Submitted to: International Journal of Recirculating Aquaculture
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/1/1999
Publication Date: 1/15/2000
Citation: Adler, P.R., Wade, E.M., Harper, J.K., Takeda, F., Summerfelt, S.T. 2000. Economic analysis of an aquaponic system for the integrated production of rainbow trout and plants. International Journal of Recirculating Aquaculture 1 (1):15-34.
Interpretive Summary: When a product is produced, waste products are also typically produced, and they can pollute the environment. If these waste products can be used as resources for the production of other products, pollution to the environment can be limited and production costs reduced. We have developed a way to efficiently recover the nutrients in the water from a rainbow trout facility and produce high value food produts. This system can remove phosphorus to levels typical in conventional wastewater treatment alternatives and generate an income in the process. The integration of the fish and plant production system produces economic cost savings over either system alone. Shared cost savings come from spreading out operating and capital costs over the two systems. This technology will be useful for fish farmers who are looking for alternatives to deal with the wastes generated during the production of fish.
Technical Abstract: Conventional treatment alternatives for phosphorus in wastewater, whether they employ chemical precipitation, physical removal, or land application technologies, represent a significant addition cost to the owner of an aquaculture operation. Only plant-based removal of nutrients has the potential to generate additional revenues, which can offset treatment costs. The objective of this analysis was to describe the economic relationship between a 22,680-kg per year recirculating trout production system and a hydroponic treatment unit capable of reducing phosphorus concentration levels in the fish farm effluent to less than 0.1 mg/L. The integration of the fish and plant production system produces cost savings over either system alone. Shared cost savings come from spreading out operating costs (e.g. labor and management, water, nutrients, and overhead charges) and capital costs (e.g. backup generator, used truck, and office equipment) over the two systems. System integration reduces the combined capital and operating costs by about 12 and 16%, respectively. The investment analysis demonstrates the profitability of this combined system over 10 years. Net present value analysis shows positive returns after year 5. The results of the internal rate of return analysis shows that for a total investment of $254,748 this system can potentially provide a return of 10-24% for project lengths of 5-10 years. The greenhouse economics clearly drive the system with a significantly higher potential return on investment (about 80% higher revenue with similar capital and operating costs) than the fish system alone.