Aquaponic Gardening

A Community and Forum For Aquaponic Gardeners

Are you interested in growing commercially?  Do you already grow commercially?  This is the place for exchanging ideas and experiences, and making new contacts in commercial aquaponic agriculture

 

You might also consider joining the Commercial Aquaponics discussion group for lots more information and discussion

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Sylvia you really did hit it on the head with point # 8. When I first started I was gung ho to go commercial and I built the 2 realitively large troughs and though this is great. I have several small systems that I am playing with. I began to realize that to do this commercially I would be working myself to death and for what? I am sure I wouldn't make money so why bother. I like you love to show it to other people and try to persuade them to try this on their own. I try to show them just how simple it is. I get excited when they see just how easy and how little work they would have to do to have a few fish and some fresh vegatables. I am a farmer at heart but I am to old and wise to work 24/7 for little reward. The reward is in the teaching and the watching of the vegetables grow. It is strange but it has taken me about 8 months to realize that I need to just show others and eat the lettuce and fish.
I have had a wonderful experience this past month. I joined a group called WWOOF. World Wide Organization of Organic Farmers. You tell them about your farm and then people who are interested contact you. I hesitated for a long time but then I joined. Then Jessica from this blog was volunteering at a farm near my house and she wanted to come over. She asked if she could bring someone else. Well it turns out the couple she brought out belonged to the WWOOFers group. They have been working for me for almost 5 weeks. What a blessing they are. He is a cival engineer and he has improved all my systems. he and his girlfriend work about 10 hours a day. All I have to do is feed and house them. I just got 2 more on tuesday. The first 2 are from Queebec and France and the 2nd 2 from Switzerland. It is amazing they all speak fluent French. These 2 work just as hard. He is a permaculture expert. So I think someone up their likes me. The first 2 didn't know a thing about aquaponics but now intend to go back to France and build a system. This is where the reward is. The showing others how great this aquaponics is.

so my plan now is just to entertain WWOOFers and sell a fish here or there and tell everyone I meet just how great it is to know that you can become self sustaining.
Raychel, this is such a wonderful story! You have found your aquaponic niche by combining farming and teaching in a very intimate, one-on-one way. You are living "If you give a man a fish he will eat for a day, but if you teach a man to fish he will have fish forever, and hopefully teach HIS neighbor how to fish". OK, I took some liberties with the original text to make the point ;-) Perhaps you will eventually get into running workshops and tours. Keep spreading the good word!

"so my plan now is just to entertain WWOOFers and sell a fish here or there and tell everyone I meet just how great it is to know that you can become self sustaining."
Great points, as always, Kobus. Your situation there reminds me very much of the conditions in Australia when their home aquaponics industry took off....

Going commercial is thus not only market research and crop diversification, but also systems design and production methodology research.
Hi Kobus,
I am trying to cut commercial food input to make my small commercial set up as self sustaining as possible and also to avoid corn/soy products.
Please advise what you find to work the best on a commercial scale. I think it may take some time to "train" the tilapia I have off the commercial food, as when I through any vegetaive matter in they don't eat it. I am planting moringa trees, letting the system grow a little algae, growing duckweed and have a vermicomposter..any other ideas? I was told in the past that it wasn't feasible on a commercial scale, but I am trying it anyway. Thanks.


Kobus Jooste said:
I think there is another dimension to this whole commercial debate that may or may not apply to people when they start thinking about it - the state of agriculture in their region. I live in a slightly arid part of South Africa, with poor soil and scarce water resources. Most produce are imported from other provinces, or grown in tunnels anyway. AP therefore becomes another tunnel option. With severe water restrictions (our family of four gets 100 gallons a day) no one trying to run off a municipal line will be able to farm on a large scale, unless they have another source of water. Thus the competition and freshness issues here differ vastly from a place where the soil is good and it rains all the time. I turned to AP because of its ability to be a water wise production method - not so much the organic or "home grown" appeal. Thus added to the market research stuff said earlier, we can further include an analysis of local agriculture output and costs as something an aspiring AP producer can look at. What we are saying in our research, is that we must try to produce for and compete with normal, not organic agriculture. We must produce a better crop at the same or slightly lower price. To achieve that, you have to consider your three critical cost drivers (from our angle) Fish food, electricity and labour. being able to cut the use of power to the minimum, try to get away from a 100% commercial food diet, and simplifying the processes as much as possible is some of the areas we focus on in order to make our operations make sense (over and above all I have added thus far).

