Here at Aquaponics Global Consultancy we are getting busy. At the moment we are partnering with the Green Man Solutions company based in Florida, USA to roll out some medium sized aquaponic farms there very soon, as well as doing a feasiblity study and funding drive with a church community here in London, UK for what is very possibly the first large-ish scale urban aquaponic farm and community in London, UK.
The logisitical and financial challenge of setting up urban and suburban farms, fish farming and vegetable farming right by the consumer market in these interesting times is very stimulating. A lot of the cost and funding details necessary to do this internationally have not been sufficiently well examined before, and as a result, I find myself writing the book on this with my partners here in the UK and elsewhere.
As a consultant, I am not a charity however, and charge fees for my services. This is because I am not an N.G.O. but a business person who is obliged to pay bills and so has to make a profit from my activities!
In cases like the church hall, of course I cannot charge anything until funding is acquired, but my time is nevertheless extremely valuable. There are few qualified and experienced aquaponics professionals in the UK, and they are still thin on the ground in other parts of the world as well.
To be an aquaponic farmer, you first have to have some years of experience of ORGANIC FARMING.
Organic farming is farming as a business, not a hobby, while using no artificial fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides, antibiotics, etc. on your livestock and plants. Aquaponics is a marriage of intensive aquaculture with intensive hydroponics. You have fish in your recirculating aquaculture system as well as the plants, and so cannot use any pesticides or nitrate fertilizers because they will kill off the fish within around 30 minutes, no joke since you have thousands of fish in the aquaculture sections of these systems.
DIY aquaponics is becoming popular as a hobby, but there are still very few self-built DIY aquaponics large-scale aquaponic farm operations out there. Aquaponics requires a static tank and pipe system of a specific, carefully calibrated plumbing and water flow rate design. You are going to have to fit a whole riverine ecosystem in there and the aquaponics system will have to serve this ecosystem with the right dissolved oxygen, flow rates for the water, filtration parameters to keep ammonia and nitrite levels extremely low, and so on.
High ammonia and nitrite levels in your water will kill your fish very fast, as will inadequate added oxygen levels. Intensive fish farming as here in commercial aquaponics systems requires very high levels of additional bubbled-through air in the water throughout the system at all times to supply the fish and plants with enough oxygen to keep them healthy and comfortable. You want them to grow!
Feeding your fish involves the main external input to your aquaponics system apart from water and electricity, namely, fish feed. Aquaponics fish require a measured amount of feed every day to be split up into three human person-observed meals, where you allow the fish to eat as much as they want for five to ten minutes. Overfeeding the fish, which often happens if you use an automatic feeder, will only leave uneaten food in the tanks and cause rotten food to make ammonia and nitrite levels spike, killing off thousands of your fish.
Since the cost of feedstuffs for farm livestock, including fish, is currently soaring we are, like many other fish farmers, currently looking at alternative sources for fish food, such as black soldier fly larvae farming. The most commonly farmed aquaponics fish worldwide is the tilapia fish, because it is an increasingly in-demand fish, it grows fast, and is tough and relatively human error tolerant.
Plants growing in an aquaponics system however are not so human error tolerant. You need to be pretty expert in spotting pests that have set up home among your crops, so you know what kind of integrated biological pest management tactics to use, and when to use them., you can only use green, pesticide-free integrated pest management, usually a combination of companion planting of pest-repellent herbs and flowers next to crops, such as marigolds and garlic.
In aquaponics you can also employ the judicious use of non-toxic sprays such as bacillus thuringensis spray (not the same as when it is inserted genetically into GM crops, this is the old-fashioned method) and pH-altering anti-fungal washes of a non-systemic and non-toxic nature (usually based on potassium salts). You need to have studied this properly for quite some time in the field. This is one of the problems with DIY aquaponics hobby enthusiasts, pest management is often hardly considered until the pests are well established and difficult to treat.
This goes far beyond the scope of the back garden DIY aquaponics hobby into the world of intensive agriculture. As you can see, training and experience are necessary to understand not only how to construct your DIY aquaponics commercial farm, but how to produce food intensively on a large scale aquaponic farm with fish farming and hydroponics working together. A large aquaponic farm has aquaponics system after aquaponics system in use.
We are convinced here at Aquaponics Global that the aquaponic farm is the way forward for many farmers both in Western and developing countries, and that building costs need not be too extortionate if you use local materials and technologies wisely. However, this is not fish farming using ponds! I get a lot of requests about ponds, and we never use them. Aquaponics requires a controlled growing environment, fish farming and hydroponics in tanks of water!
In order to find out how we can help you with aquaponic farm construction and aquaponics system professional training, please do not hesitate to put in a request here:
» Get Skype, call free!
We can work out all the details of your aquaponics project from startup costs to break-even studies, construction planning and site management.
Don’t forget to bookmark this site to be able to find our next aquaponics update!