens in an uninsulated greenhouse; it gets really cold unless you pour a lot of heat into it.


It's simpler and cheaper to just insulate the greenhouse than pour a lot of heat into it; because you only pay for the insulation once when you build the greenhouse, but have to pay for the heat every winter. With energy prices what they are nowadays, it's more economical to buy insulation; because it means you spend less on heating forever!


So, the first and most important principle of energy-efficient greenhouses is: insulate, insulate, insulate! Insulation is not only for wintertime, as anyone who ever had to pay the electric bill for a summer's worth of air conditioning can tell you. A house that has good insulation will use far, far less electricity to air condition in the summertime than one with poor or no insulation. And a greenhouse with good insulation will be easier to heat in the winter and cool in the summer.


(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 and thermal mass. Most important for those of you who are "lightly funded", 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:
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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!

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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.

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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!

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The Friendly  Aquaponics Way Video!
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Back Issues Of Newsletters Now Available, Click Here!
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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

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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!


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Thousands of inch-long "fifty-cent" baby tilapia from our "backyard" hatchery



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What they turn into about a year later: a beautiful 2-pound white tilapia grown in the fish tanks of our aquaponics systems


SPECIAL OFFER:

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:


This week's "In The Farmily" we went out and caught ocean fish! You're probably getting visions of mahi mahi or yellowfin tuna steaks and filets now, but this was much more humble than that, and we DIDN'T eat what we brought home.

Susanne bought us $40 worth of "slurp guns", and a "semi-invisible" transparent fish-collecting net on Ebay, and we went snorkeling for reef fish. Susanne and Jack have three saltwater aquariums in the house as a hobby (Jack got one for his 9th birthday, and has really been fascinated by the fish and eels since then). We've also been knocked out by the high prices of reef fish in the aquarium store, and Susanne decided to do something about that, hence the slurp guns.

As anyone who has ever run an aquarium knows, they are MUCH more sensitive and difficult to run than aquaponics systems. You have to test your water quality and do water exchanges regularly to get rid of excess nitrates.

Although aquariums have the same nitrifying bacterial cycle converting ammonia to nitrites to nitrates that aquaponics systems do, they do NOT have any plants in the systems to filter out the nitrates as they build up towards toxic levels for the fish. And if you wait too long, your indicator of poor water quality is a dead fish floating on top of your aquarium, plus the ammonia that dead fish imparted to the water starting when it died.

Now, a slurp gun is a 3-foot long transparent plastic tube with a plunger inside. The idea is that you as you point the tube at a reef fish and push the plunger, a stream of water comes out of the mouth of the slurp gun near the reef fish, the reef fish starts swimming into this apparent ocean water "current", and just as it starts swimming, you reverse the plunger in the slurp gun, sucking the reef fish up into the transparent tube. That's how it's supposed to work, anyway.

Apparently no one told this to the fish we tried it on, because they shied away from the slurp gun like it was a red-hot iron. We were hoping one of them at least had read the slurp gun manual in fish school, but no luck! . We did not get a single fish with the slurp gun, although we tried for about half an hour on hundreds of different fish.

Jack, our mogul who is a natural and always does well at whatever he tries, took the net and soon had caught a white-spot puffer fish, which is a $30 fish in the aquarium store. We took the puffer home and it is now resident in one of Jack's aquariums.

Over the previous weekend, before the slurp guns and transparent net arrived in the mail,  we also caught a red-banded coral shrimp during a night dive. It was a really nice example of this species, big and fat, but we hadn't thought much about it until we got it home and I noticed that it (she!) was carrying a couple thousand eggs on her swimmerets. We watched her this week, and  the eggs have hatched;  there are hundreds of little dots swimming around in the tank now.

So we thought "Great! Baby shrimp to sell!". Then we found out that they ONLY eat live  rotifers and that the smallest amount of rotifers we could buy was $70 worth (plus $60 FedEx overnight shipping, of course!).

Then we checked into growing our own and found a nice rotifer colony hatching unit for only $2,932 plus shipping. So I think we'll have to pursue other avenues to make our millions. So now Jack's puffer fish has tasty snacks consisting of larval red-banded coral shrimp, more or less the way it happens in the real ocean.

The next thing we're going to try is gluing two of the slurp guns together to make a six-foot long slurp gun, on the theory that it's the big HUMAN so close to them that's scaring the fish and NOT the slurp gun itself.

We're hoping that getting the human three feet further away from the business end of the slurp gun may bear fruit (or fish!). More on the Farmily's underwater salty adventures soon!

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, 2008-2013

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