Going commercial is thus not only market research and crop diversification, but also systems design and production methodology research.
Thank you for such a timely and informative post. I love the micro brewery idea. I don't know of a brewery but do know of a local "meadery" and will research that to see if I can use anything leftover from them.
Also, how about chaff? I don't know much about it, but there is a local coffee roaster that I got burlap from and was planning to get chaff from them to put in the worm bin and to put on the ground plants as well..I may try that in the AP system.
I am focusing on duckweed as a big component as well, since it is so high in protein. My system seems to be running as a very minimal greenwater system. I understand why there were posts in the past that were against this do to not being able to see the fish and I had found that to be true. There is now just very minimal algae growing and I can visibly see the fish eating off the sides.

I haven't looked at the link yet on how to kill duckweed, but I was surprised that I did sort of kill a batch that I got at first by letting it sit in a small bucket as I did not have kiddie pools set up. It grows like crazy in plenty of the lakes nearby, so it wasn't much of an issue.

Thanks for the reminder about the black soldier fly larvae. I have plans form my permaculutre class on how to make one that they will self harvest from. The vermicomposter I have is fairly large and I may feed some of the worms as well. My friend said he had some larvae type things growing in his worm bin that turned to flies and wondering if that was BSF. I'm waiting on building a separate BSF container to see if I get those in my worm bins.

Kobus Jooste said:
Unfortunately I cannot advise to anything I have tried, but only what I am researching. As tilapia is an omnivore, plant protein is pretty much as good or better than fish meal based protein. There are a number of options people try. One is to set up a "greenwater" system, where you allow algae to bloom and the tilapia feed mostly on that. I do not think this is totally feasible for most aquaponics, as the algae would be stealing AP nutrients. The next thing I know people have done is to feed tilapia distiller's solids - the leftover grain from breweries. The carbs have been stripped from the grain, but almost nothing else. Know any micro-brewers? I cannot get hold of any of the stuff, as our brewers tender the solids out on a single buyer basis annually.

The next thing is to try and turn to the fastest-growing small aquatic vascular plant group - the duckweeds. They can be very high in most of the important nutrients, but as they are mostly water, you may have to experiment with feeding loads to see what you do to your fish growth and plant produciton. Most recently, I have seen a mix of 40 - 50% duckweed with the rest black soldier fly larvae recommended. This may lower your feeding rate quite a bit. My plan is to ultimately have two set-ups. One with tilapia and duckweed used to produce fish stock and the duckweed component of the food, and then a black soldier fly set-up. You will need a lot of duckweed for a commercial system, but not another huge set-up. I have been pulling 5 kg wet mass per week out of 7 square meters of grow bed prior to switching the system off when summer temps got too high (see how to kill duckweed post on my page for the system). This may sound like a lot of grief, but here is my logic for the South African setting:
1) I want to produce my own stock of fish anyway, as there are not a lot of breeders around.
2) tilapia is still not worth all that much here, thus my system cannot run tilapia on commercial food for much more than 170 days before the fish food will cost more than what I will get for the fish. Keeping the fish for longer is not an issue if they are on food substitutes, because my focus is the other crops (for the future - still researching and not producing yet)
3) With few producers, I may want to consider keeping most of my system running as spawning stock if there is a market. Making my own food will then make a lot of sense as I will have adult fish all the time.

I have some research papers that refer to alternative diets for fish used in experiments. These can be surprisingly simple. I'll try to find some of them and post it here too. Eastern farmers are kings of cheap food - China, Vietnam, Bangladesh. They run a lot of duckweed only farms, but then they farm edible carp too.

Michelle Silva said:
Hi Kobus,
I am trying to cut commercial food input to make my small commercial set up as self sustaining as possible and also to avoid corn/soy products.
Please advise what you find to work the best on a commercial scale. I think it may take some time to "train" the tilapia I have off the commercial food, as when I through any vegetaive matter in they don't eat it. I am planting moringa trees, letting the system grow a little algae, growing duckweed and have a vermicomposter..any other ideas? I was told in the past that it wasn't feasible on a commercial scale, but I am trying it anyway. Thanks.


