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Commercial Workshop at Flourish Farms

posted Jun 6, 2012, 9:49 AM by Tawnya Sawyer   [ updated Jul 2, 2012, 9:22 PM by Jd Sawyer ]

Are YOU ready to join the Farm Revolution? 
Session 1 - Oct 27 - 30th      Session 2 - Nov 1 - 4th

The innovators at Green Acre Aquaponics are joined by Sylvia Bernstein of The Aquaponic Source and JD Sawyer of Colorado Aquaponics and Flourish Farms for this comprehensive, hands-on approach to aquaponic farming. 

Join us in Denver in late October / early November at Green Acre's Western training center!  We know that not everyone has the luxury of living in sunny, warm Florida and that most folks have to deal with varying degrees of cold weather so we have partnered up with JD Sawyer of Colorado Aquaponics and Flourish Farms for our cold weather Green Acre Aquaponic Farming Complete Course training location.  It will be the same comprehensive course we offer at our Florida farm with more emphasis on colder climates.   JD not only owns and manages Flourish Farms, but also consults and teaches aquaponics with Colorado Aquaponics and the GrowHaus.  We are very excited to be bringing even more commercial farming experience to our team. 

Learn the methods, understand the science, discover the business, and become part of the movement that will relocalize sustainable food production. This is not an academic class taught by professors or consultants, but rather a hands-on practical class designed to teach you everything you need to know to run your own successful aquaponic farm. 

"Of all the courses I have EVER taken, and there have been many, this course is by far the most exceptional!" - Steve Golin

We taught this course in April, 2012 and it was tremendously successful.  How do we know?  

"Congratulations! Great curriculum in scope and detail. Wonderful camaraderie developed. Honest, transparent I feel like I can come back and ask more. The willingness to share the very intimate business details with the class is refreshing and incredibly valuable. Provided written materials ensure we have a reference to keep and use over time. Well done!" 
- Kathleen Blackistone

Green Acres
The Green Acre family farm is the model that this team will teach students to replicate. A successful Aquaponics Farm since 2010, Green Acres does this for a living every day. Recognizing the value of integrating media bed growing into raft (DWC) technology, their hybrid aquaponics design optimizes nutrient density by allowing the additional metabolization of valuable solids typically removed from DWC systems. Why remove the most valuable element in an aquaponic system when it can be utilized to produce better and more abundant growth? This growth translates into one thing, more sellable product, elevating your bottom line. 

"Wow! I wasn't expecting so much detail on the construction and financial aspects. Loved the empowerment afforded by the hybrid system build."

Elevating your bottom line, now that’s a concept any business person can appreciate. Enter Sylvia Bernstein. An integral part in any family farm is the business aspect. Ordinary people can do it, but they also need to have the tools and skills to manage the business and market their product. Sylvia, is the former VP of Marketing for AeroGrow International with a Masters in Business from the top business school in the U.S., and the author of the best selling* book, "Aquaponic Gardening."

"Thank you for delivering an excellent course! All the speakers spoke from a point of knowledge, humor and a love for aquaponics that really showed." - Michael Johnston

(* #1 on's Best Selling Gardening and Horticulture books)

What sets us apart from other aquaponics training programs? Glad you asked! 

  • Tonya fishOur program is taught by people who are not only aquaponics business people and farmers, but also industry leaders. We do aquaponics for a living every day. 
  • Our goal is not to sell you systems or consulting services at the end of this course. Our goal is to have you walk away with all the knowledge you need to start your own successful aquaponics farm. 
  • Our approach is to teach you about all the growing methods currently available - DWC, media, NFT, Wicking Beds and Vertical - so you can design your farm to fit your market. 
  • Our process is organized and structured. Your time is valuable and you are paying your hard-earned money for this course. We guarantee that if we say that we will go over something on the schedule below...we will.
  • We don't ask you to sign an intellectual property release like other aquaponics training companies do.
  • But don't just take our word for here to read what past participants say about this course.

The Syllabus

Flourish FarmsWe have designed this course to be a logical progression that builds on itself over the four days. You will be handed a complete manual during class registration that includes all the presentations, plus even more detailed descriptions, drawings, and finaincial data. Morning sessions will be held classroom style in a very comfortable classroom location. Each morning session will start with an aquaponically focused set of lessons, followed by a set of business lessons. Then we break for lunch, which will be provided from a local, organic cafe. Afternoon sessions will be at Flourish Farms, a fully operational aquaponics farm based on the design principles of the Green Acres methodology. These sessions will be broken out into smaller groups so that all students get front row, hands on time with their instructors. Each group will rotate through all segments. 

"Highly informative. Good balance between the farm business and the actual farm operation. Very helpful in learning how to assemble a small system."

