Is there a profit in aquaponics farming? This is one of the most common questions enthusiasts ask when it comes to the topic of commercial aquaponics farming. Aquaponics is an environmentally sustainable method of growing crops compared to traditional agriculture. However, if it is not profitable, it will not be a viable venture for many aquaponics enthusiasts. This article will explore the profitability of aquaponics farming, how to start it, and how it can be a worthwhile investment.
What is Aquaponics Farming?
Aquaponics is a soilless farming method that combines aquaculture (raising fish and other aquatic animals) and hydroponics (growing plants without soil) in one recirculating environment. The concept of this farming method is very simple. The plants are grown in the grow bed, while the fish are placed in the fish tank. The nutrient-rich water from the fish tank that contains fish waste is fed to the grow bed, where billions of naturally occurring beneficial bacteria break the ammonia down into nitrites and then into nitrates.
Plant roots absorb these nitrates and other nutrients to grow healthily and efficiently while creating clean and more oxygen-rich water for the fish to live in the fish tank. The fresh, clean, and oxygenated water recirculates from the fish tank to the grow bed in a continuous cycle.
In this farming method, the farmer can sell crops and fish to the market and get a double source of income. Aquaponics is a sustainable way of farming where foods are grown organically without the use of any harmful chemicals. Aquaponics farming is easy to set up and can be practiced at home or can be a business project where commercial aquaponics farming is practiced for profit.
Is There a Profit in Aquaponics Farming?
Aquaponics might be the most sustainable way of growing plants, but just like any other business, some farmers failed, some earned as much as they expected, and some gained remarkable profits. You'll gain profit from your aquaponics farm if you are doing it right.
There is a possibility of earning well in aquaponics farming. A study made by Johns Hopkins University in 2014 has brought many to light. The study was based on a survey of 257 aquaponics farmers who participated who are primarily located in the US. The survey's key findings are: (1)
- Most aquaponics farmers use a greenhouse as an addition to another structure.
- The average size of the farm is.03 acres (1,307 sq. ft.)
- About 40% of the operations are located at the grower's home. The rest are on commercial or agricultural-zoned land.
- Most growers used a combination of two or more systems (media bed,vertical towers,NFT, and raft), with media and raft being the most common combination.
- 31% of the respondent were profitable in the past year.
- 55% of the growers expected to be profitable within the next 12 months and
- 70% of the respondents stated that their aquaponics farm was not their primary source of income.
With this takeaway, it can be concluded from Johns Hopkins University's study that aquaponics is not as profitable as traditional agriculture. As only ⅓ of the growers stated that they gain profit on their aquaponics farms. However, it is essential to note that those who participated in the survey are still in their start-up stage.
The researchers from the Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB) in Germany have conducted the most recent study on the profitability of commercial aquaponics farms. The result of the survey stated that aquaponics might have both environmental and cost benefits if produced according to good agricultural practices and under suitable conditions. (2)
According to the IGB researchers, the main obstacles for commercial aquaponics farms are the high investment and operating costs, such as fish feed, labor, and energy. The survey also shows high profitability with aquaponics farms if done under the right conditions and that there is a very high potential for profits from aquaponics farms in urban and peri-urban areas.
How Can Commercial Aquaponics Farms Make More Money?
Aside from its environmental benefits, many growers want to know the ways to earn from their aquaponics yield. Here are some ways in which aquaponics farms can have additional income.
- Selling various products related to aquaponics, such as marketing services like aquaponics courses or consulting.
- Selling harvest from the crops.
- Selling fish.
- Selling aquaponics systems.
- Students or individual commercial aquaponics farm tours.
- Aside from selling the products mentioned above, it is also vital that growers have a more in-deep knowledge of aquaponics systems. Knowledge will make it easier for the grower to resolve future issues.
- Dedicating to their system is more likely to succeed than those who don't dedicate time and effort to their aquaponics farm.
Commercial Aquaponics Farms Business Tips
Apart from the ways mentioned above, there are several ways you can increase systems' profit. Below are some tips:
- Raise edible fish such as tilapia or trout instead of goldfish or koi.
- Grow crops considered premium quality in your location to balance the cost of running and maintaining your business.
- Know the best fish to use in your aquaponics system based on your local climate. Doing this will help lower the maintenance cost.
- Consider the fish-to-food ratio to avoid overfeeding your fish.
- Consider growing the best plants for your system with reference to climate, harvest time, and difficulty of growing.
- Start with a small system to familiarize yourself with running an aquaponics system before scaling up into a more extensive system.
What Is Required to Start an Aquaponics Farm?
To start a commercial aquaponics farm, you need to know how aquaponics works, have a detailed aquaponics business plan, a space large enough for your system plan, and the necessary tools and materials. The setup will depend on your chosen method of aquaponics. You can choose to combine two or three methods. To learn more about the different techniques of aquaponics systems, click here. Here are several things you can do before starting a commercial aquaponics farm.
- Conduct thorough research on commercial aquaponics farming. Gather sufficient information on establishing an aquaponics farm. You can also visit your local or state department of agriculture and fisheries to gain their advice on how to operate an aquaponics farm and learn the necessary registration requirements before starting your business.
- Research the internet to gather more knowledge on aquaponics farming. You can also join aquaponics groups and discussions on the internet.
- Consult a qualified accountant to help prepare your detailed aquaponics business plan. The business plan should contain the financial forecast of the farm, projected cash flow statements, estimated start-up costs, sales forecasts, market analysis, and marketing strategies.
- Identify the location of the farm. The site will significantly affect the growth and development of your plants and fish. So choose an area where the temperatures are not too hot or too cold and have sufficient sunlight exposure.
- Acquire all the necessary materials required for setting up an aquaponics farm. These include; fish tanks, grow beds, pumps, grow media, pipes, and many more. Consult a professional to help plan the design and build your farm for a more successful system.
- Register your aquaponics farm and get all the necessary permits and licenses.
- Roll out your aquaponics farm as per your business plan. Continue consulting other aquaponics farmers and professionals for continuous guidance on effectively and efficiently managing your farm and learning about new trends in the aquaponics business.
Interested in Building Your Own Aquaponics Farm?
Go Green Aquaponics offer consulting on all aspects of aquaponics from facility lay out and equipment sourcing to construction supervision and system commissioning. We design systems to meet your production goals. We develop management systems for fish and plant crop production. We give perspective to newcomers and advice that will prevent costly errors. Talk with our aquaponics expert to learn more about aquaponics farming.
Urbanization, climate change, the lack of arable land to farm, and the demand for healthy foods are several factors that led to the rapid growth of the aquaponics industry. Although it exists thousands of years ago, aquaponics farming is still considered a relatively new method of agriculture. That is why little research is conducted in this industry, and the data for the economic evaluation of aquaponics farming is few. But because of the internet, we can see the success stories of commercial aquaponics farms in cities worldwide. Aquaponics farming can be profitable if done correctly, and the grower has an excellent business plan and strategy.