Commercial Aquaponics Training – Johannesburg (12 days)

Running a successful aquaponics business is much more than the reading a text book or listening to a lecture – at the end of the day it is about making a profit. This is our most comprehensive and hands on training course yet and designed for farmers that want to go commercial! By the end of the first of two weeks, you will be required to fully operate and run one of the aquaponic systems at Ichthys Farm. The focus on the second week will be to develop the skills required to successfully operate and run a system using operational best practices developed over 14 years at Ichthys Farm. It includes the principles of good system design that are critical for a successful operation. It’s all about minimising run cost and maximising yields.

You will in addition learn how to manage a system as an independent business owner; managing budgets, financial statements and tunnel performance metrics to name a few. It aims to simulate the business and operational environment the candidate will experience when he start up his own facility. The course is strictly limited to only 5 candidates for the full duration of the course and on most days will start at 6am in the morning.

Course is ideal for both owners and supervisors.

Location is at Ichthys Farm, Midrand. There is limited accommodation available at the farm and in the area. Please let us know if you require assistance with a booking.
  • Interest in aquaponics
  • Pen and paper
  • Laptop
  • Water bottle
  • Comfortable shoes as we walk around on the farm
  • 2nd and 3rd day – do bring work / old clothes, and or overalls as it is practical work and you get really dusty and dirty doing the grinding, drilling etc.
  • 4th to 12th day – Do bring work / old clothes, and or overalls as well as gumboots for the farm work.

High level schedule for the 12 days as follows:

Day 1 

  • Welcome tea / registration
  • Core Theory of Aquaponics
  • Farm Tour
  • Design principles, pH, temp and system design
  • Starting up of a new system, pest control

Day 2

  • Recap of first day
  • Alternate commercial designs – Murray Hallam / James Rocosky / Ichthys
  • System build – Aquaculture (tanks, SLO, filtration)
  • System build – Hydroponic components (making of bell siphons, gravel beds, airotube bars, DWC sheets)
  • Farm tour and fish harvesting

Day 3

  • Introduction and Review Agenda for next 10 days
  • Review the Ichthys “Daily Tunnel Management Calendar”
  • Understanding the “Weekly and Monthly Tunnel Management Routines & Activities”
  • Review “Control Documents” implemented to operate the tunnel
  • Understand  and practice the “Morning Screening Inspection”
  • Understand the “Monday” Daily Operating Activities  as stipulated by the calendar
    • Perform the Standard Daily Activities in first half of every day (i.e. by 11am): Std Aquaculture and Hydroponics Activities
    • Aquaculture Maintenance Activities
    • “5S and Cleaning” Daily Activities
  • Understand the tunnel Core Equipments and Spares List
  • Reactive measures: Understand “reactive measures” i.e. response to emergency issues in aquaculture and hydroponics
  • Introduction to the  the weekly “Water Quality testing”
  • Introduction to the “Spray Plan” for Tunnel (will be covered in depth in Day 7)
  • Introduction to the “Tunnel Harvesting Plan” (will be covered in depth in Day 7)

System Design

  • Tank Aeration Designs
  • Parallel Air Pump System
  • Water Pump Manifold System

Day 4

  • Perform the Tuesday activities according to the “Weekly and Monthly Tunnel Management Routines & Activities”
  • Plant Focus training
    • Bell Siphon problem solving training
    • Gravel Bed Maintenance Requirement
    • DWC Bed Maintenance Requirement
    • Float Raft Hygiene
  • Plant Health management part 2
    • Understand the 6-Step approach to healthy plants, and how to action on it
    • Preventative Analysis: Water Quality Analysis and the “Quality Lab”
    • Reactive Analysis: Leaf Analysis to “Identify Plant Nutrient Deficiencies”
    • Use of “Foliar nutrient treatments for problem solving and preventive management
  • Understand  the weekly “Water Quality testing” and how to interpret water quality results
  • Understand how to manage the “Dosing System” and related “Nutrient Dosage Store”

System Design

  • Dosage Systems
  • Media Bed Designs
  • DWC Bed Designs

Day 5


  • How to process the fish waste through mineralisation, augment with mineralised solution, and importance of mineralisation
  • Understand microorganisms and bacteria in Aquaponics, how to introduce, and best environment
  • Plant Health management part 1
    • Techniques of managing and measuring plant health
      • Measure the Plant Health measurements: Sap PH & EC, BRIX
      • Evaluate effectiveness of foliar feeds on increasing plant BRIX
    • Preventative Strategies used to manage plant health
      • Environment control
      • Trellising and Pruning
      • Companion planting
      • Natural predators
    • How to apply “Foliar nutrient treatments” to adjust plant actual nutrient content and/or PH
  • Balance the water flow in the system
  • Calculate how the water flow plan was developed using the required system rules
  • Assess the aeration plan in the system
  • Calculate how the aeration plan was developed using the required system rules

System Design

  • Mineralisation Systems (Anaerobic and Aerobic)
  • Environmental control systems and related tunnel designs

Day 6


  • How to develop your system fish stock management plan
  • Calculate fish cages sizes according to rotation plan
  • Hormone treatment of fish
  • Counting and Sizing fish in your system
  • Preparing your fish for Harvest: Purging
  • How to harvest fish and management its cold chain
  • How to collect and transport fish
  • How to minimize stress to the fish when introducing the fingerlings into your system
  • How to manage the fish quarantine area i.e. water changes
  • How to treat unhealthy fish in your Aquaponic system and quarantine area
  • Understand the most common issues experienced with fish
  • Fish Permits and fish fingerling suppliers

