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Commercial Aquaponics - Why You Should Go Small First

There’s been a lot of interest about commercial aquaponics recently and some discussion about how big should such a system be to become viable? Big is always best right? Not necessarily. If you envisage one of those broad acre hydroponic farms that seems to run for acres and acres off into the distance then you might be surprised that this is not the solution or even the future of aquaponics.

Gina Cavalieros Aquaponics FarmGina Cavalieros Aquaponics Farm.

Speaking with Murray Hallam recently about commercial aquaponics, he sees this future very differently. Murray is big on small scale aquaponics that offers a secure future to the mum and dad operators running their own relaxed lifestyle but selling their produce not to big agri-business food chains, but directly into the community. Farmers markets, produce sold directly to restaurants, even food sold to other local food suppliers that redistribute your produce directly to the community.

Gina Cavaliero from Green Acre Organics is one such person doing the direct to restaurants route. If you thought the process would be difficult to secure a contract of direct sales like we did, then you are in for a surprise. Gina cannot supply enough food to meet the need in her local community. It seems fresh produce in peak condition is a much sought after commodity.

One of the smart things Gina did was to first build a mini micro aquaponics system. In her backyard you will find a very small floating raft system connected to a round outdoor pool fish tank. Here Gina is able to cleverly test out a range of produce from herbs to lettuce to test and discover what grows well in her neck of the woods. Living in Florida helps too. But until you test a range of boutique produce you will never know exactly how well those greens will grow based on your climate conditions. A micro floating raft system gave Gina the necessary clues to what would work well in her larger system.

Building a small micro-system first is a clever inexpensive thing to do. No sales person or marketing guru can tell you exactly what to grow in your climate. You will need to do your own homework first. Some level of filtration is needed on even a basic small system like this.

The plants and fish are a litmus test to the experimental nature of determining the optimal growing conditions for her test plants. Of course in her main greenhouse the usual rules of filtration apply. Gina features even a degassing tank to heavily oxygenate any methane present in the system before the water is sent off to her floating rafts. But building a micro system is a terrific idea before taking the heavy investment in up-scaling to a larger more expensive commercial system.

Gina even lightly stocks her big tank with tilapia. There is no problem with the fish supplying enough nutrients to keep the plants well fed. Lightly stocking your tank with fish can also be less stressful to the farmer should something break down resulting in heavy fish losses which seems to have a compounding problem in heavily stocked tanks. Heavily stocked tanks also require critical attention to filtration and fish oxygen demand. Sometimes a lighter approach to aquaponic farming can be less stressful and more therapeutic and still yield good plant growth.

Incidentally Gina Cavaliero along with Sylvia Bernstein and Murray Hallam will join forces for a small scale commercial aquaponics class next April in 2012 in Florida. Murray Hallam will also reveal how to build a hybrid media system he calls FloMedia right into your floating raft system. The idea is that for the small commercial farmer wanting to grow a broader range of plants and vegetables, even root crops, FloMedia can be expanded to use fish nutrients along with your conventional system. This raises the opportunity for farmers to trial a broader range of fruit trees and larger plants in their locality.

Guest Blogger ECO Films

Posted By Murray Hallam on 12th December 2011

Updated : 18th February 2014 | Words : 684 | Views : 6276 | Comments : 3

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Hi Murray,

Million thanks for your reply and valuable advice. Now I understand the UVI model system.

My plants are okay at the moment. In my one grow bed, I grow papaya, chilli, tomato, chinese mandarin lime (Citrus reticulata), bitter gourd, lady finger, water apple (Eugenia aquea). I don't know, whether I put too much plants in this grow media. But, nevertheless, everything is going fine up to now. Sort of experimentation.

By the way, my intention in aquaponics is more towards growing fish and prawns, although most people prefer or incline towards plants. Either way it's a matter of choice.

Well, this is just my first step and to study and experience many things first before going commercial.

I salute to you Murray for your efforts to make our world a better place to live. God bless you and family.

Posted By Ehsan Ismail on Sunday 18th March 2012 @ 10:14:20


Hi Murray,

I'm Ehsan from Malaysia. I have seen your website and your short videos on YouTube, very interesting. I fall in love with aquaponics since earlier this year. Since then I read a lot about aquaponics from various websites and youtube videos.

Earlier this month I have setup a small aquaponic system based on CHOP Mark2 system design. The only thing is I have two sump tanks, one for the grow bed and one for the fish tank each having small submersible pump. One 450 litre fish tank with tilapias and Sultan Fish (Leptobarbus hoevenii) and one Grow Bed 3'X2'X1'. If time permits, I want to grow Malaysian Prawn also. So far so good, but my pH is always 7.6. The only problem is one day some of the fish (still very small) got trapped into my stand pipe in the fish tank and flush out to the sump tank. So what I did is to put a small piece of net on the stand pipe and below to avoid the trapping. Now everything is okay. Everything under control.

I have read few articles regarding UVI aquaponic system. I have done some calculation to reduce the UVI model size down to my 450 litre fish tank to fit in my home backyard. I have some rough idea of the model and the components, but what actually is the "base addition tank" and "degassing tank"? Can these two components home-made? Maybe Murray can give some comment and advice?

Posted By Ehsan Ismail on Saturday 17th March 2012 @ 16:38:09


Hi Ehsan,
Base tank is where base is added to bring the pH of the system up when required. You do not need that is a small system. Degassing tank is just a tank where there is loads of aeration to assist in removing unwanted gasses from the water before it goes onto the rafts. Not really necessary in a small system if you are doing lots of aeration in the system anyway.
How are your plants going. What are you growing in the plant side?

Posted By Murray on Saturday 17th March 2012 @ 16:38:09


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Murray Hallam is probably the best-known face in the world-wide Aquaponics movement. Murray is by nature an innovator and in his Research & Development facility has perfected many new methodologies for commercial farm Aquaponic systems.


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