Thinking Outside the Soil:An Aquaponics Model Farm
Thinking Outside the Soil:An Aquaponics Model Farm

A Model Aquaponics Farm

 

Financials

Profit and Loss Analysis

Cash Flow

Farm Setup

Short’s Farm has 1/3 acre of land with a planned 4000 sqft. of grow space in Gill, Colorado.  The property will contain hoophouses with a recirculating hydroponics system and fish tanks.  In addition, a 2,500 sqft. secured building will be built to house 4 fish ponds, a fish and plant nursery, a produce wash station, walk-in cooler, employee bathroom, handwash station and farm tool room/workshop. 

Plants will start growth in an indoor plant nursery under supplemental lighting.  Half way to its maturity, plants will be transplanted to a hoop house.  A detailed production schedule is used for each crop.  Splitting the grow time between a nursery and hoop house allows a faster overall plant rotation. 

The farm will start with 1 50`x16` hoop greenhouse and grow to 8 hoop greenhouses over the period of one year.  Produce will be grown in the hoop houses, each containing 384 sqft. of grow space in raised hydroponic grow beds.

Produce will be grown on a continual basis by offsetting plant/harvest dates for each respective crop.  This will ensure that each hoop house will allow for consistent harvesting throughout the year.  Due to the weather conditions, year-round harvesting is challenging for many Colorado farmers.  Operating with the hoop greenhouses will provide Short’s Farm with a competitive advantage. 

Crops will be polycultured (2-3 crops) within each hoop house.  A 1-2 week fallowing period and crop rotation between hoop houses will reduce pest and pathogen pressure. 

Fish ponds housing tilapia will produce a constant supply of nutrient water solution.  The nutrients are provided by effluent from tilapia culture and converted by bacteria into usable plant metabolites.  Tilapia will be cultured in 4 1,700 gallon ponds and fed a high protein pelletized fish feed.  Water quality tests will be administered regularly to ensure sufficient nutrient balance.

As fish mature and grow too large for the tank, they will be removed and sold.  A brood stock will be maintained and bred to provide smaller fish to repopulate the fish ponds.  

Short's Farm plans to grow over 100,000 pounds of organic produce over the next 3 years.  Estimates are conservative and based on prior experience.

A Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) program will be implemented to ensure food safety.  In addition, marketable plants will be harvested and washed in chilled water and stored in a chilled area.

Market Analysis

In both Colorado and around the United States, there has been an increasing movement to support locally grown food. “Local food”consumers realize the value and benefit to purchasing fresh, regional produce; higher nutritional content, increased food security, reduced carbon footprint, and financial support for the local economy.  Research through Mintel[1] showed that “local”is the most influential product claim. Organic Certification is also a characteristic that many consumers prefer, and Short's Farm intends to obtain organic certification for the farm. 

Short's Farm will also join the Colorado Proud network.  Colorado Proud is a free branding, marketing and networking program designed by the Colorado Department of Agriculture to help consumers, restaurants and retailers identify and purchase Colorado food and agricultural products.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service[2]:

  • Consumer demand for organically produced goods has shown double-digit growth for well over a decade, providing market incentives for U.S. farmers across a broad range of products. 
  • Organic food is sold to consumers through three main venues in the United States-natural food stores, conventional grocery stores, and direct-to-consumer markets.
  • Organic price premiums continue to remain high in many markets as the demand for organic products expands.
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables have been the top selling category of organically grown food since the organic food industry started retailing products over three decades ago, and they are still outselling other food categories, according to the Nutrition Business Journal. 

Short's Farm intends to market directly to individuals, restaurants and local grocers that value local, fresh produce that is grown using minimal chemical inputs and that are grown naturally or organically.  This demographic tends to want to know where there food is from and appreciates a connection to the farmer. 

Short's Farm has targeted three market segments that meet this profile.

Market Segments

Farmers’ Markets

To obtain direct contact with consumers and maximize profits, the primary market will be local Farmers' Markets.  Short's Farm plans to sell at multiple Farmers’ Markets on a weekly basis.

Short's Farm has targeted Farmers’ Markets in the Northern Front Range Colorado area where:

  • the distance between the farm and market location has less than a one hour drive time,
  • the market appears to have demand for additional locally-grown produce,
  • the population reflects an above average median family income (Colorado median family income is $57,685), and
  • the education levels have a high rate of high school graduation.     

A recent National Public Radio report[3] indicated that when it comes to buying produce, 43 percent of people would like to get their fruits and veggies at a farmers market.  Supermarkets came in second at 32 percent. Another study by Colorado State University4 indicated that 90 percent of people consider locally-grown produce to be an important purchasing factor. Customers also prefer to buy produce that supports the local farm economy. The areas targeted by Short's Farm have a total population of over 800,000.  If Short's Farm can access 0.5% of the community through these targeted farmers markets, they will be able to reach 4,000 consumers. 

Short's Farm contacted many targeted farmers markets in the local area regarding market demographics, opportunities and demands.  Based on weekly yield and customer estimates, Short's Farm feels confident that it can sell all produce through the primary marketing channel.  However, the company would like to rely on some consistent orders and will pursue two additional market segments on a small scale.

 Natural Grocers

Short's Farm will seek local natural grocers as a secondary market.  A recent report by Colorado State University4 indicates that produce purchased at natural grocery stores tends to reflect customers in higher income brackets. Of those that purchase from natural grocers, 45 percent earn greater than $75,000 per year. 

Short's Farm plans to sell to a few grocers on a weekly basis and has targeted grocers in the Northern Front Range Colorado area where:

  • the distance between the farm and market location has less than a one hour drive time,
  • the grocers’ customers have a demand for locally-grown and organically-grown food,
  • the population reflects an above average median family income (Colorado median family income is $57,685), and
  • the education levels have a high rate of high school graduation.

Restaurants

Short's Farm will seek local “high-end”restaurants as an alternate market.  Short's Farm plans to sell to multiple restaurants on a weekly basis.

Short's Farm has targeted restaurants in the Northern Front Range Colorado area where:

  • the distance between the farm and market location has less than a one hour drive time,
  • restaurants that advertise as a part of Colorado Proud, as well as those that value local food,
  • restaurants that are in affluent areas where,
  • the population reflects an above average median family income (Colorado median family income is $57,685), and
  • the education levels have a high rate of college graduation.

Short's Farm will target restaurants that are Colorado Proud members known for their local, farm-to-table dining menus.  

[1] http://www.mintel.com/press-centre/food-and-drink/local-produce-edging-out-organic-in-importance-among-consumers

[2] http://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/natural-resources-environment/organic-agriculture/organic-market-overview.aspx#.UowrT8TEPXo

[3] http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2011/07/20/138534183/organic-foods-have-broad-appeal-but-costs-temper-demand

4 http://webdoc.agsci.colostate.edu/DARE/AMR/AMR%2009-02.pdf

In order to make my company a reality I need your help to reach my goal of $50,000. With your help we can be part of the future of agriculture that contributes to better food security.

I would like to express my grattitude for taking the time to view my idea.  Please leave comments below, spread the word and share my project with everyone you know. Thank You!

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