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Just starting out but goal is to go commercial.

Discussion in 'Commercial Systems' started by JoeBifano, Sep 9, 2010.

  1. mcfarm

    mcfarm New Member

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    I'll let Murray and John say their bit, but I suggest you read 'Everything I want to do is illegal' by Joel Salatin. Joel's a farmer who comes up against the well intended stupidity of the food bureaucracy on a regular basis.

    There are usually ways to circumvent the legal requirements. In Australia it is illegal to sell raw milk for human consumption, so it gets sold as pet milk or bathing milk and labelled 'not for human consumption' and if people chose to drink it, well that is still their prerogative. Butter made from raw milk is sold as 'body butter' too.

    Another way people get around stupid laws like this is to form collectives where the people own a share/business in the produce from its inception. They are therefore business owners and can consume their own produce and pay the farmer/ AP specialist to manage the growing of their produce. Look up 'herd share' for more details.

    The food policing legislation was and is written to protect us stupid ignorant people from ourselves. Most was formulated in a time before good understanding of microbiology, before stainless steel and electrification and when corporations were much less accountable and needed to be. What business is it of the government if I choose to sell fish to my neighbours? Absolutely none! If I do the wrong thing they will hold me to account, why does any government need to be involved in this sort of activity?
     
  2. adam.francis

    adam.francis New Member

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    good points mcfarm.. i'll defiantly check that book out!
     
  3. rarbolay

    rarbolay New Member

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    A point that has not been brought up here is targeting the local Farmer Markets. Here in TX, most towns have small corner Farmers Markets were you can sell your products with little interference (you need a business license, not hard to get). My next door neighbor retired from the Army and started cultivating niche crops (collard greens and other ethnic crops) in his one acre suburban yard. He sells his produce from late spring to late fall in the Farmers market and makes a living out of it. He has now expanded into a leased 10 acre plot couple of miles down the road. Since I have a few fruit trees (peaches and pears) that produce way more than we can eat, he usually stops by a couple of times a season to harvest and sell in the market. I believe that most of us could get our feet wet (pardon the pun) in this fashion. with 1000 holes you can easily pull 200 heads a week of some niche produce along with very high quality every day fare (red leaf lettuce, etc) and at least cover the initial set up costs and providing food for our families.
    It would be a matter of finding what specific niche crops you can fill. The second year crop can be expanded with pre-sold produce to local restaurants and small mom and pop operations. Perhaps expand to selling channel catfish to local mom and pop restaurants. Of course, once you go big, you have to provide the crop. If I was a restaurant owner, I would be leery of trusting my needs for 200-300 heads a week (or whole cat fish) to you if you cant deliver.
    In my current small business (not AP), my main selling point is customer service. My customers have my cell phone number to call in case something goes wrong or they want a different product. This gives me an edge over my mega-corp competitor.
    As for me, my plans are to set up enough production this year to feed my wife and I, and get rid of the @)#*$^@ algae in my 2500 gallon fish pond!
    Next year, I'll see where it takes me. If I can produce a surplus, I'll sell it to my neighbor for sale at the farmers market at whatever price we can negotiate. I'll be having this conversation with him, and with couple of local restaurant and supermarket owners I know personally and see if they are bitting (again with the pun, cant help myself).
     
  4. JoeBifano

    JoeBifano New Member

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    I wanted to give an update on what I have been doing since I started this thread. I have the 24x64 greenhouse built and was able to get the plastic on it just before winter came. I have 4 - 4x28 rafts and 4 - 1x14 rafts(going to try tomatoes a new way in these) finished and plumbing in. I am pretty sure that I will have over 5000 holes in this set up. I also made 20 2x8 seedling shelfs so I can keep some plants growing in this setup and also start seedling for the rafts in it.
    I have 2 1200 gallon fish tanks in the ground with a Growing Power or Sweetwater top trough for one Bio-filter and this is gravity feed into a Glen Martinez style lava style Bio-filter right below it divided into 2 sections so I can flood the 2 raft systems.
    I have been blessed to have 2 investors one has given me what I need to build everything so far and the other is getting me a large 250,000 BTU pellet stove boiler.

    Here is what I am thinking of doing next. With the new boiler I am going to keep the fish tanks at 75 and raise Tilapia at first using pex on the bottom and the sides of the tanks.

    I will also heat the the raised beds with PEX and make sure they stay at 75 and cover them so at night I will have plants that stay warm. I am thinking that I can have a thermal material over the top of the rafts say 12" above the highest plants that I grow to keep them warm during our cold nights.

    I will add a zone to keep my Utility room warm so I can start and germinate seeds in and harvest products in.

    I am working on another type of room inside my greenhouse that will be used to grow tomatoes in and hopefully be kept warm with another heated zone from the boiler that will be a small space. I do not want to heat the greenhouse too much more than just the plants and maybe keep the greenhouse at about 45 at night.

    If anyone has any comments on the heating setup I am looking at let me know. I am concerned about the humidity I may get under the thermal blanket idea I want to use for above my rafts and would like to find out what others have experienced on this. I am in Colorado so the humidity is very low.
     
  5. forgiven1

    forgiven1 New Member

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    Feb 21, 2011
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    need help commercial aquaponics San Diego

    I purchased a used 23X84 greenhouse with fans on one side and loovers on the other with a large heater. It also has small hanging fans in the middle to help with airflow. I want to do an Aguaponics system. I would also like to go commercial. I have a backhoe so i am able to just about anything. I'm not really sure what the next step is. I could read a bunch of stuff (which i will probably do) but i figured why not get the info from a forum so that it would save me tons of time. I was looking at an NTF system but it seems to me that it's not a good idea since the pipes will get hot at the end and that lowers production. So, i am willing to build anything but i would like to build it once. I would like to plant lots of different things to include a portion of citrus. But i would like all to be Aquaponic. Any help/advise would be great. i am located in San Diego Thanks Darren
     
  6. Todd61

    Todd61 New Member

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    Sep 30, 2009
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    Rarbolay, since you are in the US and interested in going commercial I would suggest ordering the current issue of the CCOF magazine (Winter 2011) It's the magazine of the Certified California Organic Farming. www.ccof.org It has the best article I have seen on selling to retail. Very clear and direct.
     
  7. Todd61

    Todd61 New Member

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    Joe and forgiven1 (Like that Name) check out Conley's greenhouse. They have some really nice equipment for heating etc. Also, Charley's greenhouse. Hope you find something you need. Both are online and in the US
     
  8. rudysemail

    rudysemail New Member

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    whats up forgiven1! I live in El Cajon, I'd love to help you plan out an aquaponic garden in your greenhouse. I've been experimenting with it for a year now, this is what I got:

    alpineaquaponics.com

    email me rudysemail@gmail.com
     
  9. Murray

    Murray Site Admin Staff Member

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    Hi Joebifano,
    On selling your Tilapia, when I was in Denver last year the folk there were telling me about some prison farm nearby that was growing Tilapia and selling them for really low prices. Is that the case? How will you market your Tilapia as a high quality locally grown product.....as against the prison product?
     
  10. DaveOponic

    DaveOponic New Member

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    The supermarkets here are now selling smoked Tilapia and also a Tilapia in Teriyaki sauce in plastic shrink wrap vacuum bags. I haven't tried it as I have more than enough Tilapia of my own and it is not cheap. Frozen whole Tilapia (small fish) on the other hand is very cheap here in the supermarket.

    Smoked Tilapia in my opinion is as good as any of the more expensive smoked fish (e.g. mackeral) sold in the supermarkets here. I actually prefer it now to smoked salmon which is very expensive!

    Dave
     
  11. Satman76058

    Satman76058 New Member

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    Rarbolay,
    I am in Texas also, would like to contact you if at all possible and share info. How could we do that.
     
  12. Satman76058

    Satman76058 New Member

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    Murray,
    I was wondering if the two tiered growing system like Growing power uses would work with deep water raft system or would the lower lettuce not get enough light. I was thinking of trying it with four foot spacing between four foot wide growing troughs. I have looked into greenhouses and maintaining a seventy five degree f. growing atmosphere and it is not cheap, so I am trying to look at alternatives to large greenhouses.
     
  13. JakeH

    JakeH New Member

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    They heat all of their greenhouses with compost ya know. You could give that a try. If you haven't made a compost pile before, go make one, you will be surprised by how hot it gets and how fast it gets there. You would get a nice byproduct once it's all over with!
     
  14. Murray

    Murray Site Admin Staff Member

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    Hi Satman,
    What growing power have done especially in regard to heating is excellent. I notice in one of their photos I have seen a wood fired stove in the corner of one of their greenhouses, so not all the heat comes from the compost pile/s

    Heating is a problem for those who live in the extreme latitudes. Look at the Rocket stove as a means of heating. If you can get access to a good supply of firewood that would be a really good way to go.
     
  15. Lucas7

    Lucas7 New Member

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    Hey all,

    Firstly, great posts all round, on the heat subject check out pit style greenhouses and if you want to see the real potential compost has research a man name "Jean Pain", he is the patron saint of sustainability.

    Secondly, do not mistake the high market saturation of greens and herbs as meaning aquaponics is not commercially viable. If there are 50 restaurants serving pizza in your town and your pizza place fails it does not mean restaurants are bad. It means you should have served something other than pizza.

