Aquaponic Gardening

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Hi everyone.
We are currently Looking into all of this and trying to go through all the info ,blogs etc .
Has anyone actually compared the two against each other based on soft investment, running costs etc.
Don't get me wrong i love the aquaponic concept and experiment with my own back yard set up, but at the end of the day it's a business , that has to be justified.

Basically I'm starting to look into utilizing an existing 8 unit hoop house setup approximate 14000 soft of floor area, and trying to decipher which is more sustainable as a business.RAS or Aquaponic.
If any has looked into the two apples for apples I would appreciate the knowledge.
Thanks Gerry

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Replies to This Discussion

good luck with your quest, I have zero experience in RAS but I run a Aquaponic setup and can't imagine the cost, work and hassle of filtering the water...my grow beds work great 24/7.

If you are doing RAS then AP is really a way to make money off of your waste stream. Take a look at Australis, I believe they take their waste and divert it to farms in the local area. Using what would normally be waste and growing food with is much more sustainable that just releasing that waste into the environment.

I completely understand that, but when you got a structure worth 150k, and a repayment on it, you need to maximize the return from it per square foot.
I came across one set up recently that used a five unit hoop house set up and converted to RAS with a aim of 120,000 lbs of gross turn over per annum.
I was looking at a N & P set up which require more square foot than that and predicted a return of 4800 lbs return of gross fish per annum.
This has threw me off a little.
I have reached out to a couple of other aquaculter / aquaponic suppliers with sq ft avalible to what system design they would recommend.
I personally lean towards the aquaponic side since I'm a horticulturist at heart and have studied for it, but there's a wise old man looking over my shoulder and making me question my taught e this way before a investment is made.
On the site there is room for expansion on it site and in the future less costly hoop structures could be erected on it, but. Because of layout it would involve too much pumping off water from the other half of the existing ones.
Gerry

I didn't realize you are in the bronx... I'm in the east village. Where are you thinking about setting up?

I think that the real issue is developing a business model to make a profit. Do you have relationships to sell your fish or veggies? I have spoken to several chefs who have expressed interest and have thought about starting a farm, but with how expensive real estate is and how costly energy/labor is it will be hard to be profitable in NYC. It is possible to have a successful venture but it is a risky investment.

Greenhouse income selling wholesale greens will only be around $1.00-$1.50 per square foot per month. Very difficult to find real estate around NYC to make that pay.

Hi Jonathan,
This is where Im at. The produce is low return and from what I'm seeing so is the fish,hence the reason I'm looking at RAS systems to target the increased production of fish. Based on that then the vegetable side Can be looked at.This all comes down to your local market. Producing the most valuable fish for the demand that is market is looking for and at the same time considering your region. us being in the north east, has to be factored into that,I.e. "cool water fish" The business model would have to be set up to maximize the return for the local area. As you said the sq ft costs are high here so the model would have to be based on a vertical setup,like the buildings here,to maximize the returns on the vegetative end.
From there the other sources of revenue can be considered that Are available.
The demand is there and I have interested restauranteurs wanting more of the same of the samples I gave them last year.
That is one problem that you won't have in NYC, lots of demand.
Gerry



Jonathan Kadish NYC AA Chair said:

I didn't realize you are in the bronx... I'm in the east village. Where are you thinking about setting up?

I think that the real issue is developing a business model to make a profit. Do you have relationships to sell your fish or veggies? I have spoken to several chefs who have expressed interest and have thought about starting a farm, but with how expensive real estate is and how costly energy/labor is it will be hard to be profitable in NYC. It is possible to have a successful venture but it is a risky investment.

Greenhouse income selling wholesale greens will only be around $1.00-$1.50 per square foot per month. Very difficult to find real estate around NYC to make that pay.

It would be really difficult to compare apples to apples between RAS and Aquaponics since they are not both apples.

One issue with aquaponics and making the fish themselves profitable is that you need quite an extensive operation with fish to have a steady supply of a certain amount of fish per day or per week or how ever often you are going to harvest.  Most processing houses are not interested if you are not bringing in a truckload.  Most restaurants want a guaranteed amount to be available on a regular schedule (be it daily or weekly) but they won't necessarily guarantee they will order or buy that amount every time so it can be difficult to sell fish if you are not able to supply a fairly large amount unless you have the commercial food processing facility to process them yourself.  If you have Asian markets that want live fish, that would probably be your best bet to sell fish on the smaller aquaponic scale.  Selling my fish here is a challenge since I can only sell them live or whole on ice, I don't have the commercial facilities to process them legally myself.

So hence why many will tell you to make it profitable to grow fish, you have to go high intensity RAS so you can grow the volume needed to sell lots of fish cheap to a processing plant.

