Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Aquaculture and Aquaponics Work Well Together

Aquaponics and Aquaculture 

Both Aquaculture and Hydroponics are becoming the latest means to produce food in response to an increasing population and dwindling natural resources.


Recirculating Aquaculture Systems, (RAS) aquaculture is that fish produce waste that has a negative impact when disposed directly into the environment. Hydroponics also disposes salt-laden wastewater into the environment. Hydroponics also depends on fossil fuels to generate nitrogen and requires limited resources like phosphate so it is NOT as sustainable of a technology. 

In Aquaponics, fish waste is constantly removed from the system, and if we balanced the nutrient output of the fish with the nutrient uptake of the plants, no water exchange is needed and only supplemental Calcium and Potassium buffers and iron are required.

This equates to the use of 90% less water than normal RAS-based fish farm systems

This equates to the use of 90% less water than normal RAS-based fish farm systems so it is more water and eco-friendly. It has been clearly demonstrated by Lennard and Savidov that fish grow just as well as any other fish system and plants grow at the same yield and at the same rate as they do in standard hydroponics. In fact, plants encounter less disease than in a sterile hydroponic environments because the 100s of beneficial microbes in Aqiaponics that are present act more or less like a probiotic for plant health.

If one uses science to analyze the water chemistry it can be precisely controlled and optimized. Unlike hydroponics, conductivity build-up or drop-off doesn’t occur and instead it stays constant since the nutrients get renewed every time the fish get fed and the plants constantly use those nutrients and grow. Therefore since Aquaponics can yield fish and plants with zero environmental impact (AND) with more efficient water use, it wins hands-down.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Green Urban Farming Will Save Our Planet

Aquaponics is The Future of Food

We believe Green Urban Farming is the future of agriculture and that recirculating growing systems are the future of food production globally. Recirculating farms reuse the precious water field farming contaminates with nitrate fertilizers.  Green urban farming could be the 21st century technology revolution.   The argument against traditional farming for common garden vegetables is persuasive.

Hydroponics, Aquaponics - What's The Difference 

It is worthy to note that Hydroponics and Aquaponics are both recirculating methodologies,.  Hydroponics, however adds all plant nutrients to the system.  Aquaponics alone adds no nitrate laden commercial fertilizer as it relies mainly upon the natural effluent of fish to fertilize the vegetable field.  In addition unlike its cousin Aquaponics produces high quality protein containing B12 so necessary for human nutrition. 

Why Green Urban Farming?

Traditional soil based farming is far too wasteful and environmentally unfriendly as it is carbon fuel dependent, greenhouse gas producing, and environmentally degrading.  Traditional soil farming consumes critical natural resources specifically clean fresh water.   Furthermore long food supply chains are increasingly vulnerable to both natural and man-made disasters. Recirculating farms are virtually impervious to such interruptions.  Green urban farms are highly efficient and effective, as well as dependable and bio secure.

Beyond Sustainability Application of green sustainable technologies for both renewable energy and storm water reclamation are essential elements in the green urban farming paradigm.  Green urban farming is beyond sustainability.  It is potentially a restorative technology that will return our small blue planet to health and prosperity.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Aquaponics Is: The Major Problem We Solve

One of the major problems solved by The Family Fish Farms Network, Inc  is Aquaponics itself!  In addition to this blog, I am moderator of the Commercial Aquaponics Group on Linkedin.   The group is over a year old and we have around 800 members 40% or so are active growers.  The membership is a global one and we have representation from most continents and climates, from Shanghi to Khazakstahn.

In America There Are NO Profitable Aquaponic Businesses!

Our definition of Commercial Aquponics is a business that is profitable (if you''re not profitable you cannot by definition be sustainable)  We define achievement of commercial success as making a profit from growing operations only with a profitable P&L and without consulting, training, or equipment sales and surely without subsidies of any kind.

How Can This Be?  Aquaponics is Cool and Hot!

Yes... Aquaponics is both Cool and very, very HOT!  Aquaponics is the hope and the future of food on this planet.  It is close to a permaculture solution to the food chain problem,  It is a recirculating system it reuses all water.  First, the availability of fresh, nutrition dense food problem (25 million Americans have no access to fresh food)  the water consumption problem (70% of all water is used by agriculture) the nitrate pollution of streams and rivers problem, (aquaponics uses the natural nitrates produced by fish and then reuses the water)  In addition, aquaponics provide both vegetables and high quality fish protein as well.

