Jump to Main Content
Circular economy and economic viability of aquaponic systems: comparing urban, rural and peri-urban scenarios under Dutch conditions
- Stadler, M. M., Baganz, D., Vermeulen, T., Keesman, K. J.
- Acta horticulturae 2017 no.1176 pp. 101-114
- aquaponics, business enterprises, crops, economic sustainability, fertilizers, fish, food miles, food production, fresh produce, horticulture, hydroponics, markets, models, pesticides, prices, primary energy, production technology, socioeconomics, supply chain, water shortages, water treatment, Netherlands
- Aquaponics combines aquaculture and hydroponic practices. It is a young new agricultural industry, which depends less on primary energy and material inputs than conventional production systems. Potentially, aquaponic systems have a key role to play in food provision. Furthermore, aquaponics tackles challenges such as land, nutrient and water scarcity and reductions in energy use and food miles. Its controlled growing conditions and the expired use of chemicals and pesticides make this technology a promising one. Besides its ecological merits, aquaponic systems save costs on water treatment and fertilizers and benefit from double outputs (fish and crops). Economic viability, however, requires well-defined business models aimed at positioning aquaponic systems in a specific market niche. Given the different price and quality levels of fresh produce globally, aquaponic systems can be more or less successful as a means for (local) fresh food production. This study looks at one of the most challenging situations for positioning a new growing system: the Dutch food industry with its large-scale horticulture, its multiple fishing harbours and agricultural activities and its highly efficient cooled supply chain. We address the economic viability of aquaponic systems and describe possible socio-economic scenarios. As compared to rural and peri-urban scenarios, it can be concluded that, under the current Dutch market conditions, the urban scenario seems to be the most promising business concept, producing locally, fresh food, relying on premium prices.