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Friendly Aquaponics Newsletter
Number 116
March 12th,  2013
Images from our farmily aquaponics farm
Aloha Friend,

In today's "Aquaponics Nugget", we cover the third part of how to do a successful experiment with aquaponics (it's really about what not to do). We also announce our 2013 training schedule.

Our "In The Farmily" column today, by Susanne, will be about our intern Austin.

Friendly 2013 Training Schedule:

New York Training: Saturday, June 8th: TableTop and Backyard Systems
(this is a BENEFIT, by donation); and June 10-14 (Monday thru Friday) , the 5-day Commercial Aquaponics and Energy Efficient Greenhouse Training, $1,495 per person. Registration will open soon.

Commercial Aquaponics and Energy Efficient Greenhouse Training, $1,495 per person (this special $1,000 off discount only applies until April 15th). First 5-day  training: June 17-21st (register here for first training). . Second 5-day training: June 24-28th (register here for second training). (Click here for more information on Tennessee trainings).

We are honoring requests for a five-day training that we received during our last Tennessee training. Our participants suggested this format because it would allow you to travel during the weekend so that you only need to take a week off your busy life to attend.

All of these five-day trainings include our $995 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!

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.

1. The three days of the Aquaponics Technology training is everything we know about the techniques and methods of growing with aquaponics. Each day has hands-on segments. In addition, you will spend the latter half of Day Three building several 12-square-foot TableTop Systems from scratch (under our expert eyes, of course). More details of the Aquaponics Technology course here.

2. You can take one of these 12-square-foot TableTop systems home, assemble it there, and begin growing with aquaponics immediately, even in the middle of winter! The cost of this kit is only $550; much smaller "kits" from others start at $1,295 and go up from there, not including shipping.

3. The one-day Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse course is everything we know about energy-efficient greenhouses, including information and complete CAD plans showing how to build a Chinese-style aquaponic solar greenhouse; and how to convert existing greenhouses to be as energy-efficient as possible. We even show you how to purchase, move, and erect a good used greenhouse for ten cents on the dollar! More details of the Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse course here.

4. The one-day Commercial Aquaponics Training is everything we know about all the different ways of making money with aquaponics, from CSA's to Costco, from wholesale to retail, from selling simple produce to producing value-added products, including Health Department Certified Processing Facilities, Food Safety Certification and Organic Certification. We also include our commercial-scale tilapia hatchery and nursery information, so you can raise your own tilapia and make money selling the fry and fingerlings to others also. More details of the Commercial Aquaponics course here.

Click Here To Find Out More About The 2013 Tennessee Trainings!

The free information in these three newsletters: last week's, the week before last week's and two weeks before last week's newsletter will meet most people's needs for tilapia breeding. However, if you want the complete story in 72 pages, with highly descriptive photos of the process and equipment we use, our new commercial tilapia hatchery manual is finished and ready for you. There's even a "micro-video" that my gorgeous biologist wife Susanne shot with her treasured Leica Microscope that explains why the techniques we use work so well.

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 #116: How To Sink Your Aquaponics Farm, Part 4

We mentioned that we’ve seen several well-funded commercial aquaponics ventures hit the wall; we made it about halfway through our list last week. We feel these are valuable for all of us to study and learn from, and here are some more examples:

Portable Farms: We’re going on the word of a friend of ours here. He spent his life savings ($100,000) on setting up a rented greenhouse with $60,000 worth of Portable Farm’s aquaponic systems. When he had difficulty growing vegetables for market to make money, he was told by the owner of Portable Farms that he was supposed to make money by reselling the aquaponics kits for a commission, and that they were never intended to turn a profit at commercial farming. When our friend asked how to make his vegetables (which were growing poorly) look better for a sales tour, he was told to take all the vegetables out of his four systems and put the best looking ones in a single system so it looked like he was growing successfully. We did everything we could to help him, but he’d spent all his money and wasn’t able to afford to make the modifications to his systems that would have made them profitable for growing produce. What’s wrong with this picture?


The Newest Lesson: Greater Growth, LLC. As of this writing, this farm is in foreclosure and their troughs and fish tanks are all empty. How could they possibly have failed? They had the “best” technology from the University Aquaponics Establishment, and the “best” kit aquaponics systems from a “well-known consultant” (who has threatened to sue us if we ever compare their systems to ours in print).

They had USDA organic certification. They had a UVI professor teaching their commercial aquaponics course (can’t sign up for that course now, it doesn’t exist). They have solar panels! It’s a beautiful installation, and it seemed that they had all the right pieces.


