Saturday, November 21, 2015

Small-Scale Aquaponics System For Hobbyists/Beginners

Aquaponics /ˈækwəˈpɒnɨks/, refers to any system that combines conventional aquaculture (raising aquatic animals such as snails, fish, crayfish or prawns in tanks) with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in a symbiotic environment.

In normal aquaculture, excretions from the animals being raised can accumulate in the water, increasing toxicity.

In an aquaponic system, water from an aquaculture system is fed to a hydroponic system where the by-products are broken down by nitrification bacteria into nitrates and nitrites, which are utilized by the plants as nutrients, and the water is then recirculated back to the aquaculture system.

As existing hydroponic and aquaculture farming techniques form the basis for all aquaponics systems, the size, complexity, and types of foods grown in an aquaponics system can vary as much as any system found in either distinct farming discipline.[1]


A small, portable aquaponics system. The term aquaponics is a portmanteau of the terms aquaculture and hydroponic agriculture.


Further information: Historical hydroculture
Aquaponics has ancient roots, although there is some debate on its first occurrence:
  • Aztec cultivated agricultural islands known as chinampas in a system considered by some to be the first form of aquaponics for agricultural use[2][3] where plants were raised on stationary (and sometime movable) islands in lake shallows and waste materials dredged from the Chinampa canals and surrounding cities were used to manually irrigate the plants.[2][4]
  • South China, Thailand, and Indonesia who cultivated and farmed rice in paddy fields in combination with fish are cited as examples of early aquaponics systems.[5] These polycultural farming systems existed in many Far Eastern countries and raised fish such as the oriental loach (泥鳅, ドジョウ),[6] swamp eel (黄鳝, 田鰻), Common (鯉魚, コイ) and crucian carp (鯽魚) [7] as well as pond snails (田螺) in the paddies.[8][9]
Floating aquaponics systems on polycultural fish ponds were installed in China in more recent years on a large scale growing rice, wheat and canna lily and other crops,[10] with some installations exceeding 2.5 acres (10,000 m2).[11]

Diagram of the University of the Virgin Islands commercial aquaponics system designed to yield 5 metric tons of Tilapia per year.[12]
The development of modern aquaponics is often attributed to the various works of the New Alchemy Institute and the works of Dr. Mark McMurtry et al. at the North Carolina State University.[13]

Inspired by the successes of the New Alchemy Institute, and the reciprocating aquaponics techniques developed by Dr. Mark McMurtry et al., other institutes soon followed suit.

Starting in 1997, Dr. James Rakocy and his colleagues at the University of the Virgin Islands researched and developed the use of deep water culture hydroponic grow beds in a large-scale aquaponics system.[12]

The first aquaponics research in Canada was a small system added onto existing aquaculture research at a research station in Lethbridge, Alberta.

Canada saw a rise in aquaponics setups throughout the ’90s, predominantly as commercial installations raising high-value crops such as trout and lettuce.

A setup based on the deep water system developed at the University of Virgin Islands was built in a greenhouse at Brooks, Alberta where Dr. Nick Savidov and colleagues researched aquaponics from a background of plant science.

The team made findings on rapid root growth in aquaponics systems and on closing the solid-waste loop, and found that owing to certain advantages in the system over traditional aquaculture, the system can run well at a low pH level, which is favoured by plants but not fish.

Current examples

Vegetable production part of the low-cost Backyard Aquaponics System developed at Bangladesh Agricultural University
The Caribbean island of Barbados created an initiative to start aquaponics systems at home, with revenue generated by selling produce to tourists in an effort to reduce growing dependence on imported food.

In Bangladesh, the world's most densely populated country, most farmers use agrochemicals to enhance food production and storage life, though the country lacks oversight on safe levels of chemicals in foods for human consumption.[14]

To combat this issue a team led by Professor Dr. M.A. Salam at the Department of Aquaculture of Bangladesh Agricultural University, Mymensingh has created plans for a low-cost aquaponics system to provide chemical-free produce and fish for people living in adverse climatic conditions such as the salinity-prone southern area and the flood-prone haor area in the eastern region.[15][16]

Dr. Salam's work innovates a form of subsistence farming for micro-production goals at the community and personal levels whereas design work by Chowdhury and Graff was aimed exclusively at the commercial level, the latter of the two approaches take advantage of economies of scale.

