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Can someone tell me how the heck Aquaculture is profitable?  RSS feed

 
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I've been doing a little reading recently.

I was interested in the production of Paiche (Arapaima gigas) which is a native species in my part of the world. I want to do aquaponics...not aquaculture.

I was researching different native fish that I could use. Piaractus brachypomus and Colossoma macropomum were the other two candidates. Okay, so, at best these latter two can only grow slightly over a kilogram per year.
Then I read about Paiche and the choice seemed obvious. The thing can grow 10-15kg in a year... even during its first year. The meat is worth twice as much as the other two fish when purchased by the kilogram. It was a clear winner...

But then I read a little bit more. A very important consideration is the Food Conversion Rate aka Indice de Conversion alimenticia aparente in Spanish. I read a lot of scientific articles about these three species of fish, and each one was slightly different in each study. A Food Conversion Rate of 1.0 is excellent. It would mean for every 1kg of fish food supplied, the fish would grow 1kg of weight. I think that's unheard of in nature, but some of the studies showed the Piaractus and Colossoma as low as 1.19. Actually pretty much in all studies these species' food conversion was less than 1.5. As for Paiche, I could find few studies suggesting less than 2.0 was possible. Most seemed to agree that 2.5, 3.0 and even over 4.0 was to be expected of that carnivorous species.

An FAO article shows that paiche can achieve a food conversion rate of 2.0 with a specially designed feed in Peru that costs $2usd per kilogram. This feed suggests it will achieve a food conversion rate of 1.8 at best and 2.0 at worst.

I did some number crunching. If we chose 2.0 as our figure. To produce one 20kg Paiche we would require 40kg of this feed. At $2 per kilo the total feed investment for this one fish that is $80. 50-55% of the Paiche is filet. So that is 10kg of filet. A one kilogram filet of Paiche meat is only worth about $8USD in Peru, which would mean that one fish only makes you $80. (I.e. It is only enough to recuperate the feed cost...not to mention the other expenses.)

I'd like to know how people are actually making a profit by raising such fish. It just doesn't seem like a sure business venture.
 
pollinator
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I know nothing about any of these fish, or Peru, and not that much about aquaponics...

But.

That feed cost is insane by my standards. My experience is with hog and chicken feed. This stuff is expensive here, compared to more agricultural parts of Canada not located on an island far from grain country, and VERY expensive compared to the USA.

And yet a metric ton of feed costs me, a small farmer with zero bargaining power, around $670. 67 cents a kilogram, Canadian dollars, around 48 cents USD.


It seems clear that anyone selling those fish for the price you describe is either using a much more economical feed, or is being heavily subsidized in some way. Or, they are not selling at that price; I wonder what that fish is worth somewhere else?


In my region, successful fish farms are generally biggish. There is a lot of economy of scale to be leveraged. Aquaponics on a modest scale may have more profit potential from the produce side.. at least, that would be my guess for my region. In that case, a slow growing but cheap to feed fish might make sense despite the lower market value.
 
pollinator
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Fish, minnows,  crawdads could be very successful in a natural setting. Taking it out of its natural setting, probably not so. Even if it was profitable, it never seemed sustainable. A person buys fish food that is ground up fish. You never get more fish back than what you fed it.

I am not familiar wirh the species you are referring to. In my locale, fish could be fed bugs. A light over the tank at night would bring enough bugs to feed them. If a small enough qty of fish were in the tank, no aeration is needed. Without aeration mosquitos would lay larvae in the water  The fish would eat them. Or staging buckets of water around. When the larvae appear, dump them in.

Thats a small sampling of a  process which could make it profitable and sustainable.
 
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Couple of comments:
- You can swap your high conversion food for cheaper low conversion food. Cheap stuff @ $.50 with a 4 conversion rate is much more economical than $2 with 2 conversion rate
- You can grow your own or part of your fish food: azolla or use waste products to set up a black soldier larvae farm
- Nature does not provide food for fish so by imitating nature you can reduce your supply expenses

Good luck

M
 
pollinator
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“The first harvest off any animal is manure.” - Chinese Proverb
 
pollinator
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Don't buy special feed, use generic cheap feed, or grow your own feed or get some from a fisherman (fish market) waste stream.
 