It’s easy to make an educated guess about what was wrong with the business plan: One, their loan amount was somewhere between 1.2 to 1.5 million (this is all over the web, in articles and in quotes from the owner). A typical 1 million dollar commercial loan with a ten-year payback has a monthly payment of from $12-15,000 (depending on the bank, the risk, the collateral, and a lot of other things).

In other words, in addition to paying for consumables and labor (which were around $5-8,000 per month, based on our experience growing this same product), they needed to crack this huge nut. Based on their planting density and product photos, they had a gross income of around $8-12,000 per month, depending on how they packaged and marketed their greens. With a total overhead plus loan payment of $17-23,000 per month, there was no way they could be profitable.


Except if they had had our systems. New planting and nursery technology developed by Susanne in 2010-2011 puts four times as many plants into the same square footage of our raft area as their system carries. This means four times as many plants harvested each week, in the same size greenhouse, with the same heating and cooling costs, the same mortgage costs, slightly higher consumables costs for the additional seed and planting mix, and higher labor costs for planting, harvesting, and packaging four times as many plants.

But the gross income with Susanne’s technology goes up from $5-8,000 per month to $20-32,000 per month, at which point it becomes possible to service the debt, pay the workers, and still make a profit.

What’s the real kicker? One of our energy-efficient Solar Greenhouses (including aquaponics system and sustainable, energy-efficient heating and cooling systems) that was the same size would have cost around $550,000 if built entirely to a turnkey condition by a licensed contractor!

The same Solar Greenhouse plus aquaponics systems would only have cost around $200,000 for materials and equipment for the entire installation if the owner had provided all construction labor themselves.

Imagine how different this situation could have been if the installation had cost half as much, but produced four times as much organically certified produce! They could have been building more greenhouses out of cash flow, and expanding into additional markets.


If you enter the field of commercial aquaponics you should be aware of these lessons. If you have a trust fund you can do it however you wish.

(In next week's "Nugget", we'll write about something interesting and technical that will help you do aquaponics better and more economically! Thanks for listening!)

The photo below is our Second Generation Solar Greenhouse, in the snow in the Tennessee winter. It's growing plants inside right now, and you have to take your jacket off because it's so warm! It's cool when it's hot, and warm when it's cold (hope that makes sense to you, it's the best greenhouse we've ever seen!).

GreenhouseSnow3Small 2

Watch The Friendly  Aquaponics Philosophy Video!
Back Issues Of Newsletters Now Available, Click Here!
Purchase Trough Liner Directly From Manufacturer!

New Source! Trout Fry/Fingerlings Shipped Directly From the Hatchery To You!

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

Special Offer!

Sign yourself up for the FIRST

Or sign yourself up for the SECOND

TENNESSEE June 2013 Commercial Aquaponics and Solar Greenhouse Trainings
NOW, and get a $1,000 discount, plus you receive a free Micro System DIY package so you can begin studying aquaponics! ($99.95 value)

"In The Farmily":  Our New Intern

I am delighted to introduce Austin Yockey, a 25 year old who holds a Master's degree in International Development.  Austin has done extensive community outreach overseas, living in China, Peru, and Kenya.

He came to us looking for hands on experience learning about and working on sustainable agricultural projects - a far cry from where Austin thought he would be when he began his course of university study.

"I began studying for my Master's in the fall of 2010 with the belief that I wanted to work for a large, multi-lateral organization like the United Nations or the World Health Organization in development work somewhere far from home.

As my graduate work began to wrap up, however, I started to realize needed to that I needed to find better ways to engage and help my immediate community (the USA), before taking on issues half-way around the world.

After completing my graduate work, I understood that the two most important areas to address development and change were agriculture and education, because everyone needs food and water to sustain themselves physically while having the knowledge to make sound decisions for themselves as well as others. As a result of this belief, I decided to search out opportunities to learn about sustainable agricultural practices.

"I was not aware of aquaponics when my search began, but after discovering Friendly Aquaponics and hearing about the efficiency of their systems, and how easy they were to operate, I was hooked.

Like Tim and Susanne, I had no background in growing anything. Since getting here at the beginning of February, I have had amazing experiences! I've learned a great deal and truly have been able to understand and participate in the process of creating food.

The most powerful thing about aquaponics is the ability it gives individuals to take responsibility for providing themselves with food and breaking down the industrial food complex. I look forward to taking what I've learned here with me, wherever I go to build systems not only for myself and my family, but also for communities around the globe.

Showing others how easy and efficiently we can grow our own food has become my new passion!"


Contact Austin at

Aloha, Susanne.....

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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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