In a little over a year, we have had over 500 people visit our farm and answered countless emails and phone calls from those interested in starting a commercial aquaponic farm. The questions are varied, from how much did it cost to start up, to how much money can you make to how many fish do I need. Interestingly though, people often ask what we would have done differently when setting up our system or starting our business. I never have an earth shattering answer. There are definitely a couple mistakes we wouldn’t want to repeat but I always wonder why no one ever asks, what would we absolutely have done the same?
In addition to co-managing an aquaponic farm, I also do some farrier work as a certified barefoot horse trimmer and do a little bit of horse training too. One of the natural horse trainers I’ve followed and studied for years has a favorite saying that really applies to handling and working around horses. He always says, “Prior and proper preparation prevents pee poor performance.” It makes perfect sense. After the training I have had, I could never imagine walking up to a horse, picking up its foot and knifing away at its sole or nipping away their hoof wall. I probably wouldn’t know what to do, how to use the tools, or have any confidence. Most importantly, if I didn't know how to approach a horse the right way, there’s a good chance I’d get myself kicked. That is certainly something to avoid; as anyone that has even been kicked by a horse knows it hurts! Handling horses is definitely a situation where prior and proper preparation has a direct impact on the success of the situation. I have looked at pictures, watched videos, read books and done research, but nothing parallels the hands on training I received from professional farriers and courses.
When we started doing the research for our commercial venture, we of course took the typical early steps when starting a new venture and developed a business plan, a budget and did mass amounts of research. One of the things we immediately factored into our budget was an education expense and began researching our options. There were a couple programs that we found at first, but none really seemed quite what we were looking for as they lacked what to us was an essential ingredient; experience operating a commercial farm. We were just coming out of years in the construction industry and were quite resourceful but wanted a training that could provide a road map on how to build and operate a commercial aquaponic farm, not just a system.
Much like my horsemanship training, applying the same philosophy of prior and proper preparation to growing commercially has helped to set us up for success. We often talk to people willing to invest plenty of money and time in a new aquaponic venture but not allocate funds to what we consider the single most important component, a good education. It’s insurance for your investment.
I am certain it is possible to achieve success without securing an education, but it definitely can help minimize mistakes and drastically alter the learning curve. Additional benefits can include on ongoing source of mentoring from instructors that are operating a commercial operation and willing to share what they too are still learning. It certainly seems to me the most logical plan to follow and it can minimize the likelihood of pee poor performance. Without it, I imagine there's a good chance you may find out that a commercial aquaponic venture can kick much like a horse if you approach it the wrong way. I bet it can smart too.