Cold Weather Aquaponics

Commercial Aquaponics - The Current State and a Little History

134 posts in this topic

@edmolina.  Thanks for the kind words.  SCHS = Subterranean Cooling and Heating System?  Like this?  

 

I haven't used it personally but the theory makes sense, especially for cooling.  A customer hired me the other day to do some ASHRAE research on how much energy you can transfer using one of these.  

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Jeremiah,

 

Yes, that's exactly it. I did happen to come across that information on your blog after my initial post, and thought "of course as a CWA guy he would know about SCHS, especially considering your relationship with folks in Colorado". I was so hooked on the information you present and the style in which you present it that I went through and read every thread. Congratulations on recently setting up your own domain, and especially on your first born! Continued success!

 

Eddie

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I haven't expended the time to read this thread in its entirety. But I would like to assert that I stridently believe that iAVs (being all I can 'speak to' with conviction) has extreme profit potential,  if (where) implemented with comprehensive competence and commitment.  Scalar considerations are likewise ultimately critical to economic success.  IMO, intensive production (expenditure and management) is the 'easy' part (relatively),  whereas sales (timely made at volume into a 'fair market') is where ALL profitability is to be found (created).   TMK, marketing/sales is an entirely different 'world', distinct from cultivation.

 

Am I biased?  Absolutely!  Positively!  

Confident?  Emphatically! Irreconcilably! 

 

 I (still) believe that I can back-up/sustain said assertion and also demonstrate exceptional returns/viability given favorable capital formation, market-channel opportunity and participants (team) .  I am inclined to'think big', or at what may be seen by many as industrial as opposed to commercial scale  (e.g. 'think' EuroFresh Farms (320 ac) or even Almeria, Spain (but without the African slaves)!    I would also anticipate strong exponential growth potential (rapid expansion) subsequent to a contemporary demonstration of economic viability in 'free market' context.  Conjecture and speculation is considered to be free although there are costs IMO.    Positive result follows from informed cooperative action(s), which flows from capital investment and effective teamwork. TMK.

 

Am I optimistic that it will ever happen?   No way Jose!  

   Not unless the likes of Apple, Facebook, Gates, Google, Soros, or Walton heirs, et al  see-the-light and anti-up.

But it could - and IMO should (needs to) - both at industrial-scale in 'the West' and at small-holder 'commercial' in LDC context.

 

"The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt."
~ Bertrand Russell

 ...which admittedly places me firmly in the stupid seats

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Well, Okay then!  I finally waded thru the thread.  Several points stood out as valid, others leaped off the page at me, and the poly-ticks left me nauseated. as I knew it could.

 

Not sure who first brought this up, initially or subsequently, but here's my take/spin on NAI's role in AP -  in brief,     Aka, Open mouth, Insert foot, Gag, spit spit

 

I knew the Todd's, McLarney, Zweig and others at NAI back when it was 'happening' in Falmouth.  Good folks ALL.  One of whom remains a close friend today.   And the Todd's certainly did have/make many positive contributions,  other than wrt AP, IMO. 

 

TMK, only Bill can be reasonably said to have been 'investigating' integrated aquaculture at NAI (at that time).  Later,  Ron and I co-presented a multi-day "integrated aquaculture" workshop at Wood's Hole in 1989.  While he/they did have floating lettuce on Styro raft over a (stagnant)) tilapia tank by then, it was NOT recirculatory (zero provision for waste treatment/removal or any other water quality variable/factor) - at all - and 'production' of both plants and tilapia was basically non-existent (i.e. fish grazed off the plant roots, also high mortality and no fish growth as I recall). OTOH, if anyone can be credited with Styro-rafts/floating I supposed it'd have to be Bill and Ron - altho Auburn may have been dabbling with this too at that time. - just saying.   So, TMK, DWC or the 'raft' approach were probably initiated at NAI, then thru Auburn and on to UVI.  

