Aquaponics in COLD Climates is Ideal for Greens

Aquaponics in COLD Climates is Ideal for Greens
– by Colle and Phyllis Davis

greenhouse snowThe key to the success of aquaponics in cold climates is the climatically adapted structure housing the installation.

In tropical and warm climate installation, less planning and careful construction are required for success, but even in very cold climates, aquaponics can be very productive. It is the extra attention to details including insulation, heating, ventilation and backup or duplication of the electrical power that ensure success.

First, here’s some information regarding insulation. It is much easier to HEAT up space than to COOL it off. The laws of physics are in play here. Heat moves to areas where there is less heat or lack of heat. To create an insulated space and keep the air temperature inside that space at a reasonable level is easily accomplished and has been done for centuries. Today, the use of high R factor insulation, excellent sealing, and wind-proofing can produce a space with a very high R factor which means very little additional energy is needed to heat the space.

farm 8 18 2012The other benefit of the Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems is their wide range of temperature tolerance. Space at the Grow Table level needs to stay in the range of 45 to 104° F (6 to 40° C). The Fish Tank is heated to a constant temperature and helps maintain the temperature inside through the timing of the water cycles.

Heating the space can be as simple as adding a small space heater that is placed on the floor. It can be electrical, propane, city gas or even fuel oil powered. Exhaust from combustion needs to be vented as in living space. There are installations measuring 20’ x 36’ (6 x 11m) in Minnesota that only require a small thermostatically controlled electrical heater to keep the space above 45 degrees. There are larger installations in Wisconsin, Oregon and New York heated with wood-burning stoves. These stoves are a lot more work, but work they do in producing great vegetables.

Even in cold climate installations, ventilation of the space must be addressed to reduce humidity and pockets of stale air. Every installation requires a small circulating fan to mix the air and ensure the air is moving. This air movement helps the pollination of the flowering plants (for example, tomatoes) and keeps any dampness at bay. Venting the air to the outside in very cold weather is seldom necessary. The smart method of having a growing space in cold climates is to attach the greenhouse to your house. The heat from the house helps temper the air in the greenhouse, and the plants give much-needed moisture to the winter air in the house.

Cold climate aquaponics does require more planning, better and more careful construction and the added expense of the backup heating and power requirements. Now is the time to plan, construct and begin to enjoy aquaponics no matter where you live.

Energy-Saving Devices for Aquaponics in Cold Climates

New Energy-Saving Devices for Aquaponics in Cold Climates
– by Colle and Phyllis Davis

iglio 1

We receive many inquiries from people who live in very COLD climates who ask us, “Does aquaponics work in cold climates?”

And our answer is always, “YES IT DOES! In fact, it’s actually easier to heat a greenhouse than it is to cool a greenhouse!”

The energy cost of some aquaponics systems is so low it is almost a non issue. Many people chose to incorporate solar or other alternative power to operate their systems with great success. There are some new(er) technologies that may be helpful in planning an aquaponics installation or even retrofitting an existing installation.

greenhouse lean toThe first suggestion is the use of the outer wall of an occupied house as part of the (greenhouse) structure. Using the wall of a house as the north wall of the greenhouse makes perfect sense to protect the interior of a greenhouse structure from cold winds, and even if there is some electricity used to run the aquaponics system, on an annual basis, the greenhouse will have a CARBON NEGATIVE impact. Now really, how cool is that?

The insulated wall of a house means that the wall is never cold and much less heat is needed to keep the greenhouse above freezing. The second effect is having a door into the greenhouse in that wall so the greenhouse is entered from the house instead of entering the greenhouse directly from the outside. Two benefits here: The warm air from the house can enter the greenhouse and the cooler air can be warmed by the house’s heating system. But, “WAIT,” you say, “. . .  that will cost money to heat.” Yes and when the sun comes out, heat moves back into the house and the runs the other way; heat from the greenhouse comes pouring into the house. Think GIANT solar heater.

sunsunglassesOn clear sunny days, even in very cold weather, the heat gain in a greenhouse is very impressive. Even with outside temperatures ten degrees below freezing, the interior of a building-mounted greenhouse can very quickly raise into the comfortable-to-warm range. Now the greenhouse is reducing the heat load on the house itself and is now actually contributing to lowering the heating costs. The small amount of heat needed to keep the greenhouse above 50° F (4° C) is very quickly paid back on sunny days no matter what the temperature outside happens to reach. (Greenhouse needs to be a minimum of 65 degrees F with additional grow lights to extend the length of the day during winter months to grow blooming vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers.)

