Do you want to start a fish farm? If YES, here is a complete guide to starting a fish farming business with NO money and no experience plus a sample fish farming business plan template. If you are interested in going into serious aquatic farming, then you should consider a fish farming business. Fish farming is perhaps one of the most lucrative aquatic farming businesses an entrepreneur can start.

However, that does not rule out the fact that it can sometimes be challenging- especially if you don’t live around coastal areas where you can conveniently create a demarcation for breeding your fish in commercial quantity. Beyond the general knowledge of fish farming, you would need to study the process of farming fish if you want to become successful in the business.

In order to maximize profit with your fish farming business, you would have to learn the process of hatching fish eggs and then grooming them to maturity. There are two basic methods of farming fish depending on the species of fish you are farming, you could make use of open-net cages in the ocean or you could make use of ponds/containers.

If you don’t have enough space to install bigger ponds, open-net cages in the ocean are your best bet if you want to farm salmon fish. With that, your salmon fish will grow to their full capacity. Open-net cages can hold well over 500,000 fishes in an enclosure that is four times the size of a football field.

Starting a fish farm business comes with its own fair share of challenges, but that does not rule out the fact that it is indeed a profitable business venture. An aspiring entrepreneur can either choose to start a fish farming business on a small scale or on a large scale depending on their financial status. If you are interested in starting a fish farming business, then you should pay attention to this article.

18 Steps to Starting a Fish Farming Business

1. Understand the Industry

The agricultural industry of which Fish and Seafood Aquaculture business is a subset of is no doubt among the leading industry in most countries of the world; it is the industry that produces fish and seafood for the populace. Because of the significant role the agriculture sector plays, government of most countries ensures that they go all the way to subsidize seedlings, fertilizers, farming implements and machinery for farmers and also encourage entrepreneurs to go into commercial farming (fish farming inclusive).

The Fish and Seafood Aquaculture industry comprises of businesses that farm aquatic animals or plants in controlled aquatic environments. Businesses in this industry make use of some form of intervention in the rearing process to enhance production, such as holding in captivity and protecting from predators, pests and disease. It is important to state that this industry does not including the fishing and harvesting of wild fish and shellfish especially on the high sea.

A study conducted by IBISWORLD shows that the Fish and Seafood Aquaculture industry has indeed experienced slow growth over the last five years. Given that the vast majority of the revenue generated in the industry is derived from the sale of fish, mollusks and crustaceans that will be processed into food products, this industry’s success is tied to levels of seafood consumption.

Per capita seafood consumption in the united states has declined over the last five years, putting a strain on businesses in this industry. Nonetheless, increases in the price of seafood, combined with a healthy export market, have boosted the revenue growth in this industry. The revenue generation from the Fish and Seafood Aquaculture industry is projected to grow at an annualized rate of 0.3 percent to $1.5 billion over the five-year period.

The Fish and Seafood Aquaculture industry is indeed a very large industry and pretty much thriving in all parts of the world especially in developed countries such as United States of America, Canada, united kingdom, Portugal Germany, Australia, the Caribbean et al.

Statistics has it that in the United States of America alone, there are about 2,087 licensed and registered Fish and Seafood Aquaculture companies directly responsible for employing about 10,440 employees and indirectly responsible for employing roughly 1,339,900 people. The industry rakes in a whooping sum of $1 billion annually with an annual growth rate projected at 0.3 percent. It is important to state that there are no establishments with a lion share of the available market in this industry.

Despite the fact that fish farming business has been in existence since time immemorial, that does not in any way make the industry to be over saturated; fish farmers are exploring new technology to continue to improve on the farming process. The fact that there is always a ready market for fish and other seafood makes the business ever green.

If you are looking towards leveraging on the agriculture industry to generate huge income, then one of your best bet is to start a fish farming business. One thing is certain about starting fish and seafood aquaculture business, if you are able to conduct your market research and feasibility studies, you are more likely not going to struggle to sell your fish and seafood because there are always food processing companies and consumers out there who are ready to buy from you.

2. Conduct Market Research and Feasibility Studies

  • Demographics and Psychographics

The demographic and psychographics composition of those who consume fish is not restricted to a group of people. People of different race and culture consume fish hence the market for fish farm produce is all encompassing.

