Last Updated on October 19, 2022 by Griselda M.
Commercial aquaponics startup cost depends on the overall design and capacities of your hydroponics and aquaculture component. Aquaculture and hydroponics components ensure the proper requirements for each component are met. This increases the cost of aquaponics systems compared to hydroponics, soil farming, or aquaculture.
Best to ask what makes aquaponics special and marketable for a commercial-scale setup before starting. Once you have found your resolve for setting up a commercial aquaponics setup, let us break down each component and the corresponding costs of aquaponics systems.
Commercial Aquaponics Startup Cost Begins With The Development Of A Minimum Of 1 Acre Of Total Growing Area
Farms that have growing space larger than 1 acre can be considered a commercial scale farming operation. In setting up a commercial aquaponics setup, set your goals and objectives for setting up a commercial aquaponics system. In any agriculture endeavor, it is best to grow to the market’s demand. This will dictate the focus of your aquaponics system whether it is the hydroponics or the aquaculture component.
Most of the successful systems I have seen cater to supplying lettuce or vegetables wholesale for restaurants. There is also a growing trend for recirculating indoor aquaculture systems of fish like aquaculture-grown salmon. Before beginning your commercial aquaponics startup, it is best to first consider the local demand of your area and tie your operations to that demand. Once you have done your market research, let us first consider the cost of the hydroponics component.
Yes, they are necessary to protect the crops and system from rain and temperature.
Greenhouses vary in design and technical capacities which affect the temperature, ventilation, and protection it provides for the crops. Greenhouses for lettuce and leafy vegetables don’t need ceiling space for ventilation as much as fruiting vegetables like tomatoes. Smaller structures will require less investment in setting up and materials. Some designs incorporate the sawtooth design which allows for ventilation without compromising the protection of the plants from rain and strong winds.
The estimated cost for constructing an acre of greenhouses will range anywhere from $80,000 to $120,000
The Cost Of The Hydroponics Setup
The cost of the hydroponics setup will differ from the practice and technologies employed in your system.
Hydroponic techniques used in aquaponics can be categorized into three types; nutrient film technique (NFT), Deep Water Culture (DWC), and Media beds. The cost of construction for all three differs greatly, with NFT being the most inexpensive to construct.
NFT consists of long pipes or channels holding the plants while a stream of water flows inside the pipe. Some NFT systems will also add bubblers or aerators inside the pipe to allow the water to splash into the root system of the plants. These systems cost anywhere upwards from $30,000 for fixed NFT systems up to $60,000 for open-lid NFT systems.
Deep water culture
Deep water culture or raft is my preferred method of hydroponics due to the case of design, operation, and set up for these systems.
DWCs consist of a container of water 10 to 12 inches deep with a cover that serves as a holder for the plant cups. The cover could be made from styrofoam, plastic, or wood. For an acre of DWCs, it will cost around $64,000 to construct based on the cost of my modular DWC setups.
Learn more about Aquaponics Profit Per Square Foot
The Most Expensive Setup Will Be The Media Bed Setup. Media Beds Are Similar To Dutch Bucket Systems Wherein A Container Holds Hydroponics Medium.
I suggest using a portion of growing space for a media bed while using DWC or NFT for most of the area. Otherwise, using dutch bucket systems instead is also an alternative. Each dutch bucket will cost around $5 to $10 per bucket and takes up 1 square foot. You can fit a maximum of 30,000 to 35,000 buckets in an acre, giving a maximum investment of $350,000.
It may include exhaust fans and climate control for the greenhouse.
Numerous different technologies could be applied to hydroponics ranging from climate control to automation. All additional expenses and technologies should be provided by a reputable source or company to ensure the proper scaling of your greenhouse. Some of these technologies include:
- Heat, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) including exhaust fans, cooling towers, or heating systems that will provide the optimal water and air temperature for your system
- Automation includes controllers for your water injectors which cost around $10,000 when we bought one for our tomato greenhouses. Temperature regulation on the other hand could be done simply by DIY or as an add-on from greenhouse service providers.
- Oxygen injectors have also been shown to provide great results in increasing yields for hydroponic farms. This will also help provide oxygen for your fish in a recirculating system. Companies like BioTherm supply oxygen generators that increase the dissolved oxygen levels in your water or regulate temperature. Their product the TOOB is specialized for increasing dissolved oxygen in irrigation systems mainly but can also be useful for NFT systems.
