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 Post subject: Re: Where to train?
PostPosted: Jan 25th, '16, 23:37 
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Poppa wrote:
We had a huge aquaponics facility here (Well before aquaponics was coined)... multiple 40 foot diameter tanks for tilapia feeding a huge greenhouse growing basil. They used mentally handicapped workers who lived in a group home who were trying to make a living on their own (A great project by the way, not a slight in any sense!) and the wages were paid for by the state. they still went under despite over 6 million in investments when mexico flooded the market with cheap basil and tilapia started pouring in from Vietnam.

You HAVE to know your costs and markets. Just being able to grow the stuff is not sufficient. Yes, a greenhouse that only grows plants can be profitable and adding fish should be a no-brainer, but it adds costs and you have to understand that.

I know my reply initially generated some protests and I wanted to answer the thread but now can't find it... my point was not that there's anything wrong with alternative, additional income... just make sure you are aware of the business model of wherever you are taking training from.


Quiet, I fully understand your point of view and greatly appreciate the contribution. Indeed, grow plants and fish is only part of the business, a very important of course, but only a part. In a business involves many variables, other than making the product and is in this "dance" of variables comes into play where the success or failure of a business. My purpose is to learn to get healthy plants and fish of the best quality and the best competitive cost, the rest depends on my skills and my partner, in that I am fully aware.

My mood to ask for help through this site is not that I recommend a place (or person) to give me the recipe for building a successful business, what I need is to know where I can teach to maintain a successful granga, understood plants and healthy fish and of excellent quality.


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 Post subject: Re: Where to train?
PostPosted: May 20th, '16, 00:20 
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I can fully second Ryan Chattersons course! I learned well more than I hought I would for the investment i put into it.

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 Post subject: Re: Where to train?
PostPosted: Nov 5th, '17, 04:31 
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Poppa wrote:
I would ask the following question before I took a course from anyone:

"Is your farm self-supporting without taking in $ from classes, government grants, special low interest loans, sales of equipment, consulting fees, franchise fees, endowments, awards, investor funds, inheritance, grateful widows(ers), fund raisers, special tax incentives not available to all farms in general (educational/experimental/job creation incentives etc.) or sales of any produce not directly resulting from the aquaponic based farm operations?"

THEN I would make my decision.



So, I'm new here (obviously) and aside from not killing my goldfish over the last 2 weeks and ordering a test kit, I haven't accomplished a damn thing. My whole background is the MBA/business world. But I have a question about the above - there are several industries where tax incentives, etc are a huge part of the deal, and a HUGE part of what makes them viable. That doesn't automatically make them a bad idea.

As for "not being available to everyone, part of what we are doing is having a native, female owned business on the reservation. This will massively lower our cost through tax incentives, lack of income tax, etc.

I am curious why this is a bad thing, or makes the business less viable?


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 Post subject: Re: Where to train?
PostPosted: Nov 5th, '17, 08:17 
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I think the point wasn't that its a bad thing, but that the more the business relies on alternative sources of revenue, rather than the sale of produce, the less likely it is to be the most efficiently run farm in terms of quantity and quality over cost. If you wan't to learn commercial aquaponics, you want to learn the most efficient way possible of producing food. A business that makes $ here and there for things other than the sale of produce aren't necessarily going to have the level of knowledge you want.

Its interesting though, at what point does a business model become commercially viable? If you're overly orthodox about it then its not viable until you undercut the agri-business multinationals, which is clearly impossible! Surely you have to take into account that people want healthy, environmentally friendly alternatives, and are prepared to pay a lil bit more for that. The critical question is how much more?

Also, multiple products and direct sale to consumers would surely be a more stable business model. If you rely on selling to trade, and you only have one product, you are in a risky position, while a small-holding selling a variety of produce to loyal customers is unlikely to lose business overnight. Less likely to earn big money, but less likely to lose it too i reckon!


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 Post subject: Re: Where to train?
PostPosted: Nov 5th, '17, 08:22 
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I know my reply initially generated some protests and I wanted to answer the thread but now can't find it... my point was not that there's anything wrong with alternative, additional income... just make sure you are aware of the business model of wherever you are taking training from.

It shouldn't have because it is fundamentally true in a large percentage of cases and most active experienced members here would know that. Some 'commercial' courses cannot even show you through a commercial scale working operation. [edit here >>] Worse case are 'theory and slides' only, next are those that learn via simple BYAP scale setups and even some of the better ones are still just just subsidised 'demo setups' which are basically not being run on any commercial basis.
Reality is the really profitable setups don't run courses at all and have very strong commercial in confidence and IP (applicable to just about any any form of progressive agriculture).