Insulation can be used on the non heat/light gathering areas. The entire north side of the greenhouse can be insulated with 4 to 8” of insulation. Painting the interior of the insulated side a bright white reaps the advantages of the insulation and the bright white bouncing the light around. The east and west walls can be insulated up to the 3 or 4’ level with no loss of effectiveness in the sun capture.

A stem wall is the wall surrounding a greenhouse (image below)

portable-farms-gravel-mediumStem walls around the side of the greenhouse structure can be insulated or in warmer climates, can simply be concrete block to raise the overall height of the greenhouse to enclose more volume of air making the system more effective and easier to control.

Roof vents instead of exhaust fans are also effective. Roof vents are the modern trend in greenhouse design and with these vents and their air intake vents screened, the insect problems are vastly reduced to almost nil. The reductions in energy costs are amazing. The small motors that control the vent mechanisms require a very small amount of electricity and are only ‘on’ for a few minutes each day.

Solar heating for the fish tanks can also be done relatively inexpensively and with few, if any, electrical requirements, these systems quickly pay for themselves.

Solar panels to provide the electrical needs of the installation have come down dramatically in price over the last decade and with the reduced needs of the installation, the cost of going solar has become both viable and a cost savings.

Monitoring systems are still a bit expensive, but the need to monitor any aspect of the installation may be reduced to the point of only needing catastrophic failure notification.

There are other small tweaks that can be incorporated into any aquaponics greenhouse to reduce the energy requirements and each time these requirements are lowered, the ROI becomes better and better. Let the imagination run wild or contact PFAS LLC for more information on improving that current or dream aquaponics greenhouse.

Here is The Difference Between Hydroponics and Aquaponics

Here is The Difference Between Hydroponics and Aquaponics
– by Colle and Phyllis Davis

  • A commercial aquaponics system creates immediate jobs and food for semi-skilled people trained in less than a week.
  • Permanent full-time jobs and year round food production in three months in greenhouses or warehouse.
  • Grows pesticide free food, table vegetables and fish, raised in simple yet revolutionary new technology that replicates nature.
  • Installation can be solar powered.Total sustainability can be achieved by selling most of the food production to local markets.

Hydroponics (image above of lettuces) is a very recent technology first noted in the 17th Century; the name itself was only coined in 1937 from the Greek words for ‘water’ and for ‘work’ by William Frederick Gericke of the University of California at Berkeley. He grew a 25′ tomato plants in his backyard using only mineral salts in water.

As amazing and productive as hydroponic is, there is a built in problem with the technology. The nutrient solution used in the growing of the plants eventually has to be ‘changed out’ or it will become toxic to the plants, even if the system is being run organically because some of the nutrients become concentrated in the water and even adding water to dilute it, there comes a time when it must be changed out. Therein lies the rub . . .

Hydroponics lettuce root.

The ‘liquor’ as it is called, is now designated by the EPA as toxic waste and must be disposed of properly by qualified personal using approved techniques. Another way to say this is that the waste disposal for hydroponics is expensive and needs to be disposed of by experts. This makes the hydroponic waste removal a much larger expense than most people realize and it’s a topic that’s almost never discussed by those selling hydroponic systems.

Hydroponics has a much older and more benign sister, aquaponics that has been around for over 4,500 years and is the exact same system that nature uses to break down waste to reuse the resulting byproducts to grow new plants and this process has been going on naturally for billions of years.

In aquaponics, there are no toxic chemicals used in the system. After all, chemicals would kill the fish.

Oreochromis Mossambicus Tilapia

The waste products in aquaponics are non toxic, usable on other plants and can even be dumped down a sewer system because they will not harm sewage systems. The waste from an aquaponics system is a valuable fertilizer for plants, shrubbery, trees, or grass. One owner of a small commercial Portable Farms® Aquaponics System even sells his Settling Tank waste as an organic fertilizer and gets US$25 per 5 gallon container and the client picks it up at his greenhouse. Considering that each Module of Portable Farms® produces approximately 50 gallons of waste water every six weeks which can become a nice extra source of income for the installation owner. 

Insecticides that help control pests on the plants will nearly always kill the fish. Pesticide free-food creates a safer and healthier food supply. Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems use NO dirt and no chemicals (insecticides or fertilizers) to grow the plants.

One Grow Table of blooming plants in a Portable
Farms Aquaponics System: tomatoes, cucumbers and beans.

Today, your family can enjoy one of the oldest food-growing technologies wrapped up in a modern, easy to build and operate system in your own backyard, patio or greenhouse.

