In my discussions with friends about the system I am building, one question I have been asked repeatedly is whether such a system is cost effective. Another way of asking whats the payback period for the system.

Now I am building my system from recycled parts myself, and I am not building it with the intention of reaching payback at some point in the future,  but it is an interesting question none the less.

After some research I came across the following article on the Backyard Aquaponics website: Cost Benefit Analysis of Aquaponic System.

Written back in 2009, the paper was commission by a gentleman in Canberra looking to promote aquaponics locally.  It takes into account the the captial cost, as well as the running costs, of a number of off the shelf systems sold by Backyard Aquaponics.

While I haven't verified the numbers myself, after reading the paper I believe it covers the majority of costs involved and provides a reasonable estimate. For those not wanting to read the full paper, the answer is 2 - 3 years (depending on the size of the system). 

While your milage may vary depending on your system setup (as well as the changes to costs in 2011), it backs up my gut feeling based on my own estimates.


Comment by Realist

That analysis is full of faults. It avoids adding in the cost of spare pumps, sources of power for prolonged outages, cost of disease prevention, callouts, repairs and maintenance and such and prices the produce way above even premium prices (if you work it out).

I am also looking for an answer to how much is the ACTUAL cost of production.

I can't believe no-one has kept a tab of their system .. or .. is willing to publish the results.

And I have googled extensively to find one. It is the great UNANSWERED question on aquaponics. Try and find something in all the aquaponics FAQ's you can find.

I want an aquaponic system ... but I want to know the REAL cost and return before I commit.

I can't afford a poly tank in the yard that just consumes cash.

Comment by sam

Hi Realist,

I understand your frustration where there are gaps in some area's of aquaponics, costs being one of them.

However in defence of the paper, I believe it does have some value. And I do not believe the paper was 'full of faults' as you indicated.

One key thing to keep in mind is that the numbers were based on a hobby or backyard system. They were not meant to be indicative of a commercial system.

Secondly, the majority of people who have systems and are willing to talk about them are not running them for commercial reasons, therefore have no reason to track the numbers themselves. Hence the lack of information. If they are running commercials systems, then they are generally not willing to discuss as they see the numbers as some sort of a commercial advantage.

If you believe there are some deficiencies (particularly with capital cost items), then I would invite you to update the numbers and publish them.

If you wish to know the capital cost, then that is relatively easy. If you want to know the running costs, then that paper is not a bad place to start. But as I said in my original post, I am not running a system to make a return. I am running it for the fresh produce, and to have some fun along the way.

If you have some specific questions, then by all means ask and I will answer as best I can. Alternatively, ask on the Backyard Aquaponics forum. There is a wealth of information already there, and plenty of people willing to share / help.

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