 

Contrary to prevailing myth, I did NOT take my (ANY) impetus or inspiration from NAI, quite the contrary.  My impetus came dominantly from Balarin and Haller, Näegal, Muir, Paller & Lewis, and Watten & Busch, who each showed positive tertiary benefit of incoporating vascular plants in recirculatory systems on water quality and yield,  but also reported gross nutrient deficincies and the need to make multiple. frequent supplemental inputs including macro (primarily foliar) to keep the plants alive.  TMK, RBF's are Paller & Lewis's contribution/innovation.

 

Also, (while jamming left  foot down throat up to the knee) TMK, I was traveling the country/globe giving seminars and workshops (free) prior to JR's workshop rodeo days.  Also, when he first arrived at UVI (same week) I contacted him by phone (upon the suggestion from an Auburn contact), and told him of what I had been doing/finding and I offered to exchange data, ideas,... aka collaborate ... which he categorically, aggressively  refused in most unpleasant terms (which I recall vividly, often wonder if he does).  From what I read/saw/know, his final 'system' (post 25 years) was in no way different or improved (IMO) than originally implemented - albeit management improved. I believe he began his 'technique' at Auburn with Nair and Hargreaves but could be wrong about that.   My other criticism of UVI is TMK at no time did he replicate any 'study' or aspect.   Repetition is not considered experimentation - at least in Title XIV (land grant) institutions.  TMK, replication (a hallmark of scientific investigation esp. in the life sciences) was, is and remains entirely non-existent in AP -tmk - including at UVI and Lethbridge (unless very recent).   I'll leave other aspects 'alone'.  TMK, one-off of anything is a "demonstration of concept" (including my repeated 'pilot studies', 1984-86) and not "experiment", "show & tell" not research, "feel good/happy-hype" (aka Gary's "magic") and not science.  Too many people throw the words experiment and science around as if they knew what these mean/entail.  IMO, the VAST majority do not seem to (- so kick me, harder, my arrogant/lame ass can take it).   Same holds for commercial-scale agri/aqua and business enterprise it would seem (to me).  As if watching a medical or legal drama on TV qualifies one as a consulting physician or defense attorney.  

 

So, rip me apart for saying so (candidly expressing my opinions)-  which are 'worth' precisely nothing to anyone save me (and that's dubious as well).

 

 

"It doesn't matter how you twist someone's arm, you can't change the direction their knee jerks." ~ 'Pops'

 


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Hi RupertofOz,

 

I was looking through this thread and I came across a post that you made earlier......that I'd obviously overlooked.

 

As this thread is partially concerned with historical realities Gary, I don't  think it's really true to say that you "did Rakocy's program, in Australia, in 2009"  Rokocy was a speaker at a workshop that yourself, and then partner, Murray Hallam organised

 

The 2009 Commercial Aquaponics Course was facilitated by Martin O'Dee.....not Murray Hallam.  Hallam and I were never partners - although we did collaborate on the start up of Aquaponics HQ (now Aquaponics Nation) - arguably the only useful thing that our relationship ever produced.

 

The core content of the program was delivered by Dr James Rakocy and was based on his personal input into the UVI program.....less those parts of it that related to tilapia - and the practical field sessions (the students go out and plant seedlings into rafts and the like) that are offered in connection with the UVI system.

 

The workshop was not a UVI course at all, the good Doctor was just one of the speakers who presented a presentation at that workshop

 

I never said that it was a UVI course.   I attended the sessions that Rakocy did at the 2009 course in Brisbane.  Having said that, they were the same presentations that he provided in the UVI course (with the exclusions to which I referred earlier).

 

Yourself and Murray were the other "speakers"  :D

 

The program featured a variety of speakers (other than Dr Rakocy who was the main presenter) including:

  • Professor David Moriarty (an expert in the use of probiotics in aquaculture),
  • Dr Brett Roe - Integrated fish, vermiculture and plant production - Vermiponics.
  • Martin O'Dee - aquaponics system layout
  • Max Wingfield - Queensland DPI fisheries extension officer - spoke about aquaculture licensing etc.
  • Murray Hallam - did a very brief session on plants that could be grown in aquaponics.  I

I also offered a brief presentation on integrated food production.

 

The program also featured a field visit to a commercial barramundi/herb aquaponics farm.

 

I'm happy to provide further clarification should you require it.

