Aquaponic Gardening

A Community and Forum For Aquaponic Gardeners

I'm trying to put together a BCA (Business Case Analysis) for commercial AP operation. I have come across a few things that I'm not sure about. If you guys could help me out a little here I would appreciate it.

1) Is there a list of what vegetables grow best in different beds? Like I know tomatoes grow best in media beds, lettuce grows well in raft beds, strawberries do well in pipe beds. I'm looking for a more exhaustive list.

2) Now what would be awesome is if that list included how long each plant takes to mature or produce fruit. I know this is cheating but how long does it take for tomatoes for instance to go from a seedling to start producing fruit, how long will it produce fruit, so I can plan for bed usage for tomatoes so I will have constant tomatoes (just as one batch is finishing producing fruit the next batch is starting to produce. I know that tomatoes usually take about 3 months to produce fruit in dirt and last for about 2-3 months of fruit production in a dirt garden but is there a difference in AP systems?

3) Can you reuse the net pots or do the roots destroy them when you remove them? Are the china made net pots made from a plastic that is safe?

4) Does anyone know if you have to use grow lights in a greenhouse in North Alabama? I dont think its necessary during the summer but maybe in the winter? What is the minimum hrs of light required for most plants?

5) Is anyone selling their fish to the public? If so are you selling whole, dressed, or filleted?

Thank you for any help. 

Hollis

 

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Hi Hollis. I don't have the answers for you but after 1 1/2 years at aquaponics I'd sure like to get some of the same info.

Thanks Jeff. I know that each system has its own personality. I know that most of the information that I seek will come with time, experience, trial and error. I expect that the lack of responses may be from some resistance of those that prefer you learn these things on your own. I totally understand and I'm sure that I will learn on the go. What I seek are some reasonable numbers for my Business Case Analysis so I can present everything to my possible business partner and to the bank for my business loan. Perhaps we will get some good responses soon and it ill be beneficial to us both?

Lack of response is not usually an issue. Most are happy to share. I've noticed during these winter months there's not as much activity here. I enjoy these forums and check regularly for activity. I also scan the groups for info.

I find it hard to find info on grow rates for plants. Everything is covered for planting, thinning, transplanting but after that I guess you're on your own LOL.

1) Don't plan on growing a large number of different crops. You need to get good at growing one or two first. BTW Tomatoes do fine in DWC.

2) Tomatoes can produce for an exceedingly long time in greenhouse environments. 6-9 months is common with proper training methods. 

4) It's not the number of hours of light, but rather the "Daily Light Integral" or DLI.  It's a measure of the total amount of light during the day. You should be able to find information on the DLI requirements for your target crops from google. 

I'd be happy to do your research for you, but then i'd expect a consulting fee. ;-}

Scott, Nice to see someone with humor lol. I understand the consulting fee issue. I'm not looking for someone to do all the work for me. I'm just looking for some laws of average numbers to show the potential of what an AP commercial business can expect in order to satisfy the investors.

 

I'm not sure why you recommend not to diversify the crops? I mean I understand that not all plants will be top performers in the beginning and that tweeks will have to be performed along the way but to make money one must try to meet the demand of the market. On this large of a scale Im not sure I can secure enough customers to sell 20,000 heads of lettuce every week.

 

My current plan is to build 90 x 120 greenhouses with a 30 ft wood builing attached on each end to house the fish (out of the sun) and to have some room for the packaging and staging area. The greenhouses will be 3 each 30 ft wide sections attached to one another (sharing 3 connected roofs). I plan to start out getting the system for one 30 ft wide section going and then moving on to the next section using what works well in the first one to make adjustments in the 2nd section. Then using what I have learned in the first 2 sections to adjust to market demands in the 3rd section.

 

Then move on to the next green house using the same technique to improve each section and adjust plant selections and locations to achieve the maximum output. Of course as I make adjustments and see better results I will go back to the first section and so on to adjust from what I started out with to what I have learned works best.