System Design

  • Aquaculture Quarantine
  • Aquaculture Design
  • Building and specifying your cages system according to your fish stock management plan
  • Specify and built the fish quarantine area

Day 7


  • Perform the Friday activities according to the “Weekly and Monthly Tunnel Management Routines & Activities”
  • Clean Swirl filters according to best practice
  • Tunnel Mini-Projects:
    • When is something classified as a mini-project
    • Understand how to maintain system optimally through “mini-projects”


  • Plant Health management part 3
    • Learn different types of pesticide, fungicide and foliar sprays
    • Understand the life cycles of common pest and fungi
    • Understand the Standard and Reactive Spray Plans, and best times for spraying
    • Scouting, night time inspections, and pest cards and “focussed spraying”
    • Understand correct spraying procedure and spraying effectiveness
    • Training on responsible use of crop protection products: how to store and dispense chemicals and dispensing, and health and safety measures


  • Develop/Review the Tunnel harvesting Plan
  • Understand how to manage for continuous harvesting
  • Understand how to prepare for the harvest
  • How to manage harvest product quality and QAS documents
  • Understand the harvesting transaction process
  • Understand “Corrective Action” Report Feedback
  • Lastly, conduct and communicate Post Harvesting preparation and audits.

System Design

  • Chemical Storage and Handling
  • Swirl Filter design for Gravity flow
  • Sump design

Day 8


  • Operate the system as per standard routine
  • Perform a Plant preventive analysis and Water quality analysis


  • Partake in Harvesting, harvesting quality management
  • Conduct a post harvesting profitability analysis

Practical –Monthly and Quarterly Routines and Controls


  • Understand System maintenance plan
  • Review and perform monthly and quarterly activities

Practical – Growing your own seedlings


  • Managing the inventory and seeds
  • Understand variables of planting your own seedlings
  • Basic Planting and germination recipe for seedling: Chives, Garlic Chives, Red & Green Spring Onion, Lettuce, Cucumber, Tomatoes, Mint, Basil
  • Understand how to make cuttings: Basil & Mint
  • Understand how to manage your seedlings lifecycle
    • Watering cycles & proper misting
    • Foliar Feeding Cycles
    • Pest Spray life Cycles
    • Stage 1 and Stage 2 Seedling bays
  • Understand how to transplant and prepare seedling for transplant
  • Weekly Reporting and Performance criteria for Seedling Bay
  • Understand and manage the “Planting Plan” and how its created
  • Connecting Planting Plan to “Tunnel Plant out Plan”
  • How a “Good Quality Seedling” for tunnels look like

Day 9

Practical – Primary Vegetable Processing


  • Managing the Cold Chain
  • Packaging Materials and labeling
  • How to package living lettuce bags and mixed lettuce bags
  • Primary consumer packaging of vegetables

Q&A and Next Steps


  • Review relevant legislation, Global GAP and certification requirements
  • Define the next steps to your own system
  • Review the Ichthys Supply Chain Model
  • Review Ichthys Support Model
  • Understand alternative sources of funding
  • Understand alternative Aquaponics and Farming resources

The last 3 days overlays the requirements to run the Aquaponics system as a “mini-business unit”. It will also involve some visits to other processing systems or farms to broaden your perspective. Although the primary focus continuous learning the skills on how to operate the Aquaponics system, understanding the impact of design on successful operations.

Day 10: Aquaponics Financial Management


  • Operate the system as per standard routine until 11am

Business Management – Business Financial Plan


  • Evaluate CAPEX models for starting your own system
  • Understanding your market, marketing strategy and sales strategy
  • Conduct a Aquaculture and Hydroponics Financial Planning
  • Configure and built a monthly and quarterly budget
  • Configure a Profit and Loss statement  for a 24 month period
  • Configure a Balance Sheet for the system
  • Conduct a Capital Budgeting evaluation for project
  • Evaluate strategies to improve commercial viability

Site Visits – Visit another Aquaponics Farm

Day 11: 

Practical – Operating the Aquaponics Tunnel  Cont (optional)


  • Operate the system as per standard routine until 11am

Operations Management – The Farm Business Structures and Performance Model


  • Review the Aquaponics value chain and business architecture using the BCF as a model
  • Evaluate  the business structures using BCF as a example
  • Develop an Organogram and associated Capacity Model
  • Understand the planning targets and outputs of the Aquaponic System
  • Cascade high level targets to KPI’s
  • Evaluate the performance Metrics for your aquaponics business
  • Understand the risk, risk prevention measures, and reactive measure

Site Visits – Visit our Agri Processing Facility

Day 12: 



  • Unpacking the budget and planning suppliers
  • Determining Inventory requirements and stores: Consumables, Equipment, Materials
  • Review a “supply store” for the system
  • Evaluate an Ordering plan, based on lead-time and risk model.



  • Developing QAS documentation for product quality
  • Develop a Master planting plan based in individual client demands

Site Visits – Visit another Aquaponics farm


Aug 22 2019 - Sep 04 2019


9:00 am - 5:00 pm


Aquaponics Courses
Gauteng - Ichthys Farm


Gauteng - Ichthys Farm
48 Kruger Road, President Park, Midrand
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