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Building a Super Backyard Portable Farm

Building a Super Backyard Portable Farm
– by Colle and Phyllis Davis


Read our Six-Part Article Series for Backyard Aquaponics Made Easy 

- by Colle and Phyllis Davis


  • Article 1Sizing your Aquaponics System to determine how many people you want to feed.
  • Article 2Location for your Aquaponics System in your backyard
  • Article 3The Type of Building for your Aquaponics System – greenhouse, etc. 
  • Article 4The Cost and Materials for an Aquaponics System in your backyard
  • Article 5. Operations for your Aquaponics System – fast and easy!
  • Article 6. Variations for You Aquaponics System – no two are the same.
  • BONUS ARTICLE: Nine Steps for Building a Super Backyard Portable Farm

aquaponics back yard farm

As an addition to the popular six-part series just published on the topic of Backyard Aquaponics Made Easy, we also wanted to offer nine excellent suggestions for simplifying your installation process. After all, once your Portable Farm is installed, your daily operations require only an average of about ten minutes a day to feed a family of eight.  So, yes, the work and initial financial investment are on the front end, but after that, you’ll be harvesting fresh food FOREVER for the minor costs of water, electricity, seeds, etc. LEARN

car lot


Think of it this way: For the price of a used car, you can enjoy fresh organic food for the rest of your life. When you look at it like that, you realize it’s a one-time investment that assures food safety for you and your family and you’ll have immediate access to the best tasting food you will ever eat – right outside your kitchen door. That analogy puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?

Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems grow health food in the following climates:

Broccoli that is ‘crowning’ in our Portable Farm (photo taken February 3, 2013) as it continues to develop large heads of delicious organic broccoli. The stems are also crisp and edible for salads or juicing.

Broccoli crop that is just now ‘crowning’ in our Portable Farm as it continues to develop large heads of delicious organic broccoli. The stems are also crisp and edible for salads or juicing.

In this article, we will present the latest and most effective methods of building a climatically adapted structure for installing a completed Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems so you can harvest your first vegetables after just 30 days after installation. The focus of this presentation of information is on backyard installations, but it can easily be scaled UP to the needs of a small commercial installation.

You will find recommended components and the process in our popular Aquaponics University’s  Portable Farms® Aquaponics System Course© which provides our clients (and hopefully for YOU) easy step-by-step directions for building a simple functioning backyard Portable Farm – which we consider to be a 10’ x 24’ (240 total sq ft and 120 sq ft of grow space enough to feed 4 to 5 people) that is installed inside a climatically adapted structure


stemwallStart by building an insulated stem wall (not concrete, but 2×4 lumber and plywood with insulation in the spaces between the studs. It is in effect a short, 4 ft tall, insulated wall that the greenhouse will sit on top of the stem wall. This stem wall gives the greenhouse four more feet of head room (you need 8’ to 10’ of head room above each grow tray to provide air and adequate sunlight to surrounding plants). A stem walls raises the entire greenhouse to become taller which creates more air space above the grow trays. This stem wall needs to sit on a solid base; we recommend a poured footer or even a short concrete stem wall. In the tropics (hot and humid temperatures), you can use the concrete stem walls because you do not need the insulation from cold weather, but you do need the head room above the grow trays.  


Shade cloth on roof and side walls of structure. Note the screens on this greenhouse. We have since removed the screens and replaced the screens with SolaWrap because dust came through the screens and caused problems related to white flys within the farm.

Shade cloth on roof and side walls of structure. Note the screens on this greenhouse. We have since removed the screens and replaced the screens with an additional waterproof covering.

Interesting side note: It is MUCH easier to HEAT a greenhouse space than it is to cool it down. There is a huge amount of thermal mass inside the building and the fish tanks are heated (78 degrees F to  80 degrees F) so the space stays relatively warm even in very cold weather. On the other hand, the heat builds up VERY QUICKLY in bright sunlight and there needs to be accommodations made for removing that heat to keep the temperature below 104° F (40C) to grow healthy plants. This includes a thermostatically controlled exhaust fan(s), shade cloth, wet walls, or swamp coolers and other methods of keeping the heat temperature down to a healthy level for the plants.

We recommend inexpensive greenhouse designs for backyard farms to accommodate the climate in your area: Tuff Greenhouses or Greenhouse Mega Stores.






#1 Bestseller – Do-It-Yourself greenhouse plans for your Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems or any other project you have. There is a 60-day money-back guarantee on the greenhouse plans.

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    Am I interpreting your cost estimates correctly ?. A 10×24′ green house, built as described above, with concrete footers, all lumber and roof/sidewall covering for $5000 plus Your course & kit for $2500, minus labor, for a total of $7500.
    Also what is your est, as to the cost for all other materials, ie. pumps, plumbing, trays, tanks, rock, exhaust fan, seed/ fish stock, ect.
    I am looking the actual total estimated cost to get up & running.
    Thanks Dave

    1. portfarms


      It appears your numbers are right on. The only other costs will be the materials for the Module and these are in the US$800 to US$1,100 range and over all of the items you mentioned. So the total will be in the range of US$8,000 to US$8,500.

      This cost in very similar everywhere in the world.

      Good luck in the New Year and will all of your projects.

      Colle Davis – Inventor

  2. jeff coghill

    I saw you removed the screening on the sides of a 2-‘ x 40′. I was going to have 8′ screen walls and then a PvC domed roof with a 10′ radius. am I violating the 10′ over the grow table rule? I know I have asked this before.

    I can’t afford the solarap at this time. I purchased a 40′ x 60′ piece of plastic for the roof. should I make the whole structure plastic? (it’s the plastic the railroad uses to wrap their lumber- it is about 6 mils with fiber mesh reinforcing)

    the fan that is pictured- is that the exhaust fan? do your vents at the other end have fans also?



    1. portfarms

      Yes, we found out that the screen makes keeping the interior of the greenhouse much harder to do. As long as you have 8 to 9 ft above the Grow Tray you will be fine. The plastic you mention will have to be replaced in a year or two, but it will work. You HAVE TO HAVE AN EXHAUST FAN. The intake vents are simply covered with hardware cloth, screen and a louvered intake mounted backwards to the air flow.

      Colle Davis – CEO

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