This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

An Economic Comparison of Three Intensive Fish Production Systems




Fern, Micah

Type of Degree



Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures


A study was conducted to compare the economic costs and returns of three intensive aquaculture production systems located in Auburn and Browns, Alabama. The objective of this project was to examine the potential profitability of intensive aquaculture systems which utilize non-traditional methods of fish production. Three intensive fish production systems were chosen based on their use of modern aquaculture technologies and include an indoor recirculating tilapia system, an integrated tilapia/cucumber greenhouse system, and a catfish floating in-pond raceway system. Enterprise budgets were developed to analyze the economic feasibility, advantages and disadvantages of each system. Economic comparisons were made among systems in three areas; specifically, fixed and variable cost of production and breakeven price. Additionally, total cost and net returns for each system were calculated. Cost and return budget elements varied by system and were closely linked to the stage of development of each system as it is deployed on each commercial farm. Lower net returns were associated with the systems that were newer and where managerial and operational procedures were being developed and where mechanical ‘kinks’ were still being worked out. Systems that had two or three years of operational and marketing experience were more feasible. Thus, these newer systems may likely take a few years after initiation to become viable commercial enterprises and reach their optimal levels of production and efficiency. For this study, floating in-pond raceways were designed and built to improve upon traditional pond culture by offering reduced manpower, higher stocking densities, ease of feeding, grading and complete harvest, precise disease treatment, and collection potential of fish wastes. The calculated investment cost was $128,348 for the 24 raceway units ($5,348 per raceway) including cost for associated piers, electrical system, and machinery and equipment. The actual growth of catfish was tracked and the cost of production was calculated to be $1.58/lb for channel catfish and $1.43/lb for hybrid catfish. However, scenarios using data with improved efficiencies at a commercial scale had estimated cost of production of $0.72/lb for channel catfish, $1.56/lb for grass carp (a high value market item in china), and $0.83/lb for tilapia. An indoor recirculating tilapia system which has been in commercial production for four years was found to produce market-sized tilapia at $1.59/lb; and could be sold for $2.10/lb live weight, providing a $0.49/lb net return. In the integrated tilapia/cucumber greenhouse system the benefits of incorporating vegetable production with fish production were found to be worthwhile. Tilapia from this integrated, intensive system had a cost of production of $1.55/lb and cucumbers cost $0.25/lb to produce; and the system had a $0.73/lb net return based on $2.10/lb and $1.00/lb tilapia and cucumber selling price, respectively.