  • There have been over 300 different varieties of plants  that have been tested and can be grown successfully in a Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems. For example, lettuce is considered a variety but there are hundreds of variations of lettuces that grow well in aqupaonics. The same is true for peppers, beans, etc.
  • The major food groups that are not recommended for Portable Farms® are root vegetables (carrots, potatoes, onions, etc.) and field crops such as corn, wheat, soy or rice. Perennial plants (strawberries, blackberries, asparagus, etc.) are not recommended because the plants are dormant many months each year and do not produce harvestable food year round. Plus, we recommend growing all plants from seeds and not bringing in plants raised in soil into the structure which can introduce pathogens that can harm the other plants in the structure.

Warehouse Aquaponics? Yes, Here’s How . . .

Warehouse Aquaponics with Portable Farms®? Yes, Here’s How . . .
– by Colle and Phyllis Davis

How to keep a warehouse clean in four steps

We cracked the code so you make money faster and easier and with LOWER ELECTRICAL COSTS to increase your ROI for warehouse aquaponics! You’re welcome.

Those huge empty warehouses on the edge of town seem to be begging to be repurposed again in some productive and sustainable way. The enclosed spaces run from tens of thousands to millions of square feet of usable space. There must be some way to turn that empty space into a money maker.

Greenhouse & Warehouse Aquaponics GOLD

This ebook discloses the facts, figures and formulas necessary for successful greenhouse and warehouse aquaponics growing.

The main advantage for using greenhouses is to modify the microclimate and to extend the growing season for a wider variety of crops. The protection from the weather has a huge positive effect on the plant growth and is very cost effective. The main disadvantage, in most cases, is that the greenhouse is being used in the same-old-ways of intensive farming methods that are used in regular growing. The water is applied to the plants and the excess water flows into the ground and is lost forever. Even if watering is done with careful irrigation even drip irrigation systems, the water is lost forever and, in some climates, increases the humidity inside the structure. 

How about making this available warehouse space into a huge aquaponics setup using some special grow lights to grow plants? It sounds so reasonable and straightforward. Every week PFAS LLC receives requests from all over the world from those interested in making use of abandoned warehouses in their area. They dream of converting the interior space of warehouses into a high-intensity food production facility to grow, sell and distribute food locally and make lots of money.

Greenhouse advantages:

  1. Controls pests, diseases and predators (birds, small animals, etc.) from the natural surrounding environments

  2. Protects plants and fish from extreme weather conditions (except for tornado, hurricane or major flooding)

  3. Enables ability to provide shade cloth to protect from too much sun for maximum production

  4. Extends growing season

  5. Provides pleasant, comfortable, quiet work environment for workers

  6. Offers ideal conditions for growing plants and fish

  7. Creates a space for the option of installing Grow Lights above grow trays for year-round maximum growing conditions.\The physical building needs to enclose as much air space as possible to help regulate the temperature. Buildings with taller roofs are much easier to keep cool and interestingly, they are easier to keep warm when using the PFAS Technology


Below is the process that nearly all warehouses must go through in order to be ready for Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems:

  1. Obtain the use of the building through leasing or purchase or whatever means of legal transfer is required to secure the right to use the space.
  2. Obtain the necessary permits to make changes to the electrical, HVAC, surface water diversion, sewage hook ups and security systems. This may also require a zoning change.
  3. Permission from Fish and Wildlife Department in the local jurisdiction.
  4. Permission from the electrical utility to ‘up the load coverage’ to keep the grow lights on.
  5. A thorough cleaning. Steam cleaning and even sand blasting walls and floors may be necessary to make the space clean and usable for growing plants and fish.
  6. Painting all surfaces and using an epoxy coating on the floors.
  7. Replacing or updating the entire HVAC system.
  8. Installing an effective grow light system first before installing the aquaponics’ Modules.

Solar Aquaponics – The Future of Growing

Solar Aquaponics – The Future of Growing
– by Colle and Phyllis Davis

solar system

Heat and light are the heart-and-soul of aquaponics after the water, plants and fish are in place.

Here we have to make a couple of assumptions about your current or planned solar powered aquaponics system: 1) the constant aeration pump and the circulation pump requirements have already been planned for and 2) calibrated against the output of the system.

Now let’s bring the other two CEA (Controlled Environment Agriculture) elements to your aquaponics system by adding:

    1. Grow lights – not expensive, easily available and need more power than a single deep cycle battery can supply
    2. Heat for the fish tank – less expensive, easy to install and, yes that second battery is necessary.