Kobus Jooste said:
I think there is another dimension to this whole commercial debate that may or may not apply to people when they start thinking about it - the state of agriculture in their region. I live in a slightly arid part of South Africa, with poor soil and scarce water resources. Most produce are imported from other provinces, or grown in tunnels anyway. AP therefore becomes another tunnel option. With severe water restrictions (our family of four gets 100 gallons a day) no one trying to run off a municipal line will be able to farm on a large scale, unless they have another source of water. Thus the competition and freshness issues here differ vastly from a place where the soil is good and it rains all the time. I turned to AP because of its ability to be a water wise production method - not so much the organic or "home grown" appeal. Thus added to the market research stuff said earlier, we can further include an analysis of local agriculture output and costs as something an aspiring AP producer can look at. What we are saying in our research, is that we must try to produce for and compete with normal, not organic agriculture. We must produce a better crop at the same or slightly lower price. To achieve that, you have to consider your three critical cost drivers (from our angle) Fish food, electricity and labour. being able to cut the use of power to the minimum, try to get away from a 100% commercial food diet, and simplifying the processes as much as possible is some of the areas we focus on in order to make our operations make sense (over and above all I have added thus far).

Going commercial is thus not only market research and crop diversification, but also systems design and production methodology research.
Holy Cow..I just searched and we do have a local micro brewing company here! Thanks so much for this idea. I will contact them on Monday!! I love this aquaponics site.. Thanks Sylvia for creating it. I have found much useful information.



Michelle Silva said:
Thank you for such a timely and informative post. I love the micro brewery idea. I don't know of a brewery but do know of a local "meadery" and will research that to see if I can use anything leftover from them.
Also, how about chaff? I don't know much about it, but there is a local coffee roaster that I got burlap from and was planning to get chaff from them to put in the worm bin and to put on the ground plants as well..I may try that in the AP system.
I am focusing on duckweed as a big component as well, since it is so high in protein. My system seems to be running as a very minimal greenwater system. I understand why there were posts in the past that were against this do to not being able to see the fish and I had found that to be true. There is now just very minimal algae growing and I can visibly see the fish eating off the sides.

I haven't looked at the link yet on how to kill duckweed, but I was surprised that I did sort of kill a batch that I got at first by letting it sit in a small bucket as I did not have kiddie pools set up. It grows like crazy in plenty of the lakes nearby, so it wasn't much of an issue.

Thanks for the reminder about the black soldier fly larvae. I have plans form my permaculutre class on how to make one that they will self harvest from. The vermicomposter I have is fairly large and I may feed some of the worms as well. My friend said he had some larvae type things growing in his worm bin that turned to flies and wondering if that was BSF. I'm waiting on building a separate BSF container to see if I get those in my worm bins.

Kobus Jooste said:
Unfortunately I cannot advise to anything I have tried, but only what I am researching. As tilapia is an omnivore, plant protein is pretty much as good or better than fish meal based protein. There are a number of options people try. One is to set up a "greenwater" system, where you allow algae to bloom and the tilapia feed mostly on that. I do not think this is totally feasible for most aquaponics, as the algae would be stealing AP nutrients. The next thing I know people have done is to feed tilapia distiller's solids - the leftover grain from breweries. The carbs have been stripped from the grain, but almost nothing else. Know any micro-brewers? I cannot get hold of any of the stuff, as our brewers tender the solids out on a single buyer basis annually.

The next thing is to try and turn to the fastest-growing small aquatic vascular plant group - the duckweeds. They can be very high in most of the important nutrients, but as they are mostly water, you may have to experiment with feeding loads to see what you do to your fish growth and plant produciton. Most recently, I have seen a mix of 40 - 50% duckweed with the rest black soldier fly larvae recommended. This may lower your feeding rate quite a bit. My plan is to ultimately have two set-ups. One with tilapia and duckweed used to produce fish stock and the duckweed component of the food, and then a black soldier fly set-up. You will need a lot of duckweed for a commercial system, but not another huge set-up. I have been pulling 5 kg wet mass per week out of 7 square meters of grow bed prior to switching the system off when summer temps got too high (see how to kill duckweed post on my page for the system). This may sound like a lot of grief, but here is my logic for the South African setting:
1) I want to produce my own stock of fish anyway, as there are not a lot of breeders around.
2) tilapia is still not worth all that much here, thus my system cannot run tilapia on commercial food for much more than 170 days before the fish food will cost more than what I will get for the fish. Keeping the fish for longer is not an issue if they are on food substitutes, because my focus is the other crops (for the future - still researching and not producing yet)
3) With few producers, I may want to consider keeping most of my system running as spawning stock if there is a market. Making my own food will then make a lot of sense as I will have adult fish all the time.

