Last Updated on July 28, 2021 by Marco C.
Commercial aquaponics has the potential to turn a profit per square foot if done right, although it is a challenging business to get into. Synchronizing hydroponics and aquaculture practices is labor and research-intensive as aquaponics requires you to be proficient in both. Designing your commercial aquaponics business will depend on your market potential, climate, and resourcefulness.
The key in aquaponics to turning a profit per square foot is to lower the cost of growing without sacrificing the quality and yield of your produce. As a practitioner of aquaponics as well as an entrepreneur, I start by focusing on one product before expanding. This posits the question of what is your market and what are the potential yields given your location’s climate. In this article, we will be guiding you on your journey to start your own commercial aquaponics operation and how you become profitable knowing the aquaponics profit per square foot.
Is A Commercial Aquaponics Farm Worth Operating?
In considering commercial operations for aquaponics, you will need to ask yourself three questions before getting started.
What Product Or Products Are The Market Looking For?
As aquaponics produces both hydroponically grown vegetables and freshwater fish in an aquaculture tank, it is advisable to focus on one component and use the other as a value-adding operation. Also, consider market demand and competition for supply; supplying high-value vegetables and fishes in areas with no accessibility to seafood is a good opportunity to operate an aquaponics system.
Will The Climate Permit Good Yields For Your Chosen Product?
Any agricultural operation is subject to the climate and environment of the location. The climate will directly affect your potential yield for your aquaculture and hydroponics unit. It is best to choose produce that suits your location’s climate to maximize profits.
What Are The Resources That Are Available and Easily Accessible To You?
Your direct inputs and resources available will also dictate your overall operational and direct cost of inputs for your commercial aquaponics system. An important aspect to consider is the price of fish feeds compared to the price of fertilizer in your area.
Aquaponics Profit Margin Per Square Foot
Though there is a symbiotic relationship between hydroponics and aquaculture, a major difference is apparent in what we are looking for in terms of profitability for each component. An aquaculture-focused approach will look at fishes having a lower feed conversion ratio (FCR). A low FCR will mean fewer nutrients for your plants as more of the nitrogen from the feeds goes to the fish. On the other hand, a hydroponics-focused approach will want a higher FCR for the fish so that more of the nitrogen from the feeds goes back into the water as nutrients. Assuming you have decided on what track to focus on for your aquaponics operation, let us go over the costs involved and the potential profitability for each component.
First, Determine The Operation Cost and Inputs Of A Commercial Aquaponics Farm
In operating an aquaponics system, you are taking into consideration the direct inputs of aquaculture and hydroponics. Discussing aquaculture and hydroponics operations in depth will take time so let us itemize the main inputs involved in operating a commercial aquaponics farm;
- Fish feeds will become your main source of nitrogen for plant growth
- Germination medium
- Supplementary fertilizer for potassium, phosphates, and micronutrients are essential for plant growth especially if you are focusing on your hydroponics component as fish feeds will mainly supply nitrogen.
- Water and water treatment products like pH down and dechlorination are important as well to prepare water for use in your system.
Commercial Aquaponics Yield Per Square Foot
The potential profit per square foot of aquaponics is comparable to that of commercial hydroponics and aquaculture depending on the focus of your aquaponics system. Yields for the aquaculture component of aquaponics compared to commercial aquaculture does not differ largely. The same goes for the hydroponics component of an aquaponics system; both components can be competitive commercially if done correctly.
Potential yields do not differ for both hydroponics and aquaculture components. Although, the cost of operation will differ greatly for each component. The key is to lower operational costs while maintaining good yields and the health of your aquaponics system.
To better understand this, let us go over a simple case study and financial breakdown of monthly costs and revenue for an aquaponics system.
Can You Make Money With Aquaponics?
|Per Month COST OF PRODUCTION|
|Growing Area sq ft:||64000|
|Tank Size in Gallons||15850|
|Fish Stacking Density (lbs / gal)||0.125|
|TOTAL Cost of Production/month||2,629.25|
|Per Month OPERATIONAL EXPENSES|
|Ave Yield of Lettuce||lbs/month||32000|
|Ave Yield of Cream Dory||lbs / Cycle||1981.25|
|Average Sale Price of Lettuce||USD||3.96|
|Average Sale Price of Cream Dory||USD||11|
|Per Month INCOME STATEMENT for Lettuce|
|Average Sale Price||usd||3.96|
|Cost of Production||1,715.25|
|Net Income/month before taxes||110,176.44|
|Per Cycle INCOME STATEMENT for Cream Dory|
|Average Sale Price||USD||11|
|Cost of Production||914.00|
|Net Income/month before taxes||6,051.44|
In this case, we are assuming an aquaponics farm that grows Cream Dory and Lettuce. The aquaponics farm focuses on lettuce as its main product. Accordingly, the farm decided to go with a low stacking density for cream dory. Furthermore, the operational expenses are divided between the two income statements. However, as this farm focuses on lettuce, I do not advise selling most of the fish for a number of reasons we will be discussing in the next section.
Challenges In Commercial Aquaponics Profitability
It is easy to fall in love with aquaponics as a potential business and as a concept, but be careful of some of the pitfalls that might harm your investment in aquaponics.
Selling Both Fish and Vegetables From Your Aquaponics System Will Cause Nutrient Spikes In Your Water, Leading To Your Farm Getting Fish Kills
A common way of thinking is that aquaponics can sell both fish and plants at the same time. However, a lot of aquaponics farms have failed because of this approach. Taking out the fish to sell will reduce the nitrogen input for your system since you will be using less feeds. At the same time, you will be selling your vegetables which take up the nitrogen from your water. This is where I reiterate to focus on one component first before expanding. Aquaponics lies on the balance between aquaculture and hydroponics. There is a complex method on being able to balance this successfully
I believe the most knowledgeable in commercial aquaponics farming would be Dr. Wilson Lennard of Aquaponic Solutions in Australia and a former professor of Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. You can find their website here.
Learn more about: What To Feed A Fish When Out Of Fish Food
So, Why Do Aquaponics In The First Place?
We end on the question, why have we all fallen in love with the concept of aquaponics?
Aquaponics Is A Great Way To Educate The Younger Generation
Integrating different disciplines into one farm is most apparent in aquaponics as compared to other practices. This gives us a venue to teach the younger generation about the importance of food and the science and engineering involved in growing. As aquaponics requires a deep understanding of hydroponics and aquaculture, consequently we are using physics, biology, chemistry, and engineering all in one system. It is a noble cause to build an aquaponics farm for your community no matter what the scale, and having children see the interaction between fish and plants all through a recirculating system will definitely spark their interest as it did for you.
Aquaponics Is A Concept That Requires Further Research
There is a lot left to be understood in an aquaponics system. As we have defined hydroponics and aquaculture practices over decades of research and industrial applications, putting them together creates a more complex system than its parts. As the saying goes, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Furthermore, this opens up the potential for developing new practices that could improve our global food systems.
Commercial Aquaponics Can Have A High-Profit Margin Per Square Foot If Done Correctly
As with any business, it is always possible to be profitable if you do it correctly. With this in mind, we hope you could share your journey with us as we build a community of aquaponics enthusiasts all over the globe.