With more than a third of Palestinian agricultural lands in the Gaza Strip turned into a buffer zone by Israel, an aquaponic gardening system is developed appropriate for use on rooftops in Gaza City.[17]

There has been a shift towards community integration of aquaponics, such as the nonprofit foundation Growing Power that offers Milwaukee youth job opportunities and training while growing food for their community.

The model has spawned several satellite projects in other cities, such as New Orleans where the Vietnamese fisherman community has suffered from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and in the South Bronx in New York City.[18]

Whispering Roots is a non-profit organization in Omaha, Nebraska that provides fresh, locally grown, healthy food for socially and economically disadvantaged communities by using aquaponics, hydroponics and urban farming.[19]

In addition, aquaponic gardeners from all around the world have gathered in online community sites and forums to share their experiences and promote the development of this form of gardening[20] as well as creating extensive resources on how to build home systems.

Recently, aquaponics has been moving towards indoor production systems.

In cities like Chicago, entrepreneurs are utilizing vertical designs to grow food year round.

These systems can be used to grow food year round with minimal to no waste. [21]


A commercial aquaponics system. 
An electric pump moves effluent rich water from the fish tank through a solids filter to remove particles the plants above cannot absorb. 
The water then provides nutrients for the plants and is cleansed before returning to the fish tank below where the process repeats.
Aquaponics consists of two main parts, with the aquaculture part for raising aquatic animals and the hydroponics part for growing plants.[22][23]

Aquatic effluents, resulting from uneaten feed or raising animals like fish, accumulate in water due to the closed-system recirculation of most aquaculture systems.

The effluent-rich water becomes toxic to the aquatic animal in high concentrations but this contain nutrients essential for plant growth.[22]

Although consisting primarily of these two parts, aquaponics systems are usually grouped into several components or subsystems responsible for the effective removal of solid wastes, for adding bases to neutralize acids, or for maintaining water oxygenation.[22]

Typical components include:
  • Rearing tank: the tanks for raising and feeding the fish;
  • Settling basin: a unit for catching uneaten food and detached biofilms, and for settling out fine particulates;
  • Biofilter: a place where the nitrification bacteria can grow and convert ammonia into nitrates, which are usable by the plants;[22]
  • Hydroponics subsystem: the portion of the system where plants are grown by absorbing excess nutrients from the water;
  • Sump: the lowest point in the system where the water flows to and from which it is pumped back to the rearing tanks.
Depending on the sophistication and cost of the aquaponics system, the units for solids removal, biofiltration, and/or the hydroponics subsystem may be combined into one unit or subsystem,[22] which prevents the water from flowing directly from the aquaculture part of the system to the hydroponics part.

Plants: hydroponics

Main article: Hydroponics
Further information: Rhizofiltration

A Deep Water Culture hydroponics system where plant grow directly into the effluent rich water without a soil medium. 
Plants can be spaced closer together because the roots do not need to expand outwards to support the weight of the plant.

Plant placed into a nutrient rich water channel in a Nutrient film technique (NFT) system
Plants are grown as in hydroponics systems, with their roots immersed in the nutrient-rich effluent water.

This enables them to filter out the ammonia that is toxic to the aquatic animals, or its metabolites.

After the water has passed through the hydroponic subsystem, it is cleaned and oxygenated, and can return to the aquaculture vessels.

This cycle is continuous. Common aquaponic applications of hydroponic systems include:
  • Deep-water raft aquaponics: styrofoam rafts floating in a relatively deep aquaculture basin in troughs.
  • Recirculating aquaponics: solid media such as gravel or clay beads, held in a container that is flooded with water from the aquaculture. This type of aquaponics is also known as closed-loop aquaponics.
  • Reciprocating aquaponics: solid media in a container that is alternately flooded and drained utilizing different types of siphon drains. This type of aquaponics is also known as flood-and-drain aquaponics or ebb-and-flow aquaponics.
  • Other systems use towers that are trickle-fed from the top, nutrient film technique channels, horizontal PVC pipes with holes for the pots, plastic barrels cut in half with gravel or rafts in them. Each approach has its own benefits.[24]

Most green leaf vegetables grow well in the hydroponic subsystem, although most profitable are varieties of chinese cabbage, lettuce, basil, roses, tomatoes, okra, cantaloupe and bell peppers.[23]

Other species of vegetables that grow well in an aquaponic system include beans, peas, kohlrabi, watercress, taro, radishes, strawberries, melons, onions, turnips, parsnips, sweet potato and herbs.[citation needed]

 Since plants at different growth stages require different amounts of minerals and nutrients, plant harvesting is staggered with seedings growing at the same time as mature plants.

