I've taken Nelson & Pade's course and I thought it was excellent and well worth the money. The focus is on commercial, UVI-style raft based systems but they also do a nice job of giving an overview of aquaponics and how the basics work, no matter what the system type. It was a two day workshop (the one I went to was over Memorial Day weekend) and each day started with a lecture style presentation with the afternoons spent in the greenhouse doing hands on work of testing water, weighing fish, planting seeds, greenhouse considerations, etc. Thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.
I also attended a 1 day workshop at Growing Power in Milwaukee. I would actually recommend this, but only as the two day version. They packed over 200 people into this workshop and there just wasn't enough time to learn all I wanted to learn, especially given all the extra overhead big crowds add (re: lines!). Growing Power is a fascinating place and I did get to spend some time learning about their aquaponics systems. They have a very unique system in place (Sweetwater Organics uses the same technique) that is worth learning more about and seeing in person. Plus meeting Will Allen in person is almost worth the plane flight all by itself.
I live on the Big Island of Hawaii and discovered Friendly Aquaponics in October 09. My first tour of their farm changed my life. I purchased one their "do it your self" system packages which includes manuals and drawings. I started building and had my first system running by Thanksgiving 09. I have since built a second system and now have a total of 800 square feet of growing space.
I attended Friendly Aquaponics Training in April 2010. Tim and Susanne are some of the most interesting, ambitious, and generous people you could ever hope to meet. They are true pioneers in the aquaponic industry. They started with the UVI system and applied their "value engineering" to make much more efficient and profitable systems. UVI has not changed or improved their design in 30 years of operation. In two years, Tim and Susanne have evolved the UVI template into their own unique system that is being improved on with new knowledge. They are making a living growing produce on a commercial scale with aquaponics, not just promoting and teaching.
The training course was four days long with class and hands on at the farm every day. The training was all their knowledge up to that date and they made sure we understand all the information before we were done. They have a very comprehensive training and construction manual based on their personal experience, both good and bad. They have learned a lot of things since my first farm tour in October and all is in the training manual and covered in class. I highly recommend any of the "do it myself" packages and/or the group training from Friendly Aquaponics.
Their micro system package is scaled for most backyards and the best value for $50 you will find!!
I attended Friendly Aquaponics class in Oct 2009. It was wonderful. It cost me only $900.00 because I registered early. I would recommend it to anyone. They give you the knowledge to get started and not have the problems they did. They started out with the UVI systems and quickly learned they could do it cheaper. They also learned there is no one set way. I set my first system up in December 2009. It is not exactly the same as theirs but is on the same principle..
The one thing Tim stressed was get started and build it from what you have laying around. This is what I did. I quickly learned I prefer my plants waist high so I don't have to spend my time bending over. So I am designing my own systems so that I don't have to bend over. I had built the 1/2 barrel system before I went to the class. I really love it but getting the barrels cut perfect is hard so I changed to wood with liners in the trough. I am going to set up a bigger system very soon. The biggest problem is I have trouble keeping it all planted. I am the only one working on the whole thing.
I have purchased all the back issues of Nelson & Pade's newsletters and have read at least the last 6 or 7 in detail (working back but finding that earlier issues are somewhat now outdated...still good background knowledge. I have also purchased all the issues of Backyard Aquaponics magazines and read them in detail...really great info. I have also both of the Hallam Murray's DVD's (Aquaponics made easy and Aquaponic Secrets), and for some days, they were all that I was watching and digesting. In addition, numerous forums & discussion groups, university papers, hydroponic discussions with those in business or hobby, as well as having had a reasonably large Koi Pond (now 2), for many years along with a passion for growing, especially tropical produce, has assisted in getting this knowledge to sink in, hopefully.
I have recently purchased the plans of the Micro System from Friendly Aquaponics and have read cover to cover and am in the process of building a system similar to that described but with some additional modifications to include other grow bed medias/types. After numerous hours spent during the last three months being a sponge, time that this knowledge is put to practice.