So, if you are looking towards defining the demographics for your fish farming business, then it should include households, hotels, restaurants, fish processing and packaging companies and businesses that rely on the supply of fish.

3. Decide Which Niche to Concentrate On

Most fish farmers tend to operate a general fish farming business that involves every business activity that a standard fish farming company is expected to offer; that is why it seems that there are no niche areas in the industry. But on the other hand, a fish farming company may decide to major in some key or niche areas such as;

  • Raising and harvesting finfish (e.g. catfish, trout, tilapia and minnows)
  • Raising and harvesting shellfish (e.g. clams, oysters, crustaceans, mollusks and shrimp)
  • Raising and harvesting ornamental fish (e.g. goldfish and tropical fish)
  • Raising and harvesting aquaculture species to augment or replenish wild habitats
  • Raising and harvesting other aquaculture (e.g. seaweed, alligators, frogs and turtles)
The Level of Competition in the Industry

The level of competition in the fish and seafood farms industry depends largely on the location of the business and of course the capacity of your fish farm. If you can successfully add fish processing and packaging to your fish farming business, you are likely going to experience little or no competition.

For instance, if you are the only fish farm in your location that is into fish processing and packaging or that is into raising and harvesting shellfish (e.g. clams, oysters, crustaceans, mollusks and shrimp), you can successfully monopolize the market for a long time before you start having competitions.

It is important to also state that the competition in the fish and seafood farms industry depends on the scale of your fish farm. There are fish farms in the United States that are competing with global fish farms and there are fish farms in the United States that can only compete at local level.

4. Know Your Major Competitors in the Industry

These are some of the leading fish farms/brands in the United States of America and in the globe;

  • Ken’s Hatchery & Fish Farm, Inc.
  • Blue Ridge Aquaculture, Inc.
  • Wood’s Fisheries – Port St. Joe, Florida
  • Freshwater Farms of Ohio
  • Hudson Valley Fish Farm, Inc.
  • Larry’s Fish Farm
  • Fancy Tails Fish Farm
  • Keo Fish Farms Inc
  • Remlinger Fish Farm Ltd
  • Watersmeet Fish Trout Hatchery
  • Hampton Trout Farm
  • Riverbend Trout Farms
  • Hilltop Hatcheries
  • Prairie Springs Fish Farm
  • Southeast Pond Stocking LLC
  • Pleasant Valley Fish Farm
  • Scott Fish Farm
  • Murray’s Hatchery
  • Berne Hi-Way Hatchery Inc
  • Aqua Sierra Fisheries Consultants
  • National Fish Hatchery
  • Equity Group Hatchery
Economic Analysis

When starting a fish farming business, you just have to get your costing cum economic analysis right if your intention of building the business is to generate profit, grow the business and perhaps expand the business and start exporting processed and packaged fish within your country and other countries of the world.

When conducting costing and economic analysis for your fish farming business, you just have to critically examine these key factors; access to the market, access to cheap labor and of course good climatic condition. As a matter of fact, you would have to continue to review these key factors at regular intervals while running your fish farming business. As a fish farm owner, you just have to have a proper grasp of your competitive landscape if indeed you want to maximize profits and be in the front-line of the industry.

It is important to note that medication/treatment and feed cost is one of the most important factors contributing to the overall cost of a fish farming business and should be considered as a major factor when carrying out your costing and economic analysis.

5. Decide Whether to Buy a Franchise or Start from Scratch

When it comes to starting a business of this nature, it will pay you to start from the scratch as against buying a franchise. Besides, from available research conducted, there are no known fully operational fish farm in the United States of America that are into franchising; most players in this line of business are adopting strategies that will help them sell their fishes beyond the city, state or country where their fish farm is domiciled to other parts of the world as against selling franchise.

Besides, it is easier to start and run a fish farming business from scratch to profitability without leveraging on a known brand name. People will patronize your fish based on accessibility and pricing as against relying on a brand name.

Please note that most of the big and successful fish farms around started from the scratch and they were able to build a solid business brand.

6. Know the Possible Threats and Challenges You Will Face

If you decide to start your own fish farming business today, one of the major challenges you are likely going to face is the presence of well-established fish farms in your target market location. The only way to avoid this challenge is to create your own market; concentrate on households, individuals and also small restaurants and hotels that need supply for fresh fish from fish farms on a regular basis.