 

Gary

Edited by GaryD (see edit history)

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Hi Mark,

 

Not sure who first brought this up, initially or subsequently, but here's my take/spin on NAI's role in AP -  in brief.
 
Guilty - 'twas me.
 
I knew the Todd's, McLarney, Zweig and others at NAI back when it was 'happening' in Falmouth.  Good folks ALL.  One of whom remains a close friend today.   And the Todd's certainly did have/make many positive contributions,  other than wrt AP, IMO. 
 
I'm happy to defer to your knowledge in this area.  
 
I have a recollection of a small article in an early issue of the "Internaltional Permaculture Journal" that referred to an integrated aquaculture system that featured fish, plants, worms, rabbits and chickens or ducks.  
 
My vague recollection of the article (about 35 years ago) was the system had beds stacked three tiers (in a greenhouse/ark).  The top tier was vegetables, the second tier was fodder for the micro-livestock and the bottom one was for the worms.  The water was pumped up to the top tier and drained down through the subsequent ones.
 
I'm unsure as to which of the "Alchemists" were involved.  I can't even be certain that it was an NAI initiative.   Thirty five years ago is stretching my memory.
 
Gary

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Thirty five years ago is stretching my memory.

 

Indubitably, true for all.  Its reached the point for me, where at least half the time I get up to do/get something, before I've gained my balance or first step I've totally forgotten 'what's happ'nin' (what, why).  It's okay, tho  You can become 'used to' just about anything, most do.  Humans are highly skilled at coping (as it were) with constant confusion and ignorance of purpose. 

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Humans are highly skilled at coping (as it were) with constant confusion and ignorance of purpose. 

 

true.. but it just doesn't help when so many other d***heads want to add to it :D

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Some of the AP farms here do use chelated iron, bone meal, and/or kelp meal and are still certified organic.

 

Just because Tim couldnt find a buyer for his fish doesnt mean its not profitable.   They're on another island, but our aquaponic farmers here on Oahu sell their 1-1.5lb fish for $4-6/lb and 2lb> for $8lb live, in chinatown.  One farmer claims to sell 300+lbs per month.

The dept of ag here cited that 800,000 lbs of frozen tilapia is imported into Hawaii at the cost of about $0.90lb. per year.

Most of the locals do not like tilapia, but that is slowly changing.   Alot of the immigrants love it however.

 

To recap, frozen tilpia sells for between $1.98/lb (whole) at a popular local fish market.   $6.99 for fillets at Costco imported from Honduras.   Live farmed fish sell for $10/lb and up.

 

 

Yep, from reading much of this, I always have the strong impression that only half of the story is being told...  such as the "big fish" story goes, that is a picture of me with a huge fish, except what they don't know is I bought the fish at a trophy shop, put it on a rack, and took the picture as if I caught it...

 

For all the praises Damon wants to give to FAP's designs, he forgets to mention the localized market value, which the localized market value is the entire reason why it works. I have been in communication with other FAP affiliates and, from the ones that actually responded to me, they were not implementing their FAP's commercial training knowledge to a "for profit" business nor in a rural area.

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I suppose Tim didn't see the value unless I opened every detail of operations and full financial transparency down to every penny, as "he does himself for his students". Well, that wasn't gonna happen, nor would a telephone book of bookkeeping from a multi-million dollar biz help any student in his class.

 

 

Yep, entirely understandable. I do not think folk are thinking when someone, whom is essentially a stranger for all intents and purposes, demands to view quite intimate financial disclosures of another's operation so to only feel justified in that you are telling the truth.

 

 

 

 

 I don't know why FAP is so defensive, or abrasive.

 

 

Just writing to say... I entirely agree with your statement and observation.

 

Afraid to say that is the FAP business culture when being approached by "experts", which I am afraid they might have viewed you as one of those "experts" due to how you described the exchange. This attitude is dominant, although covertly at times, all throughout their newsletters. The unfortunate attitude was still present in their quite old newsletters so I doubt it is due to any recent family or business drama. Honestly, personally from my own perspective, their newsletters seem to not contain much wisdom, that is showing they have learned from the lessons learned of other's experiences outside of the FAP circle.