I may attend the Friendly Aquaponics course, possible in Oct or next April if I can somehow fit it in my daily work schedule..long way from FL and not so cheap given airfare/hotel + as well as cover for work (self employed). They seem to have the most positive attitude, or so it appears, when it comes to cost re building and sustaining a system..even if they do not always go with the grain (no "duck-weed" or "worms"). Still if it works for them and they have been successful in getting USDA Organic Certification, who am I to complain. That is what I would want if ever I do go Commercial in any big way :-)
As I keep reminding myself, I am still in Kindergarten compared to many of learned Aquaponic followers who have been following this wonderful way of life :-)
Perhaps I'm a bit against the grain but I have not attended any of the training workshops or anything. (Even though Morning Star is only an hour or so away.)
All my learning on the topic of Aquaponics has really come from internet research. I think back in 2007 I managed to read most of the BYAP forum at the time, it has been growing fast since then and one would be hard pressed to read it all now. I had some ornamental pond construction experience and a little hydroponic experience before discovering Aquaponics but only minimal fish keeping practice.
I have found that with my learning mostly from BYAP, I am a bit biased to the media based aquaponics. I know it and understand it because Joel made the information freely available through his forum. There doesn't really seem to be much freely available design information on raft or DWC systems so it seems if one wants to learn that well, you almost have to attend one of the workshops.
I have bought one book, thinking I should learn a bit more about Raft systems. It is "Aquaponic Food Production" By Rebecca L Nelson. I haven't finished reading it yet.
If you are simply trying to build a small backyard system, I would probably just encourage more reading and perhaps visiting some people with good backyard systems. If you are looking at going commercial scale, then one of the workshops with commercial scale systems would probably be worth the investment.
Of course this is advice coming from a person who has never attended any of these workshops.
I (Coastview Aquaponics Inc) am the first ever training affiliate for Friendly Aquaponics. I am teaching their micro system class. The micro system is a 64 sqft raft system raft system that is geared for the back yard gardener. I am dedicated to teaching people how to grow their own food and break their dependency on the large corporate food companies. Here in Hawaii we have a year around growing season but most of the produce is imported from California which I think is ridiculous! Most of the food here travels more than I do and I want to change that by promoting people to grow their own. If they don't want to grow their own then buy from me or local.
The micro system class is a half day course that is tough here on my farm at a cost of $150. The class includes Friendly Aquaponics Micro System Manual which has been recently updated and now costs $100. It includes some classroom time learning aquaponic theory then hands on construction, water quality, farming techniques and much more. I even include system water for start up once attendees have built their system. I truly want to see people succeed with aquaponics and would like to see a system in every back yard.
Even if you plan to build a commercial system I recommend starting with the micro system to grow test crops in your climate and learn how the system works. Having test crops will give you something to market before committing to building a commercial system. Having a small system makes it much easier to start up a larger system by having established system water and all the other beneficial bugs that things.
Coastview Aquaponics Inc
I have had no formal training; I have had Hydro gardens when I was younger. In 2004 I built a hydro garden with verti-gro pots and agro towers. I had a very good yield but I spent what I thought was too much money on nutrients. If it does not produce more than you’re spending to keeping it going, it’s not worth pursuing. I started doing internet searches for a less costly way to produce good yields and a more sustainable hydro system. I came across aquaponics and the BYAP internet site; I read every post on the form. From there I found the Barrel-Ponics manual by Travis Hughey by the way I would like to Say Thank you Travis for making your genius available To the Public For Free I really admire your goals most people would have tried to profit from it, rather than being a profit for it,Thank You. I built a system from his manual and the rest is history. I spent 1000s of hours searching the internet and reading. I have done my own changes over time from the information I have gathered. I started raising my own tilapia fingerlings in my basement in 2009 from the information I received from Edgar Sanchez at www.tilapiafarmingathome.com. I believe aquaponics is the answer to hunger in this country (USA) and the world. I believe the people on this site and others like it is the best training you can or will receive. The sharing of information on sites like this and others is better than any training course for the backyard grower. I also believe we can change the world one back yard at a time, ok my rant is over.
