Interesting article in The New York times titled, "The Spotless Garden". Concerning aquaponics and hydroponics the article discusses, "Rob Torcellinis greenhouse. The 10-by-12-foot structure is undistinguished on the outside: he built it from a $700 kit, alongside his familys Victorian-style farmhouse in Eastford, Conn., a former farming town 35 miles east of Hartford. What is going on inside, however, is either a glimpse at the future of food growing or a very strange hobby, possibly both." This stuff is so new for lot's of people. To get a feel for that read the comments. What caught my attention as a garden retailer is the first paragraph of the article. Rob built his aquaponics system from a $700 kit! I wonder where he bought it? Who is making money on this futuristic hobby? Why not the local garden center?
Interestingly it's Australians who are really into it. According to the article, "in Australia, where gardeners have grappled with droughts for a decade, aquaponics is particularly appealing because it requires 80 to 90 percent less water than traditional growing methods." Even though these systems use water they are water saving systems.
"An Atlanta company called Earth Solutions now sells kits online, on Amazon.com and the Home Depot's Web site. Called Farm in a Box, they range in price from $268 to $3,000, and come with pipes, pumps, frames and fittings." Did you catch that? It's on Home Depots website!
I know for a lot of you this seems just so strange. So did organic gardening back in the 70's. The article continues with a comment from Sylvia Bernstein, with who helped develop a mass-market hydroponic product called the AeroGarden. She say's, "'aquaponics is addictive... and it has a way of becoming a full-time pursuit. People start with this little 100-gallon backyard system. But it never stays that way. Next thing, they'll say, the tilapia were really cool, but I want to grow trout. Humm, hobby that has a way of becoming addictive, and turning into a full time pursuit. Sounds like a business to consider.
I realize that this is not for everyone or every garden center business to pursue. If you are interested in attracting new people, especially the young to your garden business a comment from Elsie should interest you. She say's, "'I'd like to hear a bit more about the nutritional value and taste of aquaponically grown herbs, vegetables and fruits. This has just opened a whole new universe to me!'" A whole new universe.
Don't let your preconceived notions of what it means to garden stop you from designing a business that appeals to a small, but enthusiastic group of people. It will be those who see the future and act on it that will build successful businesses in our industry, which so often seems stuck in the past. Rather than trying to appeal to a large segment of the population, find a niche and service those people. According to Rebecca Nelson who's company Nelson & Pade, publishes the Aquaponics Journal and sells aquaponics systems in Montello, Wis. "'the technology may appeal to a half-dozen consumer types, including those seeking fresh winter herbs; gadget-happy gardeners; and high-income parents and their science-fair kids'. But primarily, she envisions aquaponics as catnip for 'the LOHAS market, that means Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability” the green crowd. Gadget-happy gardeners, high-income parents, science fair kids, and the green crowd. Seems like that is exactly the type of clientele most of us would love to walk in our stores.