How To Start Small And Generate Cash Flow!
How To Drive Success: Don’t start big with lots of expenses and hardly any cash flow; rather, start small and generate cash flow right away
It’s funny how many people claim to be “commercial aquaponics experts”, but have never done it for a living themselves. From a couple of people who have done so, and who came up the hard way (we didn’t have our manuals, our CAD drawings, and our unlimited support services to draw on when we started!) here’s our short list of what’s necessary for success in commercial aquaponics.
1. Research thoroughly and learn everything possible you can about aquaponics before starting. Doing your due diligence first can save you from mistakes costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, or worse, thousands of hours of your life! How do you do this?
Contact people who are doing it, and confirm that their approach really works. Insist on numbers, contacts to call, and real people that you can confirm are actually operating the farm. Ask for the number of their produce distributor, or three of the markets they sell to; then call these people and confirm. You get the idea.
Why This Is So Important: There’s one aquaponics farm that recently lost their $1.4 million investment after only 5 months in actual operation. When we analyzed their failure mode, we realized immediately (from publicly-available photos) that they were planting their lettuce at one-third the density we successfully grow ours at, and only using 70% of the available floor space inside their greenhouse for vegetable troughs. They had also paid three times as much for their greenhouse and aquaponics systems as they should have cost, because they simply hadn’t educated themselves and shopped around first.
They were only getting one-third of the production that was possible out of their greenhouse and raft area; and their farm cost them three times what it should have. The solution would have been so simple: all they needed to do was to drill more holes in their rafts, and use the planting and transfer technology that we teach. The really sad thing about this failure is that if they’d simply invested $1,495 in one of our trainings before investing $1.4 million in their farm, they wouldn’t have made this mistake, and might still be in profitable operation.
Insist on getting information from people who are actually doing it, not just talking about it. See their operation, don’t just listen to “how much they know”. If they truly want to help you, why don’t you have them send you a copy of the cash flow spreadsheet from their profitable commercial aquaponics operation? And remember: keep a sharp eye on your wallet!
2. Don’t wait until you have lots of money to invest in your operation: start building and operating an aquaponics system now! Build a small backyard system if that’s all you can afford; the food you grow with it will save you money. You will gain valuable experience with even a small system that will be critical to your success at a commercial-scale venture.
There are many reasons to start small, even if you have several hundred thousand dollars burning a hole in your pocket. Here are four of the most important ones:
A. Even we have no idea what will grow best in your location, with your greenhouse, your sunlight exposure and hours, temperature, humidity, etc. After doing two or three “test grows” in a small, affordable system (and greenhouse, if necessary in your location), you will know what grows best.
B. Even we have no idea what will sell best in your location, with your local economy, your local produce distributors and outlets, and your local consumers. After each of the “test grows” mentioned in “A” above, you will have produce to do test marketing with. Take this produce to all the outlets you identify that might be interested, and find out what they’re willing to pay, as well as the quantities they need. Yes, need, because commercial aquaponics is not about the “great produce” you have, how cool your aquaponics system is, or what a great farm name you’ve come up with, but about your market’s needs! If you don’t supply what the market needs, you can forget staying in business.
C. Even if the aquaponics technology you are starting with is well-developed and already profitable (as ours is) your situation will be different than ours in ways we can’t predict and you can’t plan for. You will discover new information while operating your first small system which you can apply to your large commercial-scale system. If you’ve built your 20,000 square feet of aquaponics and then discover something that gives you 20% (or 100%) more production or income, it’s too late: you’ve spent your money and have to live with your system the way it is.
D. If you make a mistake starting with a small system, it’s far easier to correct. Let’s use a metaphor to understand this statement: imagine learning how to drive in a Toyota Corolla with an automatic transmission; it’s a maneuverable little car that turns and stops on a dime: you’ll learn pretty quickly, and even if you run into something it hopefully won’t do much damage. Now, picture learning how to drive in an 18-wheel Peterbilt semi truck with a full load. It weighs over 40 tons, and doesn’t accelerate or stop very quickly; it makes huge wide turns, and you can’t ever see directly behind you; you’re always inferring what’s there from what’s in your side mirrors. In order to stand a chance in a semi, you need to already be a good driver before you even step into one!
What we can guarantee is that, in your physical environment, with your market, your temperature regime, and your skill sets; you will learn so many things in your first few growing cycles (in your small test system) that you will be able to build your large commercial system more economically, and also operate it more productively, than if you hadn’t done the test grows with the small system.
D. It’s also fun: it’s easy to get started with a small system, but they’re just as much fun as a big one to see the little sprouts and fish get big, and finally harvest and eat, or share with your friends.