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