Other challenges include; global economic downturn that can impact negatively on household spending, bad weather cum natural disasters (draughts, epidemics), unfavorable government policies and the arrival of a competitor (fish and seafood farm) within same location. There is hardly anything you can do as regards this threats and challenges other than to be optimistic that things will continue to work for your good.

7. Choose the Most Suitable Legal Entity (LLC, C Corp, S Corp)

When considering starting a standard fish farming business, the legal entity you choose will go a long way to determine how big the business can grow.

You have the option of either choosing a general partnership, limited liability company which is commonly called an LLC, or a sole proprietorship for a business such as fish farming business. Ordinarily, sole proprietorship should have been the ideal business structure for a small scale fish farming business especially if you are just starting out with a moderate startup capital.

But people prefer limited liability Company for obvious reasons. As a matter of fact, if your intention is to grow the business and sell your fishes all across the United States of America, then choosing sole proprietor is not an option for you. Limited Liability Company, LLC or even general partnership will cut it for you.

Setting up an LLC protects you from personal liability. If anything goes wrong in the business, it is only the money that you invested into the limited liability company that will be at risk. It is not so for sole proprietorships and general partnerships. Limited liability companies are simpler and more flexible to operate and you don’t need a board of directors, shareholders meetings and other managerial formalities.

8. Choose a Catchy Business Name

When it comes to choosing a name for your business, you should be creative because whatever name you choose for your business will go a long way to create a perception of what the business represents. If you are considering starting your own fish farming business, here are some catchy names that you can choose from;

  • Jonah Jones Fish Farms Ltd
  • Fresh Waters Aquatic Farms, LLC
  • Cain Franco & Sons Seafood, Inc.
  • Vincent Freeman Fish Farms Ltd.
  • Raymond Harlem Fish Farms, LLC
  • Sea Side Fish Farms Ltd.
  • Agnes West Seafood, Inc.
  • PJ Peters Fish Farms, Inc.
  • Fresh World Seafood, Inc.
  • Lake Community Fish Farms, LLC.

9. Discuss with an Agent to Know the Best Insurance Policies for You

In the United States and in most countries of the world, you can’t operate a business without having some of the basic insurance policy covers that are required by the industry you want to operate from. Thus, it is imperative to create a budget for insurance and perhaps consult an insurance broker to guide you in choosing the best and most appropriate insurance policies for your fish farming business.

Here is some of the basic insurance covers that you should consider purchasing if you want to start your own fish farming business in the United States of America;

  • General insurance
  • Health insurance
  • Liability insurance
  • Animal Mortality Insurance
  • Farm Equipment and Auto Insurance
  • Commercial Agribusiness Insurance
  • Workers Compensation
  • Overhead expense disability insurance
  • Business owner’s policy group insurance
  • Payment protection insurance

10. Protect your Intellectual Property With Trademark, Copyrights, Patents

If you are considering starting your own fish farming business, usually you may not have any need to file for intellectual property protection/trademark. This is because the nature of the business makes it possible for you to successful run the business without having any cause to challenge anybody in court for illegally making use of your company’s intellectual properties.

But if you just want to protect your company’s logo and other documents or software that are unique to you or even production concepts, then you can go ahead to file for intellectual property protection.

11. Get the Necessary Professional Certification

You should work towards acquiring all the needed certifications in your area of specialization. You are strongly encouraged to pursue professional certifications; it will go a long way to show your commitment towards the business. These are some of the certifications you can work towards achieving if you want to run your own fish farm business;

  • ASC Certification
  • Membership of Society of Aquaculture Professionals (SAP)

Please note that the average local fish farmers in suburbs in the United States do not have certifications and that does not in any way stop them from growing their fish farms to enviable heights.

12. Get the Necessary Legal Documents You Need to Operate

The essence of having the necessary documentation in place before launching a business in the United States of America cannot be overemphasized. It is a fact that you cannot successfully run any business in the United States without the proper documentations. If you do, it won’t be long before the long arm of the law catches up with you.