I'm amending my initial answer. I also downloaded the barrel ponics manual (That you Travis) and with it I got my feet wet so to speak. It was a very good starter system and I highly recommend to anyone just getting into this to have a read of the manual and if you don't already have something else in mind, building one is a good way to test your skills and figure out where to go from there. (I would probably find a different container other than the barrel as the fish tank but that is just me always having difficulty seeing into a barrel as a tank.)
I've been pondering this topic ever since Michael first posted it, and I'm glad that it has taken a turn away from formal courses into other ways that we all learn. I started learning about aquaponics through a combination of Rebecca Nelson's excellent Aquaponic Food Production book (I'm linking here for anyone who hasn't heard of it) and attending a workshop that she and John Pade led in Wisconsin. The workshop was a tremendous introductory course on aquaponics, but was very focused on commercial, UVI-style raft based systems....which is great if you want to go into commercial aquaponics but that really wasn't where my heart was. I also started exploring the Backyard Aquaponics forum at that time, and for the next several months, and read Joel Malcom's book on his backyard, media based system. I played at setting up my own small, 100 gallon media-based system, made mistakes, killed fish, and was hooked. I attended an inspirational workshop at Growing Power, and have soaked up Murray Hallam's videos several times over. I'm with TC and Earl, though...my best learning has come from the exchange on forums (BYAP and, of course, HERE!) and from talking with aquaponics people. Because of my business venture and from writing for BYAP mag I've had the amazing privledge of getting to know Joel Malcom, Murray Hallam, Travis Hughey, Rebecca Nelson, JIm Rakocy, and Rick Mueller (runs the AP systems at Growing Power). Amazing, inspirational people, all, as are all of you who approach our aquaponic addiction with such intelligent curiosity and shared sense of community. I count myself incredibly fortunate to be counted among you.
Aloha, I too got my start in aquaponics like many of you. I had previous hydro experience and have spent thousands of hours going through the mountains of information on the internet. There is so much info out there it can be overwhelming to some.
I have been selling my produce and doing free farm tours to my neighborhood all year now. Out of demand from my customers to learn aquaponics, I began teaching classes. There are many people who are computer illiterate or just want to be taught exactly how to aquaponics. My classes are for these people. You are right this site and others like it are the best training that someone could get if they are willing and capable of reading through all the info. There is so much info, though, it can be confusing to some and there is much conflicting info.
I believe aquaponics is the way of the future for our food production and I have made it my life. I am dedicated to educating people about aquaponics and and how to grow their own food. I have inspired many to build their own systems after seeing mine. I tell people all the information I know on my farm tours and direct them where to find additional information, such as this site. The fact remains that there are some people who want to be taught and I am helping to fill that demand.
I do not charge much for my class which includes the best and most complete manual that I have read on aquaponics to this date. Due to the poor economy I lost my construction job and am now making my living from aquaponics. I have to pay a mortgage, support a family and all the other stuff in life, so the small charge for the class helps me survive these hard times.
Coastview Aquaponics Inc
I just re-read my answer to this question. I think I came off as if people should not be charging for information. This was not the point I was trying to make. The point is information from the people on this site and others is probably the best information you can receive for the backyard grower. You have to wade through the information learning as you go. As far as charging for training classes or making a living off aquaponics is great, I tip my hat to you. You are getting the information out to people who would not otherwise be interested. The training courses are fine but only for those who can afford to go. I would like to get the information out to those who cannot. There are people in this country (USA) that go to bed hungry every day with a garden they don’t have to, with aquaponics they do not even need open land or fertile soil. These are the ones I want to inform, its frustrating; because, I just don’t know how to do that, I’m just a guy with power tools. Also In my first post I just wanted to tell Travis publicly how much I admire him and his goals. Ok my second rant is over, lets change the world one backyard at a time