It didn't work out here in Kansas

Discussion in 'Hydroponics / Aquaponics' started by TedH71, Mar 5, 2017.

  1. TedH71

    TedH71 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Where my friend's dad decided to sell out all of his BBQ places that he owned and he went into hydroponics. I'm not sure if he also did aquaponics. In any case, his business went bust after a year because there was no demand for his crops year round. He was well-known for his bbq restaurants so I guess he thought he could parlay that into veggies? He's still holding on to the property though. I suspect he thinks he may do it seasonally. I'll need to talk to his daughter to find out. His business was based in the Hutchinson, Kansas area. I think if he had moved it to areas surrounding Wichita, his business would've had more success since Wichita has more people in the town than Hutchinson. Hutchinson is more known for conventional farming and ranching more than anything else.
     
  2. blu_redneck

    blu_redneck Well-Known Member

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    That's really too bad! Much luck on his next adventure.
     

  3. rininger85

    rininger85 Well-Known Member

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    It seems like most people who venture in to hydroponics/aquaponics looking to go commercial typically don't succeed very often. I may look at going that route eventually, but first it's all about providing food for my family and anything extra we have we'll share with friends and family, learn what we can for a few years and slowly scale it up as we have demand for it rather than starting out planning on going huge and having no demand. I know they say that things you learn on a hobby scale don't really translate to a commercial scale... but I'll make that decision for myself, and growing slowly will not be as expensive even if you have to replace parts that don't work on larger scale multiple times. I owe no one anything this route so there is nothing to lose, most people seem like they do it as their main job and expect to live off of it... not going to happen without establishing a customer base first.
     
  4. Bellyman

    Bellyman Well-Known Member

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    You have a lot of things figured out that many who start out "going commercial" don't.

    I was just listening to a talk last evening that was about this very thing, what it's like "going commercial". One of the interesting things was that the actual growing of food was not the hardest part for many. Rather, it was the selling and marketing part of it. I can believe that. Also, what people -thought- was going to be there best selling crops were often not. And who sellers -thought- they were going to buy didn't always turn out to be right either.

    An Amish friend of mine was telling me that he would advise anyone starting out to go small, do just a few things to sell and grow it, not start out trying to be all things to all people. (And I respect his opinion because that's the way he did it.) He also had multiple outlets for his produce, too, some sales being a good sized produce stand, and also significant sales at a local produce auction. I've known of a few others who sell small vegetable and flower seedlings, flowers, hanging baskets, and decorative arrangement type things, too. Non-food stuff can have advantages in some situations, when they're allowed. (I know, some farmers markets frown on non-food stuff.)

    Some people like the CSA type stuff. I've admired those who do it but have never been able to get all that excited about it. Don't know, maybe my perspective will change if I get a little deeper into it personally, that can happen sometimes. (After all, I went 50 years thinking I didn't like coffee until one day I got cheap... when coffee was free with breakfast and juice was an extra $2... and discovered it do like coffee after all! LOL!)
     
  5. rininger85

    rininger85 Well-Known Member

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    I've debated about the CSA format too Bellyman... I looked and there are a few CSA's within about 30 miles of me, but nothing really close, and I think only one of those within 30 miles had a winter CSA available. We do have a small farmers market in both of the neighboring towns one day a week (different days, one is a Saturday which might be OK, the other is a day during the week when I have to work), but I would rather not sit there all day long hoping to sell my produce, and I don't really want to compete with other people in the area on who can sell the cheapest lettuce, although with aquaponics I might be able to outgrow them... I think if/when I attempt to start selling produce it will likely be the fresh tilapia aspect that I try to market first, then once I have some customers in place for that I can see about expanding to those existing customers for fresh produce too, but right now I'm not anticipating that I'll have a ton of extra food to sell (my goal is to eliminate my grocery bill... once we get to that point then I'll start thinking about if I can make money selling stuff to others if I have a constant abundance to get rid of).

    I could probably join an existing CSA to offer fresh fish and let someone with more experience manage the CSA too... then I'm not competing with anyone and have no need to manage the CSA either although might be lower price I make on fish that way..

    Whatever I decide to do it will grow very slowly just because it will be a hobby to me, something I do in my spare time while I work for a living because the likeliness of being able to quit my job and make 60K+ a year selling fish and food anytime soon is pretty unlikely.
     
  6. stanb999

    stanb999 Well-Known Member

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    On year 5 as a market farmer and on year 2 of selling hydroponic produce. I can attest to the fact that growing is the easy part at first. Selling, packaging, and producing consistently over the whole season becomes an issue. Working out what actually makes good money over the whole season is probably the hardest part. It also takes time to be known. A year isn't long enough to know what works at all. I'm sorry they gave up so fast. It can take more than a season to get in good farm markets, then it takes time to get regular sales. Just takes time.

