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PostPosted: Jan 2nd, '16, 07:57 
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Hey guys, been away from the forum for a long time, but I've been continuing with my hobby systems.

I set up my in-laws with a turtle-based system so they didn't have to clean the turtle pool any more.

Then my mother-in-law's family in South America saw it and were enthralled.

So now we are in the very beginning planning phases of a small commercial system to supply local markets.

Currently we are thinking something on the order of 1,000 tilapia per week production with the biofilter producing fish food primarily to cut down on costs. In this region of South America, produce is so cheap I don't think it would be cost-effective to sell it.

Our initial estimates are that 1,000 tilapia per week would generate gross revenues of $100k per year if we sell wholesale, and provide some jobs in an area that desperately needs some.

The family already has land, so that's a major hurdle out of the way. We will have to develop the system infrastructure though with locally available materials.

Anyhoo, this probably won't come to fruition for a while, but I thought posting a thread would be a handy place to keep track of things.

Happy fish, happy life.


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PostPosted: Jan 2nd, '16, 10:59 
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Tamo,

Wow! That sounds like a large aquaponics operation!

So to play with the numbers a bit... Are you planning something like an 8 month grow out?
If so, 8 months (36 weeks) worth of 1000 fish / week would be about 36,000 fish, right?
Using the UVI stocking numbers (for Nile Tilapia) at 77 tilapia / 1000 L, that'd be 470,000L
worth of fish tank, right?

Sounds like a system about 4 or 5 times the size of this UVI system:

Image

Is that about right on the numbers?

Where in South America are you talking about?

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PostPosted: Jan 2nd, '16, 19:30 
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Yeah, that's probably in the ballpark.

The current plan is to build 25-35 modules on approximately 1/2 acre (1/5 hectare) so that each week's harvest is a separate module for 6-7 month growouts. This will help us prevent any system-wide catastrophes, increase reproducibility, but at the expense of some labor. Fortunately labor is incredibly cheap in 3rd world countries.

This is going to be in Ecuador, which is fantastic for stable growing due to its equatorial location.

At this phase we are also planning on running gravel rather than DWC or NFT, which I know is not popular in larger systems. I like gravel due to its low maintenance. This is key in using fairly unskilled labor.

According to wikipedia Ecuador produces about 48 tons of tilapia a year. Checking in with the relatives tells us that tilapia filets cost about $4 per pound in the markets. So we are starting our planning with the assumption that we will get $2 per pound at wholesale.


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PostPosted: May 20th, '16, 01:48 
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Just a thought. Even though the produce there is too cheap to bother competing with. It is a shame to see such a value adder go to waste. You could use it as partial payment to the workers. They complain less when they and their families are not hungry. Saving you even more on labor expenses. With the added benifit of them vetting sick less. Because of the nutrient density of the food you gave them. You could also just grow exotic greens that are not available in the market. Then you could get a price that was worth it to you. Or another option. Instead of wasting the acrage needed to filter enough water to support your entire proposed, fish load. Start with a RAS. Then sell the filtered waste as fertilizer to local farms. Just my 2 cents.

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PostPosted: Sep 29th, '17, 22:18 
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floridafishin wrote:
Just a thought. Even though the produce there is too cheap to bother competing with. It is a shame to see such a value adder go to waste. You could use it as partial payment to the workers. They complain less when they and their families are not hungry. Saving you even more on labor expenses. With the added benifit of them vetting sick less. Because of the nutrient density of the food you gave them. You could also just grow exotic greens that are not available in the market. Then you could get a price that was worth it to you. Or another option. Instead of wasting the acrage needed to filter enough water to support your entire proposed, fish load. Start with a RAS. Then sell the filtered waste as fertilizer to local farms. Just my 2 cents.


Yes, the plants will be used, just not a major commercial factor. At the moment some will be turned into fish food, and some will go to the workers.

Last year didn't work out with the Zika virus becoming a major problem and a few other issues. Right now we are looking at summer of 2018.

On to planning!

There are a few things I'm considering.

1, the people working the site are going to be relatively unskilled,

2, high-tech materials might be hard to come by, and

3, labor is cheap.

So right now I'm looking at doing a very modular design flood and drain made out of ferrocement. Cement and chicken wire are available pretty much everywhere. Flood & drain is very robust as long as there is sufficient grow bed media. And the modular design of creating multiple systems will limit any problems in one system from affecting others. If we lose one tank out of 50, it's not that big a deal.

I'm going to be building a test system in my backyard that is a circular tank 1 meter tall, 1 meter wide with a rectangular growbed 10 meter x 1 meter x 300 mm.

The tank will have an overflow at 8 cm below the top of the tank, which makes for a maximum volume of 540 L. The low-tide mark will be about 360 L when the bed is flooded. At the moment I'm thinking 15 minutes flood, 1 hour drain.

The grow bed will have a volume of 900 L. I think that will be plenty. I might even make it a little smaller depending on how much the water fluctuation is. I'll be using regular gravel due to sourcing concerns.

So then there is the question of stocking. I'm debating whether to build one system per batch of fish, so they come in as fingerlings and grow to plate size all in the same tank or to use a constant weight of fish system where we'd have to divide the population into 2 tanks every time there is 50% growth. Still undecided on that one.

But at harvest time, we'll be looking at ~70 500g fish per tank. This might go down if DO becomes an issue. I'll be putting in venturi drains, but I don't want to pump any air because of power concerns. Assuming the 70, that would become wholesale revenue of $280 in 6 months (or $560 annually) per tank.