These are some of the basic legal documents that you are expected to have in place if you want to legally run your own fish farming business in the United States of America;

  • Business and liability insurance
  • Commercial Vehicle Operator’s Registration for distribution truck
  • Appropriate driver’s licenses for drivers
  • Assistant’s licenses for assistants
  • Health inspection Certificate
  • Proof of ownership, proper identification and vehicle license
  • Tax Payer’s ID
  • Fire certificate
  • Certificate of Incorporation
  • Business License
  • Business Plan
  • Non – disclosure Agreement
  • Employment Agreement (offer letters)
  • Employee’s Handbook
  • Operating Agreement for LLCs
  • Farm Partnership Agreement
  • Operating Agreement for LLCs
  • Insurance Policy

13. Raise the Needed Startup Capital

Starting a standard and well-equipped fish farming business can be capital intensive especially if you choose to launch a large fish farm with the capacity to supply fishes beyond your immediate community. Securing a large farm land, building well-secured and conducive ponds, purchase of the first set of juvenile fishes, purchasing fish feed and fish farming tools/equipment, are part of what will consume a large chunk of your startup capital, but if you choose to start the business on a small scale, you may not have the need to go source for fund to finance the business.

Here are some of the options you can explore when sourcing for startup capital for your fish farming business;

  • Raising money from personal savings and sale of personal stocks and properties
  • Raising money from investors and business partners
  • Sell of shares to interested investors
  • Applying for loan from your bank/banks
  • Pitching your business idea and applying for business grants and seed funding from government, donor organizations and angel investors
  • Source for soft loans from your family members and your friends.

14. Choose a Suitable Location for your Business

Starting a business such as fish farming business comes with its own challenges; it is a business that cannot be started in any location of your choice. As a matter of fact, you will not be allowed to start a fish farm business in a residential estate in the United States of America, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. The only location you can be allowed to start a fish farm is a farm land designated for fish farms and it is usually around costal or swampy areas.

It cannot be overemphasized that the location you chose to construct your fish ponds is key to the success of the business, hence entrepreneurs are willing to rent or lease a facility in a visible location; a location where the demography consists of people with the required purchasing power, and a location that has minimal predators and right climatic condition for the types of fishes and seafood you intend raising.

These are some of the key factors that you should consider before choosing a location for your fish farming business;

  • The demography of the location
  • The demand for fish and other seafoods in the location
  • The purchasing power of the residents of the location
  • Accessibility of the location
  • The number of fish and seafood farms in the location
  • The local laws and regulations in the community/state
  • Traffic, parking and security et al

15. Hire Employees for your Technical and Manpower Needs

When it comes to starting a standard fish farming business, you will need to construct safe and standard ponds (indoor or outdoor), supply of water, fish harvesters, multi-functional fish pump and other fish/seafood farming tools. This equipment can be purchased as fairly used if you have low budget.

When it comes to choosing between renting and leasing a farm land for your fish farms, the size of the fish farm you want to own and your entire budget for the business should influence your choice. If you have enough capital to run a pretty large and well-equipped fish farm, then you should consider the option of long lease or out rightly purchasing a farm land.

As regards the number of employees that you are expected to kick start the business with, you would need to consider your finance before making the decision. Averagely, when it comes to starting a standard fish farming business on a large scale, you would need the services of the following professionals; Chief Operating Officer (you can occupy this position), General Farm Manager, Accountant/Cashier, Sales and Marketing Executive, Field Employees (Causal Worker), Cleaners and Security Guards.

Over and above, you would need a minimum of 5 to 10 key staff members to effectively run a medium scale but standard fish farming business. Please note that there will be times when you are expected to go out of your way to hire experts to help you handle some job function.

If you are just starting out, you may not have the financial capacity or required business structure to retain all the professionals that are expected to work with you which is why you should make plans to partner with fishery research centers and vet clinics around you.

The Service Delivery Process of the Business

When it comes to operational activities of a fish farming business, the process is simple and straight forward, and as a matter of fact, a fish farm can successfully run on auto-pilot with little or no supervision from the owner.

Basically, when the ponds and the required facility has been put in place and the juvenile fishes placed inside, then every morning and evening and perhaps afternoon, the fishes are fed and once in a specific period, the water in the pond is changed to give room for clean water.

Once the fishes are matured, they are harvested with the aid of fish harvesters and then sold to buyers or they are transported to farm markets or to hotels and restaurants et al as requested. It is important to state that a fish farm may decide to improvise or adopt any business process and structure that will guarantee them efficiency and flexibility; the above stated fish farming business process is not cast on stone. 