There are definitely exceptions but not many. Even in the University realm there are not many teaching it who have any real experience doing AP on a positive financial return / cash flow basis. I feel the posts here in this thread are pretty much on the ball.

For every (few) good course there are many more dodgy/half baked ones just wanting cash that would be lucky to get beyond an 'advanced' backyard setup - so the economics are small market niche at best (if any). And backyard systems simply do not scale up to full blown commercial systems. Pumps & pipe systems, water quality, water volumes and automated control systems, waste management, fish husbandry, horticulture processes, pest management, state of the art greenhouses and climate control are all completely different.

[edit2] off topic slightly but to round it off, the very worse models are those from feel good European/US/Aust etc first world communities that flog off the thought that demonstrating running a BYAP system is going to solve world hunger... Then you see the posts where actual communities try and implement it. There are posts here on the forum that clearly reflect the realities of this. These introduce a myriad of issues that potentially affect the health of those they are trying to benefit.

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Last edited by dlf_perth on Nov 5th, '17, 09:11, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Where to train?
PostPosted: Nov 5th, '17, 08:50 
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danny wrote:
I think the point wasn't that its a bad thing, but that the more the business relies on alternative sources of revenue, rather than the sale of produce, the less likely it is to be the most efficiently run farm in terms of quantity and quality over cost. If you wan't to learn commercial aquaponics, you want to learn the most efficient way possible of producing food. A business that makes $ here and there for things other than the sale of produce aren't necessarily going to have the level of knowledge you want.


Ok, I guess that makes sense. Actually, it really makes sense. I could definitely see taking a class from someone to just get a general idea on the actual mechanics of growing. But, a large part of that is given how little I know. I definitely wouldn't try to learn the business model from someone who didn't have "teaching" as a small side business at best.

I was in/around consulting for far, far too long to trust anybody teaching the executions of things that doesn't actually make money executing themselves.

danny wrote:
Its interesting though, at what point does a business model become commercially viable? If you're overly orthodox about it then its not viable until you undercut the agri-business multinationals, which is clearly impossible! Surely you have to take into account that people want healthy, environmentally friendly alternatives, and are prepared to pay a lil bit more for that. The critical question is how much more?

Also, multiple products and direct sale to consumers would surely be a more stable business model. If you rely on selling to trade, and you only have one product, you are in a risky position, while a small-holding selling a variety of produce to loyal customers is unlikely to lose business overnight. Less likely to earn big money, but less likely to lose it too i reckon!


I guess I may be over-simplifying it, but for anybody that wants to go into this to actually make money, wouldn't you start with the business side of things, your target market, competitive advantage, etc? Like, you would KNOW going into it you have to sell at a premium price because you have no hope on the cost side.
I know for my girlfriend and I we have a list of assumptions on markets, barriers to entry, SWOT (god I hate those BTW...sooooooo over-used by folks who want to look like they know what they are talking about but don't use the opportunity to actually think). If any one of our fundamental assumptions turns out to be wrong, we will be likely to walk away.

What I'm thinking is that, this is just a normal business problem. I liken it to the craft wine industry. Yeah, the taste of the wine, etc is important; it's actually gotta be good. And the production of wine needs to be done, but that can be learned, it's not a secret how.

The real challenge is in developing your story, your brand, locking in your customers, and where possible doing what you can to give yourself an leg up in the buying process and using what's out there to lower your cost structure to produce. Yes, AP needs to be learned and I have a long, LONG way to go, but I think it helps to look at the business stuff first and see if it makes real sense on paper.


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 Post subject: Re: Where to train?
PostPosted: Nov 5th, '17, 09:31 
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Yeah I see where your coming from. You can just imagine the arkward part of the first lesson when the "teacher" talks about ways of making extra money by selling courses to beginners etc... I have sessioned this forum hard, and learnt a serious amount in the process. I have also glanced at expensive aquaponics courses offered by NGOs in the hippy-liberal city of Brighton near my hometown... there's no way they're selling me courses lol

I guess if you're gonna come at it from a business point of view you're gonna have to make some defining decisions pretty early on, and these will be defined by what kind of society you live in, who are your customers going to be?

As I am from a pretty affluent and liberal hippy type neck of the woods, there would no doubt be potential to appeal to the environmentalist type of customer. I imagine a nice business, which would be within the realms of possibility without having to get monumental financial investment involed, would be a cafe on an aquaponic farm. People could eat and drink while surrounded by tanks and plants and the sound of running water etc. A cafe is a working business model by itself that just needs to be followed, if its a nice place to be and brings people in, and you can cut some food cost with your produce, then it could probvably be made to work.