The grow lights require a converter to up the voltage from 12vdc to 110 or 220vac and this step takes power and additional components. (There are 12v florescent lights, but they have a long way to go to be effective.) You may already use a converter to run you water pump and if so make sure you upgrade to enough watts to handle all of the current draw on your system.

sun symbol from color splashes and line brushesThe rule of thumb (green or not) is that plants need to have full spectrum lighting or special growing lights in a density sufficient to grow and be healthy. We have successfully used the guideline of one, four tube 4’ T8 Super-sunlight fixture per 2m or 6’ of grow tray length. These fixtures, including bulbs, are less than US$80 almost everywhere in the world. The 32watt tubes times 4 tubes means each fixture requires 128watts of power per hour for up to 4 hours per day. (Indoor growing has a very different time frame and cost.) To translate this to power usage: There needs to be 128watts x hours of use = watts per hour requirements from your solar electrical system. We started with one deep cycle marine battery and found very quickly that a second matching battery was needed to operate the grow lights for three hours per day over the six months of short days.

Here are the components you will need (assuming you are using an existing solar electrical system) to ‘go solar’ with your grow lights:

  1. A second matching battery
  2. An 800watt converter – 12vdc to 110 or 220vac (this is for one grow light fixture)
  3. One Super-sunlight T8 four tube fixture or similar per 2m (6’) of grow tray length
  4. Mounting hardware for above the trellises

These will cost in the range of US$300 to US$400.

Now for the heating system:

In most aquaponics systems, the fish tank is or can be plastic or a heavy rubberized food-grade material. (Please do not use galvanized steel because the zinc will leach into the water and is harmful to both fish and plants.) With a fish tank made of these materials you can add a thermostatically controlled heating system for under US$100, extra battery not included. Most warm water, fresh water fish do very well at between 75 and 80° F (25 to 27° C).

solar panelUsing a 12vdc heating element and a thermostat to keep the water in the fish tank within a desired range will contribute both to your production and your peace of mind. In colder climates the fish tank needs to be heavily insulated, especially the bottom and top. Placing the heating element near the aerators also helps to distribute the heat within the tank.

Here is the list of components to ‘go solar’ with the fish tank heater:

  1. 300 watt 12vdc heater element
  2. Thermostat/relay to control the heating element
  3. Adapter to mount heating element into side of fish tank (may not be necessary)

Yes, that is the list of components. Please note the adaptor, if needed, is a multipart component that may require some slight modifications to work in your situation.

The heating element is mounted in a hole you have cut in the side of the fish tank. (please drain the tank to below the hole FIRST.) The components for the adaptor are available at hardware and home centers in the plumbing section.

solar panel and clarThe thermostat is mounted near or on the top of outside of the tank and the sensor is fastened to the OUTSIDE of the tank about half way up the side and covered with insulating material. The sensor does not need to be in the water and fastening it to the outside of the tank reduces its exposure to the water and fish.

Here’s information about the wiring: The positive (+) wiring is from the battery bank (+) terminal to the thermostat then to the heating element. The negative or neutral wire goes from the battery bank (-) terminal to the heating element.

With the lights and/or the heating element(s) in place your solar electric system may or may not carry the load. Keep a close eye on its performance. Suggestion: The solar panel needs to be at least a 100w panel and the MPPT (charge controller) able to handle 20 amp loads. Upgrading either component will increase the cost. If you have not yet purchased your solar panels, opt for a minimum of 100watts and better 200watts.

A solar power system with a 200w panel, an MPPT that can handle 20amps and two deep cycle batteries will normally support a properly constructed and insulated single fish tank system including the grow lights even in extreme climates.

Send us pictures of your installations so we can brag on you

Free Visual Tutorial to Build an Above-Ground Vegetable Tub Garden

Colle Davis, inventor, Portable Farms Aquaponics Systems

Grow Food in an Above Ground (movable) Tub

This page offers (free) suggestions and a visual tutorial for building an above-ground garden, often referred to as a raised bed. 

In the past 24 hours, June 15, 2020, Colle and I have built a small raised-bed garden to show you how to grow food.  This is a great family project with tasks for every member of your family to join in the fun.

The cost of this garden was approximately $100 for the materials. You can prepare the parts and then assemble it anywhere that receives six hours of direct sunlight. Some vegetables require less sunlight, but most like lots of sunshine.

We realize many folks may not be able to afford one of our aquaponics systems right now, but perhaps you can build one of these gardens at home, or consider building several in a community garden to grow food to feed families during this pandemic crises and high unemployment.

This grow tub is 2’x2’x8′ and is built near our kitchen door off our driveway and receives many hours of sunlight.

Personal note: We live in a very dense forest with 100′ trees and there are very few places with direct sunlight. (Robin Hood and Friar Tuck pass through our property quite often and wave at us from our driveway.)