Aquaponics Does NOT Scale!

There are several problems but let's start with the simple one.  Aquaponics does not scale from a small test system a, proof of concept, or learning system to a commercially viable food production system.  They must be two separate processes.  When you finish proving you can do it and understand the principles involved.  You have to throw away the equipment and start again.  Most people don't ever get it and never  will!

It's Just Like Baking Cookies

If you want to bake a dozen cookies or so for your family, you buy or make a bowl of cookie dough, roll it, cut out the cookies, place them on a flat pan and put them in the oven in your kitchen.   However, if you want to bake 5,000 dozen cookies for your neighborhood, it is an order of magnitude difference. One cannot buy 5,000 bowls and 5,000 cookie sheets and what will you do for ovens?

The same is true for an aquaponics system.  It is not like Leggos.  You can't buy a small hobby system and then scale up by linking 50 or more of them together.  To make a commercial batch of cookies one needs a large indusrial commercial mixer, a transfer line, hydrostatic cookers, packaging equipment, etc, etc.  So, one problem is the erroneous assumption that scaling can be accomplished simply by growing the first system larger .... NOT.

Aquaponics is Not Profitable on a Small Scale

A small under one thousand square foot green  house is not a profitable aquaponic operation.  If you cannot sell to the large retailers in your community you will not be profitable by our definition.  You can augment your income perhaps but you will not be able to sustain your family and employees on that income alone.

To sell to the large retailers you have to be able to produce a high quality, cosmetically attractive, product on demand and with total consistency.  If you fail once you will lose the contract and you won't get it back.  There's more to it but that's it for now.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Aquaponics a Tool for Community Economic Development

The Family Fish Farms Network, Inc. (The Network) believes that, in addition to providing fresh, nutrition dense, healthy local food, Aquaponics can also provide the lynchpin for urban revitalization and community economic development as well.  It makes both environmental and economic  sense to grow food closer to where it will be consumed, that shipping it thousands of miles from farm to table.  The average head of lettuce for example travels 1,500 miles to get into your salad.

All Food is Local Food
Distributive production of local food is the answer to food security and job security.  Instead of building huge food factories (Corporate Farms & AgriBiz) it makes better sense to build small focused farms within and around the inner cities!  It is important to note that there exists a strong pent up demand for local fresh food and seafood.  A recent study by Karp Associ in one small midwest city showed a $300 million dollar pent up demand for food grown within the city (local food)

How to Fund Development
A network of urban aquaponic farms utilizing unproductive existing urban structures (even brownfield sites work  (Aquaponics does not use the local soil to grow) City administrations can leverage federal programs (Community Development Block Grants, New Market Tax Credits, Industrial Development Bonds, etc)  along with civil society and anchor private businesses to create a public private partnership that can provide the economic resources needed to fund the new enterprise.

Community and Worker Ownership
There are several business models that can further leverage economic participation by the community and the workforce.  One is the Cooperative, as this enables the company to extend the benefits of profitable operations to each and every member of the workforce and/or community.  The second and most interesting is the ESOP where specific provisions in the tax code and ERISA laws enable an ESOP to borrow money from commercial banks and then, pay not federal taxes until the funds are repaid and each employee fully vested.  Each worker an owner of the business!

Now that's Community Economic Development!  If you want to learn more leave a comment and I will respond!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Thought Leadership from:
The Family Fish Farms Network, Inc

The Triple Bottom Line
People, Planet, & Profit

"People, planet and profit" succinctly describes the triple bottom line and the goal of sustainability.  John Elkington coined the term Triple Bottom Line in 1995.    The concept of TBL demands that a company's responsibility lies with stakeholders rather than shareholders. In this case, "stakeholders" refers to anyone who is influenced, either directly or indirectly, by the actions of the firm. According to the stakeholder theory, the business entity should be used as a vehicle for coordinating stakeholder interests, instead of maximizing shareholder (owner) profit.

