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An Economic Analysis of Integrating Hydroponic Tomato Production into an Indoor Recirculating Aquacultural Production System




Holliman, James

Type of Degree



Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology


Alabama is one of the leading states in the nation in terms of aquacultural production, ranking second among catfish producing states and fourth for tilapia. Alabama catfish farmers generated $97.6 million in sales in 2005 with 142 million pounds of food size catfish production (NASS, 2005). While production was substantial, profitability levels were somewhat less than desired. Thus, producers are interested in improving catfish production efficiency and evaluating alternative enterprises and production systems (USDA, 2005). Indoor recirculating catfish and tilapia production systems provide intensive production yields while using only a fraction of the land that would be required with a traditional pond-oriented catfish production system. Integrating tomato production to the aquacultural system can also utilize synergistic relationships of the two production systems and substantially increase profits. The economic and technical viability of incorporating a high-valued enterprise such as hydroponically grown tomatoes into an indoor recirculating system for channel catfish or tilapia production were evaluated. The indoor system was planned and budgeted for an annual production of 44,000 pounds of channel catfish and 27,600 pounds of tilapia. Production of catfish was complemented by the production of 33,175 pounds of tomatoes grown from the effluents produced by the channel catfish as well as from the tilapia. The break even price for catfish was determined to be $.77 per pound along with tomatoes at $.92 per pound to cover yearly fixed and variable costs of the system. The break even price for tilapia was determined to be $1.22 per pound along with tomatoes at $.92 per pound to cover yearly and variable costs of the system. Comparative results were derived for a stand-alone system producing either channel catfish or tilapia. Analyses showed a major difference in the financial results with the catfish production system losing approximately $21,000 annually and the tilapia system losing approximately $5,000 annually. The reduction of effluents into local waterways with the integrated system helped mitigate social costs of the stand alone aquacultural system. Thus, there appears to be economic potential for integrating either channel catfish or tilapia production with tomato production using a recirculating water system.