Aquaponic farms big on idealism, low on profits

A new generation of Aquaponic farms in Chicago hope to crack the nut of profitability. Let us know when you got it down!

Source: Chicago Tribune

aquaponics chicagoThis is from someone who worked on it three years, overtime, just nonstop from every angle trying to make it work: It wasn’t until I tried everything … completely from scratch that I realized there’s no way to make the numbers work,” Amini said of the aquaponics industry he’s left behind. “It’s all green fantasy.”

Despite its appeal, aquaponics is not a simple way to replace fish and vegetables imported from California, Bugbee said.

It’s capital-intensive. Soil is cheap and sun is free, but machinery, indoor lighting and special fish food are anything but free. And agriculture of any kind yields tight margins that make it hard to offset the price of expensive equipment.

It’s risky. Aquaponics ventures essentially house the production of protein and greens under a single roof. Plus those two don’t mature at the same pace or scale.

It’s highly technical. The pH levels of fish waste and plant nutrients must match. The levels of nitrogen and ammonium in the system must be diligently balanced. The learning curve is steep and crosses several disciplines: mechanics, chemistry, plant biology and, of course, business.

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