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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Whoops sorry Dino...Big typo...That should read..."you know I'm not saying not to do it"...

Vlad Jovanovic said:

That is one more reason why I will say it once again...you location is a big plus Dino. Your experience in running a successful and profitable business is a HUGE one. The nature of your business and your contacts...yet another big benefit most of us are lacking... You have many things going for you...And you know I'm saying not to do it...but...

Do you know of another outfit that has been organically certified using the Friendlies model? (Other than Friendlies themselves). Since according to some of the wording (livestock=fish) it seemed like kind of a fluke that they were able to get it in the first place. Now, I'm NOT saying that they shouldn't have, just that if a certifying organisation were to follow protocol "to the letter of the law" it seems that AP may be un-certifiable (then again, may not be). Unless, the definition of what is and what is not "livestock" has changed. Fish should NOT have been included in the list of warm blooded creatures labeled 'livestock' to begin with, so I'm with Tim and Susan on that one....Wasn't that why they subsequently lost their Costco account? Was that grievance redressed? You may want to contact a certifying agency? Aquaponics seems to be a somewhat controversial arena.

The problem with Tilapia here in Canada is no has has it!

Other than probably 10-20 guys in the entire country its next to impossible to find.

I've got a flock of about 100 in a multitude of tanks and IBC totes. but its not a practical business choice when its next to impossible to find fingerlings. Trout is the fish of choice here, with fingerlings readily available. and I believe the farmgate price is 5$ kg meaning a certified cleaning facility buys them off you in bulk, trucks it to their facility and does the cleaning/selling to retail themselves. (don't quote me on that price)

I've got lots of PDFs of Canadian research regarding aquaponics. but no mention on growth rates with cold water fish.

Calvin: spoke to the city of Toronto sustainability office and they were very excited about the concept. zoning would not be an issue with them.

Does anyone know what the going rate for frozen and fresh Tilapia fillets are in your state/country?

Peter: My apologies, this is the company I mentioned who is the only one currently producing butter lettuce:

http://www.hydroserre.com/php/en/profil_mission.php

http://www.peterdiekmeyer.com/040927.html

They appear to be a hydroponioc DWC raft operation... not an aquaponiccs operation...

Dino, we seel 2 fillets in a bone proof bag, we ask 6-8 dollars for the bag, it average weight is 10-11 ounces per bag, these are skinless boneless, We sell out every month and we average 1450 bags a month.I am never stuck with a single bag yet, we buy fish from  new mexico,  We  have been doing business with the people every month since june 2010 and never once has there been a bio/ issue/ mortality is almost a never, he has superior fish  www.globalaquaponics.net

Dino Pantelidis said:

Does anyone know what the going rate for frozen and fresh Tilapia fillets are in your state/country?

Yes, in cold climate using a raft system.

It looks like a Hydronov build...I wonder if they're hitting those 2.5 weeks production times hehe...

Dino Pantelidis said:

Yes, in cold climate using a raft system.

my concern is how fast the lettuce grows at 60. :)
lol smart thinking peter :)

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?

Correction: the University of Massachusetts. Researcher: Danny Danylchuk. Project: Building-Integrated Aquaculture Working Group. I have the article in front of me. As I don't want to step in great piles of doo doo, I will paraphrase: Studies have shown that over 75% of total energy demands in the U.S. are due to building operations. Check out the whole physical building before determining the best way to adapt it in favour of the occupants.

His paper appears in the'Journal of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers'. If any one has a chance to check this paper out can you post some feedback?

Ian Cameron said:

I just read an interesting article in the Aquaculture North America magazine. It was written by a University of Wisconsin professor. In it was noted that many commercial start ups for recirc aquaculture and aquaponics were in unsuitable buildings, and ultimately failed. The temperature, humidity, etc, are not properly thought out for an indoor commercial system, especially for those of us that do not have an engineering background, and can ill afford to hire a number of "experts" to address such issues. At our latitude 51N and above this presents some unique problems if one wishes to go commercial, which means year round. Fluid heating and cooling becomes a major issue, which then leads to constructing a suitable building to house everything. When it gets to -30 or more, as it does, any failure in the system can be catastrophic. Redundancy needs to be the norm rather than the exception. And that is what creates the major expense on start up. Think about what you need for start up costs, then double it. Then add 10% for the 'just in case'. Give yourself lots of financial room to maneuver.

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