Day 1 

  • Morning - Classroom 
    • Aquaponics - The basics 
      • The Nitrogen Cycle 
      • The Role of pH 
      • Water quality 
      • Dissolved Oxygen 
      • Important ratios 
    • Business - What you need to consider before becoming a farmer 
      • Business planing
      • Types of distribution channels 
      •  Can you actually sell your fish? 
      •  Business stragegy
  • Afternoon - Hands on at Flourish Farms
    • Water Quality and Testing 
    • Seeding 
    • Plant handling and insect control 
    • Fish handling 

Day 2 

  • Morning - Classroom 
    • Aquaponics - Systems Design 
      • System types - DWC, media, NFT, wicking beds, vertical 
      • Combining system types 
      • Component selection 
      • Construction tips 
      • Water flow and pumps 
    • Business - Marketing 
      • What is your USP? 
      • Form a tribe 
      • Pricing theory, supply vs. demand 
      • Social media “advertising” 
      • The value of creating an email list and sending out newsletters 
      • Display / packaging / branding 
  • Afternoon - Hands on at Flourish Farms
    • System construction 
    • Fish Tank connections 
    • DWC or raft bed construction 
    • Media bed construction 
    • Seedling system construction 

Day 3 JD teaching

  • Morning - Classroom 
    • Aquaponics - Plumbing and Maintenance 
      • Water flow and pumps 
      • Plumbing it all together 
      • System maintenance 
    • Business - Your online presence 
      • I’m a farmer…why do I need a website? 
      • The importance of your URL 
      • Establishing your website 
      •  SEO basics 
  •  Afternoon - Hands on at Flourish Farms
    • System plumbing 
    • Wicking, Vertical and NFT Systems 
    • System maintenance 

Day 4 

  • Morning - Classroom 
    • Aquaponics - The Growing Environment 
      • Farm Biosecurity and HAACP practices 
      • Green house considerations 
      • Heating and Cooling
      • Lighting 
    • Business - “Sell” is not a 4-letter word! 
      • How to sell at Farmer’s Markets 
      • How to establish a CSA/Buying Club 
      • How to approach Restaurants 
  • Afternoon 
    • Wrap up and final Q&A 

"Great group of teachers - lots of info. You guys are living what you're preaching. This is the real deal! And you work so well together!!! And... LOTS OF FUN! Great curriculum. I love that you guys are so into sharing your info and presenting your experience to keep us from making the same mistakes. From there we will all " just take off!" and keep sharing - "tribe." 

The Instructors 

Gina Cavaliero of Green Acre Aquaponics

Green Acre Aquaponics is one of the first commercial aquaponic farms in Florida. At Green Acre, Gina manages farm operations, their Green Acre  Harvest For You! produce club and also their aquaponic training program, where entrepreneurs are taught how to replicate the Green Acre model and operate the hybridized aquaponic family farm. Gina serves as the inaugural Chairman for the Aquaponics Association and is dedicated to the mission of advancing aquaponics for her fellow members and industry. Before becoming an aquaponic farmer, Gina was the co-owner and managing director of a multi-million dollar producing construction contracting firm. Gina received her Bachelor of Science from the University of Florida in Anthropology with a minor in Education.

Sylvia Bernstein of The Aquaponic Source 

Sylvia is the president of The Aquaponic Source , she runs the Aquaponic Gardening Community, and is the Vice Chairman of the Aquaponics Association. She is also the author of "Aquaponic Gardening: A Step by Step Guide to Growing Fish and Vegetables Together" . Before aquaponics, she was the VP of Marketing and Product Development at AeroGrow International, where she was one of the founding team members. Sylvia has an MBA from the University of Chicago and a B.S. in Agricultural and Managerial Economics from the University of California at Davis. 

JD Sawyer of Colorado Aquaponics and Flourish Farms 

JD SawyerJD founded Colorado Aquaponics in 2009 and has been building aquaponic systems and providing education for schools and communities throughout Colorado. Through extensive research, training and work experience, JD has built comprehensive business models to help prove the financial viability as well as identify the risks of commercial aquaponics.  JD owns and operates Flourish Farms in Arvada, CO. The farm features over 1,200 s.f. of deep water culture growing, 150 s.f. of media beds and over 85 ZipGrow vertical towers. Prior to starting Colorado Aquaponics, he spent eight years as the Director of Operations at Johnson &Wales University. JD authored and implemented campus master plans, oversaw multiple departments and managed over forty million dollars of capital improvement projects. As a member of the Project Management Institute, he is now applying his skills in facilities, operations, education and financial planning to create sustainable food production systems with aquaponics.  

  • $1295 for registration before August 1
  • $1395 for registration between August 1 and Sept 1
  • $1495 after Sept 1 (there is a very real chance that we will be full by then given registration rates for the last course)
  • $200 discount for second family or project member (see Options above "add to cart" button)
  • Cancellation policy: Requests for cancellation of registration must be received in writing. Cancellations received by October 1, 2011, will be subject to a cancellation fee of 10%, which will be deducted from the refund. No refund will be made for cancellation requests received after October 1. If the event needs to be cancelled because of an unforseen cause beyond the organizers control (such as Acts of God, fire, strikes, and natural disasters, etc.) you will be refunded your registration fee less 10% to cover incurred organizational costs 


(note: each Session is independent.  Session 2 is identical to Session 1) 
  • Session 1 - Oct 27 - 30 
  • Session 2 - Nov 1 - 4


8:00 am - 5:00 pm 


Because we strongly believe that the personal experience of actually being in the class and interacting with the systems, the instructors and fellow participants is critical to the eventual success of the participants, this class will not be available on video tape and video taping of these sessions is prohibited.


  • Morning, classroom sessions - TBD
  • Afternoon, hands-on sessions will be held at Flourish  Farms


Denver International