 

It is just an unfortunate attitude, which is why I quite often speed read through their newsletters or sometimes, due to their attitude being so overt, skip reading them all together. I continue reading them in hope that something refreshing will be shared, which has happened.

Edited by crsublette (see edit history)

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Paul - You numbers make me think.  I will have to go through them and see what my cost for similar products would be here in Texas.  Having the Aquaponic tag on things does some good marketing, for the moment, so switching would have to take that into consideration.  Then it would just be hydroponics again :)

 

 

Yeah, I am curious about the same. Sourcing can be a huge obstacle. What is available in the UAE or making your own or in the AU likely is not as available here in the states.

 

I am quite curious where I could actually find an organic well ballance nutrient dry mix, at the price that Paul has suggested.

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John the food safety issue is not just in aquaponics. 

 

I met with a certified organic farmer last week and they have issues when harvesting.  1) Their hands and the crop can not touch the soil for risk of contamination due to the manure they use on the crops.  They have no HACCP or GAP in place....

 

We are jumping through hoops for both HACCP and GAP.  The additional costs are only a small percentage of the overall investment.  However on a small scale, the certification would cost the same increasing the percentage of the investment and overall cost/m2 for the certification. 

Our HACCP is costing just over 60K AED which is about 15K USD for the certification and have not received the quotation for the audits yet.  I imagine a small facility costing around 150K to 250K would have difficulty with the certification being 5 to10% of their investment....  I doubt a much smaller 50K "facility" could afford it.

 

The certifiers have no issue with the process of aquaponics so no special certification is required.  They are only looking for the work process and handling and inputs for food safety.  I have difficulty understanding the AA's involvement in certification.

 

 

1) Their hands and the crop can not touch the soil for risk of contamination due to the manure they use on the crops.

 

Yeah, I can entirely relate to what you are saying... I am trying to sell some silage and hay to some organic dairies here and the loops they force you to jump through are insane. Unfortunately, I never could agree to all of the stipulations.

 

My buddy's son is an equipment operator for this organic dairy, thus my attempt at connecting with the dairy to sell some feed.

 

The organic dairy is so stringent on their policies, due to fear of losing certification, that, if an employee even attempts to bring in any type of fly kill spray product in a tractor, then the employee risks losing their job due to the potential cross contaminations of the insecticide's residual on their hands reaching the cow's utters and thus somehow significantly contaminating the milk.

Edited by crsublette (see edit history)

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But I would like to assert that I stridently believe that iAVs (being all I can 'speak to' with conviction) has extreme profit potential,  if (where) implemented with comprehensive competence and commitment.

 

 

What is meant by the acronym, " iAVs" ?

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I'm just curious, if anyone knows - probably it's obvious but I didn't grow up in a rural area so I don't.  

 

Are there other kinds of farming techniques for which people are secretive about their methods and numbers, and where the profit potential is often exaggerated by people not in a position to know whether their statements are true?

 

I would guess this is true, but I'd love to hear examples of some.

 

For example, are Joel Salatin's or Mark Shepard's farming methods (independent of their speaking and books) as profitable as they suggest?  Are they open with their financials?

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Hi Charles,

 

Good to see you 'round again.

 

I am quite curious where I could actually find an organic well ballance nutrient dry mix, at the price that Paul has suggested.

 

 

I'm curious as to what an organic hydroponic dry mix would even comprise.  I'm aware of organic products like bat guano.....but I have no idea of what  organic hydro mix actually comprises.  I'm assuming that the (inorganic) nutrients have to be sourced from something organic......as distinct from the inorganic compounds that are derived of the petroleum industry.

 

I know of several hydro operators who source the individual chemicals that are used in their formulations and mix the nutrients themselves.  They create a Part A and Part B (some of the compounds are reactive) and add them to their nutrient tanks independently of each other.  They claim that they produce nutrients for a fraction of the cost of the store-bought stuff.  I believe that some hydroponics clubs do a similar thing - based on variations of the basic Hoagland solutions.

 

Entirely off-topic......I would love to be able to sell a product called........Bat Sh*t.

