Aquaponics is the marriage of fish farming and hydroponic crops. It involves integrated systems that use fish to fertilize crops, which -- in turn -- feed the fish. The trouble for many would-be aquaponics entrepreneurs is high start-up and growth costs. Grants are available to help with aquaponics programs.
High Start-up Costs
Aquaponic farmers often seek grants because of high start-up costs. To make any significant money in the field, you need at least an acre of land to hold the amount of equipment needed to produce profitable yields of fish and vegetables. Aquaponic systems can cost several thousands of dollars, and the range is great -- roughly $17,000 for a do-it-yourself system to $80,000-plus for a more professional setup.
Conservation Innovation Grants
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service provides annual grants to many types of agriculturists -- including aquaponic farmers. The most recent aquaponic program awardees are West Virginia University, which was awarded $134,974 in 2011 to build an aquaponic production model, and Island Paradise Aquaponics, a private company in Hawaii, which received a $100,000 grant in 2010. Grants are available at the national and state levels.
Aquaponics Association Micro-grants
The Aquaponics Association offers micro-grants of up to $1,000 to help aquaponic farmers increase public awareness and understanding of aquaponics as a hobby or business. The grant also aims to promote education about providing a source of fresh, local food. Applications are available on the association's website -- aquaponicsassociation.org -- and the association offers new grants every three months throughout the year. Preference is given to outreach programs focused on developing better aquaponics systems.
Private Organization Grants
Private foundations may not have dedicated aquaponic program grants , but they often offer grants to programs that meet their mission criteria. Alliance Healthcare Foundation, for example, gave $1 million to Solutions Farms, a small aquaponic operation in Southern California, in 2014, because the farm's mission to help feed the poor aligns with the foundation's goals. Other foundations, such as Syngenta, offer grants to sustainable agriculture projects. Even corporations, such as Patagonia, offer grants for sustainable farming operations.