This ensures stable nutrient content in the water because of continuous symbiotic cleansing of toxins from the water.[25]

Animals: aquaculture

Filtered water from the hydroponics system drains into a catfish tank for re-circulation.
Main article: Aquaculture
Freshwater fish are the most common aquatic animal raised using aquaponics, although freshwater crayfish and prawns are also sometimes used.[26]

In practice, tilapia are the most popular fish for home and commercial projects that are intended to raise edible fish, although barramundi, silver perch, eel-tailed catfish or tandanus catfish, jade perch and Murray cod are also used.[23]

For temperate climates when there isn't ability or desire to maintain water temperature, bluegill and catfish are suitable fish species for home systems.

Koi and goldfish may also be used, if the fish in the system need not be edible.


Further information: Nitrogen Cycle
Nitrification, the aerobic conversion of ammonia into nitrates, is one of the most important functions in an aquaponics system as it reduces the toxicity of the water for fish, and allows the resulting nitrate compounds to be removed by the plants for nourishment.[22]

Ammonia is steadily released into the water through the excreta and gills of fish as a product of their metabolism, but must be filtered out of the water since higher concentrations of ammonia (commonly between 0.5 and 1 ppm)[citation needed] can kill fish.

Although plants can absorb ammonia from the water to some degree, nitrates are assimilated more easily,[23] thereby efficiently reducing the toxicity of the water for fish.[22]

Ammonia can be converted into other nitrogenous compounds through healthy populations of:
In an aquaponics system, the bacteria responsible for this process form a biofilm on all solid surfaces throughout the system that are in constant contact with the water.

The submerged roots of the vegetables combined have a large surface area where many bacteria can accumulate.

Together with the concentrations of ammonia and nitrites in the water, the surface area determines the speed with which nitrification takes place.

Care for these bacterial colonies is important as to regulate the full assimilation of ammonia and nitrite. This is why most aquaponics systems include a biofiltering unit, which helps facilitate growth of these microorganisms.

Typically, after a system has stabilized ammonia levels range from 0.25 to 2.0 ppm; nitrite levels range from 0.25 to 1 ppm, and nitrate levels range from 2 to 150 ppm.[citation needed]

During system startup, spikes may occur in the levels of ammonia (up to 6.0 ppm) and nitrite (up to 15 ppm), with nitrate levels peaking later in the startup phase.[citation needed]

Since the nitrification process acidifies the water, non-sodium bases such as potassium hydroxide or calcium hydroxide can be added for neutralizing the water's pH[22] if insufficient quantities are naturally present in the water to provide a buffer against acidification.

In addition, selected minerals or nutrients such as iron can be added in addition to the fish waste that serves as the main source of nutrients to plants.[22]

A good way to deal with solids buildup in aquaponics is the use of worms, which liquefy the solid organic matter so that it can be utilized by the plants and/or other animals in the system. For a worm-only growing method, please see Vermiponics.



The five main inputs to the system are water, oxygen, light, feed given to the aquatic animals, and electricity to pump, filter, and oxygenate the water.

Spawn or fry may be added to replace grown fish that are taken out from the system to retain a stable system.

In terms of outputs, an aquaponics system may continually yield plants such as vegetables grown in hydroponics, and edible aquatic species raised in an aquaculture.

Typical build ratios are .5 to 1 square foot of grow space for every 1 U.S. gal (3.8 L) of aquaculture water in the system. 1 U.S. gal (3.8 L) of water can support between .5 lb (0.23 kg) and 1 lb (0.45 kg) of fish stock depending on aeration and filtration.[27]

Ten primary guiding principles for creating successful aquaponics systems were issued by Dr. James Rakocy, the director of the aquaponics research team at the University of the Virgin Islands, based on extensive research done as part of the Agricultural Experiment Station aquaculture program.[28]


Feed source

As in all aquaculture based systems, stock feed usually consists of fish meal derived from lower-value species.