 

Gary

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Yep, still reading on occassion when I have the chance. Working like a dog on just what I am currently farming due to the excellent weather we're having this year. Currently can't sleep due to frick'n sinuses. Love farming. Hate sinuses, but not going to let it get me down.

 

 

I am quite familiar with the mixing of inorganic fertilizers and I imagine the same would apply to hydroponic farmers.

 

 

Yeah, your point about how exactly the the dry mix is derived so to be labeled as "organic certified" is what initially motivated my statement, which could mean sourcing of said product at a reasonable price may prove to be difficult in other areas.

 

 

 

Hi Charles,

 

Good to see you 'round again.

 

 

I'm curious as to what an organic hydroponic dry mix would even comprise.  I'm aware of organic products like bat guano.....but I have no idea of what  organic hydro mix actually comprises.  I'm assuming that the (inorganic) nutrients have to be sourced from something organic......as distinct from the inorganic compounds that are derived of the petroleum industry.

 

I know of several hydro operators who source the individual chemicals that are used in their formulations and mix the nutrients themselves.  They create a Part A and Part B (some of the compounds are reactive) and add them to their nutrient tanks independently of each other.  They claim that they produce nutrients for a fraction of the cost of the store-bought stuff.  I believe that some hydroponics clubs do a similar thing - based on variations of the basic Hoagland solutions.

 

Entirely off-topic......I would love to be able to sell a product called........Bat Sh*t.

 

Gary

Edited by crsublette (see edit history)

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Are there other kinds of farming techniques for which people are secretive about their methods and numbers, and where the profit potential is often exaggerated by people not in a position to know whether their statements are true?

 

I would guess this is true, but I'd love to hear examples of some.

 

For example, are Joel Salatin's or Mark Shepard's farming methods (independent of their speaking and books) as profitable as they suggest?  Are they open with their financials?

 

 

Short answer...

 

They're always secretive, not as profitable as they suggest, and only as open with their financials as they deem appropriate.

 

I imagine the culture is even worse in integrated aquaculture (i.e., aquaponics) since these farmers are competing for direct wholesalers or retail customers rather than a centrally organized agriculture market.

 

 

Long answer...

 

From my personal experience in the conventional soil "broad acre" farming, quite tough to find truly honest farmers. There are too many farmers that are always working an angle, only ever sharing one side of the picture (i.e., "white lies"), always trying to show off their "big fish", many of them cook the books or make other shady deals, and many nowadays do not act too neighborly. Also, there is no law enforcement to encourage truly accurate reporting of yields, even though they suggest purgery laws appy to the governmental surveys.   There always seems to be this fierce, unrelenting competition between farmers and there is no good reason for it other than the fear of losing pride or recognition (or whatever).

 

I hate saying this since it also places a black cloud over me as well.

 

There used to be an unspoken old code amongst farmers and between neighbors back during my grandfather's era, but, as time progresses and as agriculture becomes more risky, yields get higher and much more money is flowing, then, more of the old blood is leaving with more of the rich blood entering causing there to be more scheming and the growing political environmental movement has made it worse.

 

I don't know... I guess am too naive and just need to become more cynical so that all of this nonesense does not bug me so much anymore.

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Thanks crsublette.  I really appreciate your feedback.

 

From what I've heard from folks on this thread, the challenge in aquaponics (or whatever we call ourselves) is not competition for veggie sales but competition for product sales and educational programs.  The goal in that world would be to convince others that your method is the best thing since smoked salmon and that others should adopt it.  Your dirty secret would be that you can't actually make a profit from pure (aquaponic) farming alone.

 

Competition for veggie and fish market share might come (maybe it's there in Hawaii already) but most of the country isn't there yet.

 

I suspect that there are some in the innovative soil farming community as well who are (knowingly or unknowingly) over-selling their methods, making (some) money and getting a lot of attention through their books and speeches, and by drawing naive non-farmers into the fray.

 

I'm not 100% sure that this is a net-negative, though.  If this kind of behavior draws a lot of people into farming at a time that there's a high level of farmer attrition and retirement, some of those people drawn in are likely to succeed.