In the final image (below) you’ll see we planted some tomatoes and basil to start our garden but we’ve also planted carrot seeds, radish seeds and many more basil seeds. 

Here are the layers necessary for building an above-ground tub garden.


Picture Tutorial for building your own above ground tub garden.

1. A few bag of garden soil.

2. Two sheets of 10′ metal sheeting and ten pieces of 8 foot 2’x4′ treated lumber. Avoid contact with the treated lumber and use non-treated lumber on the rim of the tub.  

3. Build a simple 2’x8′ frame for the metal sheeting and then screw the metal sheeting to the lumber. Build the two frames for the end pieces 2’x2′.

4. Move the grow tub components to an area that receives six-hours of direct sunlight that (preferably) has access to water or you can carry water in a bucket. 

5. Connect the side panels to the end panels using 3 inch screws. Notice the end pieces are longer to nail through.

6. Fill the box with dried wood-branches and logs. They will ‘settle’.

7. Add mulch. Our neighbor gave us access to his mulch bed of leaves. These leaves have tremendous nutrient value. 

8. Spread the mulch on top of the branches and logs and push the leaves into the spaces until the bed is even. 

9. Phyllis Davis and Scarlet watering the mulch and dried branches.

10. Next, we spread a layer of dried leaves mixed with grass clippings and some twigs to act as another nutrient base.

12. Then, we spread some garden soil on the top for planting.

13. Next, we leveled the soil to prepare the garden for planting.

14. Finally, we planted two tomato plants and a basil plant in our new garden and planted carrot seeds, radish seeds and more basil seeds. We cannot grow ‘root vegetables’ in aquaponics so planting carrots and radishes in soil is a big adventure for us. 

We’re not finished yet! Next, we plan to put bird netting around the farm to protect our vegetables from the deer, squirrels and birds that live near our house.  Stay tuned for our additions!

40 day after planting. Basil. Tomatoes. Radishes. Carrots.

June 25, 2020: Today, we finished a much larger above-ground garden for plants that do not require trellising (tomatoes, beans, cucumbers). We’ve relegated this garden for a variety of lettuces, Swiss Chard, basil, carrots, bok choy.

This garden weighs about 2,000 pounds because it’s layered with large tree trunks and branches,  several varieties of nutrient-rich mulch, grass clippings mixed with twigs and then top soil. 

Similar to the smaller grow tub behind this one, we will provide a bit of cover to protect it from the heavy rains we receive in Virginia and we’ll surround it with bird netting to protect it from the deer, birds and squirrels who share our land.


Think Ahead for Winter Growing

Winter Growing in Aquaponics
– by Colle and Phyllis Davis

Yes, you can grow a variety of crops YEAR ROUND in aquaponics in acclimatized greenhouses if you install grow lights for use during winter months to extend the light of the day. In order to grow food you need six hours of direct sunlight per day or ten hours of grow lights. 

However, there is a caveat, the ambient air temperature still determines which crops are easier to grow in cold weather or hot weather. For example, It’s easier to grow fragile greens in cooler weather. Let’s use bib lettuce, buttercrunch lettuce or red leaf lettuce as an example. If the air temperature is too hot, those lettuces will not grow to their maximum size, in fact, they may BOLT before they have even reached their average  growth and are best grown in cooler temperatures. However, in hot seasons, there are far more heat-resistant lettuces available such as Romaine (cos).

Komatsuna summerfest - An Asian Green we prefer over bib lettuce.

Komatsuna summerfest – An Asian Green we prefer over bib lettuce.

Despite the fact that Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems are ‘housed’ in acclimatized greenhouses and provide the ideal water temperature for growing lettuces at 78 degrees F, all seedlings and growing plants (of all varieties) still react to climatic conditions:

  • Air temperature
  • How air temperature effects the temperature of the gravel in the grow beds
  • Humidity levels
  • Sunlight exposure levels
  • Day length
  • Root drainage and water flow
  • Appropriate pH balance and appropriate nutrient levels.
Phyllis Davis harvesting greens for a luncheon. That's was one heck-of-a-salad. Yum.

Phyllis Davis harvesting greens for a luncheon. That’s was one heck-of-a-salad. Yum.

In order to create maximum crop yields, careful consideration is always paramount for seed variety and selection for growing at optimal levels by experimenting with small seed batches until you find a seed that offers maximum production in your farm.

Before deciding on one particular seed or seed variety for your farm, experiment first. Since every area of the world offers a variety of seed choices in that country or region, take your time to speak with local growers and seed suppliers to see which seed will work best for you, in your climate, and then purchase a few different varieties of small packets of seeds to experiment in your aquaponics system until you find the seeds that work best for you and your family or future customers.