Ongoing depletion of wild fish stocks makes this practice unsustainable. Organic fish feeds may prove to be a viable alternative that relieves this concern.

Other alternatives include growing duckweed with an aquaponics system that feeds the same fish grown on the system,[29] excess worms grown from vermiculture composting, using prepared kitchen scraps,[30] as well as growing black soldier fly larvae to feed to the fish using composting grub growers.[31]

Water usage

Aquaponic systems do not typically discharge or exchange water under normal operation, but instead recirculate and reuse water very effectively.

The system relies on the relationship between the animals and the plants to maintain a stable aquatic environment that experience a minimum of fluctuation in ambient nutrient and oxygen levels.

Water is added only to replace water loss from absorption and transpiration by plants, evaporation into the air from surface water, overflow from the system from rainfall, and removal of biomass such as settled solid wastes from the system.

As a result, aquaponics uses approximately 2% of the water that a conventionally irrigated farm requires for the same vegetable production.[citation needed]

This allows for aquaponic production of both crops and fish in areas where water or fertile land is scarce. Aquaponic systems can also be used to replicate controlled wetland conditions.

Constructed wetlands can be useful for biofiltration and treatment of typical household sewage.[32]

The nutrient-filled overflow water can be accumulated in catchment tanks, and reused to accelerate growth of crops planted in soil, or it may be pumped back into the aquaponic system to top up the water level.

Energy usage

Aquaponic installations rely in varying degrees on man-made energy, technological solutions, and environmental control to achieve re-circulation and water/ambient temperatures.

However, if a system is designed with energy conservation in mind, using alternative energy and a reduced number of pumps by letting the water flow downwards as much as possible, it can be highly energy efficient.

While careful design can minimize the risk, aquaponics systems can have multiple 'single points of failure' where problems such as an electrical failure or a pipe blockage can lead to a complete loss of fish stock.



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How to Grow Duckweed

Duckweeds, or water lens, are flowering aquatic plants which float on or just beneath the surface of still or slow-moving bodies of fresh water and wetlands.

Also known as "bayroot," they arose from within the arum or aroid family (Araceae),[1] and therefore, often are classified as the subfamily Lemnoideae within the Araceae.

Classifications created prior to the end of the 20th century classify them as a separate family, Lemnaceae.

These plants are very simple, lacking an obvious stem or leaves.

The greater part of each plant is a small organized "thallus" or "frond" structure only a few cells thick, often with air pockets (aerenchyma) that allow it to float on or just under the water surface.

Depending on the species, each plant may have no root or may have one or more simple rootlets.[2]

Reproduction is mostly by asexual budding, which occurs from a meristem enclosed at the base of the frond.

Occasionally, three tiny "flowers" consisting of two stamens and a pistil are produced, by which sexual reproduction occurs.

Some view this "flower" as a pseudanthium, or reduced inflorescence, with three flowers that are distinctly either female or male and which are derived from the spadix in the Araceae.

Evolution of the duckweed inflorescence remains ambiguous due to the considerable evolutionary reduction of these plants from their earlier relatives.

The flower of the duckweed genus Wolffia is the smallest known, measuring merely 0.3 mm long.[3]

The fruit produced through this occasional sexual reproduction is a utricle, and a seed is produced in a sac containing air that facilitates flotation.

Close-up of two different duckweed types: Spirodela polyrrhiza and Wolffia globosa. The latter are less than 2 mm long.
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Monocots
Order: Alismatales
Family: Araceae
Subfamily: Lemnoideae

Duckweed in various environments

One of the more important factors influencing the distribution of wetland plants, and aquatic plants in particular, is nutrient availability.[4]

Duckweeds tend to be associated with fertile, even eutrophic conditions.

Duckweed can be spread by waterfowl and small mammals, transported inadvertently on their feet and bodies,[5] as well as by moving water.

In water bodies with constant currents or overflow, the plants are carried down the water channels and do not proliferate greatly.

In some locations, a cyclical pattern driven by weather patterns exists in which the plants proliferate greatly during low water flow periods, then are carried away as rainy periods ensue.