 

I think plant diversification is crucial to see what works bext and what pays best to have a profitable business. If I planned to ship across america I could do like the guy out in California that simply grows tomatoes by the millions and make lots of money but I think then I would loose a major portion of what AP is all about.

 

However if you can provide some further reasoning why I should only grow 1 or 2 plants I am open to learning.

 

Thanks.

Hollis, I think I can help out with what Scott was saying. There is a learning curve to aquaponics. The business end is totally different than the growing. Unlike most businesses where you have the product but it doesn't do you any good if you don't have the market, in aquaponics it doesn't do you any good to have the market if you don't have the product... vegetables. So starting slow and learning the production side is important. I dove in to this as a hobby but tried to do too much too fast and after 1 1/2 years am still learning to grow on a consistent basis. If you'll go to Bright Agrotech on YouTube they have a lot of what you're looking for in terms of markets and commercial viability. Anyone can build a big greenhouse but knowing what to do with it can be overwhelming.

I hope Im a fast learner lol

I think I will invest in AP Farm Courses as they offer the real numbers and system design for farming.

Check this out. Might help you.  http://portablefarms.com/commercial-aquaponics/

While your at it...ask to see one of their systems that is producing...and ask to see their monthly production records.

Or even easier than having to actually listen to and deal with Mr. Davis...just try doing a Google search for anyone who has had a remotely positive experience with portablefarms, but ISN'T part of their recruitment team of dealers...(try searching any of the forums as well...this one included)...

Hollis, not to discourage you, but I have seen multi-million dollar AP (mis-ad)ventures flop partly because the people involved knew nothing about greenhouse food production, had no experience with such vegetable production...(AP or otherwise), nor any experience with commercial scale re-circulating aquacultural production of fish all of a sudden get it in their heads that they could "magically" do BOTH...and thought they could just "make it happen" and "learn as they go" (while some poor investor foots the bill of course)...

I'm not saying that you can't 'make it happen', but the fact you are asking these sorts of questions on this type of forum is already a little worrisome 

Investing in the time, money and energy in taking the AP Farm Course is certainly a step in the right direction...

Yes, you can re-use the net pots...though sometimes they do get destroyed by certain plants if left in too long. Believe it or not Swiss Chard is one of my greatest 'net pot destroyers'...

HDPE plastic net pots shouldn't leach anything into your water.

Minimum and maximum light requirements are different for different species of plants (even different phenotypes within the same species)...Butterhead lettuce may require DLI of about 14 to 16 mol m2 l-d...while tomatoes may require 23-30 mol m2 l-d

Tomatoes, since you mentioned them in question number 2, have been studied more than white lab mice. You should not have much trouble finding meaningful data and research on such a popular greenhouse cultivar...so have most other crops of economic significance. Look to industry funded research from credible universities for such answers. You may want to consider reading some of what that, as you say, "...guy out in California that grows tomatoes by the millions and make lots of money..." is reading about...since he is obviously doing something right. 

Good luck to you!



Jeff S said:

