The Online Urban Aquaponics Manual (3rd Edition) – FREE

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In 2007, when we published the Urban Aquaponics Manual, there was nothing like it anywhere.  Since that time, however, about half a dozen books and a host of DVD’s have been devoted to aquaponics.

In 2008, we released the 2nd Edition and, in early 2011, we took the Urban Aquaponics Manual online – and created the first aquaponics subscription site in the world.

The 4th Edition is in the pipeline, so we’re opening up the 3rd Edition…..absolutely FREE.

While our free access offer is without obligation…..we do have a small request of you.

We’d like you to leave a comment below about what you liked – or didn’t like – about the Manual.   We’d be delighted if you wanted to share ideas or suggestions for things that we might include in future editions.

We’d also like you to assist us in reviewing the first few chapters of the upcoming 4th Edition in advance of opening it up to subscription customers.  We’ll share those chapters with you in this blog.

Of course, while we think you’ll enjoy the new material, you’re under no obligation.  In any case, we’ll email you to keep you abreast of what’s happening.

To access your FREE subscription….click on this link.


Gary Donaldson

January 2015

Everything old is new again….the Tray System

In the process of relocating to our new home on Macleay Island, I came across some of our old aquaponics growing systems.

This one is called the tray system.


The tray system has been in use for decades. It was popularised by Australian Hydroponics pioneer Joe Romer in his excellent book “Hydroponic Growing in Australia”

It was among the first growing systems that we ever used.

Simplicity itself, the tray system comprised a plastic tray (about 600mm x 300mm x 120mm deep) and each unit offered about two square feet of growing area.  Each tray was filled with growing mix (we used both coco coir or nursery potting mix.

Watering was an uncomplicated affair.  We simply poured nutrient-rich water into the tray until it began to run out of a 12mm drain hole in one end – about 20mm from the bottom of the tray.

We stopped using it because it was too simple.  As silly as that sounds, it’s the truth.

At that time (in 2006), we were in full discovery mode – experimenting with auto-syphons, filtration systems and the other trappings of aquaponics systems.

We tried the tray system – growing a variety of crops that included tomatoes, beans, silver beet, Asian greens and herbs – and discovered that it worked as well as Romer claimed it would.

Then we parked it all under the house and got into bigger and (but not always) better things.

In recent years, we’ve seen the emergence of wicking bedsEarthboxesthe GreenSmart Pot – and a variety of other self-watering planters and pots.  Suffice to say, a good idea has many fathers.

Each new idea has been heralded as a breakthrough in gardening and quickly developed its own fan base.  I’ve tried (and like) several of them.

When it comes down to it, however, they are all just variations on the Tray System – used by hydroponicists for decades.

Everything old is new again.


A New Direction #4 – Macleay Island

Almost three months ago, Jan announced her desire to live on a Moreton Bay island – in a house made of shipping containers.

In early November, we made the first of two visits to Macleay Island.  On a subsequent visit about a fortnight later, we discovered what was to become her future home.


Last week, two trucks and a trailer carrying our goods and chattels rumbled off the vehicular barge and I delivered on the first part of my undertaking to Jan – that I would arrange for her to live on an island.

Located just over 50km from Brisbane (the capital city of the state of Queensland), Macleay is the second largest of the four inhabited islands in what is known as the Southern Moreton Bay Islands group.

Our new home comprises a single bedroom cottage on a bit over a quarter of an acre of flat land – very close to the water.  Actually, the houses on the other side of the street have direct water frontages.

The property also features an 8 metre by 6.5 metre (about 26′ X 22′) steel-framed workshop and a large rainwater tank.  While perfectly habitable, it is (in real estate parlance), “the worst house in the best street” – a reflection on its modest size and construction.

Our relocation was both financially and physically onerous and went pretty much as well as might have been expected with an outfit called Peter Rabbit Removals undertaking the task.

One of the issues with the move was that we had barely enough time to unload the trucks before they had to rush off to catch the return barge to the mainland.  That meant that we were left with a one bedroom cottage full of the contents of a three bedroom house.  Get the picture?

We spent the next day moving the surplus out into the shed.

In the days that followed, we’ve managed to stack up all of my micro-farming bits ‘n’ pieces so that the backyard has some semblance of order.  Regrettably, the same cannot be said for the shed – it still looks like an exploded goat.

Re-establishing our information technology presence has proved a challenge and Jan and our IT service provider have enjoyed “several frank exchanges of views” – from which it may take the provider some time to recover.

Notwithstanding the physical and financial pain associated with the move, our decision to relocate was vindicated on the first night.  As we reclined in our chairs we were overwhelmed by the complete absence of noise.

Somewhere, off in the distance, an ant coughed…….and then, just outside of the window, a curlew shrieked.


A New Direction #3 – The Big Picture

While the physical elements of our proposed sea-change are about living on an island – in a house made from shipping containers, it’s really about reclaiming control of our circumstances in the interests of a more secure and satisfying life.

While I’m approaching the traditional retirement age for men (and knowing how Mother Nature deals with redundant organisms), retirement has no appeal for me – so we’ll be cranking up our entrepreneurial act.

Our proposed enterprise is premised on our conviction that “small is beautiful” and will be an amalgum of our various “micro” interests including

  • Micro-farming
  • Micro-housing
  • Micro-manufacturing
  • Micro-publishing

My partner and I began micro-farming over 40 years ago.  We began working with aquaponics (for practical purposes) about eight years ago.

I first described my approach to the integration of fish, plants and micro-livestock – Microponics – in 2008.  Suffice to say, we probably know a thing or two about micro-farming so its inclusion in our micro-business mix is somewhat logical.

My interest in micro-housing is almost as old as our interest in micro-farming – both having their roots in the back-to-the-land movement of the 1970’s.  It has been fuelled, more recently, by the “tiny house” revolution that is currently sweeping the world.

Micro-manufacturing earns its place in the business mix because, back in the early 1980’s, I worked as a woodturner.  I made fine craft multiples (and one-off objects) for  sale to various fine art galleries.  I sold everything I ever made – and I really enjoyed doing it.

With CNC routers, 3D printers and similar devices becoming more capable and less expensive, things have never been better for home-based manufacturers.  I intend to merge traditional hand skills with appropriate technology to produce our own line of fine craft multiples.

In 2007, I self-published “The Urban Aquaponics Manual” – the first real book on integrated backyard aquaculture in the world.  We released the second edition in 2009 and it became the foundation for the world’s first integrated aquaculture subscription site in early 2011.  The manual is currently undergoing its third editorial revision.

We have several new publications in the pipeline and, suffice to say, micro-publishing will continue to play an important part in our entrepreneurial future.

Our emerging life plan is premised on thinking of our life as a micro-business.  Profitability in business is the product of maximising income while minimising costs.

Our inclusion of micro-farming and micro-housing is about cost minimisation – while micro-manufacturing and micro-publishing are about generating income.

Training, and training management, has been a recurring theme throughout my professional life and our four little enterprises will also serve as a learning laboratory…..not just in a technical sense but also in the broader micro-business how-to sense.

The combination of these interests will not only provide Jan and I with a satisfying lifestyle, but it will also position us to assist others with similar goals.