When we first began our tilapia farm, we were told about how to maximize our revenue by using three levels. The young man who told us was studying fish farming at the university in Fortaleza. What was suggested for non-commercial tilapia farmers was to have ducks, tilapia and shrimp. The theory behind this is all the space was being used.
The ducks obviously on the surface, eating the vegetation in and around the lake and then defecating in the water which increased the algae for the tilapia.
The tilapia then poop and the shrimp eat that. All of that natural fertilzer keeps the vegetation growing and so the cycle continues.
This, in my opinion is a good system as you can get paid 3 times for that body of water.
However, there was one problem we found with this system. It was the ducks.
Now don't get me wrong I love ducks. I love watching them swim, I love the eggs, I love eating duck but... they would eat our tilapia food. At first it was amusing to watch them swim over waiting for us to feed the tilapia.
By the end though, it was evident that we had to do something about the problem, so we sold the ducks.
That left us with the surface of the water not earning us money. That is until we thought about aquaponics. The revelation came to us with how well our water hyacinths were growing on our lake we had fish in. Our other lakes (without fish) also had some hyacinths but the plants weren't growing very well. That was when the light bulb went on.
It all that goodness in the water which was feeding the plants.
Not only would we have enough for ourselves but we would have enough to sell.
My husband and I tend to be a little cautious and we thought for awhile whether it was doable. We didn't want anything which was too labor intensive as we already had enough work with the farm and the fish.
It wasn't until I returned home from the supermarket with a scrawny looking head of lettuce, which I had paid R$2.00 (Brazilian reals). When he saw this and knew what we could produce with aquaponics, we began straight away.Once we got into our routine, and asked at the local shops if they wanted to buy, all of them did. They knew their customers would love our lettuces and other plants as they were much deeper green and healthier looking than what they were currently selling.
My only regret with the aquaponics system is that we didn't start sooner. Not only would we have been making more money sooner but it would have taken that worry about keeping all your eggs in one basket.
I mean tilapia farming is almost a guaranteed return on investment but there are things which can go wrong. With aquaponics, that gives us a buffer of cash just in case the unforeseen should happen.