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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Your dead on Chris about this being the future of feeding people. It makes great sense to grow in the Midwest, produce is very expensive there. Plus, there are ways to heat greenhouses now that don't require a lot of propane or natural gas. I read somewhere that Indiana only grew 3% of the food that they consumed.

We have family in Lima, OH. In their grocery stores every vegetable other than Tomatoes and Green/Red/Yellow Peppers had a sign on them "Product of Mexico". The Peppers and Tomatoes were shipped in from Canada. So the produce is picked green, gassed, shipped 1500+ miles and is very expensive! We couldn't find a firm cucumber to save our souls. Now, during the summer there are some farmers stands selling fresh produce but that window is not very long?
Jeff, would you be willing to share any of these business plans you've been looking at? I'm in northern Texas.
You guys have large dreams about doing great things for people - don't let a little thing like money scare you away! My advice is to stick with the mantra "there just has to be a better way". I agree with Jeff that the biggest opportunities are in the colder climates, so if I were you guys I'd be throwing all my energy into uncovering all the ways that people are heating greenhouses inexpensively. I know it can be done, between heat energy given off from composting matter, to solar positioning of the greenhouse itself, to geo-thermal, there just has to be a way to do this economically. Keep fighting the good fight, guys!
There are a lot of great ways to heat greenhouses inexpensively and to build inexpensive greenhouses. I've done a bit of greenhouse design and it can be done! First, you need to identify potential cheap energy sources in your area (i.e. here in Wyoming I have thousands of cords of free wood at my disposal, wind that blows 24/7, extremely consistent and high level solar radiation, and can buy literally coal cars full of coal right off the tracks. Once you've identified possible energy sources pick the most consistent/cost efficient one as well as a back up for emergencies (i.e. wood burning furnace with NG modines). Next figure out how to install this in a greenhouse (not as hard as it sounds). It helps if you aren't within city limits and won't be inspected. . . : )
For beginners with little experience and looking for cheap entry, buy a double layer polyquonsit greenhouse and orient it N-S if it's single, or E-W if there are multiples side by side.(you can buy structure and covering for a 100x20' greenhouse for around 5K. Install it with roll up sidewalls and blowers to inflate your covering in cold weather. Cheap. Simple. An easy way to start. Initially you can run everything off of a generator if you can't hire an electrician. Here we just do most of the electrical/gas/plumbing ourselves, but I realize this isn't an option for most folks. Work out a trade with a local plumber/electrician- produce/fish for work. . . there are a million ways you could do it, but it's not as expensive as it's made out to be. Land will be the biggest expense, but there are ways to get around even this [think vertical towers : )].

Sylvia Bernstein said:
You guys have large dreams about doing great things for people - don't let a little thing like money scare you away! My advice is to stick with the mantra "there just has to be a better way". I agree with Jeff that the biggest opportunities are in the colder climates, so if I were you guys I'd be throwing all my energy into uncovering all the ways that people are heating greenhouses inexpensively. I know it can be done, between heat energy given off from composting matter, to solar positioning of the greenhouse itself, to geo-thermal, there just has to be a way to do this economically. Keep fighting the good fight, guys!
I would be more than happy too share them Troy, but I haven't put them to the test yet. And, nothing much more than what everyone has been discussing here in these forums. Just on a much larger scale. I have looked at ways to do it cheaper in the beginning to get started and then how to improve on things as you progress. I would do Ebb and Flow beds for some vegetables and raft method for others. Have you found your target market yet?

Troy Workman said:
Jeff, would you be willing to share any of these business plans you've been looking at? I'm in northern Texas.
Thank you Nate.

This is more in line with what I have been reading and the capital budget I am considering. Although I am possibly a year or so from putting such into action, I want to ensure that I do as much leg work before and plan accordingly. Please continue to provide such good suggestions, such as cooling given that some of us are locate din rather warm climates (Central Florida).



Nate Storey said:
There are a lot of great ways to heat greenhouses inexpensively and to build inexpensive greenhouses. I've done a bit of greenhouse design and it can be done! First, you need to identify potential cheap energy sources in your area (i.e. here in Wyoming I have thousands of cords of free wood at my disposal, wind that blows 24/7, extremely consistent and high level solar radiation, and can buy literally coal cars full of coal right off the tracks. Once you've identified possible energy sources pick the most consistent/cost efficient one as well as a back up for emergencies (i.e. wood burning furnace with NG modines). Next figure out how to install this in a greenhouse (not as hard as it sounds). It helps if you aren't within city limits and won't be inspected. . . : )
For beginners with little experience and looking for cheap entry, buy a double layer polyquonsit greenhouse and orient it N-S if it's single, or E-W if there are multiples side by side.(you can buy structure and covering for a 100x20' greenhouse for around 5K. Install it with roll up sidewalls and blowers to inflate your covering in cold weather. Cheap. Simple. An easy way to start. Initially you can run everything off of a generator if you can't hire an electrician. Here we just do most of the electrical/gas/plumbing ourselves, but I realize this isn't an option for most folks. Work out a trade with a local plumber/electrician- produce/fish for work. . . there are a million ways you could do it, but it's not as expensive as it's made out to be. Land will be the biggest expense, but there are ways to get around even this [think vertical towers : )].