    The best advise I can give is...
    Don't buy a system. Build it. If you can't I question your ability to be successful. The 300% markup will kill you.
    Buy the best nutrient you can afford. Nutrient is actually very cheap in bulk.
    You need lots of good water. Bad water will kill ya.
    Keep your loans to a minimum, and don't expect to have a positive cash flow for 2 years
    Expect to work 80 hrs a week... And the planting season for the greenhouse runs at least 10 months.
    Finally, sell, sell, sell. We spend 3 times as much times selling as growing.
     
  7. stanb999

    stanb999 Well-Known Member

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    The regulations for selling fish will make it an expensive venture. I wish you luck. :)
    If I told you my cost per unit using hydroponic you'd be shocked, for example 1" rockwool cubes even by the pallet are so costly I don't use it. Hydro is very cheap to produce. It's the greenhouse / plant conditions that costs the money... Heat, lights, fans, and pumps are the true cost. Just the 5hp circulating pump in a large aquaponic greenhouse can cost around 30 bucks a day or 1000 a month. It's not cheap and you need a sharp pencil.

    As far a worrying about competition... Most areas of the country so little local produce is grown that your contribution will be less than significant. FYI An average grocery store can sell $350,000 a week in produce. 1% of that will be an accomplishment. :)
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2017
  8. rininger85

    rininger85 Well-Known Member

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    I have only looked at initial documents for what it takes to work through regulations to be able to sell fish to local markets... so far it really doesn't look as difficult as you seem to think it is, but my state also has a fairly well documented "roadmap to success" for aquaculture with links to all of the paperwork and a power point to walk you through what you need to do. The licenses aren't really that expensive ($100 first year, $75 each year for renewal for aquaculture licensing... I haven't looked at the food side of licensing to be able to sell to stores yet, so USDA inspections etc. might be more expensive, but there are typically ways around that as well with USDA inspections only being required for people producing over X amount of product a year etc.). But I'm a few years away from attempting to sell anything (as I've stated above) so it will be at least a couple of years before I get real deep in to the paperwork.

    You're following my progress in my thread so you should know I'm not running a large greenhouse... (maybe you're generalizing your comments not necessarily directed at me, just looks directed at me since you quoted me) I probably have not really mentioned what my circulation pump is, but it's no where near 5HP and not even close to $30 a month let alone $30 a day to run it. My pump uses 70W when running full speed... I run it at about half speed, so I'm not sure if that is exactly half the power or not (I can check when I get home with my kill-a-watt if it's important). Even assuming 70W/hr full speed * 24 hours a day = 1680W / day. My electric rate is someplace between 8-9cents per killowatt, so 1.68 * 9 cents = $0.1512 per day * 30 days = $4.536 per month to run it at full speed, I have 5 or 6 different speed settings on my (DC) pump and running about half speed so it isn't even costing me that much per month to run it 24/7. Granted my operation is pretty small right now, but I have plenty of room for growth (at least on the plant side) with the pump I'm running now (on the fish side I really need to increase the growing space for plants before I attempted to increase the growing size for fish because it doesn't take that many fish to run a system to grow the plants so once my system matures a bit I'm probably already overstocked for my current grow space).

    I'm not sure who in their right mind is trying to compete with grocery stores...? Trying to compete with grocery stores is a sure way to fail. This is all about niche markets, so the competition I was referring to is farmers markets, CSA's etc. that there is no competition in my area for fish NOT grocery stores. That doesn't mean that you can't sell a niche product to a grocery store (although at much lower margins than selling direct at farmers markets or CSA's... but we have a few local grocery chains that advertise that their produce is all grown locally, so I'm sure there is room to sell to them... and before I made an attempt to get licensed to sell anything I would be working with those local chains that want local produce and making sure they are going to buy from me once I was licensed to do it).

    Getting back to the original post, there are examples of commercial aquaponics systems being highly successful, but for every one of those there are probably 10 or more that failed because they attempted to take on too much too fast... so back to my original post, the key to success is going slow. Making small mistakes slowly that aren't going to overwhelm your operation. Growing as you have the experience to grow, and then making more small mistakes until you figure out how to do things at your new size of operation. The successful commercial aquaponics systems are not people who decided to get a million dollar loan to create something, they worked in the industry for years learning from the experts before they started their own operations... but I can send you links to a highly successful commercial operations on another forum that will make a believer out of anyone who reads through the threads... but you can't assume that if you put in the capital to get the same type of operation running as they have without putting in the years of experience they have first.
     