On a similar scale one could have a farm shop and run a stall at the local market, and avoid all the extra hassle of running a cafe.

Scaling up from there you'd be selling to local restaurants etc, but prices would get competitive then, and I guess you'd have to put more effort into getting your name out etc.

On any larger scale than that I imagine would be very tough. You would, for practicalities sake, either become a veg farmer or a fish farmer, unless you built some kind of giant low energy integrated aquaculture farm, like the integrated fish and rice culture they do in south-east asia, thats technically straying away from AP.

What do you think?


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 Post subject: Re: Where to train?
PostPosted: Nov 5th, '17, 09:41 
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Scaling up from there you'd be selling to local restaurants etc, but prices would get competitive then, and I guess you'd have to put more effort into getting your name out etc.

Usually fail at that level. Farmers & community markets you can sell what you have - restaurants require reliable delivery and [usually by law] have high food safe requirements.

would be a cafe on an aquaponic farm. People could eat and drink while surrounded by tanks and plants and the sound of running water etc. A cafe is a working business model by itself that just needs to be followed, if its a nice place to be and brings people in, and you can cut some food cost with your produce, then it could probvably be made to work.

examples here of that model working well. But it is the food and beer/wine etc that will bring them in and keep the business open. The AP will be how you separate yourself from the competition... and you would probably only do it as a quasi-retirement gig.

As I am from a pretty affluent and liberal hippy type neck of the woods, there would no doubt be potential to appeal to the environmentalist type of customer.

That is who AP appeals to most at face value ;-) Many people really want a closed system of fish -> waste -> grow food to work....just like perpetual motion with no green house gasses driving their electric car (with no env. footprint - NOT). But reality is few of them will put their hands in pockets to support it or make it sustainable at home - many will donate $20-$50 for the African demonstration project you want to set up (go figure). Most "committed green consumers" are still happily buying goods from South America / S.E.Asia etc Back to a cottage setup at best for most as that is mostly where the real market niche level stuff is for the small producer.

Commercial supermarket / hotel / serious restaurant grade AP requires millions of $ investment and high risk.
Pretty much same for any horticulture or aquaculture.

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 Post subject: Re: Where to train?
PostPosted: Nov 5th, '17, 12:57 
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danny wrote:
On a similar scale one could have a farm shop and run a stall at the local market, and avoid all the extra hassle of running a cafe.

Scaling up from there you'd be selling to local restaurants etc, but prices would get competitive then, and I guess you'd have to put more effort into getting your name out etc.


I think at this point, I agree with dlf_perth below - The jump to restaurants presents a host of execution problems that a farmers market type of operation doesn't present. On the other hand, thats a "normal" problem for any small business. I spent some time in the Silicon Valley/SaaS world, and the jump from "cute startup" that folks that love "different" will try to actual functioning business with customers that expect you do deliver is hard. But it's hard for EVERYONE, in every business.

danny wrote:
On any larger scale than that I imagine would be very tough. You would, for practicalities sake, either become a veg farmer or a fish farmer, unless you built some kind of giant low energy integrated aquaculture farm, like the integrated fish and rice culture they do in south-east asia, thats technically straying away from AP.

What do you think?


I think there is another alternative - mass localization. Instead of having (just for example) a massive 10 acre centralized location, I'd have 10 strategically located 1 acre locations. The whole value prop is local/fresh/etc. You scale out of that pretty fast. (and lose some of the "small" marketing advantage part of the story even if you figure it out)

There are quite a few large organizations out there they have national/world scale, but still want to buy fresh/local. I think there's a market to cater to some of those kinds of places. At least, thats our plan.


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 Post subject: Re: Where to train?
PostPosted: Nov 5th, '17, 13:01 
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dlf_perth wrote:
[i][size=75]
Commercial supermarket / hotel / serious restaurant grade AP requires millions of $ investment and high risk.
Pretty much same for any horticulture or aquaculture.


Idk, I'll defer to the group as I'm still learning, but this isn't what I have seen so far in my research. The permits so far seem in the sub 10k range, and then you are left with the set up costs. There are quire a few grants/help for that, as well as long term loans on ridiculously good terms.

In today's investment world, the planet is awash in capital with not enough ideas to execute on. In my experience, if you have the idea, can tell a story, show some semblance of past success in the endeavor, the money is the least of your problems. And, the better the story the less the capital thing is an issue.