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As mentioned farms will be buying tons of food at much cheaper rates. I don't see much point buying all or most of your fish food if you are doing backyard scale aquaponics. If you want to do aquaponics on a smaller scale, you can select a species that is an omnivore. Grow plant food and use a light to attract insects and/or produce your own invertebrate food,  worms, black soldier flies etc. and you can provide a good diet for free.
 
pollinator
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I used to translate a lot of research in the area of fish farming, most about what could be added to fish chow in order to produce better results more cheaply (off the top of my head I can think of studies on using orange peels, crab shells, and grain mill waste over the past year or three), which indicates you're not the only one wondering how costs can be cut.
The studies didn't specifically address Arapaima (they're also in my region, here we call them pirarucu) but if I recall they are fast growers and get BIG, and i imagine they do have very specific nutritional needs because they grow so large and so fast. I imagine you've already seen it in your research, but the FAO has a nice factsheet about farming pirarucu, and a major stumbling block for farming these fish is reproduction. If you haven't read it yet, you might find this interesting. http://www.fao.org/fishery/culturedspecies/Arapaima_gigas/en
 
pollinator
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Aquaculture
Aquaponics

Well, the first thing I can think of has been alluded to already, but I'll just spell it out: an aquacultural polycrop, as in an integrated system where much of the wastes are cycled within the aquatic system, stacks functions and creates added output from wastes, without additional inputs. So a more complete aquacultural setup that then feeds into the aquaponic portion (largely non-aquatic food plants grown on fishy water and poo) would yield more through diversity.

In addition, there are ways to generate your own fish food from food waste, as mentioned, as well as the also-mentioned insect trap method.

I will also relate to you my wants in this particular sphere. Since I started lurking, and then posting, on Permies, my ideal homestead included no fewer than two ponds, at the top and the bottom of my system, with a channel running between the two, and the whole setup designed to support salmon.

I love salmon. I love salmon sashimi. Love it. But very early on, I decided that should I run into difficulty with salmon, due to the specificity of their needs, that I would look to trout, instead. Yes, trout isn't salmon, and I would rather eat salmon, and salmon sells better. But it is possible that my location might not lend itself to profitably raising salmon.

I am not saying that this is the case for you and the Arapaima gigas, but I would be aware of the possibility.

-CK
 
Windy Huaman
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Tereza Okava wrote:I used to translate a lot of research in the area of fish farming, most about what could be added to fish chow in order to produce better results more cheaply (off the top of my head I can think of studies on using orange peels, crab shells, and grain mill waste over the past year or three), which indicates you're not the only one wondering how costs can be cut.
The studies didn't specifically address Arapaima (they're also in my region, here we call them pirarucu) but if I recall they are fast growers and get BIG, and i imagine they do have very specific nutritional needs because they grow so large and so fast. I imagine you've already seen it in your research, but the FAO has a nice factsheet about farming pirarucu, and a major stumbling block for farming these fish is reproduction. If you haven't read it yet, you might find this interesting. http://www.fao.org/fishery/culturedspecies/Arapaima_gigas/en



Yes, I've seen it. You're right about the stumbling block. I was looking at a published project from a company in Ucayali department in Peru.
https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwjjxe_L17ngAhXrrVQKHcI3Cb0QFjAAegQIABAC&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.aquahoy.com%2Fen%2Fdownload%2Fcategory%2F3-informes%3Fdownload%3D11%3Adesarrollo-de-la-tecnologia-en-la-produccion-intensiva-de-paiche-arapaima-gigas-mediante-la-utilizacion-de-tanques-circulares-en-la-fase-de-engorde&usg=AOvVaw0mdUOii2HeAgUzWmX4Kvsv
They used 1800 Arapaima gigas in the study (180 per tank) And even with that quantity they still paid 15 soles (about $5USD) per fingerling! They state quite openly the cost of producing one kilo of Paiche using their production model is almost 13.5 soles. Yet, I don't think they're inlcuding transportation costs. Maybe you'd sell your Paiche kilo for 23.5 soles in the market.