At that scale, we'd need 178 tanks to hit $100k in revenue. That's a lot of systems, so I might scale the size up from my backyard test. Land is not a constraint though.

On the employee side, each tank will require feeding, monitoring water quality, fish size, vegetable growth, harvesting, etc. If it were me doing it, I'd figure 15 minutes per day on average for all that. To be conservative, let's say 30 minutes. So one person can operate 16 tanks per day. And that would mean we are looking at around 10 people on site to run the operation.

10 full time salaries in Ecuador is about $60k, so $100k revenue is in the ballpark of reasonable. Build costs should be amortized over several years. I know ferrocement can last decades, and the materials are pretty cheap although I don't have local prices yet. So the build cost shouldn't be too bad. At that point, operations expenses become fingerlings, feed, and power. Using the vegetative growth as part of the feed should cut down on that cost, but I don't know what the power situation is going to be yet. I'll be rotating timers so that not everything is on at once to reduce the load.

Well, that's where I am. Next up, building the test system in my backyard.


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PostPosted: Oct 3rd, '17, 19:51 
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A few things that jump out at me... ferrocement may not be the best option... look up bcotton's ferrocement tanks/growbeds on here... I know he built some but I'm not sure he is still using them, I know when he upgraded his system the new beds are not ferrocement but not sure if the old are still in use. I think he might have ended up lining them after several attempts at getting the ferrocement sealed then fish safe... if nothing else you might see where he had problems to learn from them rather than recreating them.

Sorry I can't think in metric... 470,000L = 124,160 gallons... that is a LOT of water! Just off the top of my head I recall a large saltwater tank a guy built in to his house which was 20ft (6m) x 10 ft (3m) x 10 ft (3m) that he had to scuba dive in to clean the glass which was visible in his living room... that was only 15,000 gallons... you are talking 8.5x that much water... you say they have 1/2 an acre so space is not a concern... I have 3.77 acres and I'd think the amount of space it took to put together that size of a system would make my land look pretty cramped. I know we're talking about different opinions of land use in different countries (even different parts of the same country). Have you tried sketching out how much space it would take to house that size system? I can help you get an idea... 1/2 acre is 21,780 sq ft(6638 sq m)... sqrt(21780)= 147.58ft (45 meters). So I sketched up a 147.58ft (45m) x 147.58ft (45m) box to give me a square 1/2 acre just to make it nice and easy to play with... I drew a 1 meter wide cylindrical tank like what you said you wanted to build... then figuring out how many tanks you need for that water volume, V=pi(r^2)*H, so forgive me for just using imperial units here, I know the conversion from cu inches to gallons you divide by 231 so I am going to inches instead of feet... 3.28 * 12 = 39.36 inches, 1.64ft * 12 = 19.68 inches. V=pi(19.68^2)*39.36 = 47891 / 231 = about 207 gallons per tank (if it was completely full, so you either need to build them taller than 1m or you need more tanks)... 124,160 gal total volume / 207 gal per tank = about 600 tanks. Now I turn to SolidWorks and sketch in what 600 tanks looks like on 1/2 square acre....

Attachment:
sqhalfacre.PNG
sqhalfacre.PNG [ 17.13 KiB | Viewed 391 times ]


That is with 18" between each tank. That does not account for plumbing between tanks... I'm giving you the benefit of doubt that people in Equador aren't as fat as we are up here, but 18" still seems pretty close together... I'll appologize for being an ignorant American, but I'm going to assume their houses aren't are large there as what we live in either... but you still need to fit some kind of housing on that 1/2 acre, and then still somehow manage to put enough filtration / growbeds to clean that water... it's impossible. Not to mention you only hired 10 people to take care of the fish, who is going to take care of the plants?


Then if we ignore that it's impossible to put as large of an operation as you want on the piece of land that they have we can look at the economics. You've already provided that you think it's going to cost $60K per year in labor to maintain this system, so out of your $100K that you hope to make on the system per year that leaves you with $40K to play with. I don't know how much fish food costs down there, but I doubt you are going to be able to grow enough food to maximize growth to grow fish out in 8 months without supplementing with some sort of commercial fish food (maybe those Zika mosquito larvae will feed the fish with that much water you're asking for a mosquito problem). Just because I have the data available lets look at what it costs to grow out Tilapia using Purina Aquamax 300, 400, and 4000 as noted here... https://lakewaytilapia.com/Tilapia_Food_For_Sale.php

4.16 pounds of 300 food per 100 tilapia, 6.45 pounds of 400 food per 100 tilapia, and 87.5 pounds of 4000 food per 100 tilapia. Now multiple each of those by 10 per week and 52 weeks per year that means you would need 2163.2 pounds of 300 food, 3354 pounds of 400 food, 45,500 pounds of 4000 food. I don't know what the cost of equivalent food would be in South America, but let's assume an average of $35 / 50 pounds (I know AM400 cost me $69/50lbs, AM500 cost me $42/50lbs, I have not checked to see what the AM300 or AM4000 would cost me, I just used AM400 and AM500 for mine because it is what I found locally). You need 51,017.2 pounds of food to raise 52,000 tilapia to an average of 1lb a piece. 51017.2 / 50 = 1020.3 fifty pound bags * $35 per bag = $35,712... remember that $40K you had made? That's now $4288, I'm not sure about electricity down there, you've already eluded to it either being expensive or inaccessible... even without paying for electric your profit is less than you are paying your workers. Even with cheap labor it's not realistic.

Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see it and will tag along to see what you do actually put together, but dreams and reality are a long way apart, so I hope you recognize that you have a dream, but what you'll actually be able to do in reality is far less.

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