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I am trying to create my own business plan for aquaponics. The numbers I come up with in my business, I just don't feel too comfortable with. Numbers don't lie, but I can't see how I can make this profitable. Take a look at my different spreadsheets below and help if you can. Note- I live in California so I cannot raise Tilapia or Hybrid bass- so I have decided to only concentrate on produce and use fish as just a fuel source. One spreadsheet is below, the others I attached in an attachment. I want to work with others to refine this for others to use. 

Spreadsheet 1- produce data

Total # of beds                                                                       20

Number of beds in use at one time 10
Length of beds(ft) 50
Width of beds(ft) 3
Length of rafts(ft) 4
Width of rafts 3
Holes per raft 72
Rafts per bed 12.5
Total holes per bed 900
Holes for total beds in use at one time (10) 9000
Square feet of each bed 150
Square feet of all beds 1500
Estimated cost of organic lettuce (lb) $1.58
Estimated weight of head of lettuce (lb) 1.5
Selling price of a head of lettuce $2.37
Selling price for 1 raft of lettuce $170.64
Selling price per bed of lettuce $2,133.00
Selling price for all beds of lettuce $21,330.00

If the spreadsheet does not show up, get a hold of me and I can send it.TBYF%20financials%2008072012b.xlsx


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I didn't have a chance to look too far into your numbers, but at first glance reviewing what you have out there so far it looks pretty good. The only possible correction that I'm seeing is the price your selling the lettuce at is definitely above wholesale, so you'll want to make sure you have buyers lined up to make those numbers work beyond just farmers market sales. Of course, I don't know what your farmers market opportunities are there either, so maybe that would work out.

What aren't you liking about the numbers? I know when I first ran the numbers on what I was looking at doing here (in southern MN) the first thing that I realized was the need to make improvements and expand the business beyond just a single focus as soon as possible. You'll see that from any operation trying to go commercial though and really any farmer for that matter. I'd be curious to know what didn't work out for you as far as the opportunity of the numbers to discuss further, maybe I missed something big.

I'm not a commercial AP farmer (yet) and I don't even live in the United States, but doing the math for my business plan is similar to yours. However, I do believe that the fish are an important part of your income. Sure, your main income will be from the veggies, but the extra income generated by the fish may be just what you need to make this business profitable. I have no idea on what you are allowed to grow in California, but I would definitely look into a fish that's sellable (maybe not edible, but at least sellable).

Good luck

Your financials are reasonable- I would actually add some additional operational/variable costs. . .  You need to diversify your crops as well, and discount your numbers from fish production if your local laws don't allow live or live on ice sales of fish.  The processing costs will be to high for a small operation like yours to handle.  Focusing on produce is the right approach.  Do some interviews with local restaurants to see what they use the most and what they pay the most for.  Find out what your market is and design your system around that.

I definitely agree with Nate. I would conduct a local survey and take a statistical approach for accurate pricing and future income projections. I would also consider reading this (Evaluation and Development of Aquaponics Production and Product Markets in Alberta by Nick Savidov). It may give you some insight for a more accurate pricing model. Your operational cost and variable cost should always be considered at the highest end possible. Consider taking the survey information you acquire to build a supply and demand model. What would be your price elasticity on the lettuce? and if it turns out to be highly inelastic, how could you diversify your crops to build a stronger revenue stream. Operationally a good thing to think about would be your laborers marginal rate of productivity and what wages will suit your business over time. 

I hope that helped a little

Michael A. White :-)



Question.... The insurance cost in your spreadsheets. Is that crop insurance or just the insurance premiums for the land/structure?

If you calculate your costs and income based on current market prices you will have a tough time getting rich selling lettuce.  Even living in CA are there not fish that you can grow for food?  I seems that the 1st goal would be to replace your own supply of nutrient dense foods from know sources and practices.  

What would it cost to buy organically raised meat?  how much money do you save by DIY?  

The cost of food is going up across the board.  The cost today is not the cost tomorrow.

You might also take into consideration the decrease in healthcare costs provided by living in a creative space.

How much have you learned by practicing this art?

Have you seen the price of education lately?

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