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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.

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