They did include pretty much all other costs. Their feed cost $2USD per kilo including shipping. They claim their fish were growing over 30 grams per day! That means they were using aproximately 54kg of feed per day. I've seen another study that showed 37grams/day of weight gain with Paiche. That's over 1 kilo per month. Most farmed Paiche are sold when they weigh between 10-15kg.

Since my original post, I've learned that less than a 1.5 Feed Conversion Ratio has been achieved in many different Paiche studies.

It does seem like a good choice, but as someone said earlier. Economy of scale is a factor to consider.

Can someone who is better at business than I please help me come up with a formula for determining what would be the most net income generating fish for my aquaponics situation? These are the main factors I would consider:

1)Price for one fingerling
2)Price per kilo of feed
3)Grams per day of growth
4)Feed Conversion Ratio (FCR)
5)Sale price of one kilo of harvested fish
6)Labor costs to care for and harvest fish

I think these are the core variables that could help one determine the right fish for their system. But how to crunch the numbers into some sort of math formula to get a numerical rating for each species is a mystery to me.

Oh and I do understand that the plants are by far the main source of income in aquaponics, but you also want to make sure you're profiting from the fish as well.

 
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Windy Huaman wrote:
At $2 per kilo the total feed investment for this one fish that is $80. [..]

I'd like to know how people are actually making a profit by raising such fish. It just doesn't seem like a sure business venture.



Dunno what they eat but 2$/kg sounds incredible expensive. We pay for high quality chicken food, without GMO as well as Round'up crap about 0.4 $/kg and this is buying very little. Sure more would be less expensive, though chickens are mostly free charging and pick up, read destroy almost everything, lots...
 
Windy Huaman
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Dillon Nichols wrote:I know nothing about any of these fish, or Peru, and not that much about aquaponics...

But.

That feed cost is insane by my standards. My experience is with hog and chicken feed. This stuff is expensive here, compared to more agricultural parts of Canada not located on an island far from grain country, and VERY expensive compared to the USA.

And yet a metric ton of feed costs me, a small farmer with zero bargaining power, around $670. 67 cents a kilogram, Canadian dollars, around 48 cents USD.


It seems clear that anyone selling those fish for the price you describe is either using a much more economical feed, or is being heavily subsidized in some way. Or, they are not selling at that price; I wonder what that fish is worth somewhere else?


In my region, successful fish farms are generally biggish. There is a lot of economy of scale to be leveraged. Aquaponics on a modest scale may have more profit potential from the produce side.. at least, that would be my guess for my region. In that case, a slow growing but cheap to feed fish might make sense despite the lower market value.



Is the feed you mention at $670 a metric ton made with 100% certified organic ingredients?
 
Dillon Nichols
pollinator
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Nope, it's only non-GMO. Not even sure my supplier has an organic hog feed option without it being a custom batch. The last time I priced organic vs non-GMO with them was for chickens. Organic was about a 115% price premium.
 
Tereza Okava
pollinator
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is it a question of import problems? I can see here that adding at least 200% to a normal price (many things are flat-out banned, but if you're "lucky" enough that your item is legal for import you pay 150% tax plus whatever cut the importer wants to add for their trouble. Which is why an Iphone here costs 10,000 bucks.)

That considered, are there similar products in your market, maybe even for other animals, you can look at and consider the nutrient content? Or add components/supplements?


Just did a quick look around and found that while in Brazil tilapia farming is a big deal, and plenty of people are talking about organic production, there is no commercially available organic feed (or even vegetarian feed, for that matter). Sites suggest blending your own from soy millings, oil, or using "people food". The site of the main fish farming cooperative says organic production is at 20% but the major obstacle is finding organic food. The studies mix and pelletize their own food at research centers. Meanwhile, commercial non-organic tilapia food made domestically costs about 30 reais (roughly 10 USD) per 25 kg. So here at least, either they're making their own or importing it at great cost.
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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