Community Aquaponics Discussions, Theme #3: Financial Challenges

In the first post of this series, we described what we mean by “Community Aquaponics”. Then, we identified the first two themes from the Community Aquaponics breakout discussion groups: Community Involvement and Location Considerations. In this post, we look at the last theme identified by the Community breakout discussion groups:

Financial Challenges

By Tawnya Sawyer

Some of the community aquaponic programs are supported by non-profits that use a variety of funding sources to pay for capital costs for construction and possibly operating expenses. Being financially viable was a big topic of discussion and critically important to ensuring that aquaponics can be not only environmentally and socially responsible, but can also be sustained from a funding stand point. Some community ventures were not seeing a profit but hoping to within a short time. While others had a mission to make donations for all of their products and never expected to meet the cost of operations. Financing was considered a very important topic and one that many people find challenging. Some of the ways that community aquaponic projects have been funded historically include:

–Sources of funding to build an aquaponic system include grants, donations, crowd-source funding campaigns, bank loans, personal savings, and investors.

–Operational costs were a little tricker with some farmers indicating that they were able to pay for their expenses through produce and fish sales, tours and training activities.

–Many operated measure success not just with money, but many other factors such as how many people had improved their nutrition, become educated, had new job skills, learned to be more self-reliant, etc.

We envision that community aquaponics will be one of the most critical driving forces in expanding this industry. Creating models that prove out success at the community level is a critical step in the process. Luckily, there are many examples of well-established and well-run community aquaponics installations to provide those models. Looking forward to more engagement in the coming years and seeing new and innovative community aquaponic systems flourish locally and globally to inspire others.

Tawnya Sawyer is the Director of Colorado Aquaponics and a Board Member of the Aquaponics Association