Commercial Aquaponics? Show Me The Money!

Commercialisation is, for the many people, the holy grail of aquaponics.

Having their own aquaponics business is an idea that attracts people – like moths are drawn to a candle.  Regrettably, for most of them the outcome will be the same – they won’t survive.

Currently, the number of consultants and training course peddlers who claim to be able to show you how to undertake commercial aquaponics is larger than the number of people who are running successful commercial aquaponics operations.

The consultants and would-be trainers have several things in common with each other:

  • They have not made their living from growing fish and plants.  There are those who will tell you that they have – but, since they can’t/won’t separate their fish and plant growing income from revenue obtained from selling consultancy, hardware, books, videos and training seminars, their claims are questionable.  
  • They infer that, after just two, three or four days (depending on which training seminar you attend), you will have the knowledge and skills to run your own commercial aquaponics business.
  • Most of them base their advice/programs on aquaponics technology which is, at best, location and species-specific – and which is largely derived from the UVI model developed by Dr James Rakocy and his research team – over twenty years ago.  Most of these UVI- clones contain “tweaks” which are anything but (in a microbiological sense) improvements.

The sad thing is that, not only are these folks misleading their clients, but they are also deluding themselves.  You see, they’re not actually making any real money either.

I know several of them…..and I’m pretty well in touch with what’s happening with some of the others…..and, by the time the bills are paid (when they get paid) these “experts” are working for peanuts.  One particular consultant (and this guy actually knows his stuff) is only able to hang out his shingle because his wife’s salary pays the family’s living expenses.

Even those businesses that sell to backyard aquaponicsts are not on clover.  In another case, the operators of one of the oldest and best-established retailing operations review their ability to make salaries on a weekly basis.

And the situation is not likely to improve any time soon because, as this “industry” grows, so does the number of snouts in the aquaponics trough.   More consultants, more training seminars operators and more retailers of books, videos, AP systems and components.

An unfortunate by-product of telling people how easy it is to run an aquaponics system is that they believe it – and, about half-way through the $1500 seminar,  it occurs to them that “if this dummy can do this, so can I” – with the result that the students are planning their first commercial aquaponics training course before the ink on their graduation certificate is dry.

Of course, I’d be willing to eat my words if someone could demonstrate that they are doing well (be it commercial aquaponics or aquaponics training, consultancy or retailing) but they’d have to show me the money.

Suffice to say, I won’t be holding my breath.



  1. Justin Amor says

    You have a strong point regarding the difficulty in the profits to be gained from aquaponics on a commercial scale. For me it seems to be a much better system to employ in a community farm effort, the idea that more people could be less reliant upon the expense of decent, clean food is very appealing. Thanks for your comments, it will make me have a good look at the maths and not get too carried away, a bit of reality, cheers.

    • says

      Justin Amor…..Aquaponics should be viewed as the beginning of a process of integration that eventually embraces a variety of farmed organisms…..whether it be a commercial venture, a village/community-based enterprise or a backyard food production system. Only through the incorporation of more integrations (other than just fish and plants) can we broaden the output range and reduce the operating costs to the point where it becomes profitable or cost effective.

  2. Ron says

    OMG. You are sooo right on the money with this. Unfortunately, I was one of those who bought into that “Commercial Aquaponics” business snake oil. Lots of smoke and mirrors and at last check it is still going on. I like the idea of Aquaponics as another tool to use for a more varied growing facility but it is used in conjunction with the other disciplines of Hydroponics and Vermiponics to assist in plant production.
    As a stand-alone system to base a business around, Aquaponics is not and never will be the answer. It is just another weapon in order to reach better quality food production.

    • says

      Ron…..I hope you weren’t too badly burned by your “snake oil” exposure.

      I agree that aquaponics is a useful tool….a means to an integrated aquaculture end. Integration of farmed organisms is certainly the way of the future in my mind….but aquaponics on its own is too limited as things currently stand.

  3. says

    I wholeheartedly agree, but what is important to consider is that running a business in either aquaculture or hydroponic farmed produced would be difficult enough for anyone who jumps in after a 4 day course. Aquaponics is 2x the understanding 2x the difficulty, but most importantly more than 2x more satisfying!