I have some research papers that refer to alternative diets for fish used in experiments. These can be surprisingly simple. I'll try to find some of them and post it here too. Eastern farmers are kings of cheap food - China, Vietnam, Bangladesh. They run a lot of duckweed only farms, but then they farm edible carp too.

Michelle Silva said:
Hi Kobus,
I am trying to cut commercial food input to make my small commercial set up as self sustaining as possible and also to avoid corn/soy products.
Please advise what you find to work the best on a commercial scale. I think it may take some time to "train" the tilapia I have off the commercial food, as when I through any vegetaive matter in they don't eat it. I am planting moringa trees, letting the system grow a little algae, growing duckweed and have a vermicomposter..any other ideas? I was told in the past that it wasn't feasible on a commercial scale, but I am trying it anyway. Thanks.


Kobus Jooste said:
I think there is another dimension to this whole commercial debate that may or may not apply to people when they start thinking about it - the state of agriculture in their region. I live in a slightly arid part of South Africa, with poor soil and scarce water resources. Most produce are imported from other provinces, or grown in tunnels anyway. AP therefore becomes another tunnel option. With severe water restrictions (our family of four gets 100 gallons a day) no one trying to run off a municipal line will be able to farm on a large scale, unless they have another source of water. Thus the competition and freshness issues here differ vastly from a place where the soil is good and it rains all the time. I turned to AP because of its ability to be a water wise production method - not so much the organic or "home grown" appeal. Thus added to the market research stuff said earlier, we can further include an analysis of local agriculture output and costs as something an aspiring AP producer can look at. What we are saying in our research, is that we must try to produce for and compete with normal, not organic agriculture. We must produce a better crop at the same or slightly lower price. To achieve that, you have to consider your three critical cost drivers (from our angle) Fish food, electricity and labour. being able to cut the use of power to the minimum, try to get away from a 100% commercial food diet, and simplifying the processes as much as possible is some of the areas we focus on in order to make our operations make sense (over and above all I have added thus far).

Going commercial is thus not only market research and crop diversification, but also systems design and production methodology research.
Barley sprouts are used a lot in AU to feed cattle, chickens, beef, goats etc. We are looking into them as a food source along with some other grain sprouts. Barley in AU are grown in small sheds, traveling trailers etc, all hydroponically. Another source that we are looking into is beans, hard type, not string. What about grass, if not fertilized, for Tilapia?

We are very fortunate, I live in a Microbrewery haven...lol. Beer and Fish, sounds like a party!
Sunfish in Mari's Garden are just gold tilipia. Here in Hawaii the word tilipia leaves a strange taste in peoples mouth. They only think of the ble tilipia that crowd all our poluted, (sewer waste and the like) steams. So if you advertise them as just tilipia people do not jump at the chance to buy them. On the other hand if you call them sunfish they love them.
Thank you.
Yes...It's all in the "marketing" :-)



Raychel A Watkins said:
Sunfish in Mari's Garden are just gold tilipia. Here in Hawaii the word tilipia leaves a strange taste in peoples mouth. They only think of the ble tilipia that crowd all our poluted, (sewer waste and the like) steams. So if you advertise them as just tilipia people do not jump at the chance to buy them. On the other hand if you call them sunfish they love them.
Farmers react to a changing marketplace to survive


Good article I thought I would share

http://www.democratandchronicle.com/article/20101031/NEWS09/310310003
Just have to hope that the new food safety laws don't make it impossible for those small local farms to stay in business.

The whole local and farmers market thing is great but if it costs too much for all the new bureaucracy that the new laws will probably entail, it will be very hard for any small producer to keep up.

Time to grow your own if you want to eat fresh and local.
I need one too Troy. Did you find one?


Troy Workman said:
So, I'm starting to write a business plan, but I'm having difficulty finding a good template. Anybody got a good one they can share? I'm in Texas, so I won't be competition for you if you're elsewhere. :-)

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