All varieties of lettuces grow to harvest between 40 and 75 days and most lettuce seeds available for sale have been developed for growing hearty, healthy heads of lettuce in both cool weather and hot weather conditions. 

Phyllis Davis, Co-Inventor, holding ONE HEAD of India Mustard. Wow! That will make one gigantic salad!

Phyllis Davis, Co-Inventor, holding ONE HEAD of India Mustard. Wow!
That will make one gigantic salad!


Cool weather lettuces we recommend

  • Head and Big Lettuces: Arctic King, Buttercrunch, Matchless, North Pole, and Burpee’s Bibb, Red Sails, Prizehead
  • Romaine: Parris Island Cos (the most common)


Heat-tolerant lettuces we recommend:

  • Head lettuces: Gulfstream, Vista, Oak Leaf, Great Lakes, Ithaca, Gator (highly recommended by University of West Virginia). Burpee, Igloo.
  • Leaf Lettuces: Simpson Elite, Burpee™s Heatwave Blend, Black Seeded Simpson
  • Romaine Lettuces (cos): Snappy, Terrapin, Pomulus.
  • Red Lettuces: Redfire and Red Sails.

Learn More About Aquaponics and Your Portable Farm

Learn More About Aquaponics and Your Portable Farm

A single module of a Portable Farms® Aquaponics System 

A typical-sized Grow Table in a Portable Farms Aquaponics System is 5ft x 40ft or 6ft x 32ft (1.4m x 1.6m), which provides 200 sq. ft (42m²) per Grow Table. A 200 sq. ft (42m²) Grow Table feeds eight people all the table vegetables they need to remain healthy forever. You can also build smaller Grow Tables.

Depending on how motivated and skilled you are, you can build a Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems module in a few days, and after your installation is complete, you will be ready to harvest food in 40 days or less. After installation, your daily maintenance for your new farm is about 10 minutes per day to feed your fish, plant seedlings, and harvest your vegetables.  And, the more Grow Tables you install, your time will increase only a few minutes per day, per module.

  1. To create a balanced diet, purchase other sources of carbohydrate such as potatoes, rice, corn or wheat, and some additional protein source of meat, chicken, eggs, protein-rich vegetables, and more portions of tilapia or other fish are still necessary.
  2. Aquaponics is known for growing healthy greens however, we have found new and creative ways to grow ‘blooming plants’ in Portable Farms such as tomatoes, peppers, beans, peas, cucumbers and even eggplant. These plants normally prefer a loose sandy soil high in nutrients. However, we have never had success growing any variety of squash.
  3. Growing any type of melon in Portable Farms is not suggested (we have tried many times) because the vines and melons take up the entire Grow Table and do not leave room for any other vegetables. You might try using stable trellises with netting to support the melons and keep the leaves away from the gravel.
  4. Our systems do not grow all vegetables that typically grow in soil. For example, aquaponics does not grow ‘root vegetables’ in the gravel used as the growing medium in Grow Tables. Examples of root vegetables are potatoes, beets, carrots, radishes, celery, etc. These root vegetables cannot move the gravel to thrive and mature.
  5. We do not recommend growing perennials that remain in the Grow Tables year-round. For example, we do not recommend growing berries since the root system of the plants grows large after a year and creates a large root ball that begins to decay and mysteriously attracts insects (primarily ants and white flies) and blocks water flow in the table.
  6. Tomatoes and cucumbers require about 100 days in the Grow Tables. If you have a small Grow Table, we suggest you grow a wide variety of lettuces, basil, kale, Swiss Chard, bok choy, green beans, spinach, mustard greens (we call mustard greens Wasabi lettuce – it is hot and spicy).
  7. We also recommend growing Asian greens in aquaponics. Asian seeds are available from Johnny’s Select or Burpee Seeds. They grow quickly and are delicious and healthy and easily prepared by stir-frying, steaming, frying or added to soups.

    Tilapia is the chosen fish for use in aquaponics in the Northern Hemisphere. The Southern Hemisphere uses Jade Perch and Silver Perch. Some in the Southern Hemisphere use Barramundi for aqupaonics, but it’s not recommended if you’re a beginner.
  • Plant your seeds within two weeks of the time you expect to complete your installation of your Portable Farms®. In most cases, building and installing your new farm will only take a few days of dedicated effort, so PLANT YOUR SEEDS as soon as you set the dates for constructing your farm. Only you can determine your skill level or your installer’s skill level. Still, for MOST people with the proper tools and building experience (i.e., capable of building a cabinet), it may only take a few days to build and install their Portable Farms® Aquaponics System. If you paint the wood for your farm, add a day or two to this equation. Please ask your installer to read Sections A-L of this course so they can build your farm correctly.
  • It is also essential to find a source for tilapia (fish) NOW and preorder them for a date when you believe you will have your installation complete to install your fish—more on fish and fish breeders.  