Duckweed is an important high-protein food source for waterfowl and also is eaten by humans in some parts of Southeast Asia.

As it contains more protein than soybeans, it is sometimes cited as a significant potential food source.[6]

The tiny plants provide cover for fry of many aquatic species. The plants are used as shelter by pond water species such as bullfrogs and bluegills.

They also provide shade and, although frequently confused with them, can reduce certain light-generated growths of photoautotrophic algae.

The plants can provide nitrate removal, if cropped, and the duckweeds are important in the process of bioremediation because they grow rapidly, absorbing excess mineral nutrients, particularly nitrogen and phosphates. For these reasons they are touted as water purifiers of untapped value.[7]

The Swiss Department of Water and Sanitation in Developing Countries, associated with the Swiss Federal Institute for Environmental Science and Technology, asserts that as well as the food and agricultural values, duckweed also may be used for waste water treatment to capture toxins and for odor control, and, that if a mat of duckweed is maintained during harvesting for removal of the toxins captured thereby, it prevents the development of algae and controls the breeding of mosquitoes.[8]

The same publication provides an extensive list of references for many duckweed-related topics.

These plants also may play a role in conservation of water because a cover of duckweed will reduce evaporation of water when compared to the rate of a similarly sized water body with a clear surface.

Despite these benefits however, because duckweed prefers high nutrient wetland environments, they are seen as an invasive species when conditions allow them to proliferate in environments that are traditionally low nutrient.

This is the case within the Everglades where fertilizer runoff has introduced increased levels of nutrients into an otherwise low nutrient system, allowing invasive species such as duckweed to establish themselves, spread and displace native species such as sawgrass.


Duckweeds belong to the order Alismatales and the Araceae family.

(a) is a phylogenetic tree based on ribulose-1, 5-bisphosphate carboxylase large-subunit genes.

(b) is a schematic ventral view of Spirodela, to show the clonal, vegetative propagation of duckweeds. 

Daughter fronds (F1) originate from the vegetative node (No), from the mother frond F0 and remain attached to it by the stipule (Sti), which eventually breaks off, thereby releasing a new plant cluster.

Daughter fronds may already initiate new fronds (F2) themselves before full maturity.

Roots are attached at the prophyllum (P).

(c) shows the progressive reduction from a leaf-like body with several veins and unbranched roots to a thallus-like morphology in the Lemnoideae.

The duckweeds have long been a taxonomic mystery, and usually have been considered to be their own family, Lemnaceae.

They primarily reproduce asexually. Flowers, if present at all, are small. Roots are either very much reduced, or absent entirely.

They were suspected of being related to the Araceae as long ago as 1876, but until the advent of molecular phylogeny it was difficult to test this hypothesis.

Starting in 1995 studies began to confirm their placement in the Araceae and since then, most systematists consider them to be part of that family.[9]

Their position within their family has been slightly less clear, but several twenty-first century studies place them in the position shown below.[9]

They are not closely related to Pistia, however, which also is an aquatic plant in the family Araceae.[9]


Orontioideae (skunk cabbages and golden club)

Lemnoideae (duckweeds)

most of the family Araceae

The genera of duckweeds are: Spirodela, Landoltia, Lemna, Wolffiella, and Wolffia.
Duckweed genome sizes have a 10-fold range (150 to 1500 MB), potentially representing diploids to octaploids.

The ancestral genus of Spirodela has the smallest genome size (150 MB, similar to Arabidopsis thaliana), while the most derived genus, Wolffia, contains plants with the largest genome size (1500 MB).[10]

DNA sequencing has shown that Wolffiella and Wolffia are more closely related than the others. Spirodela is at the basal position of the taxon, followed by Lemna, Wolffiella, and Wolffia, which is the most derived.[11]





In order to identify different duckweed genomes, a DNA-based molecular identification system was developed based on seven plastid-markers proposed by the Consortium for the Barcode of Life.[12]

The atpF-atpH noncoding spacer was chosen as a universal DNA barcoding marker for species-level identification of duckweeds.[13]


In July 2008 the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Joint Genome Institute announced that the Community Sequencing Program would fund sequencing of the genome of the giant duckweed, Spirodela polyrhiza.

This was a priority project for DOE in 2009.

