8. Tilapia investment scale

The scale of your investment into your tilapia business is going to be unique to you. All we can do is to help and guide you into what we have learned over the years. Firstly you need to understand that this is farming. It is long term. It is capital intensive and it is risky to a degree. There are no massive profit margins to be made as you are investing in the single most competitive business on earth, that of food production.

Scale counts. The bigger you can build your farm to be, the more stable and inherently robust it will be. You can leverage scale to drive down costs of production.

No matter what level of money you have available this business building will take time. Large scale project development can often take upwards of two years to design, refine, prove and build before actual production commences, not unlike a mine. Smaller businesses can get going almost immediately however, but once again will probably suffer from lack of practical hands on knowledge and the skills required to obtain the most from their systems.

If you are looking to get into fish farming you will need to figure out what the best way of doing that is for you. A single Aquaculture Production Unit or APU will set you back R30k plus VAT to which you will need to add ancillaries – tunnel, possible heating, nets, fish, feed, water test kits, scales etc and this will not make money or even cover costs. But it will be a useful training tool to facilitate your learning of what you need to get right in your fish farming business – and once you have mastered this, growing to 200 TPA is simply then a case of adding more APUs as and when you can afford it.

Often it is our take that our 15 APU system is a good entry point for someone who is serious, has done their homework and knows their market to a reasonable degree of confidence. If you can sustain the capital spend and then the cash burn to run the system for a year or two whilst you bring it and yourself up to speed (and be wary of over estimating how fast you can learn fish farming) then this size has attraction in that it is sufficiently big enough to give you excellent learning, and sufficient product production that will allow you to properly test your market. You will not be able to manage this size system yourself, unless you are extraordinarily dedicated, and this will mean that you will probably be training some other people up with yourself at the same time. This will be valuable for your expansion.

This size system is what we’d consider a good size pilot. Once you have mastery over this, obtaining expansion capital will be easier for you – actual production data from your own system is as good as gold.

Of course not all of us will have the R1.2 to R1.5M or so this will take to run properly for a year (along with all the ancillary equipment you will need) and many of you will start with a single APU, on which to learn. Many, many of our customers have gone this route and many are using single APUs as training tools – the ultimate practical aquaculture degree. Even if you decide that this is not for you, the relatively investment made is still a wise one in that you learned this without great cost. The same is not true of many other failed aquaculture ventures.