More About Aquaponics With Snow Outside!

The Friendly Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse grows eleven times as many plants as other aquaponics system designs per square foot of greenhouse floor area, at one-seventh the cost per plant space!

Why is this a big deal? Because their costs don’t even include the greenhouse and its associated energy-efficient heating and cooling systems, and ours do!

In 2010-2011, Susanne developed an awesome deepwater raft plant nursery system for accelerating plant growth (that can be used with EITHER aquaponic or hydroponic nutrient solutions) that puts roughly 11.85 times as many plants per square foot of greenhouse floor space as “a well-known university’s” or “a well-known aquaponics consultant’s” raft-based aquaponics systems do.

“What You Get” In The Family Solar Greenhouse DIY Package:

1. Our 119-page Family Solar Greenhouse manual, which is everything we know about designing and building energy-efficient greenhouses economically, and includes the following from the Table Of Contents:

You also receive a link for DropBox (the premier web “deposit box” service), where you can download the approximately 500 mb of additional information that comes with this course. This information includes, but is not limited to:

2. In the DropBox “Main” folder: Complete CAD drawings for six different sizes of aquaponic solar greenhouses with integrated aquaponics systems: 200, 300, 400, 608, 1,216, and 1,824 square feet, as well as:

3. In the DropBox “Slideshows” folder: ALL the PowerPoint slideshows and videos that we use during the 1-day Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse portion of our 5-day live trainings.

4. Lifetime technical support via email while you are building and operating your greenhouse.

Note: for the “Micro Greenhouse” package ($495), you receive the above, but only the plans for the 200,300, and 400 square foot greenhouses. For the “Commercial” Greenhouse package ($1,998), you receive all the above, plus plans for six different sizes of greenhouses with integrated aquaponics systems, that range from 1,536 square feet of floor area up to 6,944 square feet of floor area in size.

We built a 608-square-foot Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse and gave our first “Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse Training” in Hawaii in early 2012. We now have numbers for this DIY greenhouse: it holds 3,203 plants in deepwater raft aquaponics systems and sprouting table (another invention of ours), in a total of 608 square feet of greenhouse floor space.

The total cost for all our solar greenhouse materials, including the ETFE covering film, the electrical system, the aquaponics system and the heating and cooling systems, was $11,067, or a cost of $3.46 per plant space. This cost is for an on-grid greenhouse (more about off-grid in a moment), and is Hawaii prices, which are usually 20-35 percent higher than prices on the mainland.

Contrast this to “a well-known aquaponics consultant’s” aquaponics kit system, which sells in a similar price range for over $13,000, not including shipping costs, holds around 500 plants, and requires a greenhouse almost twice as big of around 1,100 square feet. This system holds one-sixth as many plants as our Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse at a cost of around $27.00 per plant space, but the cost for this kit system does not include the costs of any greenhouse structures or environmental control systems; as the cost given previously ($3.46 per plant space) for our Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse does.

The first Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse in Hawaii, 2012Susanne with the newly-covered Hawaii Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse, January 30, 2012

Our complete system costs less, grows six times as much, and is more affordable than their incomplete one. Why? Because we concentrate on providing the best information available about how to build your own. We don’t try to sell you hugely marked-up merchandise, because you can buy everything for the Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse locally. The ETFE covering film and a small amount of aquaponics equipment you do need to mail-order. Those who are good at finding “deals” can reduce the cost of our greenhouse plus the enclosed aquaponics system even further.

There’s nothing magical or time-saving about an aquaponics “kit” purchased from consultants, especially the larger kits. You still have to assemble components, install electrical wiring, dig ditches and glue PVC pipe. Don’t you want to begin with the most cost-efficient and energy-efficient controlled environment aquaponic growing technology on the planet? Read on to understand the differences between operating the Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse on-grid and off-grid.

The second aquaponic solar greenhouse in Tennessee in 2012Randy Campbell’s “Micro Solar Greenhouse” in 20-degree snowy conditions in Tennessee, January 2013.

The “Friendly” Solar Greenhouse is NOT the same as conventional energy-devouring “Controlled Environment Agriculture”, it is a completely new, sustainable, affordable, and energy-efficient combination of technologies. It uses ETFE film, which has better light transmission properties than glass, and lasts upwards of 25 years, and energy-efficient geothermal and evaporative cooling to reduce summertime greenhouse temperatures, along with energy-efficient active solar water heating to improve winter temperatures. We use passive heating and cooling technologies to heat or cool the aquaponics water for the most efficient transfer of heat. Both the DIY manual and our live Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse Training completely explain all the options available to you, and how to select the best ones for your location.

We also explain how to purchase an existing “conventional” greenhouse for pennies on the dollar, then retrofit it to be as energy-efficient as possible, by including the technologies we used in the Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse. What the world needs is economical ways for people to feed other people, no matter what their climate or weather. We’re here to help with that.

Basil and tomatoes in an aquaponic solar greenhouseBasil and tomatoes in the ASG, showing planting densities, some greenhouse structure, and raft troughs.

The Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse’s benefits for on-grid use:

  • When you understand the dynamics of passive and energy-efficient heating and cooling using solar and geothermal energy sources; you can run your aquaponic solar greenhouse using these methods and use only a fraction of the electrical energy you’d need for a conventional greenhouse in the same climate.
  • You will have the ability to grow year-round in temperature extremes from 10 below zero to 110 degrees of heat means you have no yearly “gap” in food production, also means that YOU have fresh produce for sale year-round at times when prices are highest.
  • You will be able to fit a ton of plants in a small floor space; this is VERY different than conventional greenhouse technology, which just wants to make the greenhouse bigger instead of more efficient. The ability of our systems to produce 6.85 times as many plants per square foot of raft area as the best current deepwater raft growing systems means this greenhouse costs you far less to build and operate per plant than any currently available technology. This means less work for you, or more profit if you’re doing this commercially. Just incidentally, the plant density of our deepwater raft aquaponics systems is almost 2 times that of the best currently available vertical growing systems, which are often advertised as “a lot of plants in a small space”. That’s true, until you count the spacing between the vertical units that’s required for sunlight to reach the plants. When you include this space, verticals have a plant density of from 2 to 3 plants per square foot of greenhouse floor space, or about half what our raft systems deliver.
  • Although our deepwater raft culture technology has a density of twice that of currently available “vertical” growing systems, we don’t stop there. We’ve developed a vertical growing system that we call the “Verticalis” (its full name is Amicus Verticalis, which means in Latin: “The Friendly Verticals”). Our Verticalis puts up to 30 plants into each square foot of greenhouse floor space; this is five times our raft system’s density, and ten times the density of currently available “vertical” growing systems. It’s an ideal technology to utilize in an urban setting where space is limited, or anywhere you are using artificial lighting for part or all of your plant’s lighting needs. We give this technology to you also, to develop further, with no licensing, patents, or anything that would make it cost you more than just the everyday common materials you build it out of.
  • We teach you how to have the most energy-efficient greenhouse possible, and to still grow in extreme climatic conditions where other greenhouses are shut down. Because of the efficiency in growing provided by the greater concentration of plants per square foot, the actual structure of this greenhouse is much smaller than conventional ones, requiring less land and lower construction costs. Because the structure is smaller for a given number of plants, this also means lower heating, cooling, wind, and snow loads associated with the structure, with attendant lower costs for dealing with them.
  • We teach you our proprietary modular construction method, so you can build the greenhouse inside a barn or workshop during winter months and have it all ready for installation the second the ground thaws. The second-generation 608 square foot “Family” Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse we finished at the Friendly farm in Hawaii in January 2012 is designed for modular construction so that it can be built in pieces in a sheltered location such as inside a barn or warehouse, then moved to your site and quickly assembled. Using our modular construction system, you can build this greenhouse yourself, from economical, easily-available, sustainable and renewable materials: standard construction grade lumber and plywood, or steel studs and concrete sheathing such as HardiPanel! You don’t need to buy overpriced components from far away and then pay for delivery.

Operating The Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse Off-Grid

  • Although we do NOT teach how to build your own alternate energy system in this course (this would be a 3-day course all by itself!), we do give an overview and explain the technology so you can make an intelligent decision about alternate energy. The aquaponics system in the Family sizes of Solar Greenhouse use 1,800 watts per day for the aquaponics system’s requirements for the air pump and water pump. The alternate energy system we’ve installed to power the greenhouse generates an average of 4,500 watts per day in sunny weather. We included this extra capacity so we would have electricity available for forced ventilation in the summertime, and for experimenting with adding supplemental lighting in the wintertime.
  • Our alternate energy system cost us around $6,000 for materials and equipment, however, it is designed for far more energy than you need to just run the aquaponics. Depending on how much sun and/or wind you get in your location, and whether you need to run fans and powered water walls in the summertime, your alternate energy system for all the Family sizes of Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse should cost between $3,000 to $8,000 for equipment and materials, not including installation labor costs. Alternate energy system for the Micro Greenhouse should be about half this cost.
  • In Hawaii, our Family Solar Greenhouse uses an average of $1.58 of electricity per day, or $578 per year, so our payback period for our alternate energy system (without including any tax incentives) is about ten years. If you’re in a location with much cheaper energy, you may decide to just plug into the grid. However, if you want to be completely independent, you can run your Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse entirely from alternate energy systems, even in a suburban backyard!

How do you get an Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse? You purchase the Micro Solar Greenhouse package, or purchase the DIY Family Solar Greenhouse package, or purchase the DIY Commercial Solar Greenhouse package, or you come to the live Commercial Aquaponics And Solar Greenhouse Training and learn everything about them, including how to build them yourself.

Click here to view the Course Outline for both the Live and DIY “Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse Training”

Click here to view Friendly Aquaponic’s slideshow for our “Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse”