💡 A recent study was conducted to determine the profitability of a commercial-scale aquaponics farm dedicated to tilapia and lettuce production. By integrating design and operational data into a techno-economic analysis(TEA), parameters such as initial investment cost, annual operating costs, market value of lettuce, and labor costs were calculated to evaluate whether or not the operation would prove profitable.
📌 Research Highlights:
▶ The study considered a typical mid-size commercial farm with a grow bed space of 62–63 m2 and a 1400 gallon fish tank growing tilapia and leafy lettuce in Ohio.
▶ Of this farm’s initial investment cost of $69,600, 42% was dedicated to the greenhouse. Annual operating costs were between $31,100-$33,300, with labor accounting for 52% of the cost.
▶ Using the market value of lettuce in conjunction with the dedicated grow space, a cash flow analysis determined the system would be profitable with a positive net present value between $9,000-$12,200. Incorporating an automated water quality monitoring system significantly reduced labor costs and increased the net present value to $55,545.
🎯 According to the study, organic produce is priced 18% higher than non-organic produce, and incorporating aquaponics into this price point proved economic viability. In order for economic viability to be ascertained, an understanding of operational factors such as water recirculation rates, solid removal rates, and feed adjustments, as well as an understanding of technological inputs is necessary to reduce labor inputs and to increase internal rate of return.
📷 Image: The introduction and cycle of antibiotics in an aquaculture system (Source: Santos and Ramos, 2018)