    The main obstacle to the construction of a large scale ebb & flow system is cost. Justifying large start-up costs can only be done with profits. Certain produce like sprouts, lettuce, most herbs, onions, carrots, celery and potatoes should be avoided in most areas. The market is saturated or established businesses control the market with an iron fist. However in my area a single green pepper, in season, sells for around 75 cents to $1.50. Out of season the multicolored(ripened) peppers can go for up to 3.50 for a single pepper.

    Keep in mind that fruits and veggies are not the only options you have. Flowers and non-edible plants can flourish in the right system.

    Do your research and then quadruple check everything you discover.

    Good Luck,

    Lucas
     
  16. Murray

    Murray Site Admin Staff Member

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    Hi Satman,
    It is one of the problems with two tiered systems. The lower bed usually suffers from lack of good lighting from the sun. OK if you were using grow lights I suppose.
    I have seen a number of these two tier systems when I have been in the US and frankly none of the ones I saw were all that brilliant.
    I think it is a case of "monkey sees and monkey does" Growing power have done that so people think that is the way to go. I had a friend who went through the growing power greenhouse a few months back and he made the same observations. The plants in the lower tier were not all that great.
    But I suppose you could say that extra plants were grown, and the plants we think are not all that good are most likely still better than you would grow using traditional dirt gardening.
     
  17. Lucas7

    Lucas7 New Member

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    Hey all,

    I took the Growing Power tour as well. They are averaging 1,000,000 pounds of food and $600,000 in profit every year on 2.5 acres of property. The main crop they produce 3 different kinds of sprouts. The lower tier is full of sprouts which fetch upwards of 12 bucks a pound and grow like wildfire with little or no lights. (Don't go sprout crazy, there are only so many sprout eating hipsters/yuppies in the world). The top tier has pots placed in it for tomatoes. There are also trays, mushroom bags, and hanging pots everywhere. He has 4 greenhouses, 2 3/4 of which are actually used to grow. The rest of the space in an anaerobic digester, worm farm, and staging area. Outside is a larger worm farm, at least 4 cold frame hoop houses heated by compost producing seasonally, at least 100 chickens, 12 goats, 6 turkeys, 6 beehives, and I think I even saw some ducks.

    I believe his success hinges upon that diversity. Each facet helps reduce the operating costs or increases production of the next. For instance a single 5 x 5 x 5 worm bin can gross $36,000 if sold as single use packets (Black Gold) or give you a constant supply of possibly the best all natural fertilizer available. The chickens lay at least a hundred eggs a week. A license to make cheese is ungodly expensive in the U.S. so I really don't know why they have goats. All the scat produced by these animals allows them to customize compost mixes to provide heat.

    My sainted mother just gave me an old copy of a book called "5 Acres and Independence" by M.G. Kains that deals with this subject. Aquaponics as a stand alone business seems to fall a little short when you get outside the easy stuff like lettuces. You are dependent upon other businesses to maintain consistent operations. Here is a quote from right inside the cover of the book that surmises the real issue.

    "The greatest fine art of the future will be the making of a comfortable living from a small piece of land." Abraham Lincoln

    Godspeed,

    Lucas
     
  18. jono81

    jono81 New Member

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    inspiring stuff Lucas, thanks. I think you hit the nail on the head - diversity is key.

    I've been reading about producing biogas from waste vegies and manure.. could be a useful source of free gas heating for a greenhouse. I love also what these urban farming guys are doing:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3AZv6MjZylo

    I read somewhere that a 1m3 biogester will produce enough biogas for an average house to cook with. The 3m3, 3 x IBC system these guys made looks pretty good.
     
  19. JakeH

    JakeH New Member

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    The urban farming guys are doing some pretty cool stuff, however when I toured their facility and their 3 IBC biogas digestor was not producing any gas, also their aquaponics was a bit off. They had 6 ibc linked together filled with 1000 tilapia and only had enough grow beds to fit on top of the ibcs. They needed many many more grow beds, and a bigger greenhouse. It was a ratio of pry FT 10:1 GB. I have been eagerly waiting for them to produce plans for their aquaponics system, I am more interested in how they combined 6 IBCs to create one giant recirculating FT. I think they might have been contained actually, so that they could do periodic harvests. They are doing some amazing stuff, those guys.
     
  20. jono81

    jono81 New Member

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    oh dear.. sounds like they are on the right track but just need some adjustments.

    What's the climate like where they are? Sounds like their biogester is not getting hot enough perhaps? I've read on mother earth news that some supplementary heating of the biogester in cold climates (less than 20 degrees celcius) is beneficial, generally producing more gas than used to heat it.

    Perhaps placing it in a greenhouse heated with a rocket stove would help.
     

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