Aquaculture is the farming of any plant or animal that lives in water. This can be either in seawater, brackish water, or freshwater – on land or in the oceans, lakes or rivers.
Aquaculture is an agribusiness just as dairy farming or the arable crop farming of maize are. However, unlike the latter two, in general the former is a less developed business type. As such there can be big gaps in our knowledge.
This lack of technical knowledge and experience in farming a specific aquaculture species often leads to uncertainty and risk for the business operator. Furthermore, markets for species may be undeveloped requiring volume, product form and price assumptions to be drawn from very little useful information.
General Aquaculture Info:
There are also specialist branches of aquaculture that produce plants and sometimes sponges that contain compounds that are used in other materials. Examples are;
- Agar: which is extracted from some seaweeds and used as a gelling agent.
- Carotenoids: which can be extracted from micro algae and used in the food industry
- Carrageenan: which is extracted from some seaweeds and is also used as a gelling agent.
- Nutraceuticals: Biologically active compounds are being investigated as a potential source of drugs or ingredients these compounds have been found in algae and sponges.
The New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industry (MPI) has a range of information on aquaculture in general and land based aquaculture.
Aquaculture risk management options
Land based aquaculture covers those ventures that are farming aquatic organisms on land – not in the ocean. Of the gazetted species, only two (paua and salmon), are being farmed successfully, in New Zealand, in large scale land based facilities. Salmon, however, generally only completes hatchery and early growout stages on land. Smaller hatchery facilities for oysters (flats and pacifics) and mussels also exist. Other small land based operations are working with a range of species (freshwater prawns, eels, koura, brine shrimp, whitebait and crayfish) at research or pilot scale developments.
Just as in agriculture there are a diversity of species and farming systems from extensive high country sheep and cattle production to intensive chicken culture - there are different aquaculture production systems each best suited to a particular set of species, site specific and geographic conditions.
Aquaculture rearing systems can be generally divided into:
Intensive culture systems can be divided further into:
Integrated culture systems can be both extensive or intensive.
Aquaculture methods - European Commission Fisheries
The basic steps to establishing an aquaculture venture are summarised here.
- Check that you have adequate investment funds – a minimum of $2-5m for a relatively small operation
- Do your basic aquaculture research – visit the experts and any existing operations if possible, review global best practice
- Familiarise yourself with the law relating to your activity
- Look at the markets – grow for the market demand you identify
- Determine availability and supply of chosen species
- Choose the technologies best suited to the particular species. Generally proven technologies are best
- Construct a draft business plan
- Perform a preliminary economic analysis
- Perform a basic environmental and social analysis
- Consult all stakeholders
- Review species, technology, site and market assumptions
- Perform detailed economic analysis with refined assumptions
- Does it look profitable?
- Check that your funds meet the modelled set-up and ongoing operational costs and allow a contingency
- Revisit the production/business/market plan and rework in fine detail the model assumptions
- Design the facility in detail
- Update model assumptions
- Undertake detailed environmental and social analysis
- Consult all stakeholders
- Lodge Applications for the appropriate licences/consents
- Legislative processes negotiated to achieve licenses/consents
- Re-check all assumptions especially the market – update market assumptions
- Employ the best people for the job. With RAS you are advised to employ experienced staff with proven track record.
- Build facility
- Continue to Consult all stakeholders
- Obtain stock
- Start farming
- If issues arise, seek expert help without delay
- Continue to review the business plan – and make adjustments where required
- Adopt Certification under an accepted aquaculture standards organisation (GAA or ASC)
- Continue to farm within financial constraints
- Continue to review market opportunities and change to suit.
- Look at diversification in products or species – and/or related complimentary business such as value added processing
To be successful in aquaculture it’s important that you understand the seafood market and how your production will fit in the domestic and global marketplace. You must choose the right species, choose the right technology, and meet government, environmental and community requirements. You must plan well ahead for future changes and the risks that aquaculture presents.
Plan ahead or live the nightmare – the Taiwanese land based aquaculture experience (C Searle, Sashimi Group)