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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.