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 Post subject: Re: Where to train?
PostPosted: Nov 7th, '17, 04:53 
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Poppa wrote:
I would ask the following question before I took a course from anyone:

"Is your farm self-supporting without taking in $ from classes, government grants, special low interest loans, sales of equipment, consulting fees, franchise fees, endowments, awards, investor funds, inheritance, grateful widows(ers), fund raisers, special tax incentives not available to all farms in general (educational/experimental/job creation incentives etc.) or sales of any produce not directly resulting from the aquaponic based farm operations?"

THEN I would make my decision.



So.
Much.
This.

:cheers:

We have been on the 'learning path' for several years now. I have built 2 or 3 smaller systems in the basement and greenhouse. And still learning... But, what kind of angers me is to see some folks (no one on here) trying to advertise a 'training program' when they aren't making any money farming, only making money selling DVDs to potential farmers...

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 Post subject: Re: Where to train?
PostPosted: Nov 7th, '17, 07:34 
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Idk, I'll defer to the group as I'm still learning, but this isn't what I have seen so far in my research. The permits so far seem in the sub 10k range, and then you are left with the set up costs. There are quire a few grants/help for that, as well as long term loans on ridiculously good terms.

I have been involved with a greenhouse centred horticulture startup dealing with their water supplies.
They had access to $1M of seed money - the money didn't last long - and that was pretty much their pilot / proof of concept project.
A large modern commercial greenhouse plus pipes & pumps and concrete etc is not cheap to start off with.

I am not disputing you could set up a small cottage scale AP set up on 1 acre, but that wont give you the volume or throughput to enter the volume sales needed to supply the medium-high end markets.

Something on a 1 acre basis is simply not going to cut it....


In today's investment world, the planet is awash in capital with not enough ideas to execute on. In my experience, if you have the idea, can tell a story, show some semblance of past success in the endeavor, the money is the least of your problems. And, the better the story the less the capital thing is an issue.

Two threads on this forum to read - Stuart Chignell and Chattersons Farm (Ryan).

The only real option is if you had $1M and you could locate in a low labour and material/construction cost area
*AND* secure cash returning supply contracts. = very high risk. Many investors have been burnt by aquaculture and horticulture.

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 Post subject: Re: Where to train?
PostPosted: Nov 7th, '17, 09:22 
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So.
Much.
This.

:cheers:

We have been on the 'learning path' for several years now. I have built 2 or 3 smaller systems in the basement and greenhouse. And still learning... But, what kind of angers me is to see some folks (no one on here) trying to advertise a 'training program' when they aren't making any money farming, only making money selling DVDs to potential farmers...


Been a bug bear of mine for many years.... :thumbright: I've built and run a bigger system than some "commercial" trainers yet would never consider trying to train people..

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 Post subject: Re: Where to train?
PostPosted: Nov 7th, '17, 21:48 
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dlf_perth wrote:
Idk, I'll defer to the group as I'm still learning, but this isn't what I have seen so far in my research. The permits so far seem in the sub 10k range, and then you are left with the set up costs. There are quire a few grants/help for that, as well as long term loans on ridiculously good terms.

I have been involved with a greenhouse centred horticulture startup dealing with their water supplies.
They had access to $1M of seed money - the money didn't last long - and that was pretty much their pilot / proof of concept project.
A large modern commercial greenhouse plus pipes & pumps and concrete etc is not cheap to start off with.

I am not disputing you could set up a small cottage scale AP set up on 1 acre, but that wont give you the volume or throughput to enter the volume sales needed to supply the medium-high end markets.

Something on a 1 acre basis is simply not going to cut it....


In today's investment world, the planet is awash in capital with not enough ideas to execute on. In my experience, if you have the idea, can tell a story, show some semblance of past success in the endeavor, the money is the least of your problems. And, the better the story the less the capital thing is an issue.

Two threads on this forum to read - Stuart Chignell and Chattersons Farm (Ryan).

The only real option is if you had $1M and you could locate in a low labour and material/construction cost area
*AND* secure cash returning supply contracts. = very high risk. Many investors have been burnt by aquaculture and horticulture.


Appreciate the feedback, I'll definitely keep it in mind as I build this out. Also, almost done with Ryan's thread, I'll check out the other. Again, thanks!


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 Post subject: Re: Where to train?
PostPosted: Nov 8th, '17, 00:32 
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dlf_perth wrote:
I have been involved with a greenhouse centred horticulture startup dealing with their water supplies.
They had access to $1M of seed money - the money didn't last long - and that was pretty much their pilot / proof of concept project.
A large modern commercial greenhouse plus pipes & pumps and concrete etc is not cheap to start off with.



Hey, curious...who was the target market, and roughly where did the 1MM get spent on? (Land, buldging materials, consultants, etc?


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