It is our pleasure to bring to you the information you want for creating high-output on-site food production facility using PFAS LLC’s state-of-the-art aquaponics design for you and your family.

Our online aquaponics course offers the assembly and operating instructions for building your own Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems installation up to the size for feeding up to eight people in one module.


Commercial Aquaponics’ Quick Start Guide – Dream Big

Commercial Aquaponics’ Quick Start Guide – Dream Big
by Colle & Phyllis Davis

If your dream is to enter into the exciting field of the commercial aquaponics business and you want to get started as soon as possible, here are some options for your consideration.

  1. You will need greenhouse space and renting a greenhouse space (instead of buying land and building one yourself) is an affordable and easy way to get started. The biggest expense in starting up a commercial aquaponics installation is always the cost of the land and the greenhouses. By renting existing greenhouses, you can start in a matter of weeks. Plus, you may never build your greenhouses because renting space can give you a one-year ROI. That is extremely attractive. Contact a real estate broker in your area to inquire about the rental availability of greenhouses in your area.

“The agricultural sector is going to face enormous challenges in order to feed the 9.6 billion people that the FAO predicts are going to inhabit the planet by 2050: food production must increase by 70% by 2050, and this has to be achieved in spite of the limited availability of arable lands, the increasing need for fresh water (agriculture consumes 70 per cent of the world’s fresh water supply) and other less predictable factors, such as the impact of climate change, which, according a recent report by the UN could lead, among other things, to changes to seasonal events in the life cycle of plant and animals.” The Future of Agriculture- Smart Farming by Federico Guerrini, Forbes Magazine.

If you rent or build your own greenhouse, here are some necessities for a successful aquaponics greenhouse structure:

      1. Orientation: Mostly North/South for the long axis in Northern Hemisphere. There are many exceptions/
      2. Ideal temperatures: Interior 60° to 100° (15 to 38C) for plants and 70° to 90° (21 to 32C) for fish.
      3. Sunlight: Minimum 6 hours of DIRECT sunlight or equivalent per day
      4. Ventilation: Interior air movement and venting to the outside to control humidity and temperature
      5. Water: Potable water available inside structure always
      6. Electrical power: Needed to run pumps and other electrical equipment including fans, heaters, and lights. Can be solar or other alternative energy source.

2) Here is the most important question to ask yourself before you launch your commercial aquaponics farm, ‘Who is your market?’ In our eBook Commercial Aquaponics GOLD the number task to do before you do anything else is to define your market. What will you grow? Who will buy your production? A commercial aquaponics installation produces a scary amount of produce and keeps doing it every week for as long as you want.

Here is a weekly updated report from the FDA entitled National Retail Report for Specialty Crops. It lists the retail prices for the most popular fruits and vegetables in the United States each weekFor example: 

December 3, 2021.  Red Leaf Lettuce – Selling in US – $1.30 per weighted average price – sold in 1,030 stores.

December 3, 2021.  Red Leaf Lettuce – Selling in US – $2.90 per pound –
sold in 93 stores.

As you plan your crops, you must compete with either price or freshness, quality, and availability.

PLEASE NOTE: Aquaponics grows ‘above ground table vegetables’ like lettuces, basil, Swiss chard, kale, bok choy, mustard greens and some blooming plants such as green beans. It does not grow root vegetables (potatoes, carrots, etc.), and does not grow fruits that are grown on trees (apples, pears, or plums), or on larges bushes that prefer dry sandy soil (melons or berries).

Your best markets are casinos, high-end restaurants, resort hotels, and specialty markets. You will take years longer to make your money back if you go the wholesale route, no matter how much you sell. Sell to the chefs and buyers who must please the most discerning customers, and they will pay the best prices.

3) To become a successful commercial aquaponics systems business owner. First, what size space do you need. After interviewing, in person, at least ten chefs add up the number of boxes of lettuce, basil, tomatoes, and whatever else they want to buy from you and divide the number by half. This process gives you a build-in expansion to satisfy their demand.

