This checklist was compiled by a regional aquaculture center, to help producers make important decisions before they begin. It goes with our full-length story about fish farming in northeast Ohio.
WOOSTER, Ohio — If you’re thinking about going into aquaculture, you’re not alone. A large number of people have expressed interest in what could be a very profitable and rewarding business venture.
Like any business, however, a lot of planning and preparation must be done, as well as a lot of hard work, in order to be successful.
The following is an abbreviated producer checklist provided by the Northeastern Regional Aquaculture Center. It covers some of the most basic questions “wanna-be” fish producers should answer and is available in full on the NRAC website, as fact sheet No. 101, or at www.nrac.umd.edu/files/Factsheets/fact101.html.
If you cannot answer “yes” to these questions, then seek assistance from one of the sources listed below the checklist.
• Have you developed a realistic written business plan with monthly objectives and projected cash flow for the first year and annually for the next few years?
• Do you own or have access to property required for the operation, and do you own the necessary equipment?
• Will your lender accommodate your production and marketing cycle, which differs from traditional row crops?
• Will the profit compensate for your labor and resources? And can you afford to wait 6-18 or more months for income, until your first crop attains marketable size?
• Are you willing to work long, hard and irregular hours?
• Do you get along and communicate effectively with others? Small fish farmers often must promote and market their product, in addition to being producers.
• Are you comfortable with mathematical problem solving and mechanical trouble-shooting? Do you have the technical expertise with fish or shellfish to manage the operation?
• How informed are you willing to become? Can you join an aquaculture association in your state, subscribe to industry publications and complete training sessions?
• Have you assessed the existing market, in terms of demands, potential competitors, and determined your best chance at competing?
• Do you know in what form you will market your product (live, dressed, fillets) and are you prepared to harvest, handle, hold and transport your product?
Site and design
• Is the site located near the market and processing facilities? Are there any pesticides, topography or soil type issues with your site?
• Is the site large enough for expansion projects? Have you considered leasing and owning, and do you live close enough to routinely monitor the site?
• Can you control water to and from the system, filling and draining when needed, and manage wastes?
• Will your neighbors and others accept your aquaculture operation and will there be any interference with their own properties?
• Have you discussed your plans with your local state agencies and your local university extension service?
• Have you determined which species you want to raise and do you know its biological background?
• Do you have the financial, technical and spatial resources to maintain and spawn adults, incubate eggs and rear juveniles?
• Can feed and other essential supplies be obtained locally, quickly and at a reasonable price?
If you were unable to answer “yes” to any of these questions, or would like more information about how to plan to enter this industry, consult with the following:
Your county cooperative extension in your state or Sea Grant agents; state aquaculture associations; soil and water conservation districts; state department of agriculture; state department of natural resources; commercial producers, processors and retailers; Northeast Regional Aquaculture Center; National Agriculture Library, National Aquaculture Information Center; and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.