Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.
David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.
Published on May 18, 2022 Updated on November 15, 2023
$81,550 - $234,100
$168,000 - $252,000 p.a.
Time to build
6 – 12 months
$67,000 - $100,000 p.a.
Fish farming has emerged as a massive global industry in recent years, and it’s projected to expand 30% more by 2027. Interestingly, the US has a very small share of the market — only about $2 billion, and slower growth. This means opportunity!
By starting your own fish farming business, you could enter a market with huge potential and little domestic competition and make a great living while providing Americans with healthy food options.
But in addition to fish farming expertise, you’ll need to understand how to start and run a business. Luckily, this step-by-step guide is stocked with all the information you need to start a successful fish farming operation.
Looking to register your business? A limited liability company (LLC) is the best legal structure for new businesses because it is fast and simple.
Average level of education –The average fisheries technician has a bachelor’s degree.
Average age -The average fisheries technician in the US is 37.9 years old.
How much does it cost to start a fish farming business?
Startup costs for a fish farming business range from $80,000 to more than $200,000. Costs include the down payment on land, the excavation and construction of the ponds, and fish farming equipment.
You’ll need a handful of items to successfully launch your fish farming business, including:
Pumps, aerators, reclamation devices
Pond cleaning equipment
Fish processing equipment
Fish eggs or juvenile fish
Setting up a business name and corporation
$150 - $200
Business licenses and permits
$100 - $300
Business cards and brochures
$200 - $300
$1,000 - $3,000
Land down payment
$30,000 - $100,000
Excavation and construction of ponds
$30,000 - $100,000
$20,000 - $30,000
$81,550 - $234,100
How much can you earn from a fish farming business?
The prices you charge will vary based on the species of fish you farm. An average price might be about $7 per pound wholesale. After the cost of labor, maintenance, and fish food your profit margin should be about 40%.
In your first year or two, you could sell 2,000 pounds of fish per month, bringing in $168,000 in annual revenue. This would mean $67,000 in profit, assuming that 40% margin. As you grow your customer base, sales could climb to 3,000 pounds per month. With annual revenue of $252,000, you’d make a handsome profit of more than $100,000.
What barriers to entry are there?
There are a few barriers to entry for a fish farming business. Your biggest challenges will be:
The high startup costs of the land and ponds
Learning the processes of fish farming
Finding suitable land for your fish farm
Related Business Ideas
If you’re still not sure whether this business idea is the right choice for you, here are some related business opportunities to help you on your path to entrepreneurial success.
Now that you know what’s involved in starting a fish farming business, it’s a good idea to hone your concept in preparation to enter a competitive market.
Market research will give you the upper hand, even if you’re already positive that you have a perfect product or service. Conducting market research is important, because it can help you understand your customers better, who your competitors are, and your business landscape.
Why? Identify an opportunity
Research fish farms in your area to examine their products, price points, and customer reviews. You’re looking for a market gap to fill. For instance, maybe the local market is missing a commercial fish farm that produces trout or a fish hatchery that produces freshwater shellfish.
You might consider targeting a niche market by specializing in a certain aspect of your industry, such as tilapia or salmon.
This could jumpstart your word-of-mouth marketing and attract clients right away.
What? Determine your products or services
You’ll just need to determine which types of seafood you’ll farm. It may be somewhat dependent on climate, so you may want to do some research.
How much should you charge for fish?
The prices you charge will vary based on the species of fish you farm. An average price might be about $7 per pound wholesale. After the cost of labor, maintenance, and fish food you should aim for a profit margin of about 40%.
Once you know your costs, you can use this Step By Step profit margin calculator to determine your mark-up and final price points. Remember, the prices you use at launch should be subject to change if warranted by the market.
Who? Identify your target market
Your target market will be businesses such as commercial food producers, grocery stores, and restaurants. You can connect with business owners on LinkedIn or find them on Google and Yelp and call them directly.
Where? Choose your fish farm location
Choosing the right location for your fish farming business is essential for its success. Look for a spot with access to clean water and good water quality, such as a natural pond or a controlled environment. Consider the climate and weather conditions in the area, as well as the topography and natural vegetation.
Additionally, assess the local regulations and zoning laws to ensure compliance and obtain any necessary permits. Depending on the type of fish you plan to raise, you may also want to consider the proximity to markets, suppliers, and other resources.
By strategically choosing the right location, you can establish a profitable and sustainable fish farming business that produces high-quality fish and seafood products and stands out in the competitive aquaculture industry.
Step 3: Brainstorm a Fish Farm Name
Your business name is your business identity, so choose one that encapsulates your objectives, services, and mission in just a few words. You probably want a name that’s short and easy to remember, since much of your business, and your initial business in particular, will come from word-of-mouth referrals.