- Outdoor or Indoor lighting solutions could also be provided by companies like Philips. They have a wide variety of crop and condition-specific grow lights that could augment outdoor sun especially on cloudy days or for indoor operations.
- Commercial Aquaponics Startup Cost For Aquaculture Will Vary Depending On How Big Your Growing Space Is.
To make sure that there is no buildup of nutrients in your system, it is important to limit the scale of your aquaculture operation to the size of your growing space. You could also choose to scale your hydroponics component to the scale of your aquaculture operation as well. A sustainable commercial aquaponics setup makes sure that there is nutrient balance at all times in your system. For this case, let us set the size of the growing area to 1 acre while the aquaculture component is housed separately.
- An Acre Of Hydroponic Growing Area Will Translate To Anywhere Between 9000 To 10000 Gallons Of Aquaculture
Some growers prefer to use cement aquaculture tanks while modular tanks are also available. A modular PVC aquaculture tank will cost $2,500 for 2,500 Gallons. Having four modular aquaculture tanks will cost $10,000 for the tanks themselves. Cement tanks will cost more and require treatment as well but are sturdy and permanent structures.
- Mechanical Filtration Removes The Suspended Solids and Prevents the Buildup Of Fish Waste
Industrial mechanical and biofilters are required for larger aquaculture tanks due to the large amount of waste coming from fish. There are a variety of mechanical filters that are commercially available and can be used for recirculating aquaculture. For aquaponics it is best to go with;
- Radial Flow Settlers or settlement tanks which will allow the suspended solids to settle at the bottom of the tank for collection and removal.
- Mesh Filters trap the suspended solids in a mesh which will require consistent cleaning daily.
- Moving Bed Biofilters Are The Best Choice For Commercial-Scale Aquaponics Operations
Biofilters are also important for aquaponics to convert the fish waste in the water into nitrates. In general, it is best to use a moving bed biofilter. Moving bed biofilters will differ in cost depending on the amount needed to filter.
For both mechanical and moving bed biofilters will cost around $10,000 to $15,000 or more depending on the capacity of filtration needed. Global Aquaculture Supply provides a wide variety of high-quality products for moving bed biofilters and mechanical filters as well. Consult with experts on aquaculture supplies before setting up your filtration system to determine the required sizing for your system.
- Water Pump and Pipings Are Essential Investments For Circulating The Water To All Components
Industrial water pumps come in different flow rates but for a 10,000-gallon tank, it is best to go with a total flow rate of 5,000 to 10,000 gallons per hour. This will also differ if you choose to design your system in a modular way. The price per water pump will cost around $150 for small capacity 2500 gph pumps which can be used for modular designs. Larger capacity water pumps will cost $1000 if you decide to go with a larger tank.
- Commercial Aquaponics Startup Costs Should Also Include Running Capital For Your Business
Running capital is important in starting any business to cover operational and overhead expenses before cash flow. For an acre of operations, it will be best to allot $100,000 to $150,000 as running capital for inputs of your aquaculture and hydroponics system.
Consult with experienced professionals in determining your cost for a commercial aquaponics setup. The goal of your aquaponics system will matter in the cost of each component since you are growing for a specific market and purpose. Commercial aquaponics startup costs for an acre of the growing area will cost anywhere from $250,000 to $300,000.
Commercial aquaponics has the potential to be a profitable business to explore. As with any business, it is best to consult with industry experts and professionals with experience in designing your system.
Read more about: What You Can Grow In Aquaponics
Candace is an aquaponics expert with over 5 years of experience in the field. She has a degree in environmental science from the University of California, Berkeley and a degree in aquaponics from the University of Florida. She is passionate about sustainable agriculture and has a deep knowledge of aquaculture and hydroponics. She has worked on numerous projects and has been involved in the development of aquaponic systems and fish farms. She also has experience in designing and constructing aquaponic systems. With her expertise, Candace is able to advise clients on the most effective and efficient way to construct and manage their aquaponic system. She is an active member of the aquaponic community, often speaking at conferences and seminars. Candace is dedicated to helping others understand the importance of aquaponics, and she is a strong advocate for sustainable food production.