Aquaponic Gardening

A Community and Forum For Aquaponic Gardeners

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Brutally.. totally.. realistic... and he does know what he's talking about...

Yep, I agree, brutal and totally realistic. 

Completely agree with Rupert.  Dr. Lennard is a brilliant contributor to our field and his opinions should never be taken lightly.  That said, there are other well researched opinions out there and his way probably isn't the only way to be successful in commercial aquaponics, IMO.  But I think what he says about AP not realistically feeding the world, about the importance of the feed input in measuring output, the differences between a hobby and commercial approach, and some of the ergonomic issues he was pointing out are all dead on.

Especially the part with controlable water supply made me rethink my system. It left a bitter taste.  Maybe if Murray have said the same words, it would have sound different :D

I think he's completely right- at least as far as current production and market variables are concerned.  If you're doing raft production, you're competing with traditional hydroponics on the supermarket shelf- with higher costs of production.  How exactly is that going to work?  People say that they're competing in a new product category (or assume it) but they aren't.  Consumers don't care whether its AP or hydro, and it costs a lot to educate them, so, unless you can figure out how to make AP more productive than traditional hydroponic production, or get a higher price at market (to cover your higher costs) you're sunk.  The local food movement will only go so far, markets will always be limited when you can only compete in a niche.  People that invest heavily in raft production alone are throwing away their money.  How many commercial AP operations are there in the world that have survived more than a two or three years?  None.  The ones that claim to be profitable are all supplementing their income, are non-profits, or scam artists.  I'm managing to do it (actually it's paying our bills right now) but we're more productive than raft and we have no post-harvest costs, and we've grown organically into our markets.  Again, we've managed to differentiate our product from our competitors on both a quality and price*quality basis- something you can't do with raft production- at least not in the broader market.  You might be able to make raft work if you're selling in a really large niche market (i.e. high end local organic restaurants in LA) but those are few and far between and will only support a few businesses in total, and even in these you'll see suppliers trend towards "fewer and larger" putting the smaller, less competitive firms out of business. 

Could you please explain me, why you think raft systems are not that good? (need to collect some pros and cons of different systems for my project ;) )

Yep, he has got it exactly right. I cringe when I see people saying aquaponics is going to feed the world. On that note is there anyone who has been growing rice in Aquaponics? I have been thinking about this for a while, because I we run out of petroleum food is going to become quite scarce. This will happen in our lifetime so we had better figure out how to get a carbohydrates out of aquaponics.

Rice is a bad example, its actually one of the oldest forms of aquaponics. Farmers here in Asia use catfish in their rice paddies. Im not a big fan of the question if AP can feed the world, its questioning if it can replace the conventional crop production. The answer is clearly no. We, the people in developed countries have luxurious problems like choosing between organic tomatos or hydroponic tomatos, "our" world is fed. But in times of natural desasters, in developing countries, AP could be a way to help the poor to survive. If AP would help those people, is the statement: AP cant feed world, still correct?

Jonathan Kadish said:

Yep, he has got it exactly right. I cringe when I see people saying aquaponics is going to feed the world. On that note is there anyone who has been growing rice in Aquaponics? I have been thinking about this for a while, because I we run out of petroleum food is going to become quite scarce. This will happen in our lifetime so we had better figure out how to get a carbohydrates out of aquaponics.

My point about rice is not about if we can feed the world it is if I can grow enough to feed my family when the petrochemical food we eat ends and people are starving. My calculations so far say each person needs about 500 sq ft of aquaponics to support them so I'm looking at if a 1500 sq foot operation growing rice veggies and fish. I'll be doing more work on the calculations but it is a good thing to be thinking about as we slide down the slippery slope of population collapse.

BenHehle Beamz said:

Rice is a bad example, its actually one of the oldest forms of aquaponics. Farmers here in Asia use catfish in their rice paddies. Im not a big fan of the question if AP can feed the world, its questioning if it can replace the conventional crop production. The answer is clearly no. We, the people in developed countries have luxurious problems like choosing between organic tomatos or hydroponic tomatos, "our" world is fed. But in times of natural desasters, in developing countries, AP could be a way to help the poor to survive. If AP would help those people, is the statement: AP cant feed world, still correct?

Jonathan Kadish said:

Yep, he has got it exactly right. I cringe when I see people saying aquaponics is going to feed the world. On that note is there anyone who has been growing rice in Aquaponics? I have been thinking about this for a while, because I we run out of petroleum food is going to become quite scarce. This will happen in our lifetime so we had better figure out how to get a carbohydrates out of aquaponics.


When the petrochemical food ends, where are you going to get the fish meal or high-protein feed to keep you fish alive and  producing appropriate amounts of nutrients?  If you're in a cool climate, how will you heat or cool your greenhouse?  As far as subsistence living goes, AP is one of the worst applications when armageddon finally hits- it's too reliant on massive distribution channels for fish meal, feets of fishing vessels running on diesel, large-scale monoculture of soybean and corn, electricity for pumps, heating and cooling, etc.  If the oil runs out, it will be good old fashioned dirt farming that will feed your family.  Not AP.  Not to be contrary or anything- I'm just pointing out that AP isn't nearly as sustainable or environmentally harmless as people think.

Jonathan Kadish said:

My point about rice is not about if we can feed the world it is if I can grow enough to feed my family when the petrochemical food we eat ends and people are starving. My calculations so far say each person needs about 500 sq ft of aquaponics to support them so I'm looking at if a 1500 sq foot operation growing rice veggies and fish. I'll be doing more work on the calculations but it is a good thing to be thinking about as we slide down the slippery slope of population collapse.

Raft systems work when you don't have to heat or cool greenhouses or have seasonal depressions in production from shortened daylength.  When you do have these things to account for, it isn't nearly productive enough.  Also, you compete in conventional markets with conventional producers who are not only more productive than you, but also have fewer costs.

BenHehle Beamz said:

Could you please explain me, why you think raft systems are not that good? (need to collect some pros and cons of different systems for my project )

I've grown a variety of cereal grains, and they've all done quite well.

Jonathan Kadish said:

Yep, he has got it exactly right. I cringe when I see people saying aquaponics is going to feed the world. On that note is there anyone who has been growing rice in Aquaponics? I have been thinking about this for a while, because I we run out of petroleum food is going to become quite scarce. This will happen in our lifetime so we had better figure out how to get a carbohydrates out of aquaponics.

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