I went to the NC Aquaculture Conference this past weekend at Atlantic Beach, NC. Parts of it were geared towards people interested in getting into aquaculture commercially. There wasn't much talk of recirculating systems in terms of starting up your own business, which was disappointing to me. There wasn't any mention of aquaponics at the conference. The couple of people that I talked to were mixed - some were keenly interested, talking about some good results they saw, while others dismissed it as not being profitable. One guy mentioned that he knew someone who had an aquaponics setup to treat the waste from his tilapia and had beautiful tomatoes growing in April. But, he didn't have a distributor and had no way of getting rid of the tomatoes, so he didn't make any money off of them.
Bottom line: Have a good business plan! Do your market research. Know who's gonna buy your fish and your veggies ahead of time.
The main message I got from the conference was that it's hard to make money in aquaculture. One of the extension agents told us that he tries to convince 95% of the people that tell him they're thinking about getting into aquaculture to NOT DO IT!
There's some interesting research going on with regard to raising saltwater species in recirculating systems. One species, flounder, likes it less than full strength seawater. And, there were some species of shrimp that can live in brackish water. That got me to thinking about a system with a two-stage plant section - one section with saltmarsh species like juncus and spartina that could take some of the salt out of the water, and then have salt-tolerant veggies, like artichoke, asparagus, beets, and squash, or salt tolerant flowers. You'd have the extra cost of the salt mixture that you'd need for your water, but with tilapia prices tanking, flounder might just work. If not flounder, then shrimp for bait fish in season might also work well.
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