 

One example of this is Dave and Helen Nearing drawing Eliot Coleman into organic farming.  They misrepresented their methods' success, but they attracted someone so competent, innovative, and hardworking that he essentially created a new and profitable farming method that works (at least in some circumstances).  Now he has a very loud voice because he has been so open with his financials and methods.  It may be that the same story is primed to play out in aquaponics.  It's a young market, so it's anybody's guess.

 

For a farming culture like you describe to form and work, I think the market needs to be fundamentally less competitive and less efficient.  This violates economics gospel, clearly. It probably requires collusion and price-fixing on the part of farmers, which is currently illegal.  But for trust and cooperation to overtake competition, we have to see ourselves as people before we see ourselves as business people.  

 

Have I strayed too far into social philosophy?

Edited by Cold Weather Aquaponics (see edit history)

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Hi Jeremiah,

 

The sale of books, DVD's, plansets, seminars, farm tours, consultancy and kits is not an issue of itself.  In fact, if you have the capacity to do those things, then it's possibly a useful business model.  It's when you claim to be earning income from a particular activity......and its distorted by other revenue streams.....that it becomes cloudy.

 

If people make claims then others are entitled to demand that they prove those claims.  The extent to which those claims can be proved impacts the credibility of the person making them.

 

I suspect that there are some in the innovative soil farming community as well who are (knowingly or unknowingly) over-selling their methods, making (some) money and getting a lot of attention through their books and speeches, and by drawing naive non-farmers into the fray.

 

 

Dead right!   "Overselling" is a very polite way of putting it, too.  Farming has seen some of the most notorious scams ever devised.  In Australia, we've had aloe vera, angora goats, jojoba, deer and ostrich farming schemes (just to name a few) that have been hyped up by unscrupulous snake oil operators.  Thirty years ago, angora does were selling for $4,000 per head before the bubble burst - and $50 the day after it burst.  Ostriches were selling for $40,000 a pair at their peak.  One hundred acres of jojoba was presented as the path to early retirement.

 

And, if the aqua-shysters had their way, they'd be pulling a similar stunt with aquaponics.


I'm not 100% sure that this is a net-negative, though.  If this kind of behavior draws a lot of people into farming at a time that there's a high level of farmer attrition and retirement, some of those people drawn in are likely to succeed.

 

This is a bit of "means and ends" proposition that ignores the human misery that comes from people cashing in their superannuation to pursue a dream only to lose the lot to scammers.

 

There will be people who will make aquaponics (or integrated aquaculture) work......they already exist.  In my view, these people would have succeeded at whatever they tried.....because they are good businesspeople.    Good businesspeople will always succeed where others can't.


For a farming culture like you describe to form and work, I think the market needs to be fundamentally less competitive and less efficient.  This violates economics gospel, clearly. It probably requires collusion and price-fixing on the part of farmers, which is currently illegal.  But for trust and cooperation to overtake competition, we have to see ourselves as people before we see ourselves as business people.  

 

Good luck with that.  Persuading people that their best interests are served by cooperation with others is a hard row to hoe at any time.  Cooperatives are fragile things and invariably fail due to greed or incompetence.

 

Have I strayed too far into social philosophy?

 

 

Nope.  Having high expectations of our fellow humans is a particularly human thing to do......and there will always be exceptions to the rule.

 

Gary

Edited by GaryD (see edit history)

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Hey Gary,

 

Your examples from Australia are ones in which the over-hyping did not result in a useful product.  

 

A counter-example would be the railroads in the US.  They were over-hyped, over-sold, and many shares of companies were sold that didn't exist.  At the end, though, we have railroads.

 

I tend to think that aquaponics is more like railroads than angora bunnies in that the product has great long-term value, even if not as great (in the short term, or using some models) as suggested by some. I might be wrong, in that what's being built in the aquaponics world is knowledge more than infrastructure, though there is some infrastructure.

