The follow interview was conducted by Imke Zimmermann (Press Relations for German Fish International Trade Show, Bremen Germany-February 9-11, 2014, which was then published in the German expert magazine on our topic, FischMagazin, Contact Info for Ms. Zimmermann  zimmermann@messe-bremen.de

 

1.    With a RAS you can earn a small fortune – if you beforehand invest a large one, people say half-jokingly. Indeed we’ve seen lots of projects go bust. You, Prof. Timmons, even pledged a mortgage on your house ((if I understood that correctly from the cv in your book??)) to get the money to co-finance a RAS for Tilapia. Apparently you were optimistic … So please tell us: Which conditions must be fulfilled for a successful project?

In June of 1996, four individuals created Fingerlakes Aquaculture, LLC, including Dr. Michael B. Timmons of Cornell University, who mortgaged his own house to get the initial capitalization.  After a rocky startup, Fingerlakes Aquaculture stayed in business for 12 years and produced over 3,000 tonnes of tilapia. By those statistics, Michael can claim a success.  This success or at least FLA’s longevity at being in business for such a long time can be attributed to several factors:

Implemented in a series of stages (university prototype, small 100 tonne farm, followed by larger 500 tonne farm)
Large scale operations, economy of scale and market
Trained and motivated workforce
Improved technology
Adequate water
Electrical rates below typical market prices ($0.04/kwh)
Targeted marketing approach

Probably the most important of these was a phased production program, i.e., a ramp up over time. Many business plans start with some large scale operation, which is usually necessary to show a positive cash flow. Unfortunately, almost always, these operations, if funded, are unsuccessful. It is extremely difficult to achieve large scale success without having first built this capacity [...]