Fun story: The first time you deliver a box or two of lettuce and the chef tastes it, they may cry. It will be the best lettuce they have had in years. Then in a few weeks, they will ask you if you can provide different lettuce, say red leaf or butter, and here is where you own them. The ‘special orders’ are where you make the most money, grown to order, local, pesticide-free are super sexy, and the product is the finest available.

4) How much can you grow in the space you are renting? With the market requirement in hand, the formula for maximizing the floor space in a greenhouse is to divide the total floor space by 350. Example a greenhouse 30 x 90 = 2700 sq ft. Divide by 350 (sq ft for each Module) to get 7.7 modules. Depending on the physical layout, a maximum of 7 Portable Farms Modules will fit in that space. Using the Commercial Aquaponics GOLD eBook means you will be selling to upscale markets you would make back your initial investment in one growing season!

Remember, you are only using enough space to satisfy one-half of the demand. Therefore, you need to get your hands wet, your crew trained, your delivery system worked out, and have shipped products before committing to a larger space.

Today is the first day of your new project. Get started by buying the Commercial Aquaponics GOLD  interviewing chefs, looking for greenhouse space, and taking the Aquaponics University Portable Farms Aquaponics Systems Course©.

  • Sample Greenhouse Facility Lease

  • How to Start a Plant Nursery from Home

  • Leasing greenhouse space

YEAR ROUND Ideal Growing Conditions for Aquaponics

YEAR ROUND Ideal Growing Conditions for Aquaponics
– by Colle and Phyllis Davis 


One single head of India Mustard (tastes like a spicy lettuce) that was harvested from a Portable Farms® Aquaponics System.



 “How is it possible that Portable Farms Aquaponics Systems can grow such DELICIOUS and nutrient rich food year round?”


  • In sunlight, plans use photosynthesis to turn CO2 and water into oxygen and sugar.
  • In the dark, plants switch to the same system animals use to stay alive, the building and repair of the organism itself. 
  • Added to this phenomena of growth, is the fact that as the temperature increases, chemical activity speeds up.

greenbean aquaponicsThe closer to the ‘ideal’ temperature the better for the plants to grow. The ideal temperature for plant growth is, interestingly, 73° F at the leaf surface or about the same temperature as humans enjoy.

In a climatically adapted greenhouse, temperatures are regulated so the maximum temperature the plants can comfortably tolerate is never reached and the lowest temperature that the particular plant can grow at, produce the best possible conditions for growth.

To have a warm garden in the winter time takes some planning but once it is in place, it will produce prodigious amounts of happy food. For a plant to have all of the nutrients and water it can possibly use delivered to its roots before it even needs them means the plant can grow a quickly as possible because there are no limiting factors.

  • All of the food (nutrients) for the plants arrives before the plants need it, or want it.
  • The water is always available and it is refreshed a couple of times a day
  • The light levels are always perfect in the structure
  • The air circulates in a gentle fashion to help with pollination and to help avoid dampness in the structure
  • The temperature is pleasant and varies a bit so as not to be monotonous
  • There are no bugs or weeds or poisons or harsh chemicals used to contend with, ever.
  • The water in the Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems turns over ENTIRELY twice a day. Plus, all of the heavy fish poop has been removed and rerouted so it never flows into the Grow Tray or has contact with the plants.

As a result of an ideal environment:

  • The plants grow faster than the seed packets say they will
  • Food grown in an aquaponics system is much healthier than ‘regularly’ grown plants, and as a result, they are healthier for you, they TASTE BETTER and are higher in nutrition.
  • The food in an aquaponics system is grown without any chemicals (think about it; if chemicals were used, it would kill the fish). The growing food is more beautiful with each passing day
  • The plants mature in less time and require 90 to 95% less water than their dirt-grown friends
  • The plants stay clean and dry at all times
  • They are harvested when they are at their peak of ripeness and maturation which means their flavor and nutritional content are always at optimal levels
  • They are simply the best vegetables on the planet.

One of the (many) key reasons plants in Portable Farms® grow so quickly and so LARGE is because the plants roots are bathed in warm water that is loaded with nutrients and are supported by warm gravel in a warm building. What more could they possibly want or need? Portable Farms® spoil the plants and and cater to their every need for comfort.

Interior of a Portable Farms Aquaponics System. Photo taken January 3, 2012.

Interior of a Portable Farms Aquaponics System. 


To provide the absolute ideal conditions for growth and health to any living being, gives them everything they need to be their best. This is true of plants in a Portable Farms® Aquaponics System, raising animals and even raising children. The raising children thing is much harder actually. At least we don’t have to eat them. 🙂



Start the process of having your warm garden by taking the Aquaponics University Aquaponics Online Course today and have warm healthy and delicious plants in only a few weeks.