There are many beginners in soil-less agriculture who, after reading about the topic, or perhaps, after attending an introductory course be it for aquaponics or hydroponics, are immediately convinced that they can set up a commercial system. This is one of the biggest mistakes that someone can commit.
The better approach is to first start out with a small system, one that can cover one’s domestic needs for vegetable and fish, and gradually – through time, experience, and acquired knowledge – move towards a commercial setup. Having a home system will play a big part in educating a new farmer with the ins and outs of designing, building, operating, and maintaining a soil-less farm. To skip this part is to inflict tragedy upon a promising commercial endeavor.
Once sufficient operational knowledge has been acquired (as a tip, do invest in a worthy instructional course), those interested in going commercial need to first consider space. This will heavily depend on how much money one intends to make out of the enterprise. For example, if the proponent wishes to have a revenue of P1,000,000, that should serve as a benchmark as to how much space is needed.
Before moving forward with estimates using the above considerations, it must be stressed, one must know the market. What does the area want? How much are they willing to pay for it? How often do they need the produce? What’s the quantity they regularly need? These must be addressed.
Now, moving on to size, let’s assume that 1 square meters of grow space can accommodate 25 heads of lettuce with an average weight of 150 grams. And this sells at the market, be it on a business to business or business to customer model, at approximately P200 per kilogram. Also assume that there can be 10 crop cycles per year. One can now compute the size of the farm.
With a target of P1,000,000 annual revenue, divide that by P200. One needs at least 5,000 kilograms of lettuce produce annually. If it’s a one-time harvest, one needs an area space of at least 1,333 square meters of grow space. However, since the production is not one-time, and one can have 10 crop cycles annually, then simply divide 1,333 by 10 and one gets 133 square meters of grow space requirement.
This, however, is not enough.
One needs to consider the area for the fish tanks (at least for aquaponic farms), the sump tank, the overheard/distribution tank, the pathways where the staff can pass through, the seedling area, the post-harvest shed, and so on. To be on the conservative side, it’s better to assume that to sufficiently cover for all of these, one needs at least thrice the area designated for the grow space.
Thus, given the above estimates, a 400 square meters farm is capable of earning a revenue of P1,000,000 per year.
Take note, however, that this is not the net amount. One has to deduct operating and maintenance costs, labor expenses and other input costs from the revenue to get the estimated profit. But that’s another topic altogether which we can discuss at a later time.