When you are designing a commercial aquaponics business plan, it is important to remind yourself of the basics. The true beauty of growing an aquaponic garden is the simplicity in the design. Scientists came up with the crazy idea of growing organic food with fish waste water almost 45 years ago, and ever since then, people have been feeding their families and friends with this incredible food growing technique. If you are contemplating taking your system to a more commercial business level, or if you just want to increase the size of your harvest, you really don’t need to add any complexity to accomplish this.
For those folks that are new to aquaponics growing methods, it is basically a way of creating a small ecological environment. There are 3 main variables in creating a successful aquaponic garden – and those are the fish, the plants, and the healthy bacteria. Each of the 3 parts has to be present for the system to work correctly, and once these 3 parts are in the proper amounts, it creates a garden that sustains itself for the most part. The reason I say for the most part is because you will always have to add fish food to the water, which provides food to the plants and creates a favorable environment for the bacteria to grow in.
The additional maintenance that is required with a traditional garden that is planted in soil is eliminated after the system achieves a natural ecological balance, because the fish supply the nutrient rich waste that the plants use as food. The “nitrifying” bacteria in the water work by converting this fish solid waste and urine into nitrates, which is a form of nutrition that the plants love. This is why products like Miracle Grow are so popular. These products add nitrates to the soil, and this makes the plants grow much quicker than in an environment without nitrates.
Why It Doesn’t Have To Be Difficult To Scale Up Your System
You can usually increase the harvest of a small aquaponic system with just a few days of work. The system has to already be in balance for the highest probability of success, and it makes the transition from a small scale system to a larger system a lot easier doing it this way. Scaling up a home system to increase the yield of vegetables and fish is just like scaling up a system for commercial business purposes.
Either way, you will literally be increasing the volume of fish, water, bacteria, and plants in proportion to one another. Since you already know that you have the right amount of fish and plants to sustain each other, all you basically have to do is apply a multiple to the size of the holding tank and size of the grow beds to make it produce proportionally more food.
Once your system reaches this biological equilibrium, the plants will be in the right proportions to the volume of fish. Usually, the plants and fish will grow at the same time, and this will maintain the equilibrium. If you are thinking that this is too complex, it really isn’t. You can choose a hardier fish species and plants to start off with in your aquaponics system, and this will ensure that you have food production. By choosing a fish species like tilapia, and going with tomatoes or lettuce to begin with – you will not need to have the system perfectly in balance. This is because these hardier varieties of plants and fish can survive and grow in less than optimal conditions.
What You Should Consider To Scale Up Your System
Getting a smaller system up and running in a self-sustaining manner is the first thing you need to deal with. Setup the system components, cycle the water correctly for a week or two (before you introduce the plants), and choose the plants and fish that have the greatest chance of survival. This will get you off on the right foot. Once the system is self-sustaining and has the proper pH water levels, you are ready to enlarge your system.
A typical starter aquaponics system will produce about 40 pounds of fresh organic fruit and vegetables every month, and you can harvest about 20 pounds of clean fish monthly too. There really is no feeling as good as enjoying a fresh garden salad every night, and having delicious catfish, tilapia or salmon from your own backyard. Once you are harvesting food from your system on a pretty regular basis, you are ready to start deciding how much larger you want your system to be.
The first thing you want to plan for is that you are going to need more space for a larger system. You may opt to go vertical and build grow beds above the grow beds you already have, you can add additional grow beds, or you can make the grow beds you already have larger. Most people choose to build or buy additional grow beds to increase their yield, but if you have limited space, going vertical is always an option too.
You will also need more space for more fish. Again, you can either add additional fish holding tanks to your system, or you can upgrade to a larger holding tank. If you are serious about getting great results with a larger system, you will want to make an investment in a water pump that will continually circulate the water. With a larger system, the fish waste tends to accumulate near the roots of your plants. You will want to minimize the chance of the water getting murky and unlivable for the fish, and having a pump will prevent this.
Why You Don’t Want to Go Cheap With Your System
Getting a pump for a larger system is something that I always recommend, and the best thing about it is that the plants grow a lot faster with better circulation as well. If you haven’t started an aquaponics system yet, and you are thinking about scaling it up at some point, it is probably best just to have one pumping the water from the very beginning. I am always concerned about keeping the water clean, since this is probably the biggest reason why aquaponic systems fail, and I always use a pump of some sort with any sized system.
Having a pump reduces the maintenance right from the very beginning. With a gravity pump you may have to remove and replace the water to keep it clean until it achieves the ecological balance we talked about earlier. I am a big proponent of eliminating as much daily maintenance as possible, and with a pump, it is a no-brainer. You will thank me if you don’t take the cheap and difficult route without a pump.
Organic seeds are also a big deal. Don’t go the cheap route with regular seeds, they just don’t have the nutrients to keep it from being a hassle. Organic seeds have a much larger storehouse of vitamins and minerals to draw upon as the plants grow, and they will grow better than regular seeds. Organic seeds will pay for themselves. The fruit and veggies will have organic seeds which you can use to grow even more.
In summary, all you have to do is make the system proportionally larger to get a bigger harvest. If you are serious about having a commercial aquaponics business, do it right and use a pump and organic seeds. If you are serious about creating a viable food production system, do it right, and you will get much better results.