Start your own Aquaponics

Everything you need to know to start your own business

1. Start your own

Aquaponics offers great opportunities for fresh fish and vegetable production in Ethiopia. The past two years of applied research have helped us to tailor the successful aquaponics technology to the Ethiopian context. This page presents the business model and design steps for Ethiopian entrepreneurs interested to start aquaponic farming. Aquaponics can be applied at different scales. In Ethiopia we have extensively tested the scalability from 24 up to 500 m2. A system of 24m2 can be constructed with locally available materials for a price as low as 24.000-30.000birr. On this page we would like to introduce to you a 24m2 aquaponics system as a first step to get involved in aquaponics farming. If this system of 24m2 is managed well it could provide the amount of vegetables consumed by a family of six easily. This page will provide you with all the information necessary to start your own aquaponics.

2. Market Research

In any business it is important to evaluate the market potential before starting any large investing activities. For aquaponics it is essential to understand market demands, sales prices and quality requirements from potential customers. The high initial investment required for aquaponics can only be recovered If marketing of produce is at the core of the business model. In most larger towns (especially those that receive more tourists) aquaponics fish and vegetables can fetch high prices if marketed as sustainable organic products. Hotels, restaurants and consumers are interested to receive products that are pesticide free, organic and locally grown. This page will provide you with all the necessary information to do your own feasibility study.

3. Construction

Construction of an aquaponics system can be done from materials that are available in almost all hardware stores in any of the larger towns. There are three materials that are generally only available in Addis Ababa: Energy efficient pumps, aeration equipment and plastic (pond) foil. The pictures below give you an idea on the layout of a 24m2 aquaponics setup, more information can be found on the page Aquaponics Management. Construction is straightforward and if all materials are on site it is only a two-day operation if you have a few people available.

The main components of a 24m2 system:

  1. Two IBC fish tanks
  2. A 3m2 to 4m2 grow bed with Vulcanic (red) gravel
  3. A sump tank that collects all water
  4. 15 PVC pipes (110mm) that are perforated every 25cm

Aquaponics material providers in Ethiopia

4. Investment

Material lists including prices for a complete aquaponics setup are given for three different sizes (price information collected in 2017. Click HERE to open the excel files if you want to work with price information that you collect yourself. (Use the arrows in the picture below to view the different busines cases.)


5. Build a business plan

The tables below present you with the business model for aquaponics development at three different scales. Click HERE to open the excel files if you want to work with price information that you collect yourself. (Use the arrows in the picture below to view the different busines cases.)


6. Input value chain

In order for aquaponics to function there are a number of inputs required. If you do not manage to secure all of these inputs, hydroponics might be a more valuable option. These are the inputs required:

Fish feed: Contact us to find out more. Alema-Koudijs is also providing high quality fish feed (at a minimum order 1000kg)
(Tilapia) Fingerlings: Contact us to find out more.
Seeds: Available in most agricultural stores
Water: Tap water works excellently, surface water can be used if mud and sands are filtered out (it is advised to test your water if you can).
Electricity: All systems need 24-7 availability of electricity. Power outages of 3-4 hours are acceptable. If power outages last longer it is advisable to install a battery to keep the aerators running so the fish will not be short of oxygen.
Organic Pest Management solutions: Check the page aquaponics management for more information on how to make your own pest management solution


7. Output value chain

Main consumed vegetables are Tomato, onion, garlic, cabbage, costa, Pepper and potato. Apart from the basic vegetables there are special varieties that are only available at a few large vegetable stores. These are mainly consumed by top income households, restaurants and hotels:  Spinach, cherry tomato, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, zucchini, cucumber, bell pepper, Chinese cabbage, radish, celery, iceberg lettuce, leek & rucola lettuce. Of these vegetables especially cucumber, zucchini and Chinese cabbage are high in demand. Some restaurants/hotels mentioned a need for herbs, chives, basil, mint, parsley and thyme as there are currently hard to find on the market. Do your own research and see what crops could do well in aquaponics

For aquaponics, especially Lollo Rosso and Lollo Bianco are high on demand, these sell for 60birr/kg on most markets. Both crops can easily be grown Aquaponically and have a high market potential therefore.

In the (Vulcanic gravel) media beds, Cucumber and Zucchini are good options since they perform well in Aquaponics and fetch high prices (50 and 35birr/kg respectively).



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