The research was intended to facilitate new biomass and bioenergy programs.[14]

The results were published in February 2014.

They provide insights into how this plant is adapted to rapid growth and an aquatic lifestyle.[15]

Duckweed is being studied by researchers around the world as a possible source of clean energy.

In the United States, in addition to being the subject of study by the DOE, both Rutgers University and North Carolina State University have ongoing projects to determine whether duckweed might be a source of cost-effective, clean, renewable energy.[16][17]

Duckweed is a good candidate as a biofuel because it grows rapidly, produces five to six times as much starch as corn per unit of area, and does not contribute to global warming.[18][19]

Unlike fossil fuels, duckweed removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere instead of adding it.[20]

Duckweed also functions as a bioremediator by effectively filtering contaminants such as bacteria, nitrogen, phosphates, and other nutrients from naturally occurring bodies of water, constructed wetlands, and waste water.[21][22][23]
Turning the canals of the Poitevin Marsh (Marais Poitevin, France) into the "Green Venice":


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Profile of an Urban Homesteader

Jules Dervaes (born 1947) is an urban farmer and a proponent of the urban homesteading  movement.

Dervaes and his three adult children operate an urban market garden in Pasadena, California as well as other websites and online stores related to self-sufficiency and "adapting in place."

Self-sufficient in the city

Dervaes has a one-fifth acre lot in Pasadena, California,[1] on which he and his family raise three tons of food per year.

This provides 75 percent of their annual food needs,[2] 99 percent of their produce and helps them sustain an organic produce business. They also raise ducks, chickens,[3] goats, bees, compost worms and are running an aquaponics fish experiment.

Dervaes started experimenting with self-sufficiency while he lived in New Zealand and later in Florida, then decided to see how efficient he could make an urban homestead in Pasadena, California, USA.

According to Natural Home magazine, "The Dervaeses' operation is about 60 to 150 times as efficient as their industrial competitors, without relying on chemical fertilizers and pesticides."[2]

In addition to growing a significant amount of food, the Derveas family attempts to live off-grid as far as possible and have invested significant amounts of money to experiment with other ways of attaining self-sufficiency.

They have 12 solar panels on the roof of the house, a biodiesel filling station in the garage, and a solar oven in the backyard;[4] they use a wastewater reclamation system, a dual-flush toilet, a composting toilet, and a number of hand-cranked kitchen appliances (to reduce power consumption).

They also use solar drying, and have a cob oven.

Dervaes owns several websites, including,,,,,,,,, and now redirects to; it was originally about Elian Gonzales.[5]

As of 2008, Path to Freedom got five million hits per month from over 125 different countries.[4]

The Dervaes family was featured on National Geographic Channel's Doomsday Preppers in 2012 and briefly appeared in a trailer for the show.[6]

Religious activities

In 2008, Dervaes operated websites promoting prophecies of the "end times" and criticizing the Worldwide Church of God's (WCG) doctrinal changes from 1995.

The site's mission was "TO SHOW that repeated WARNINGS to God’s Church, beginning in 1986 after Herbert W. Armstrong’s death, were ignored, by documenting the outright rejection of the messages; TO WARN God’s people that the unique challenge of the Last Era is continuing to be met with the wrong solutions or none at all; TO ANNOUNCE the true and only way we can be prepared for the establishment of the Kingdom of God and Christ’s Second Coming."[7]

In 2011, Dervaes took the websites down but an archived version can be found here at the Wayback Machine (archived March 10, 2008).

The family has integrated Seventh-day Sabbath observance into its business practices, per WCG's teachings.[8]

The Dervaes Institute is registered as a tax exempt 508(c)(1)(a) organization,[9] a status which is limited to "churches, their integrated auxiliaries, and conventions or associations of churches"[10]

Trademark controversy

In 2007, the Dervaes Institute applied to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to register the phrase "urban homesteading" as a service mark.[11]

In 2008, the institute followed up with a second service mark application, for the phrase "urban homestead".[12]

"Urban homesteading" was registered, but only on the Supplemental Register, after initially being denied for not being sufficiently distinctive, on June 2, 2009.[11] "Urban homestead" was registered on the Principal Register on October 5, 2010.[12]

In 2011 the Dervaes Institute began sending notifications to maintainers of websites who used these terms that these terms were now under their trademark and that they were not to be used without crediting the Dervaes family.

