When we decided to make a business out of aquaponics we had a very specific vision of the direction our farm was going to go, which is reflected in our business plan. During the past year since I wrote the plan our farm has evolved and our overall farm focus has changed. I have failed to update the business plan accordingly. I am in the process of doing so and will post as soon as finished. Writing this is actually helping with my business plan update.
Our farm has evolved out of demand of our customers and will likely continue to do so. This evolution has created many streams of income. We discovered that our square footage of growing space was not enough to bring in as much income as we had hoped. We decided to branch out and provide more services related to aquaponics. The following is a list of some of our farms sources of income.
1)Produce Sales: We sell our produce to the neighborhood and anybody who is willing to come to the farm to buy it. This is the easiest approach for us to sell, we don't have to go anywhere or chance not selling all we have harvested. It has taken some time but we are now at the point where all our produce is sold direct from our farm. We no longer have to take our excess to the health food store to sell!
2)Classes:We offer two classes and will soon offer a third.
*Introduction to aquaponics class is a two hour class designed to get people educated on aquaponics with a minimal investment. The class more involved than our free farm tour. It is meant to inspire and motivate people to get started. We teach this several times a month at a cost of $25 per person. With some Craig's List advertising and billboard fliers, it is fairly easy to get 10-20 or more people per class.
*Friendly Aquaponics Micro System Class is a five hour class geared for people who are serious about building a system. I teach this at least once a month for $200 each. Many people who took the intro class end up taking this class as well(I will give then a $25 credit).
*Barrel systems class will be offered in the near future.
3)Fish Sales: We sell some fish for consumption but mostly for system start-ups. We have a breeding tank but need to add another due to the demand for fingerlings. With teaching classes and selling systems I have created a demand for fish which I am struggling to keep up with.
4)Aquaponic Kit Sales: We build and sell three separate turnkey aquaponic systems and trough kits. We have many customers that have no skills or desire for the construction involved so I make it easy for them to get started. These kits are so popular that I cannot get barrels fast enough to keep up with demand.
5)Chicken Egg Sales, Composting Worm Sales:We recycle ALL of our farm waste. Any green leafy waste is fed to our chickens which heavily supplements their feed. We also give the chickens all our table scraps. The sale of eggs easily covers their feed and we eat all the free eggs we want.
All roots stems and everything else is fed to composting worms. We sell our worms as well. Composting worms here generally sell for $20-$40 a pound.
6)Consulting, System Design, Construction. We provide consulting and system design services for a flat hourly rate. We also provide full construction of systems for those without tools or skills.
7)Educational internship program:We charge a tuition for our educational internship program. This provides us with some compensation for the time spent teaching all that we have learned. The program also gives us a lot of help on the farm which in turn frees up our time for other projects.
I have more to add, but my daughter is demanding to go to the beach!!
Thanks Chris! It is funny to see what you are doing b/c that is exactly what my partner and I just discussed a month ago. Well thought out! Good Luck!
I would be interested in more info on the intern program. Could it be adapted to a "working vacation"? I think I could talk my wife into a couple of weeks in Hawaii.
I made the top of the hoops at 6 feet. In Hawaii we are allowed to build up to 6' without a permit. By keeping to 6' I am covered if a neighbor caused any problems by complaining to the building dept. To figure length will take some trial & error. It is best to decide how high you want it to be. Start with a full stick of pipe hook it to your uprights and measure how high it is.
You will need to cut off some to get to your desired height, but cut half of what you think it should be. It is best not to over cut and have to start with a new stick. Once you have one cut and installed to the proper height you will have your measurement for the rest.
I really want to attend the conference but not sure I can afford it.
Since I posted this we have a new way of selling our produce. We now keep a small refrigerator outside our garage stocked with produce. The fridge is an honor farm fridge and people can come and get their produce at their convenience most any time. We keep a change bin on ice in the freezer. This has been working very well for us so far. We will likely upgrade to a larger fridge in the near future once more of our customers return from their summer travels. We will soon stop having a sale on Tuesdays and Thursdays since the fridge is always stocked. We can make special orders for people who request things that we do not normally stock in the fridge. We are considering using twitter to keep customers informed about what is currently stocked.