 

Watching the wild fish-catch numbers tank and fish prices slowly but consistently rise over time, while at the same time large and increasingly conclusive studies (like the China Study) recommend consuming mostly low-calorie and low-carb foods, it seems like aquaponics (or something like it) is well positioned to turn into a growth industry some time in the near-ish future, perhaps once fish prices rise enough that aquaponics fish are competitive in more and more markets.

 

I'd want to hedge that bet of course, but I'd give 10:1 odds that it beats jojoba farming.

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Yeah, I am curious about the same. Sourcing can be a huge obstacle. What is available in the UAE or making your own or in the AU likely is not as available here in the states.

 

I am quite curious where I could actually find an organic well ballance nutrient dry mix, at the price that Paul has suggested.

 

The other option is to make it yourself.  Then you can be sure the balance of nutrients is what you need and you know exactly what is put into it.  We do it and it works like a charm.  Hard to give you a visual... I managed to get away for three days with the family and before I left I was making up a mix for a week.  Day before I left, I started adding it and it was turned off after two days.  I returned and the greenhouse, for want of a better description has gone nuts.   Very effective and very cheap.  The downside is there is no product from the making of the mix so there is a sustainability question.  However, it would be more sustainable than synthetic nutes.  But only anecdotal really

 

 

 

I tend to think that aquaponics is more like railroads than angora bunnies in that the product has great long-term value, even if not as great (in the short term, or using some models) as suggested by some. I might be wrong, in that what's being built in the aquaponics world is knowledge more than infrastructure, though there is some infrastructure.

 

I agree.  We have said this a few times, the market will sort itself out in time.  As more farms become successful more money will be invested and on it goes, leaving the shonky guys behind.  Some of the shonky guys will remain because they build a large following around their name.  But it only takes one major failure to destroy that.   So given enough time and enough professionals involved, it will come about.

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1) Your dirty secret would be that you can't actually make a profit from pure (aquaponic) farming alone.

 

To be more accurate, your statement should be written, as according to the general consensus, "your dirty secret would be that you can't actually make a profit from ' low fish density, plant centric ' aquaponic farming alone."

 

 

2) Competition for veggie and fish market share might come (maybe it's there in Hawaii already) but most of the country isn't there yet.

 

I view the aquaponic (i.e., vegetable and fish) market as a definite seller's market, from the farmer's perspective, since these farmers have to noticeably try at finding a wholesaler, retailer, or another processor to buy their product, unless they pay a significant premium for a marketing outfit to do it for them. I always found the fact quite odd that there is no centrally organized cooperative to help vegetable and fruit producers.

 

In my context of being a farmer, that is in the grain/feed market, due to our centrally organized cooperatives, this market is a definite buyer's market, from the farmer's perspective. I have a quite nice list of feedyards, dairies, processors, and other entities that are lining up to buy my product. I even have the convenience of not selling since I know, if I need to sell right away, then all I have to make is a very quick phone call. Even if their silos or pits are full, they are still going to buy it since they, in turn, sell or transfer it to other processors through a cooperative.

 

Since there is limited inventory space for vegetables and fruits and no centrally organized cooperative, aquaponic farms are directly competing with all sorts of producers, that are even hundreds of miles away, including conventional soil farms, hydroponic farms, and aquaculture farms, which there are more organic certified variants of these operations appearing. So, not for sure how you can suggest the competition is not quite prevalent already.

 

 

Transportation costs is not as great as folk think to large producers since these large producers have incurred other beneficial cost efficiencies that offset the transportation costs, which this is not the same to say it is irrelevant. However, generally, if the buyer can afford the price, then there appears to be more of an attraction to a producer that is closer to the buy.

 

I think one main reason why many aquaponic producers fail is due to poor management and particulary being not large enough so to gain those efficiencies and extra market share. Many aquaponic producers that I have read about are relatively close to major population centers, which allows their small operations to be more viable.

 

 

I remember a group of farmers tried to do a coup d'etat with the cooperatives here involving the grain elevators and livestock processers. It did not work well in the farmer's favor since the grain elevators and livestock processers simply and quicky said, "screw you guys", and they bought their grain/feed from larger producers that were 800~1,200 miles away. The group of farmers were just flabbergasted thus saying, "how could they afford to do that?". Welp, suffice this experience to say, there are farmers that think they are quite "smart".

