If you are reading this, I’m assuming you are rearing to go and construct a commercial-sized aquaponic system. You have already built and run your backyard-sized system, and have done what I always advise, start small and get some experience with constructing a small home system and see if you like it.
You see, having an aquaponic system is just like having your own child. Unless you can afford to hire a qualified nurse, you can’t leave it. Yes, it’s automatic, but not THAT automatic.
Aquaponics systems are not just machines. They are full of living things. Automatic feeders break and overfeed. Just recently, a famous commercial aquaponic farmer had one of his most trusty automatic fish feeders break. When constructing his aquaponics system, he thought he would save time and money by installing this automatic feeder. It overfed 2000 fish, the water in their tank went toxic, and they all died. All of them.
When construction a commercial aquaponics system, consider carefully all the logistical time-and-money aspects at the planning stage, so you will not have these experiences of stock and plant die-offs when operating it.
The advice of Dr James Rakocy, the ‘Father of Aquaponics’, on his famous course at the University of the Virgin Islands, in the United States, was that humans are always going to be better than automatic feeders. This is because they have eyes and, surprisingly, brains.
Human feeding crews can be trained to observe the behaviour of your fish. If the fish in your aquaponics system stop eating, the trained human feeding crew will stop feeding them. An automatic feeder will not do this. If fish are refusing to eat at all, it is time to test the water for excessive nitrite and ammonia, fast. An automatic feeder will not do this. If you have excessive nitrite and ammonia in your aquaponics system, you need to change out the water 50% in a hurry. An automatic feeder will not do this, and if broken, will continue to dump food into the water until it is empty. The uneaten food rots, spoiling your water quality, and the fish sicken and die. Investment of time and money in rearing thousands of fish has been wasted, by having an automatic feeder.
Operating an aquaponics system is a complex business. An aquaponics system is not a just add water and switch it on affair.
Get a properly trained human to show you the ropes, as many times as necessary.
Once you have been operating your small system for at least some months, and run it successfully, which takes time, patience and daily attention to detail, you and your happy fish will be about ready for something larger and more businesslike.
But this is a business. Have you ever helped in operating a business? Have you ever worked in a factory like this? If not, get some training. Of course, we have an M.B.A. on the staff…that’s someone with a Masters in Business Administration, and decades of teaching experience.
And this is large-scale construction. I’m very familiar with the business ends of a tape measure, a spirit level, a hammer and a shovel. Are you?
If I start going on about silicone sealant brands and guns, are you the sort of person who immediately falls asleep? Allergic to glue, vinyl or the smell of setting concrete? Don’t like to wear protective equipment such as hard hats and work gloves? Bad at maths?
Did you know that a lot of commonly used construction materials such as plastics and metals are very toxic to fish? No? You need to know the right ones to use. This is a complex matter best left to someone who already knows about aquaponics systems. Get professional advice when constructing your aquaponics system or you may end up with something that looks right, works mechanically, but is totally lethal to plants and fish!
Do you actually own the land you are going to go constructing this large system on? You’ll need at least 0.05 of a hectare, around an eighth of an acre, and half an acre is really the right size for getting a fast enough return on your investment (0.20 of a hectare roughly).
Most importantly, have you ever worked on a commercial aquaponics system of any size for any time? I have. It’s not all plain sailing, especially if some of the people on the job have no training and no experience. Mistakes get made and plants and fish suffer.
Have you ever watched a fish suffer? They feel pain, just like us. Watching them suffocate because something someone did or didn’t do affected the water quality, and you arrived too late to do anything about it, is heartbreaking. Doubly heartbreaking because the fish in question are still too small for marketing. Money and effort down the drain.
I even get upset about suffering plants. They go yellow and droop, and don’t grow as fast as they should. Again, you are running a business. Your crops should be on a conveyor-belt schedule when operating an aquaponics system. As soon as crops are harvested, new seedlings go into those plant locations to start soaking up the fish waste products in the water and grow, grow, grow!
If, three weeks before, someone forgot to plant those seeds in the plant propagation section, you are going to be in trouble, not only because your crops will fall off schedule, but because nitrates will start to build up in the fish water if your hydroponic tanks are not full to bursting with growing plants.
“What’s a plant propagation section?” you may ask. It’s a separate greenhouse or part of your greenhouse where you are constantly planting new seeds in new soiless sterile media plant plugs in batches, to coincide with the plant input requirements of your hydroponic tanks.
Without the plants in your hydroponic tanks eating up the liquid fertilizer your fish and filtration section are producing, your fish will all die, poisoned by their own waste as the water in the whole aquaponics system recirculates back from the hydroponics section to the fish rearing tanks.
Did I talk about repairing and replacing pumps and regenerating air blowers? Your electric bill? Alternative energy solutions? No?
Go and read the rest of this website (and others online about aquaponics). This is not a just-add-water technology.
If you don’t have the time to do that, I have edited the last six months’ worth of how-to articles, explanatory reports, and general essays on aquaponics systems and aquaponic farming in general into the Aquaponics Global Anthology 1. This is available right here to download in .pdf format, so you can print it out and read it at your leisure, for only $10. [paiddownloads id=”1″]
Proceeds of the sale of this e-book go towards the cost of site maintenance as do those of the rest of the books on sale on this site.
You need help if you have no experience of running aquaponics systems on a large scale.
I am running an aquaponics consultancy here. We are professionally trained aquaponics, aquaculture and business professionals with university qualifications and real experience. We are ready and willing to consult over Skype
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or VCita (see Bookings, above) for a fee, or to come and visit you on a residency contract. Aquaponics Global Ltd’s business is to make sure your new aquaponics system and farming business are set up and operating correctly!
Or else, well, you are almost certainly going to kill a lot of fish!