Sylvia Bernstein said:
You guys have large dreams about doing great things for people - don't let a little thing like money scare you away! My advice is to stick with the mantra "there just has to be a better way". I agree with Jeff that the biggest opportunities are in the colder climates, so if I were you guys I'd be throwing all my energy into uncovering all the ways that people are heating greenhouses inexpensively. I know it can be done, between heat energy given off from composting matter, to solar positioning of the greenhouse itself, to geo-thermal, there just has to be a way to do this economically. Keep fighting the good fight, guys!
Well, cooling isn't really in my area of expertise. Where I live cooling is easy/cheap and heating is hard/expensive. I have thought a bit about geothermal cooling (buried coils or piping with a heat exchanger or fans to circulate air). I know folks have done it, and there's absolutely nothing that indicates that a well designed buried cooling system wouldn't work. But then again the average temperature of the ground (5 feet beneath the surface where temps are pretty constant) where I live is 50F.
Hi Jeff,
Thanks for your input. What I'm trying to do is put together a business plan document suitable for grant/loan applications. I've been working toward a commercial aquaponics system, but am still a couple years out from being able to afford to do it. With the oil spill in the Gulf, I believe that there will soon be a spike in demand for farmed seafood, so I'm looking for ways to accomplish this sooner rather than later. Even any tempate documents or market research that anyone has would be helpful.

Jeff Givan said:
I would be more than happy too share them Troy, but I haven't put them to the test yet. And, nothing much more than what everyone has been discussing here in these forums. Just on a much larger scale. I have looked at ways to do it cheaper in the beginning to get started and then how to improve on things as you progress. I would do Ebb and Flow beds for some vegetables and raft method for others. Have you found your target market yet?

Troy Workman said:
Jeff, would you be willing to share any of these business plans you've been looking at? I'm in northern Texas.
i would like to clear up a couple of things with everyone here. When i was asked for some true figures i gave them. We have done everything with the most advance systems that we could find. We looked into doing things cheaper, but it is only cheaper in the beginning. We looked into wood burning, coal, solar, etc. Wood and pellet we cheaper to start out, but you have to consider someones time as a factor also. In the time it would take me to split wood, load, clean ash, and stock everything i could be in the greenhouse transplanting, seeding, feeding, etc. With that consideration we decided to use LP because it would free all of us up to do other things. As far as using roll up sides, it is done around here and i can see where it would be cheaper to begin with but having a cooling wall and computer controlled climate settings i don't have to worry about remembering to close the walls at night, or have to worry about it getting too warm inside if i decide to run to town for supplies.

everything that all of us are doing can be done many ways. cheaper is relative to what you consider to be costs. for us running our existing business in order to have the capital need to start this one was more important than the cost of materials. in the next couple of years we will hopefully be expanding and we have built that into our system. instead of using a traditional clarifier that needs to be manually drained and cleaned daily we have a power bead filter. this device can handle of to 30 lbs of feed per day and can be set to clean and backwash as often as ever hour or as little as once a week. at current stock levels (6 1200 gallon tanks with 350 fish in each) we are around 14lbs of feed per day. not only can i double the size of my fish stock without adding more filters, but i have also eliminated a lot of extra tanks and manual work. by eliminating the physical clarifiers i have freed up more room for growing plants. in this industry the plants are where the money is to be made, not the fish. with that in mind, the more room i have for growing plants the more money can potentially be made. what i am trying to say is that by spending a little more up front i will be able to recover more in the long run by having the additional growing space.

i am by no means an expert on aquaponics. we have only been in the industry for about 18 months now and i learn things every day. i do consider myself to be educated in business though. it is much like a farmer/tradesman that needs a new truck for work. a diesel is definitely the way to go. better fuel mileage, longer times between oil changes, longer lasting engine, more powerful for pulling... but it has a bigger cost to start with.

i am open to ideas, i believe that a collective mind like the ones here has a lot to offer. we do have surveyors coming out to do solar and wind studies for alternative energy projects.