 

In my local area, a small producer, Willy Wicks Sweet Corn, is growing organic sweet corn. He is quite small and can only reach out about 120 miles to only particular areas, yet he still sells out of inventory everyday, and his price is not necessarily cheap when compared to the grocery market sweet corn. Unfortunately, since the grocery market will not sell his sweet corn, customers must come to him since he can only afford to actually pay the transportation costs to haul his product to only the major population centers.

 

However, I know folk who do not buy from him since it is just too expensive to travel out there and then also pay for the additional premium on the corn.

 

Even in the small local niche markets, aquaponic farming is always competing with the big boys since the customer can always change their mind for something financially cheaper, sometimes for an extended period of time if they can't afford the price tag of the small local niche market.

 

The "quality of food" talk is nice, but, if the customer does not have the money, then they will not pay the premium price tag, and folk in rural areas tend to be in deficit of one important resource, that is money.

 

 

3) I suspect that there are some in the innovative soil farming community as well who are (knowingly or unknowingly) over-selling their methods, making (some) money and getting a lot of attention through their books and speeches, and by drawing naive non-farmers into the fray.

 

Business has a way to cultivate out the weeds, but there is an occasional weed that is left to grow. Yep, even in conventional soil farming, there are some odd products and methodologies being sold, but you would have to really search to find them, which is indicative of their relevance.

 

I think the aquaponic industry has done the same in showing that all of these type of farms found renditions of DWC or NFT to be the foundation of their production model and they chose this model for very good reasons.

 

 

However, in the hobby farm niche market business realm, sure, there is all sorts of odd stuff out there and even in conventional soil gardening. Unfortunately, these type of business ventures come and go like a popcorn rain cloud.

 

 

 

4)  But for trust and cooperation to overtake competition, we have to see ourselves as people before we see ourselves as business people.  Have I strayed too far into social philosophy?

 

Nah, not too far into social philosophy. I think you might be slightly romanticizing the issues.

 

 

 

Thanks crsublette.  I really appreciate your feedback.

 

From what I've heard from folks on this thread, the challenge in aquaponics (or whatever we call ourselves) is not competition for veggie sales but competition for product sales and educational programs.  The goal in that world would be to convince others that your method is the best thing since smoked salmon and that others should adopt it.  1) Your dirty secret would be that you can't actually make a profit from pure (aquaponic) farming alone.

 

2) Competition for veggie and fish market share might come (maybe it's there in Hawaii already) but most of the country isn't there yet.

 

3) I suspect that there are some in the innovative soil farming community as well who are (knowingly or unknowingly) over-selling their methods, making (some) money and getting a lot of attention through their books and speeches, and by drawing naive non-farmers into the fray.

 

I'm not 100% sure that this is a net-negative, though.  If this kind of behavior draws a lot of people into farming at a time that there's a high level of farmer attrition and retirement, some of those people drawn in are likely to succeed.

 

One example of this is Dave and Helen Nearing drawing Eliot Coleman into organic farming.  They misrepresented their methods' success, but they attracted someone so competent, innovative, and hardworking that he essentially created a new and profitable farming method that works (at least in some circumstances).  Now he has a very loud voice because he has been so open with his financials and methods.  It may be that the same story is primed to play out in aquaponics.  It's a young market, so it's anybody's guess.

 

For a farming culture like you describe to form and work, I think the market needs to be fundamentally less competitive and less efficient.  This violates economics gospel, clearly. It probably requires collusion and price-fixing on the part of farmers, which is currently illegal. 4)  But for trust and cooperation to overtake competition, we have to see ourselves as people before we see ourselves as business people.  

 

Have I strayed too far into social philosophy?

Edited by crsublette (see edit history)
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Hi CWA

You can read onlie or download back issues here http://www.hydroponics.com.au/back-issues/

Issue 145 http://www.hydroponics.com.au/issues/issue145/ (Jully 2014)

and issue 131 http://www.hydroponics.com.au/issues/issue131/  (may 2013) both have articles on the current state of AP 131 also have a editor coment on the current status of AP.

 

cheers

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