Once we secured the water source we had to determine how much water we had, the flow rate. For large scale commercial trout facilities the flow rate is very large, even thousands of gallons per minute. There are few places in America where that much clean, cold water is available for private use.
Many of us however can have access to smaller volumes of water, perhaps enough to produce fish in sufficient quantities for it to be self-supporting. A simplified analysis may look like this: $150 per month for electric to pump water and air; $100 per month for feed; $400 per month replacement stock. This simplified analysis assumes a up and running project and does not account for any capital investment like the cost of the well and raceway.
So $650 is the monthly cost to produce 400 fish for market. Another assumption is that the project has been running long enough to produce a marketable item, a 1.5 pound fish. If we sell 400 fish each month for $7.50 per pound then we net $3850 per month. More than enough to service any capital investment with some pocket change left over. OK let’s say my figures are suspect even though they are not that bad and we double our input costs to $1300 per month, still not too bad. At any rate, it seems to be self-supporting.
This project has brought together all my favorite sciences and opens up a lot of potential new avenues for any other agricultural engineering fans out there. A few came out to see my prototype; its already had an important modification and is growing trout. You will notice I am using a variation of the common raceway and tank culture systems. Both methods have advantages so why not bring them together. I am also experimenting with different off the shelf tank designs that are readily available for far less than those tanks sold specifically for aquaculture.
We have had more and more interest in alpaca as a food source for both people and dogs that cannot tolerate many other foods. I haven’t had the time to research just why alpaca doesn’t cause the problems that other foods can but I do know that it is an exceptional meat that has no trouble competing with beef, pork, lamb or poultry for taste and nutrition. It is very lean, more like venison than beef or lamb.
I have to write of our small accomplishment here as it will otherwise go unnoticed, but we were the first farm in the States that openly retailed alpaca. I understand that there are others now of course, out west mostly, but we also with the help of our favorite chef were able to get it onto the menu of the first restaurant to offer it. I am proud to say that after more than five years it is still on the menu at The Refectory in Columbus OH.
Unfortunately for us it seems the demand for this excellent meat is growing far from our market place and other farms will ultimately benefit more than we from this new food. It is new here but has been eaten for a long time in other parts of the world. I won’t go into why or how we first came to using alpaca meat in this article or the prospects of it becoming more widely used but I do what to make one point. Alpaca meat is relatively expensive and so not suitable for a dog food staple. It is not part of the commercial meat industry and will remain high in price. I believe the new and very trendy emergence of restaurants with alpaca on the menu is as a result of the temporary availability of cheap animals that are being dumped. Won’t say any more about that as it would surely not gain me any friends.
We will continue to carry a small amount of this superb meat as well as alpaca dog treats and bones but for larger orders we suggest purchasing a whole animal and have it custom butchered. As a service to our customers we will help to obtain and transport your alpaca.