Aquaponics can be equally worthwhile for the environment and your wallet - if it is operated on the basis of good professional practice and the general conditions are right.
When it comes to the food production of the future, combined fish and vegetable farming in aquaponics is a much discussed trend topic. But how realistic is the idea? So far, there are hardly any publicly available data and analyzes on the economics of aquaponics in practice. Researchers from the Leibniz Institute for Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB) have now published the extensive economic analysis of a facility that is already producing fish and vegetables on a larger scale. The result: Aquaponics can be equally worthwhile for the environment and your wallet - if it is operated on the basis of good professional practice and the framework conditions are right.
The aquaponic system of the "Müritzfischer" in Waren an der Müritz was analyzed, which produces fish and vegetables in a combined circulation system on 540 square meters. This aquaponic facility was built in the EU project "INAPRO", which was managed by the IGB.
Based on the real production data of one year, the researchers carried out extensive analyzes. The aquaponic facility was not yet profitable in the research phase, but provided a very extensive and valuable data set, on the basis of which two practical scenarios could be developed. One scenario showed that the aquaponics concept is profitable if the plants are sufficiently large. Based on this scenario, the researchers developed a model case with defined key economic indicators that make calculations for different plant sizes possible.
“It is positive that there is social, political and economic interest in aquaponics as a future technology. With the study, we would like to make a research-based contribution to this discussion and point out opportunities and challenges. This is one of the reasons why we opted for free and publicly available publication, ”explains Professor Werner Kloas, head of the project.
According to the IGB researchers, the main obstacles for commercial aquaponics are the high investment costs and in Germany the high operating costs, such as for fish feed, labor and energy. The companies must also have the necessary expertise in both aquaculture and horticulture. In addition, the achievable margin depends heavily on the market environment and the production risks, which are sometimes difficult to predict.
Urban farming - aquaponics in the city
The main author of the study, Gösta Baganz, sees great potential despite the risks, for example in urban areas: “The already profitable model case would cover a total area of around 2,000 square meters. Professional aquaponics would also be possible in urban and urban areas, where space is scarce and often relatively expensive. If urban aquaponics can already be profitable in such areas, the potential for local food production increases, which is becoming increasingly important as urbanization increases worldwide. ”
“In light of current challenges such as climate change, population growth, urbanization as well as overuse and pollution of natural resources, global food production is the greatest pressure that man exerts on the earth and threatens ecosystems and the stability of societies. Environmentally friendly and efficient food production is therefore one of the most important social goals, "Werner Kloas puts aquaponics research in the global context.
This is how IGB aquaponics works - also known as "tomato fish"
There are a variety of aquaponics approaches, many of which come from the hobby area. The concept developed in IGB research is based on two circulation systems in which fish and plants are produced separately. Smart software and sensors continuously measure the respective values and interconnect both circuits as needed to make optimal use of synergy effects and still create the best growth conditions for both subsystems.