Aquaponic Gardening

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Hi, I am doing a bit of research into aquaponics for my university degree and am trying to determine the economic viability of a commercial raft system. What would I need to buy (numbers/size) for a medium-sized operation? Also, what are the typical running costs of this type of system?

Fish (type & average growout time)

Fish tanks (number - size)

Sump (size)

Pumps (number - size)

Growbeds (number - length & approx product output)

Piping & joiners

Biofilter (size)

Swirl seperator (size)

Other filters?

... Anything I missed please add on!

Any feedback at all would be much appreciated, thanks!


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This is actually a really big topic and I'll caution you about simply accepting whatever some one might tell you on an open forum as most of the people posting here are probably not running the size operation you are talking about.


Actually what size operation are you talking about Medium-sized is actually really vague?  Some one used to a ten gallon aquarium aquaponics system might think a 50 gallon system is medium sized while I personally think of a 100 gallon system as too small and my 300 gallon systems are the medium size ones and green acre would see even my big system as small.


So since you say commercial, I'm assuming that your medium size system is going to be bigger than the average backyard system but what criteria are you using to determine scale.  It's hard to recommend sizes for things without a number to start with.


There are manuals out there that Friendly Aquaponics sells that detail everything you need for a wide range of size systems but their systems are geared more to plant production that fish production.  What are the goals of the system?


Some of the equipment you list might not be needed if you are going with a smaller low fish density system.


I'm going to venture that you may need to break this project up a bit.  Trying to learn aquaponics from scratch while also trying to learn the commercial system design/equipment from scratch while also trying to determine the economic viability sounds a little more like three projects. 


If you already have a good grasp on the basic aquaponics, nitrogen cycle, growing fish and plants and the water chemistry stuff involved then you have a good foundation to do the next project, research commercial aquaponic system design and the running costs and potential outputs. 


From there you can do the business plan and see if it is economically viable in your location (niche markets and local food are important to all the viable commercial operations I know of.)


What might you have missed,

Air pumps and air stones


net pots

seed starting space and facilities


planting media for the seeds

Labor for filling net pots

Labor for planting seeds

labor for moving seeds from potting shed to seedling area and then to rafts

Labor for harvesting plants, packaging, transporting and selling/marketing the plants


Water quality testing supplies and the labor to monitor the needed parameters

fish nets, tank covers

fish feed (this will actually be a big cost)

labor for handling/harvesting fish

Market for the fish? (live on ice? or do you have food processing facilities to process the fish?)

Transporting the fish as fingerlings and then again after harvest


Also need to know the climate and intended fish and crops to know what sort of greenhouse/shade house or other climate control is needed.


pH and nutrient supplement materials (COH, KOH, chelated iron, seaweed extract, potassium bicarbonate, calcium carbonate, salt etc.)


pest control/bio-security beneficial insects, fish safe plant treatments, sticky cards etc.



 Good as long as its easy!

Don't expect farming to ever really be easy.

Aquaponics makes for a great easy backyard sort of garden.

But if you are talking about making it a successful commercial venture, DO NOT expect it to be easy.

     The more i read, the more i want to keep it smaller and simpler. Individual greenhouses less than 120 sq foot help avoid permits. Mabe several would do what im looking for.

What is it you are looking for Ron?

Besides "Good as long as it's easy!"

In 120 sf greenhouses, I think I would recommend putting a 300+ gallon fish tank in a shed you can insulate and run the plumbing out to a couple 120 SF greenhouses with media beds if you want easy, drain into a 300+ gallon sump tank either under the grow beds, pump back to fish tank.  (personally to me easy means minimal ongoing maintenance.)

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