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Is Aquaponic Farming Profitable?

Aquaponic farming is a young agriculture sector, and ecopreneurs wonder about its profitability. Find out if it is profitable enough to invest in.

Steve Maxwell - Vancouver, BC


In the last few years, numerous green initiatives have emerged with a mission to save the planet while providing eco-conscious resources to the masses. One such initiative is aquaponic farming or aquaponics, which helps produce food without destroying the planet.

Over the years, the popularity of aquaponic agriculture has increased due to the sustainability and accessibility of this method. It is an impressive way of farming with low environmental impact and is suitable for urban areas, too. Besides, it is a great way to provide food accessibility and security to developed as well as developing countries.

With such an impressive list of advantages, commercial aquaponic farming can easily be seen as a possible solution to the biggest agricultural challenge: feeding 9 billion people by 2050.

But despite having multiple benefits, aquaponics doesn’t come without its challenges. For instance, this type of farming requires specialist knowledge of aquaculture and hydroponics. Moreover, it can take years to become profitable because it is only a limited market subsection at this moment.

Despite its challenges, aquaponic farming presents itself as one of the most potent solutions for feeding the world without damaging it in the process. Let’s learn about aquaponic farming in detail to determine if this farming method is profitable.

How Does Aquaponic Farming Work?

As far as aquaponics is concerned, it relies on the synergy between plants and animals. The plants are grown in water (hydroponics), in which fish live (aquaculture). These plants help purify the water for the fish, while fish waste serves as a plant fertilizer. So, in simple words, it is a type of codependent living space.

The concept of aquaponic farming has been around for at least 50 years. But this type of farming has started receiving renewed attention in recent years due to its sustainability benefits. These benefits allow ecopreneurs to turn aquaponic farming into a profitable business.

Currently, aquaponic farms only exist in controlled environments, like greenhouses and outdoor settings with favorable climates. However, this field seems to be growing exponentially all over the world due to the boost it brings to food security.

Aquaponic farms have a sheer potential of:

  • Cultivating local and sustainable food systems

  • Improving food security

  • Providing year-round fresh and high-quality fish and vegetable

  • Offering a stable income to employees

Types of Aquaponics Systems

Aquaponic farming can be divided into three primary types, depending on their scalability:

DIY Aquaponics

For farm-to-table enthusiasts, DIY aquaponics is the way to go. This type of backyard aquaponic farming allows you to grow and harvest food for your family any day.

Mini Tank System

A mini tank system is a right choice for someone who has been growing in their backyard for a while and wants to take the next step. This system lets newbies grow a few herbs and offers the best learning opportunity.

Commercial Aquaponics

This is like the final stage of your aquaponics journey. When you’ve learned enough about the art that you’re confident to convert it into a business, it becomes commercial aquaponics.

Compared to traditional agriculture, the running cost of aquaponic farming is relatively higher. However, it tends to conserve more water and has overall fewer recurring expenses. So, before you jump into the trend of commercial aquaponics, make sure you do the math and decide accordingly.

How Do Commercial Aquaponic Farms Make Money?

The primary source of income for aquaponic farming systems is selling their produce and fish to buyers. These fish and produce buyers vary from local grocery stores to supermarkets and wholesalers.

Besides selling their products, aquaponic farm owners can capitalize on their investment by providing classes to aquaponic enthusiasts and newbies. Moreover, they can sell their fully functional aquaponic system to an interested party for starting a business.

Another passive way of making money through aquaponics is the fewer inputs required by this system compared to the traditional soil-based farms. Since it is a closed-loop system, the waste of one part feeds the next part of the system. On the other hand, land-based farms require regular inputs, like irrigation, pesticides, and fertilizers. Due to this, their maintenance cost is much higher than aquaponic farms.

This is one of the many reasons farmers believe that setting up a profitable aquaponic farm is much easier and more sustainable than traditional soil-based farms. However, creating a profitable aquaponic farm is not guaranteed even with such favorable odds. Owners have to face and overcome several challenges to make this business profitable.