  9. stanb999

    stanb999 Well-Known Member

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    My suggestion for a high cost factor is you must have a commercial facility to process the fish. That will cost a small fortune. Tho, as you say it isn't exactly hard. Just follow the steps.

    I do sell to grocery stores and that was what I was getting at with noting their weekly sales. The big thing I have found is it's easy to have your produce labeled "local" lots of stores will add your produce to the pile of "local" stuff. But due note the actual term "local" has no meaning in law and local could mean 1000 miles. Crappy but true. I like to package and label with my own farm name. This way I can build a name for myself locally. I can also send folks to the stores in the off season when farmers markets close.... At least this is the plan. It has worked a bit. :)

    I know it doesn't cost a lot to run a hobby sized unit. But on a commercial scale things get silly quick and can cost huge dollars. One thing I have to tell you about starting small. You have to be big enough to establish a market. Meaning you can't sell 3 fish a week and make a profit regardless of the sale price. You need to have the volume to sell. Then sell it. In the process you will learn lots of creative ways to eat aquaponic greens and lots and lots of fish as you learn to sell volume. As to the commercial aquaponics... Point one out. They are still in the research stage and mostly grant paid. There are no systems turn key profitable. Too many costs. And don't tell me about the guy in Chicago... Grants, Virgin Islands.... Grants, ???

    Farmers markets... I have found that generally the time spent at market is almost offset by the increased sales price. Time = money. :) Grocery stores give 66% retail. They sell it all day all week and discard what doesn't sell. A restaurant gives 75% retail and a modest sized restaurant will purchase nearly what you would sell at a farmers market in few hours. At least this has been my experience. The big benefit to farmers markets and why I go to several each week is you don't have to produce a certain variety or have x number of pounds of this or that. If you commit to providing produce to the local restaurants and grocery stores you will need to produce nearly 2 times your commitment so you can always have the amount they want and top quality. Then you will also have "extra" for the farmers market.
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2017
  10. rininger85

    rininger85 Well-Known Member

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    That's exactly my point... start small, go slow, grow as you learn. That is where people fail trying to go commercial is they start big and owe people money and make mistakes fast which makes them bigger mistakes and before you know it you're upside down and can't tell which way is up. When you are in debt to start the aquaponic system is not a good time to learn how to run it...

    As for systems... how about Eastford, CT? Not quite commercial scale, but I believe he is selling some produce to stores as well as other farm customers... this thread was a 1200 sq ft geodesic dome greenhouse he is in the process of upgrading to a larger greenhouse that he is building now on another thread but I don't think he is very far along with it as of the last update I saw (different thread) http://www.backyardaquaponics.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=18&t=8898

    here is the thread for his new greenhouse still in process... hasn't been progressing much lately though http://www.backyardaquaponics.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=18&t=26307

    Florida isn't quite the Virgin islands... This is one to really drool over although a lot of the food porn is from the AP company he worked for before he built his greenhouse and quit his job to start his own company (but follow the links to those AP systems that he used to work for too for official commercial systems)... he moved pretty quickly on his system, but had something like 15 years experience managing the system at his previous employer before starting his own system... this one I would call commercial for sure http://www.backyardaquaponics.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=18&t=12589


    This one isn't quite what I'd call commercial I don't think (although I haven't read through her entire thread yet, but she does seem to have a fairly large hobby system going) also in Florida... http://www.backyardaquaponics.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=18&t=12299

    There are quite a few interesting systems I've followed based in Australia, but I'm not sure if any of them are really commercial size because aquaponics is pretty big over there it seems like everyone is doing it so not sure what the commercial market would consist of.
     
  11. stanb999

    stanb999 Well-Known Member

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    I looked thru the threads you listed.
    First sells greenhouse parts... https://www.bigelowbrook.com
    BTW... A geo dome is not cheap or easy to make.

    Florida guy
    His greenhouse isn't near big enough to produce a profit. Your guy in Florida sells systems. That's how he makes money. Not growing. I don't care what your growing... Well accept medicinal herb, you aren't making bank with one hoop. Finally he is making cash like so many... http://www.collegeofaquaponics.com/about-us/

    I'm the last to suggest you can't make money selling systems like this. Bet soon he will get a book deal.

    Create a system that turns a profit on it's own. You will be a millionaire.

    The last is as you say a hobbie system.
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2017
  12. rininger85

    rininger85 Well-Known Member

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    You obviously didn't look at Ryan's system (the third link) very closely. If you are going to flip through the other ones that's fine... but go actually read through that thread...
     
  13. stanb999

    stanb999 Well-Known Member

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    I Read enough of the thread to want to go look at his farm facebook page. Then I read that too. I also found where he is starting a school like I noted in my last post. He is making a living with aquaponics... But not buy growing or selling produce. He is selling equipment and courses.