Aquaponic Gardening

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My partner and I are polishing our business plan for an FSA loan application and I wanted to compare what we have completed versus what another project's take may be - either aquaculture or aquaponics.  Has anyone read or written a plan in the past year?  We are taking a short course that includes some business planning later this summer but I'm submitting our plan in the next week or so.

Thanks for any feedback - it's all helpful!

Kristine

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I have to agree with TC on this.  While drawing up our plans we have found ourselves turning to other operations to spread out our cost vs. income.  Farmers markets are a great way to start out and sell for "habit" income to support the AP but just selling "greens" won't cut it and you definitely won't be quitting your day job.  I have two Asian markets that want to buy live fish from me, at the Farmers Market can't sell live fish, but can't process with out an USDA certification for processing (more costs).  So we have looked at chickens, for eggs.  Now we are adding dairy goats so that we can make cheese and yogurt.  These are items with a higher profit margin in our area.  All of this because I wanted to grow my own raw products for my hot sauce business with out all the added cost of buying from some company 3000 miles away with a 40% markup on the raw products.  The whole plan has morphed into a giant monster that can be controlled but I would think very carefully about what you are going to do and be absolutely sure.

I spend 12 hours a day at my paying job 5 days a week and at least 4 hours a day tending my growing and aquaponics (which I just started last September)  I have been lucky enough to have family that donated land to us to use but now I have to add in the travel times and regardless if I am sick or not someone needs to go out check the plants or fish, one day not doing so could be a disaster.  All of which yielded me a cool $132 last month and that was asking another friend who has a farm to sell what product I had at the Farmers Market.  I gave them 10% of the profits. At least now I have the cash for my bottling materials and labels.

I have plenty of reasons to do this, I can think of plenty not to.  I will never get rich even after I sell my house to buy the farm, but at least one thing I can say is I died and lived my life taking a chance, and I lived it happy.

TCLynx said:

Is that the system size would produce 2,000 heads a month or that it has space for 2,000 plants?

I caution that it might be hard to make a living let alone make payments on a loan if you are not able to actually produce AND SELL!!!!! 1,000 heads a WEEK.  That means you need space for probably 8,000 heads at different stages in the system.

Perhaps producing AND SELLING 2,000 heads a month might cover the operating costs of the system but you also need to pay yourself and the loan to make things work.

I personally don't think a small operation can make it if they have to borrow money to get started.

Yes these are just my very off the cuff opinions and I'm entitled to my own opinions and no one else "Has" to listen to me but anyone who decides they are going to try to jump into aquaponics on a commercial basis needs a big drink of the reality Kool Aid

Aquaponics is FARMING.  You don't make any money growing veggies.  You don't make any Money growing Fish either.

You only make money if you can figure out how to sell those things for more than it costs you to grow, harvest, process, package and get them to market.  And then you have to make sure you sell enough to cover the losses of the stuff that doesn't sell too.

Aquaponics is a great way to grow things.  But that doesn't make it a slam dunk as a business venture since actually growing the veggies and fish is only about 1/5th (or perhaps less) of the equation when trying to do it as a business.

Scheduling

Source water testing

Land

Permitting

Zoning

Buildings

Heating/cooling

Lighting

Systems/equipment

Seeds

Fingerlings

Planting

Feeding

Tending/Testing/Supplemeting

IPM

Harvesting

Processing

Packaging

transporting

refrigeration

Marketing

selling

accounting

Labor

Insurance

Taxes

supplies

electricity

regulations

I underlined the ones that I think of as being "Aquaponics" and the rest of it is more to do with business and farming and not necessarily specific to aquaponics and the truth is, most of the stuff I underlined isn't even all that specific to aquaponics since farming or growing operations would be dealing with an analog of some form.  Aquaponics is simply a novel way to integrate two different types of farming to save water.  It tends to add complexity and cost to the initial set up as well as a layer of complexity to keeping everything balanced and not killing your fish with your pest management or supplementation.

I personally think Aquaponics is a Great thing!  BUT, it is definitely not an EASIER way to make money.

And that is a good friend selling your produce and only taking a 10% cut.  Most markets are going to want to take 30%-50% since they are providing the labor to man the stand/booth.

That he is!  But he is also pushing me to succeed in asking me to try growing off season products in AP for him. Hence now I  wondering if the Greenhouses are a bad investment (only have one I am using to test in) and go for a warehouse.  Could be mutually beneficial or turn in to a royal pain.  Magic 8 ball will it be successful...........Ask again later.....DUH!



TCLynx said:

And that is a good friend selling your produce and only taking a 10% cut.  Most markets are going to want to take 30%-50% since they are providing the labor to man the stand/booth.

I would be very cautious about the idea that growing in an old warehouse would be better than a greenhouse.  There are a lot of variables to take into account to figure out what would be more suitable.  Big old warehouses are not easy to heat AND you have to provide all the light for the plants.  Contact Imagine Aquaponics because I suspect that they can shed a lot of light (and ways to heat) on the subject since if there is anyone that has experience with people trying to do it the wrong way.....  Well anyway, they may be able to steer you away from some of the worst mistakes and point you to some of the ideas that may actually work.

Def. agree.  I do have the opportunity to buy a 2 year old warehouse 5000 sq ft for $1.00 from the city.  But I think the point can be made on the thread for Kristine Allouchery that flexibility and a clear plan can be hard to come by in AP, especially with Aquaponics.

I did a little research on some of the Mainstream Media endorsed Not for Profit AP setups and lucky enough we have one were I live and the truth is they bleed money, tax payer money.  They can not turn product and really are only making money by teaching "Urban Farming" for the individual.  The director of one center, a life long farmer and aquaculture farmer, told me that because so much of AP is undiscovered territory, even being an age old process, can not be built to feed the masses but was meant to feed the village.  I think you made a real good point on AP being only 1/5 of the whole process.

It is all a never ending evolution and one good thing is it takes big dreams to sometimes break down the walls!

TCLynx said:

I would be very cautious about the idea that growing in an old warehouse would be better than a greenhouse.  There are a lot of variables to take into account to figure out what would be more suitable.  Big old warehouses are not easy to heat AND you have to provide all the light for the plants.  Contact Imagine Aquaponics because I suspect that they can shed a lot of light (and ways to heat) on the subject since if there is anyone that has experience with people trying to do it the wrong way.....  Well anyway, they may be able to steer you away from some of the worst mistakes and point you to some of the ideas that may actually work.

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