We envision a new structure for a sustainable urban ecology.  Our vision is of a model that integrates social values into the cultural commercial mix of today’s urban topology.  Guided by the definitive concept of sustainability, it is our belief that any enduring structure must include all three dimensions of the triple bottom line, socially responsible, environmentally sound, and economically sustainable: People, Planet, and Profit.

The Family Fish Farms Network Hub could form the foundation of a much broader, Louisville centric sustainable business center and a model for other cities here and globally.  The Sustainable EcoCampus revitalizes city cores with sustainable focused start-ups powered by the enduring P3 (people, profit, planet) drivers.

A Triple Bottom Line Project
It is our collective intention to build an urban space that is an exemplary application of food, energy and learning technologies but also reflective of the best possible collaborative human workspace.  This is a new paradigm created by a melding of justice based workforce management and an incentive driven equity expansion model.  This holistic approach uses enlightened self-interest to eliminate the adversarial labor/management relationship built into today’s workplace and unleashing the power of a totally engaged workforce.

The overall intention of the Sustainable EcoCampus is to create a destination venue that combines the production of locally grown, nutrition dense food, innovative new green jobs, expanded worker ownership, and community economic development.   The Sustainable EcoCampus is optimized to conserve resources and energy, and to maximize economic impact. 

The first word in our model is “Sustainable.”  We recommend therefore that we build the EcoCampus using a “sustainable design,” we start with a design centered around The Network Hub.  Once the food production facility is operational and profitable, we move forward on sustainability triggers, incrementally adding one sustainable element at a time. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Traditional Small Scale Aquaponics Cannot be Scaled Up!

If you want to grow some lettuce and tilapia in a small hobby farm and sell a few heads and a few fish - fine!  But do NOT expect to make a profit

All we have seen are failure after failure and still the same myth persists.  New aquaponics systems, small, modular pre engineered NFT systems claiming that simply ganging a hundred or more of these will give you a commercial aquaponics facility. IT IS NOT TRUE!   I don't know about Australia, or South Africa, or even the Caribbean islands but I can tell you with confidence that no commercially successful aquaponics operation exists here in America, nor have there ever been any!

Perfect Hydroponic Tomatos - This is the Model
Why? Anyone with commercial farming experience knows why.  How do they know why?  Because they are not academic researchers, they are professional growers   I have not come to this conclusion lightly.  I preparing to invest 3 million dollars in the creation of a network of automated aquaponics growing units across America.  For the last three years I have been studying, interviewing experts, and comparing existing operations.  I am giving you a synopsis of that work here.

Even though we have repeatedly told the tale on our Commercial Aquaponics Linkedin Group http://www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=4121735&trk=hb_side_g on this group and still ... grower after grower, after grower keeps talking about how they plan to start with a 1,000 sq ft site and scale it up to a commercial venture.  WRONG !   If you want to experiment with the chemistry and reinvent aquaponics one more time, then that's fine.  If you are a researcher in an academic institution and you are doing research into growth issues, or plant ecology, or aquatics, whatever -Fine!

Just don't fool yourself into thinking you can build a small system and scale it up.  You cannot!  It's a bit like making cookies for friends.  The recipe for baking a dozen cookies is totally different, even the equipment used is difference from baking 10,000 cookies.  So it is with commercial aquaponics.  If you are looking for a model to emulate use commercial hydroponics.  Look at the scale, look at the equipment. look at the automation.

You can do hobby, or backyard, or experimental hydroponics but it is not the same thing as commercial scale!  Not at all!

Stevens Point, Murry Hallum, Dr.Racocy, Nelson Pade, Tree Frog ...  No one has been able to make a profit purely from operations in the continental USA. No one has been able to survive more than a few years.  All of the above have turned to seminars/workshops, consulting, and/or equipment sales.  Believe me if they could have made money growing food, they would have continued to do so.

 IF you cannot sell to the large purchasers of greens etc, then you will NOT be profitable.  One more thing!  The Fish are not the profit drivers in aquaponics.  The fish are a fertilizer factory.  Keep the fish alive but focus on the greens!  Lots, and lots, and lots of greens

My advice: Automate to the max, not to save labor costs but to assure, quality dependability, and volume!  It is what we plan to do:  I'll keep you posted on the outcome!  Watch this space and/or visit our blog at: www.familyfishfarms.blogspot.com