How Lucrative And Sustainable is Aquaponic Farming?

Aquaponics is an efficient and highly sustainable method for food production. This low input, low maintenance, and closed-loop system balances inputs and waste between the two parts. Compared to conventional methods, it uses 95% less water because there’s no need for irrigation.

Moreover, this farming method ensures no weed production, so you don’t need herbicides. Similarly, there are fewer incidents of diseases and pests in aquaponic farms than in traditional ones. Since there’s no soil involved in aquaponic greenhouses, you don’t have to worry about desertification or salinization.

Aquaponic farms require less land than traditional farms, and you can maximize the use of three dimensions by stacking vertically. Besides, you can also plant crops closer because they don’t need their roots to travel longer distances to absorb the nutrients they need. What’s more, you can operate an aquaponic farm all year round.

All of this combines to make aquaponic farming a highly efficient and, therefore, more sustainable and profitable food production system.

Tips To Make Aquaponic Farming More Profitable

The aquaponics industry is budding with great potential. According to the aquaponics market forecast for 2022-2027, the global aquaponics market size is valued at $580 million - $630 million as of 2018. These are big numbers, but aquaponic farms still have a long way to go, and owners can follow these tips to maximize their profits.

Sell a Variety of Products

Without even trying, an aquaponic farmer has two different products to sell – fish and vegetables. It’s like automatically diversifying the income of an aquaponic farming system. However, they can further diversify their products by growing a variety of crops. By growing a variety of crops, they can cater to a wider buyer market while mitigating income volatility.

Grow Profitable Crops

If you decide to diversify your crop selection, make sure you choose profitable crops to grow on your aquaponic farm.

The following crops offer a massive payback:

Basil

Basil is the most profitable crop for aquaponic farms, with relatively higher yields than other plants. Since it is a fast-growing plant, growing it on an aquaponic farm can help meet the increased demand during the summer months.

Lettuce

One of the easiest to grow crops on water-based farms is lettuce. It is a low-maintenance crop that requires little nutrients. Moreover, the lettuce market is hot all year round, which means you’ll always have buyers looking for fresh lettuce supplies.

Kale

Kale grows well in an aquaponic system because it requires minimal nutrients, making it perfect for indoor gardening. Moreover, you can harvest it within 5-6 weeks if planted under direct sunlight or partial shade.

Cherry tomatoes

While most farmers think it is less efficient to grow compact tomato varieties, it is not the case. Growing cherry tomatoes in an aquaponic system are more efficient due to the average value per square foot and higher consumer demand.

Sell Premium Products Only

This is a no-brainer. Growing premium and high-value crops, like tomatoes, basil, and yellow peppers, can easily boost profitability. Similarly, raising edible fish instead of goldfish can help generate more revenue. So, think logically and practically about the type and quality of products you’ll be growing and selling at your farm, and profits will maximize automatically.

Get More Knowledge

Since aquaponic is a new field, everyone doesn’t know everything about it. As a farmer, you can only excel if you know the secrets of your trade. To do that, you should learn everything you can about aquaponic principles before investing in a farm. If you’re a first-time farmer, it’s better to take a specially designed aquaponics business course before launching your commercial aquaponic farm.

Conclusion

The United Nations estimates that we’ll need to increase global food production by 50% if we want to meet the rising demand for food by 2050. Due to a rapidly growing population and lack of arable land, alternative food production methods, like greenhouses, vertical farms, and aquaponics, must be considered.

Commercial aquaponics is one of the most sustainable alternative food production systems that can boost production in limited space. It offers numerous benefits and proves profitable as a business in the long run.

Steve Maxwell from Vancouver, BC, is the founder of Maxwell Capital. He is a supporter of the technological advancements in agriculture through drones and a firm believer in carefully curated partnerships of industrial-agricultural initiatives. Having more than 20 years of experience in this field allows Steve Maxwell to create environmentally conscious startups through Maxwell Capital. Get in touch with his team at (780) 851-1709 for more information about this venture.

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