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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I too cringe when I see people recommending setting up aquaponics in old abandoned warehouses.  In general, using electric lighting is going to be way cost prohibitive unless growing very high dollar crops and those same abandoned warehouses in cold climates are also not generally warm enough to grow those high dollar crops through the winter even if the operation can afford the electric lighting.

Now I expect it can be done but the average person I see recommending this is, as noted, not equipped to engineer all the systems needed to make it work.  They are usually recommending the old abandoned warehouses because they think something "cheap" is what is needed.

I wonder what (if any) profit is being made by sweet water organics?

That is one HUGE facility!!

Regarding Greenhouse/Northern climates: here is a good read. I have a ton of information regarding these types of greenhouse/cold climate studies

Todd: You are right on. Dr Savidov has been extremely successful in his being able to make super-greenhouses  extremely efficient in our cold climates. Lots out there.

Some of Dr. Savidov's conclusions:


Food safety study did not reveal any
contamination of aquaponic produce with
pathogenic bacteria,

Marketing study showed acceptance of
aquaponic produce by the consumer in Alberta

Economic analysis indicates that aquaponic
operations are economically feasible in the
conditions of temperate climates in Canada (and it's VERY cold in Manitoba!)

1. NIF/IDS Report “Evaluation and development of aquaponics production and product market capabilities in Alberta",
2. Nabi Chaudhary, NIF/IDS Report "Evaluation and development of aquaponics production and product market
capabilities in Alberta. Phase II", 2006

These are some numbers coming out of Canada for anyone living outside of Canada to review;

Area for Tilapia production = 1,000m2
Tank size = 32 tanks – 10 feet round
Tilapia production per year = 36 tonnes
Tilapia price = $6.50 to $9 per kg.
Fingerling price includes allowance for mortality.

Tilapia Revenue
36 tonnes annually
Sold at $7.50 per kg.


Aquaponics basil production

Greenhouse area for basil production =
Number of basil crop harvests per year =
Yield per m2 = 12.5 kg.
Revenue per m2 = $135
= $270,000 per year

I visited Sweetwater last fall and the guide was saying they were moving to a greenhouse model in addition to the warehouse and that the owners were not sure they made the right choice to do an indoor warehouse operation. It is clearly a very inefficient model they have. They have received a lot of money from the city to help them out too.

Jonathan Kadish said:

the owners were not sure they made the right choice to do an indoor warehouse operation. It is clearly a very inefficient model they have. They have received a lot of money from the city to help them out too.


The last point is one worth noting as well.... and similarly applies to Growing Power...


Both the owners of Growing Power and Sweetwater... have stated that their operations are NOT profitatable...


See page 65 of this thesis... also gives some good breakdown of financials...



I'm not quite sure I agree. A lot of commercial recirculating aquaculture operations here in northern China is indoors (esp talapia & sturgeon ~ non green water culture). This would be good in abandoned urban buildings where temps can be controlled better. Now if the growing operation were on the south side of a building (outside) as is in attached greenhouse, I think it would be more feasible than trying to use artificial lighting...unless one were growing unauthorized pharmaceutical plants. Its the use of electrical lights that seem unjustified IMO.

I had planed for a green-water aquaculture operation on the rooftop with a greenwall greenhouse on the south face and two more aquaculture operations; one on a middle floor and one in the basement to better use and control temperatures within the building. But of course that was just a theoretical concept...which I'd love to prove someday (with OPM of course).

Oh yeah, as far as OPM: I actually wish I had my own money to blow and experiment with but since I don't, my only choice is to use other peoples money. Private investors are usually a lot less picky and make you jump through less hoops than banks or VCs (which I never work with). Doing it with NGOs or non profit is the easiest with least personal liability, but still you have to provide a bottom line or else your name will stink and you'll never get another job in that field/ capacity. In my position as a consultant, I have made my clients millions and got to spend millions to do neat stuff but have only a meager salary and bits of bonus money to spend on my own experiments...which I hope someday will make me some real coin.


Sure thing Carey... housing the aquaculture RAS in sheds/warehouses makes complete sense... but housing the plants, and the necessity of artifical lighting just doesn't....


Even the ability to enable respective environmental controls.... it's just a no-brainer to do it this way IMO... the technologies already exist for both heating/cooling building interiors... and/or greenhouses...


And the design allows for degrees of automation and monitoring... and/or seperation of the modules if the need arises...

Its crazy, one perspective shows a profit, whilst the other shows a loss.

Crazy stuff!

Cheers mate! I gots a long way to go but I'll build her someday. Got so much more to learn before I get there, so it'll be a while. I just hope I can see stuff like that before I retire in twenty/ thirty years, god willing. You know, my eventual goal is to build a hi-rise farm and true eco community as my legacy or at least be the founder of the institution that eventually builds them. Which sounds better "Carey's town" or "Careyton"?

I imagine that it's a bit dependent on where you live, energy costs, the amount of sunlight you get, the cost of food in your area and the cost of getting it there, etc... But there's still no getting around the cost of lighting when growing indoors, aquaponically, hydroponically or whatever-ponically. Its a huge cost, but not so when compared (initially) to building a climate controlled greenhouse...The GH is more of an initial cost (primarily), whereas the electricity and indoor lighting just goes on and on...for as long as you grow there...

I personally like the rooftop idea..."Carey's town" sounds cool..."Careyton" sounds to "Falcon Crest/Dallas-y"

Dino Pantelidis said:

Its crazy, one perspective shows a profit, whilst the other shows a loss.

Crazy stuff!

Whenever I see an empty commercial space or building I think, 'man, that would be a great AP greenhouse if you ripped the roof off and replaced it with something transparent!'

Its a no-brainer, if you don't take advantage of free resources like THE SUN, you are eating into your profit margin.

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