16. Write a Marketing Plan Packed with ideas & Strategies

As a fish farmer, you would have to prove that you have the capacity not only to manage a fish farm, but also to supply fishes in commercial quantities and on a consistent basis. So, if you have plans to start your own fish farming business, it will pay you to first build your capacity before supplying fishes to larger hotels or food processing and packaging companies who required regular supply of fishes.

The fact that the entry barrier for starting a small scale fish farming business is low means that there is bound to be more players in the industry no matter the location you choose to start yours. In essence, you must come up with innovations if you must carve out a market for yourself within the available market in your community, city, state or country.

So, when you are drafting your marketing plans and strategies for your fish farming business, make sure that you create a compelling personal and company profile. Aside from your qualifications and experience, it is important to clearly state in practical terms what you have been able to achieve in time past as it relates to the industry you intend starting your business. This will help boost your chances in the market place when marketing your fishes.

Here are some of the platforms you can utilize to market your fish farming business and its produce;

  • Introduce your business by sending introductory letters alongside your brochure to households, hotels, restaurants, food processing and manufacturing companies that make use of fishes and other seafood, groceries stores and related businesses in the United States (if you are just starting out, you may want to concentrate on startups and smaller businesses)
  • Promptness in bidding for fish supply contracts et al
  • Open your fish farm with a party so as to capture the attention of residents who are your first targets
  • Engage in roadshow in targeted communities from time to time to sell your fish
  • Advertise your fish farming business in community based newspapers, local TV and radio stations
  • List your business and fish farming business on yellow pages ads  (local directories)
  • Leverage on the internet to promote your fish farm
  • Engage in direct marketing and sales
  • Encourage the use of Word of mouth marketing (referrals)
  • Leverage on the internet to promote your business
  • Join local chambers of commerce and industry around you with the main aim of networking and marketing your products; you are likely going to get referrals from such networks.
  • Engage the services of marketing executives and business developers to carry out direct marketing for you.

17. Work Out a Reasonable Pricing for your Services & Products

One key factor that will help you sell your fishes and other seafood at rock bottom prices is to purchase your fingerlings, fish feeds, medications and other fish farming tools and equipment directly from the manufacturers in pretty large quantities. The truth is the higher the quantity of items that you purchase directly from the manufacturers, the cheaper you tend to get them.

Another strategy that will help you retail your fishes and other seafood at the right price is to ensure that you cut operational cost to the barest minimum, channel your efforts towards marketing and promoting your brand name. Aside from the fact that this strategy will help you save cost, it will also help you get the right pricing for your products.

18. Develop Strategies to Boost Brand Awareness and Create a Corporate Identity

If you are in business and you are not deliberate about boosting you brand awareness and communicating your corporate identity, then you should be ready to take on whatever the society portrays your business to be. One of the secrets of larger corporations is that they are willing to spend fortunes year in and year out to boost their brand awareness and to continue to communicate their corporate identity the way they want people to perceive them to be.

If your intention of starting a fish farming business is to grow the business beyond the city where you are going to be operating from to become a national and international brand by opening chains of fish farms and franchising, then you must be ready to spend money on promotion and advertisement of your brand.

Here are the platforms you can leverage on to boost your brand awareness and create corporate identity for your fish farming business;

  • Place adverts on both print (newspapers and health magazines) and electronic media platforms
  • Sponsor relevant community based events/programs
  • Leverage on the internet and social media platforms like; Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google + et al to promote your products
  • Install your Billboards on strategic locations all around your city or state
  • Engage in roadshow from time to time in targeted neighborhoods to create awareness of your fish farm.
  • Distribute your fliers and handbills in target areas
  • Contact households, hotels, restaurants, food processing and manufacturing companies that make use of fishes, groceries stores and related businesses in the United States informing them about your business and the products you retail
  • List your fish and seafood business in local directories/yellow pages
  • Advertise your fish farming business in your official website and employ strategies that will help you pull traffic to the site.
  • Position our Flexi Banners at strategic positions in the location where your fish and seafood farm is located.
  • Ensure that all your staff members wear your branded shirts and all your vehicles and trucks/vans are well branded with your company logo.