The Dervaes Institute asserts that it's protecting a legitimate business interest, that their usage of the terms "urban homestead" and "urban homesteading" are new usages and distinctive, and that its trademark of the term "urban homesteading" prevents other corporations from trademarking it.

However, the same usage is documented back to at least 1976 in Mother Earth News.[13]

This has caused an uproar within the urban homesteading community and created a backlash against the Dervaes family.

An activist group called "Take Back Urban Home-steading(s)," was started on Facebook on 16 February 2011.[14]

On 21 February 2011, Corynne McSherry, Intellectual Property Director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (which is representing Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen, Los Angeles-based authors of The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-sufficient Living in the Heart of the City, and publisher Process Media), sent a response to the Dervaes Institute and published the letter on the Electronic Frontier Foundation website.[15]

On 4 April 2011, the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a petition to cancel the trademark on "urban homestead".[16]

On 7 April 2011, Denver Urban Homesteading filed a petition to cancel the trademark on "urban homesteading".[17]

Over the course of 2011, the Facebook group has evolved into a general urban homesteading resource.

On 5 November 2015: URBAN HOMESTEADING” TRADEMARK CANCELLED BY FEDERAL COURT Denver, Colorado, November 5, 2015 Today in a pre-trial ruling a federal court in California cancelled the trademark for “urban homesteading” which its owner had used to disable a number of Facebook pages in 2011 by claiming infringement.

This ended a nearly five-year legal struggle by a small farmers’ market in Denver, Colorado named Denver Urban Homesteading to cancel the trademark which began when the farmers lost their Facebook page and contacts with customers in February 2011.

The trademark was owned by the Dervaes Institute of Pasadena, CA, self-described in California incorporation papers as a “religious society” and operated by Jules Dervaes and members of his family.

After Facebook pages around the country disappeared on February 14, 2011, the urban homesteading community united in protest against the Dervaes Institute, starting two new Facebook pages and a petition on demanding cancellation of the trademark.

Court filings show that the Dervaes Institute had issued cease and desist letters to book authors, book publishers, farmers’ markets and even a public library.

In April 2011 Denver Urban Homesteading began legal action at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to cancel the trademark.

According to owner James Bertini, the USPTO refused to consider the merits, even though it was obligated to hold a single hearing and cancel the trademark quickly because it was listed on the “supplemental register” rather than on the more common “principal register.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) fared no better.

Bertini said that they commenced legal action at the USPTO to cancel the Dervaes Institute’s trademark for “urban homestead,” as well as for “urban homesteading” but couldn’t get that agency to decide their case, either.

Then, in 2013 the farmers’ market sued to cancel the trademark in Colorado federal court, but after another delay - this time of one year - the judge refused to consider the case for jurisdictional reasons.

So in December 2014 Denver Urban Homesteading sued in California where a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California canceled the trademark because it is generic.

Generic words and phrases cannot be registered as trademarks.

The case number is 2:14−cv−09216.

Denver Urban Homesteading was unable to afford a trademark lawyer so owner James Bertini, a retired general practice attorney represented the market himself.

He was motivated to cancel the trademark not only to get back the farmers’ Facebook page but also as a matter of public interest since other Facebook pages had been disabled.

Bertini said that he prevailed over five law firms and nearly a dozen intellectual property litigation attorneys that participated on behalf of the Dervaes Institute in those legal battles.

“No small business should have to go through five years of litigation to cancel a trademark that shouldn’t exist,” Bertini said.

“A small business cannot afford this burden.”

Indeed, according to Bertini, his didn’t, and the farmers’ market was closed this year due to the extensive time required for litigation and travel to California for court-required meetings.

Bertini said that his research shows that this is the first time a trademark on the supplemental register was cancelled in a pre-trial order.

However, he still has to go to trial in December to obtain damages.

He needs to find an attorney licensed in California who can be associated with him in order to complete the case.


Well I am off; well just a little bit, but I needs to get back to work. I must Keep on Keeping On!

The Man Inside the Man
Sinbad the Sailor Man
JMK's Production

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CYA Later Taters!
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Donnie/Sinbad the Sailor Man

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