Here are some ideas for brainstorming your business name:
Short, unique, and catchy names tend to stand out
Names that are easy to say and spell tend to do better
Name should be relevant to your product or service offerings
Ask around — family, friends, colleagues, social media — for suggestions
Including keywords, such as “fish farm” or “fresh fish”, boosts SEO
Name should allow for expansion, for ex: “Fresh Catch Farms” over “Catfish Farms”
Avoid location-based names that might hinder future expansion
Once you’ve got a list of potential names, visit the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office to make sure they are available for registration and check the availability of related domain names using our Domain Name Search tool. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these.
Finally, make your choice among the names that pass this screening and go ahead with domain registration and social media account creation. Your business name is one of the key differentiators that sets your business apart. Once you pick your company name, and start with the branding, it is hard to change the business name. Therefore, it’s important to carefully consider your choice before you start a business entity.
Step 4: Create a Fish Farm Business Plan
Every business needs a plan. This will function as a guidebook to take your startup through the launch process and maintain focus on your key goals. A business plan also enables potential partners and investors to better understand your company and its vision:
Executive Summary: A brief overview outlining the essential details of the fish farming business, including its goals, mission, and key highlights.
Business Overview: Detailed information about the fish farming venture, covering its mission, vision, legal structure, location, and the overarching purpose of the business.
Product and Services: Clear description of the specific fish species to be cultivated, associated products (such as processed fish), and any additional services offered.
Market Analysis: Examination of the target market, demand for fish products, industry trends, and potential challenges, providing insights into the business’s market positioning.
Competitive Analysis: Assessment of competitors in the fish farming industry, including their strengths and weaknesses, to identify opportunities and potential areas for differentiation.
Sales and Marketing: Strategies for promoting and selling fish products, encompassing pricing, distribution channels, and marketing tactics to reach the target audience.
Management Team: Introduction of the key individuals responsible for running the fish farming business, highlighting their roles, expertise, and contributions to the venture.
Operations Plan: A comprehensive outline of day-to-day activities, including fish cultivation processes, equipment, suppliers, and logistics to ensure smooth operational flow.
Financial Plan: Detailed projections of the financial aspects, encompassing startup costs, revenue forecasts, expenses, and potential profits, providing a comprehensive view of the business’s financial health.
Appendix: Supplementary materials, such as permits, legal documents, and additional information supporting the fish farming business plan.
If you’ve never created a business plan, it can be an intimidating task. You might consider hiring a business plan specialist to create a top-notch business plan for you.
Step 5: Register Your Business
Registering your business is an absolutely crucial step — it’s the prerequisite to paying taxes, raising capital, opening a bank account, and other guideposts on the road to getting a business up and running.
Plus, registration is exciting because it makes the entire process official. Once it’s complete, you’ll have your own business!
Choose where to register your company
Your business location is important because it can affect taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. Most people will register their business in the state where they live, but if you’re planning to expand, you might consider looking elsewhere, as some states could offer real advantages when it comes to fish farms.
If you’re willing to move, you could really maximize your business! Keep in mind, it’s relatively easy to transfer your business to another state.
Choose your business structure
Business entities come in several varieties, each with its pros and cons. The legal structure you choose for your fish farming business will shape your taxes, personal liability, and business registration requirements, so choose wisely.
Here are the main options:
Sole Proprietorship – The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner. All income goes to the owner, who’s also liable for any debts, losses, or liabilities incurred by the business. The owner pays taxes on business income on his or her personal tax return.
General Partnership – Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses. The partners pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
Limited Liability Company (LLC)– Combines the characteristics of corporations with those of sole proprietorships or partnerships. Again, the owners are not personally liable for debts.
C Corp – Under this structure, the business is a distinct legal entity and the owner or owners are not personally liable for its debts. Owners take profits through shareholder dividends, rather than directly. The corporation pays taxes, and owners pay taxes on their dividends, which is sometimes referred to as double taxation.
S Corp – An S-Corporation refers to the tax classification of the business but is not a business entity. An S-Corp can be either a corporation or an LLC, which just need to elect to be an S-Corp for tax status. In an S-Corp, income is passed through directly to shareholders, who pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
We recommend that new business owners choose LLC as it offers liability protection and pass-through taxation while being simpler to form than a corporation. You can form an LLC in as little as five minutes using an online LLC formation service. They will check that your business name is available before filing, submit your articles of organization, and answer any questions you might have.
The final step before you’re able to pay taxes is getting an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. You can file for your EIN online or by mail or fax: visit the IRS website to learn more. Keep in mind, if you’ve chosen to be a sole proprietorship you can simply use your social security number as your EIN.
Once you have your EIN, you’ll need to choose your tax year. Financially speaking, your business will operate in a calendar year (January–December) or a fiscal year, a 12-month period that can start in any month. This will determine your tax cycle, while your business structure will determine which taxes you’ll pay.
It is important to consult an accountant or other professional to help you with your taxes to ensure you’re completing them correctly.