christopher
Is anyone familiar with green water systems? I saw the article from the Friendly Aquaponics newsletter (thanks Cosmo) on the whole algae in the system thing being a nightmare.. but I think this is what some have done in third world aquaponics set ups. I'm not real familiar with it and haven't been able to get a whole lot of info, but supposedly, the tilapia are happy eating algae,(would decreases addtional input of commercial food), and as long as oxygen levels are high is supposed to be fine. I have heard that there are easier/simplier ways then the UVI set ups. . I have three (4'x40') raft tanks ready and have most everything prepared for 60 verticals to be put up soon. I wanted to try this without the net tanks and clarifiers, but I just thought I would check in and see if you all thought this was totally crazy. I figured I could always add them after and make it a clear water system if it became a problem.
Hi Michelle
aquaculture people live with the algae in their tanks with little or no problem. I don't want it because I want to observe my fish. I get a great enjoyment out of watching them. I am also enough of a scientest to know that observation is the best way to tell what is going on. A case in point, this evening I was working in the fish area when I noticed that this tank of fish were all at the top gulping for air. I was shocked because a few moments ago this was not true. I went over to the tank and pulled up one of the airstones and it was not blowing bubbles. One of the pipes had gotten knocked off and the air was just blowing into the air. As I went to fix it I looked at each tank of fish and every tank without fail the fish were gulping for air. I put the pipe back together and the fish resumed normal activity. You could not obseve this if the algae covered the tank. You can't see which fish are sick and could lose the whole tank before you knew. I put shade cloths over my tanks and the styrofoam over the troughs. The water gets minimal algae and the fish eat that. I also wrap the tank in shade cloth if it is transparent. I see the fish eating the algae off the sides all the time. I do Not I repeat I do not have all those net tanks and clarifiers on my systems and my water is clear.

Michelle Silva said:
Is anyone familiar with green water systems? I saw the article from the Friendly Aquaponics newsletter (thanks Cosmo) on the whole algae in the system thing being a nightmare.. but I think this is what some have done in third world aquaponics set ups. I'm not real familiar with it and haven't been able to get a whole lot of info, but supposedly, the tilapia are happy eating algae,(would decreases addtional input of commercial food), and as long as oxygen levels are high is supposed to be fine. I have heard that there are easier/simplier ways then the UVI set ups. . I have three (4'x40') raft tanks ready and have most everything prepared for 60 verticals to be put up soon. I wanted to try this without the net tanks and clarifiers, but I just thought I would check in and see if you all thought this was totally crazy. I figured I could always add them after and make it a clear water system if it became a problem.
HI Raychel,

I am happy to hear you say that you don't have those on your system and that it is clear. How often do you feed the fish and what? I liked the idea of the fish getting more of what they would eat naturally and didn't like the idea of mostly feeding commercial food for so many reasons. What is your system size and stocking ratio? I just assumed it would be a green water system if I didn't have those, but I am still pretty much a newbie.. I was planning on insulating of the tanks and covering them too. I have been told by most people(w/ rare exception) that I needed the clarifiers, net tanks,tons of ari stones, ari pump etc. I was also thinking that the oxygen will be coming in from the free fall stair step of the four IBC tote fish tanks (4" PVC piece) and . I was not sure if would be getting these air stones. I was figuring I can keep it as simple at first, keep testing the water and add whatever after if needed. ~Michelle

Raychel A Watkins said:
Hi Michelle
aquaculture people live with the algae in their tanks with little or no problem. I don't want it because I want to observe my fish. I get a great enjoyment out of watching them. I am also enough of a scientest to know that observation is the best way to tell what is going on. A case in point, this evening I was working in the fish area when I noticed that this tank of fish were all at the top gulping for air. I was shocked because a few moments ago this was not true. I went over to the tank and pulled up one of the airstones and it was not blowing bubbles. One of the pipes had gotten knocked off and the air was just blowing into the air. As I went to fix it I looked at each tank of fish and every tank without fail the fish were gulping for air. I put the pipe back together and the fish resumed normal activity. You could not obseve this if the algae covered the tank. You can't see which fish are sick and could lose the whole tank before you knew. I put shade cloths over my tanks and the styrofoam over the troughs. The water gets minimal algae and the fish eat that. I also wrap the tank in shade cloth if it is transparent. I see the fish eating the algae off the sides all the time. I do Not I repeat I do not have all those net tanks and clarifiers on my systems and my water is clear.

Michelle Silva said:
Is anyone familiar with green water systems? I saw the article from the Friendly Aquaponics newsletter (thanks Cosmo) on the whole algae in the system thing being a nightmare.. but I think this is what some have done in third world aquaponics set ups. I'm not real familiar with it and haven't been able to get a whole lot of info, but supposedly, the tilapia are happy eating algae,(would decreases addtional input of commercial food), and as long as oxygen levels are high is supposed to be fine. I have heard that there are easier/simplier ways then the UVI set ups. . I have three (4'x40') raft tanks ready and have most everything prepared for 60 verticals to be put up soon. I wanted to try this without the net tanks and clarifiers, but I just thought I would check in and see if you all thought this was totally crazy. I figured I could always add them after and make it a clear water system if it became a problem.

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