Check this out. Might help you.  http://portablefarms.com/commercial-aquaponics/

Thank you Vlad. You do point out many of my shortcomings and I agree. I have much to learn. That is one reason I am planning to diversify my farm so that all my eggs aren't in one basket (no pun intended). No I have no experience with AP and I don't sit here and claim that AP is so easy that any grandma with a 3rd grade education can make lots of money setting up and running a business with AP.
I know that there will be a learning curve and the reality will be that mistakes will be made and my the nature of it all I'm sure I will experience my fair share of failure. To ask someone so invest in me and a system that I have no experience in and a market that is ever changing is a risk and a gamble. However this isn't my first rodeo. I started a trucking business several years ago and had no experience to speak of except driving a truck for a company for 12 months. I didn't plan to start my own business at all. In fact I bought my truck with the approval of the company I was driving for and once I bought the truck they declined to lease me on as an owner opperator because they said the gearing in my truck would require me to drive it too fast for their insurance (long story) so I was forced to go it alone. I made several huge mistakes in the beginning but I didn't give up and God blessed me by placing many people in my path that really helped me out. I had my name on the side of that truck so I did what I had to do to make it work. I learned quickly and for 4 years I ran a successful business. I still get calls today to pick up loads and I have been out of the business for almost 10 years.
I can see where my questions concern you because I don't already have the knowledge I seek but it should also inspire you to know that I am thinking of such small details as to how many net pots I can expect to go through in a certain time frame because that is overhead. I have a masters degree from Texas A&M in business (MBA) and I have a bachelors degree in marketing. I have been working for the US Army for the past 8 years in life cycle logistics growing systems from what we call "craddle to grave" or from conception to death of different kinds of systems that soldiers use in their daily activities. So I'm not coming to the table with little to no skill sets.
The most important asset that I have is that I am a born again Christian that beleives that God made this earth for the sustainment of mankind. I have been an advid gardener all my life. It started out as a child having to work in our garden to sustain life because my parents were very poor. We grew a large vegetable garden every year to put vegetables in the freezer or to can them so we could survive the winter months whan my father would be layed off from work and we have even less money that normal. We hunted for meat not trophies because we couldn't afford to buy meat from the grocery store. I have always grown a garden because I love the taste of fresh vegetables and understand the importance of their nutritional value. It is true I have no experience with fish and expect this to be my biggest challenge in the beginning. However there are many in my community as Alabama is one of the largest fish producing states to which I can draw knowledge from. I am a researcher by nature and as long as I have access to the internet, community, and others to help teach me I will learn what I need to know to make this happen. I thought this community was here for just such sharing of knowledge. That is the reason I am asking these simple questions. My desire is not to get rich my desire is to make a profit that I can support my family with and pay back my investors in a timely manner. My goal is to share what I learn with the community both local and abroad. God has asked me to build and help those in 3rd world countries to run their own systems so they can be self sufficient and for this reason and personal satisfaction I am now driven to see this come about as a viable way for me to live out the rest of my life, however with my business background and education I am not so driven that I don't see the potential for failure. That Sir is the reason I am trying to cover all my bases and ask all the questions so that I can get good sound advice, see real world numbers and not just some speculation from a get rich quick scheme.
I thank you for your reply to my questions and I appologize if my tone seems defensive but I know that AP is a good thing, I know what God has placed in my heart, I know that there are good people in this world that will help me, I know that I have an opportunity to help others, I know that there will be bad days and good days but most of all I know that I am not a quitter. I am a fighter, a hard worker, maybe even a little stubborn. I will work this until it is working right. I will not give up or be denied. I will be blessed even if I fail because I will be doing in my life what God has asked me to do.
Jeff, Thank you for that suggestion but as Vlad mentioned this particular compnay has not shown the evidence that what they claim is something that they can prove. I have already made contact with them as they were one of the first introductions to AP that I came across. Once I saw that all they were interested in was money I walked away from that communication. That is why I am searching for information that is more accurate and realistic. I want to run the numbers for myself to see if this can be a viable business that I can provide for my family and repay my investors. I love my wife of 24 years and my 5 children too much to put all my eggs in one basket and have that basket taken away from me. My family are all way larger than normal people and so I can't afford not to be able to feed them lol. My wife is 6 ft tall, I have 3 sons that are all over 6'6" and one is a college football player D-1 offensive lineman at 6'7" 305, one that is 6'7" 240 tight end that graduates high school this year and then on to college D-2 and I have a freshman offensive lineman that is 6'6" 235. I also have 2 daughers one of which is on her way to pass her mom and I as we expect her to be about 6'2" by the time she stops growing. If they get hungry enough they may try to team up on me lol. I can handle 2 or 3 but if they all jump me I may not fair well. lol

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