However, as water becomes more valuable, it becomes less and less cost effective to simply waste water to water changes while polluting the environment with a strict RAS system. 

The question is, what is your market?  Wholesale food is cheap still.  Big ag still gets away with using cheap oil and government subsidies and wasting water and polluting the environment.  It will be difficult to compete with that trying to sell wholesale and it is really difficult for a small operation to compete wholesale.

Find your market.  You don't make money raising fish or growing veggies.  You can only make money selling them.  Also, if the person who is going to be running the operation has their heart in horticulture, don't expect them to thrive being forced into something they are not really interested in.  Do what you like, that way not making a fortune won't be so bad.  Aquaponics or RAS are both still farming.  Either way, I don't think you want to go into debt to do it.  If you have to take out huge loans to build it and it will be months of construction and then months or even years (depending on the crops) before harvest, it gets really hard to pay for living as well as start making payments on the loans.

This is farming, lots of risk and minimal profits so you have to figure out how to make the best of it.

At least with Aquaponics, once the system is cycled up and running you could be starting to harvest lettuce and other fast crops to sell in about 2 months.  Fish, the first harvest is likely 10-12 months away.

Trick, in the city if growing veggies, make sure your greenhouses are not going to be shaded out by buildings and that you have supplemental lighting for the winter up there.  At least with RAS you don't have to worry about sun or trying to simulate sunshine artificially but I don't know that pure RAS is a good choice to go in a place where water and waste water may be at a premium in the near future.

Thanks TC,
That's as close to the answer I'm looking for without knowing it and without getting into loads of detail.
I just got back detail regarding a five unit hoop house RAS facility that as you said took almost two years from start of construction to market size only to have the market value of the fish specie they were raising bottom out due to he recession that took hold. It also I'd not seem to help that they did not do market research before they started.this all resulted in the facility to close.
And as you point out its a lot quicker turn around to put something on the market using aquaponics which allows one to start with small module and increase with the market demand as one develops it.

TCLynx said:

It would be really difficult to compare apples to apples between RAS and Aquaponics since they are not both apples.

One issue with aquaponics and making the fish themselves profitable is that you need quite an extensive operation with fish to have a steady supply of a certain amount of fish per day or per week or how ever often you are going to harvest.  Most processing houses are not interested if you are not bringing in a truckload.  Most restaurants want a guaranteed amount to be available on a regular schedule (be it daily or weekly) but they won't necessarily guarantee they will order or buy that amount every time so it can be difficult to sell fish if you are not able to supply a fairly large amount unless you have the commercial food processing facility to process them yourself.  If you have Asian markets that want live fish, that would probably be your best bet to sell fish on the smaller aquaponic scale.  Selling my fish here is a challenge since I can only sell them live or whole on ice, I don't have the commercial facilities to process them legally myself.

So hence why many will tell you to make it profitable to grow fish, you have to go high intensity RAS so you can grow the volume needed to sell lots of fish cheap to a processing plant.

However, as water becomes more valuable, it becomes less and less cost effective to simply waste water to water changes while polluting the environment with a strict RAS system. 

The question is, what is your market?  Wholesale food is cheap still.  Big ag still gets away with using cheap oil and government subsidies and wasting water and polluting the environment.  It will be difficult to compete with that trying to sell wholesale and it is really difficult for a small operation to compete wholesale.

Find your market.  You don't make money raising fish or growing veggies.  You can only make money selling them.  Also, if the person who is going to be running the operation has their heart in horticulture, don't expect them to thrive being forced into something they are not really interested in.  Do what you like, that way not making a fortune won't be so bad.  Aquaponics or RAS are both still farming.  Either way, I don't think you want to go into debt to do it.  If you have to take out huge loans to build it and it will be months of construction and then months or even years (depending on the crops) before harvest, it gets really hard to pay for living as well as start making payments on the loans.

This is farming, lots of risk and minimal profits so you have to figure out how to make the best of it.

At least with Aquaponics, once the system is cycled up and running you could be starting to harvest lettuce and other fast crops to sell in about 2 months.  Fish, the first harvest is likely 10-12 months away.

Trick, in the city if growing veggies, make sure your greenhouses are not going to be shaded out by buildings and that you have supplemental lighting for the winter up there.  At least with RAS you don't have to worry about sun or trying to simulate sunshine artificially but I don't know that pure RAS is a good choice to go in a place where water and waste water may be at a premium in the near future.

What does N & P and RAS  stand for?

Nelson & Pade and Recirculating Aquaculture System

Bob Campbell said:

What does N & P and RAS  stand for?

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