Can commercial aquaponics be economically feasible?

For my second blog, I wanted to write about a subject that has become a passion of mine: Aquaponics. I want to mention that I am not an expert and further research needs to be done to answer a lot of these questions. It is until recently that people have researched and studied aquaponics systems for many different reasons. The main driving force for people to engage in research about aquaponics is because it provides an alternative to grow food in a sustainable, and efficient manner. These systems are closed loop systems that can provide an answer to how we are going to feed a growing population. Although there is a lot of research to be done, and some of the data up to date is limited, I want to ask the question: can aquaponics be economically feasible in a larger, commercial scale?

Aquaponics is basically an integrated system for growing food (normally green vegetables) with the help of fish. The fish waste provides an organic food source for the growing plants and the plants provide a natural filter for the water the fish live in. After doing some research, I found that small scale aquaponic systems are efficient and are economically sustainable. On the contrary, we lack data to show that larger, commercial farms are as well. Yet there are some examples in Hawaii that show that in fact commercial aquaponic farms can be economically feasible.  I will not get into details because it gets somehow complex but the University of Hawaii is involved in some these projects (total of three farms across Hawaii) and I think this is really interesting since it really can be a solution to food security issues in many countries. Image result for aquaponics

This picture is a simple representation of an aquaponic system: a closed loop system.

These projects in Hawaii along with some other across the globe (there has been succesfull projects in Australia, Mexico, New Zealand and USA) show that it is economically possible to have a large, commercial aquaponic farm. I must mention that these farms are not as big as conventional farms but the yields are important and the energy usage is way less. It is important to be diverse when having an aquaponics farm and diversified your sources of income.

I strongly believe that aquaponic systems can be not only efficient in small scale farms but also in a commercial scale. If we developed the right relationships under the right conditions I believe we can achieve maximum efficiency and provide an alternative solution to many food problems. Perhaps it will not provide a solutions to every single food related problem but at least it is a different, more sustainable way of growing our food.

The name of the farms in Hawaii: Kunia Country Farms, Ilili Farms, Maris Garden.

If you know more about aquaponics or you are interested in this subject please feel free to comment.


Commercial Scale Aquaponics: Profitability and … (n.d.). Retrieved October 31, 2016, from

Love, D. C., Fry, J. P., Li, X., Hill, E. S., Genello, L., Semmens, K., & Thompson, R. E. (2015, January). Commercial aquaponics production and profitability: Findings from an international survey. Aquaculture, 435, 67-74. doi:10.1016/j.aquaculture.2014.09.023

Naomasa, Emiko, Shawn Arita, Clyde Tamaru, and PingSun Leung. “Assessing Hawaii’s Aquaculture Farm and Industry Performance.” Aquaculture Economics & Management 17 (2013).

Tokunaga, Kanae, Clyde Tamaru, Harry Ako, and PingSun Leung. “Preliminary Findings from Economic Analysis of Commercial Scale Aquaponics.” Working Project (2013)

Aquaponics in Hawaii Conference May 25, 2013 Kanae Tokunaga*1,2, Clyde Tamaru3 , Harry Ako3 , and PingSun Leung2 1Department of Economics; 2Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management; 3Department of Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering University of Hawaii at Manoa.




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10 responses to “Can commercial aquaponics be economically feasible?

  1. Makenna Golumbuk

    I think the study of aquaponics is really cool and something that I would like to learn more about. You mentioned that many of the experimental farms are in Hawaii, do all the farms have to be freshwater? Or can they be saltwater as well? Interesting topic but in order to have aquaponics work they may have to be specially located depending on climate I would think?


  2. Peter Newton

    Thanks Pablo! You (and others) describe aquaponics as a ‘closed loop system’ and ‘sustainable’. Yet the system requires the input of – at minimum – fish food and electricity (to drive the pump). So is ‘closed loop’ really an accurate term? And are there many sustainable sources of fish food?


  3. megangeraty

    I really like your article. I am a little confused on the economic aspect of this paper though, do you have any numerical data that backs this system up? Or is this too new of a system that small scale operations haven’t been able to scale up in an efficient manner? or at least publish those results?


  4. blakecurran1

    Very cool post! Have you found an information on what kind of species of fish are best suited for this kind of practice?


  5. Do you know the scale of these “commercial” aquaponics farms in comparison to large-scale agriculture in terms of size and yields? Also, have any animal rights concerns arisen (maybe the fish being crammed into small tanks, etc) from aquaponics?


  6. loganbarrett28

    I have heard that you can only use certain kinds of fish in aquaponics that are not the most desired on the market. Do you think that this affects the ability to increase the scale of production for economic reasons?


  7. kennethprior

    Great article! When you regard to aquaponics on a “small scale” instead of a commercial scale, how small is this actually? Can aquaponics be achieved on a small family farm, or does the processes require a larger input? Is there incentive to use aquaponics on a small scale?


  8. NiccoloDeluca

    This is an awesome topic! Do you think that climate change would affect aquaponics? Furthermore, where do you see aquaponics being most effective with rising temperatures?


  9. matthew elliott

    Could this method be used for growing food? I feel that many people would have a hard time buying into produce grown in fish waste (even though many plants are grown in crazy manure and chemicals).


  10. Aquaponics is something i do not really know much about, but I did visit a farm here in Boulder that used this system in a greenhouse! and it was amazing! I can’t imagine it large scales, but seems like it would be effective if done correctly. do you know if they are still in greenhouse settings when they are done at large scales, or can you have this outdoors?


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