Aquaponic Gardening

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So much discussions have come about regarding the viability of aquaponics as a business.


Can it work, or not?

and why?

In Canada (Toronto specifically) the focus for local has been huge. Being in a cold climate we cannot source certain products locally, and they come from California, or Mexico. I have no experience running aquaponics on a huge level (I've got a small setup on the second floor of my restaurant)

But what I dont get, is why is a hyroponic/greenhouse setup selling, say cucumbers viable?

We have greenhouses in Ontario growing peppers, cucumbers,  year-round in a cold climate. so these guys have heating costs in the winter, probably artificial light for the lack of sun in the winter - and I am sure they are turning a profit? (They wouldn't be in business if they werent making money!)

Regarding additional income streams such as consulting, training, farm tours

That is all part of the business IMO. My restaurants turn a profit from all aspects of the business. (ie. Catering) but are base is dining in/taking out)

If you look at my restaurant model, I've got 3 cooks, 2 waitresses, cost of rent, heat, hydro, enormous food cost (30-40% in many cases) TONS of competition, and at the end of the day we turn a profit.

from 7am to 10am we sell 3 eggs, 3 bacon, homefries, toast and coffee for 3.99!! plus I got to pay all those other costs. but money is made because of turn-over.

Why NOT aquaponics? (forgive my lack of knowledge)

But if you've got say, 4000 sq. feet of grow beds, ample lighting etc. and you follow what most of the experts are saying. (ie. say 27 holes per 2X4 raft)and decide to grow, say buttercrunch lettuce

4000 sq. feet should technically give you a gross production of 13,500 heads of lettuce?

obviously you stagger the harvest cycles, have an ample amount of seedlings ready to replace the harvest.

Is it unrealistic that 4000. sq. feet of grow beds, with proper lighting, fish to plant population etc. will output, say 10,000 heads a month?

am I missing something here? (again, forgive my lack of knowledge regarding aquaponics, growth times)

I'd love to dive in and learn aquaponics, grow year-round for the many, many local restaurants that "do" source locally but simply cannot find them.

I guess I am trying to figure out what one could expect out of total production, then discuss the input costs etc.

Would love to hear your opinions.

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http://www.herbanfarms.com/index.html

Wow 81 commercial clients! 

Any speculation as to what that might translate into?? 

Per year? $$

This is a perfect model for me to write my business plan. 

14 days till mr money bags comes a callin. 

Spoke to the owner of this company on how many he has on staff. Friend me - message me, and we can yak. 

I know someone with 6 acres of hydroponics in Florida and it's not even close to profitable because of the input costs including labor. They are closer to profitable each year, but it takes time.  They have to retail a lot of the output at farmers markets to earn more money each year.

 

They also have a 15 acre in ground organic farm that is basically break even, but they didn't have to buy the land. They are renting at extremely reduced rates.

 

Brian

Averan said:

Why would hydroponics be cheaper than aquaponics?  I thought that was the whole point, we only need to buy cheap fish food whereas they're buying all sorts of chemical fertilizers and pH balancers and other weird chemicals that are much more expensive.

Peter, do you know the name of the place in Emeryville?

6 acres is an insane amount of product to market. Imagine the logistics behind making that profitable. I can't imagine that bigger is better when it comes to quality food.

Dino,

We are setting up a year round 40 ft. geodesic dome greenhouse in Northern Ontario (about 3 hours north of Sudbury) we will rely on solar strictly so no heating costs.  We are having trouble sourcing the commercial system.  We will be the only producers of fresh fruits and vegetables within 150 mile radius (eat local Ontario).  Even though we aren't built yet I have agreement from the local grocery store to buy our produce.  Now its just to get the system built and running.

 

Kim, Nelson and Pade sell commercial systems for controlled climate growing but in a dome greenhouse you might want to custom design a system to use the space to the fullest extent.  Have you been watching Rob's geodesic dome greenhouse build videos?

Rob?

 

Yes TCLynx I have watched them, they are wonderful.  I am really hoping that I can get my commercial system designed by greenacres organics though.  I have emailed them and are anxiously awaiting their reply.

From a strategic point of view, most soil-less agricultural produce compete based on differentiating from industrial agricultural products, marketing as higher quality or organic. I have yet to hear of a soil-less agricultural farm competing based on cost-leadership. The biggest contrast in this case is scale. Industrial agriculture is a lot more automated and mechanized these days, which poses many barriers for soil-less agriculture to compete in anything other than perceived higher quality. Produce is most commonly seen as a commodity, where differentiation is already difficult to achieve. I have a theory about how soil-less agriculture will break down these barriers, which have to do with innovation of the traditional business models and re-examining the fundamental customer value proposition.

Austin:  I have no plans to operate commercially but I'd like to hear your theory.

Glad someone is thinking in a economical fashion. 

Nate Storey said:

What no one is talking about is Opportunity Cost.  Unless someone can answer me how they are going to outcompete hydroponic producers on a cost/quality basis, I'm going to say that raft won't work.  I've done the numbers, and they don't add up- especially in greenhouse production.  Rafts were never supposed to be used outside of the tropics and sub-tropics.  They aren't productive enough to justify a greenhouse- especially with the intensive capital entry costs of AP production.  So, a challenge:  How will you outcompete the hydroponics guy next door?  Niche markets? (good luck with that one)  Product differentiation? (if you're doing conventional sales, packaging, etc. it isn't going to happen)  On a cost basis?  (Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. . .)  Until someone can answer this and prove it, the answer to raft produciton in Northern climates has to be a resounding "NO."  

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