Step 7: Fund your Business
Securing financing is your next step and there are plenty of ways to raise capital:
Bank loans: This is the most common method but getting approved requires a rock-solid business plan and strong credit history.
SBA-guaranteed loans: The Small Business Administration can act as guarantor, helping gain that elusive bank approval via an SBA-guaranteed loan.
Government grants: A handful of financial assistance programs help fund entrepreneurs. Visit Grants.gov to learn which might work for you.
Friends and Family: Reach out to friends and family to provide a business loan or investment in your concept. It’s a good idea to have legal advice when doing so because SEC regulations apply.
Crowdfunding: Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an increasingly popular low-risk option, in which donors fund your vision. Entrepreneurial crowdfunding sites like Fundable and WeFunder enable multiple investors to fund your business.
Personal: Self-fund your business via your savings or the sale of property or other assets.
Bank and SBA loans are probably the best option, other than friends and family, for funding a fish farming business. You might also try crowdfunding if you have an innovative concept.
Your land will need to be permitted as a fish farm. You also may need an agricultural license from your state and a health license from the local health department. Check with your state and local governments for requirements. You may also be subject to EPA regulations related to the protection of your water source, and you may need permission to redirect water from the water source.
Federal regulations, licenses, and permits associated with starting your business include doing business as (DBA), health licenses and permits from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific licenses and permits.
You may also need state-level and local county or city-based licenses and permits. The license requirements and how to obtain them vary, so check the websites of your state, city, and county governments or contact the appropriate person to learn more.
Keeping your business finances separate from your personal account makes it easy to file taxes and track your company’s income, so it’s worth doing even if you’re running your fish farming business as a sole proprietorship. Opening a business bank account is quite simple, and similar to opening a personal one. Most major banks offer accounts tailored for businesses — just inquire at your preferred bank to learn about their rates and features.
Banks vary in terms of offerings, so it’s a good idea to examine your options and select the best plan for you. Once you choose your bank, bring in your EIN (or Social Security Number if you decide on a sole proprietorship), articles of incorporation, and other legal documents and open your new account.
Step 10: Get Business Insurance
Business insurance is an area that often gets overlooked yet it can be vital to your success as an entrepreneur. Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your business.
Here are some types of insurance to consider:
General liability: The most comprehensive type of insurance, acting as a catch-all for many business elements that require coverage. If you get just one kind of insurance, this is it. It even protects against bodily injury and property damage.
Business Property: Provides coverage for your equipment and supplies.
Equipment Breakdown Insurance: Covers the cost of replacing or repairing equipment that has broken due to mechanical issues.
Worker’s compensation: Provides compensation to employees injured on the job.
Property: Covers your physical space, whether it is a cart, storefront, or office.
Commercial auto: Protection for your company-owned vehicle.
Professional liability: Protects against claims from a client who says they suffered a loss due to an error or omission in your work.
Business owner’s policy (BOP): This is an insurance plan that acts as an all-in-one insurance policy, a combination of the above insurance types.
As opening day nears, prepare for launch by reviewing and improving some key elements of your business.
Essential software and tools
Being an entrepreneur often means wearing many hats, from marketing to sales to accounting, which can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many websites and digital tools are available to help simplify many business tasks.
You may want to use industry-specific software, such as Chetu, folio3, or aquaTracker, to manage your feeding, harvesting, and inventory.
If you’re unfamiliar with basic accounting, you may want to hire a professional, especially as you begin. The consequences for filing incorrect tax documents can be harsh, so accuracy is crucial.
Develop your website
Website development is crucial because your site is your online presence and needs to convince prospective clients of your expertise and professionalism.
You can create your own website using website builders. This route is very affordable, but figuring out how to build a website can be time-consuming. If you lack tech-savvy, you can hire a web designer or developer to create a custom website for your business.
They are unlikely to find your website, however, unless you follow Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices. These are steps that help pages rank higher in the results of top search engines like Google.
For your fish farming business, the marketing strategy should focus on showcasing the quality and sustainability of your fish, your commitment to environmentally friendly practices, and the health benefits of your products. Emphasize your farm’s ability to provide fresh, locally sourced fish, and highlight any unique species or cultivation methods you use.
Professional Branding: Your branding should convey freshness, sustainability, and quality. This includes your logo, packaging, and any promotional materials, as well as your online presence.
Direct Outreach: Network with local grocery stores, seafood markets, restaurants, and hotels to introduce your products. Attending food expos and trade shows can also be beneficial.
Digital Presence and Online Marketing
Professional Website and SEO: Develop a website that showcases your fish farming processes, the types of fish you offer, and the sustainability of your practices. Use SEO best practices to optimize your site for search terms related to sustainable fish farming, aquaculture, and fresh seafood.
Social Media Engagement: Utilize platforms like Instagram and Facebook to share images and videos of your farming operations, post about the health benefits of your fish, and engage with your audience.
Content Marketing and Engagement
Aquaculture Blog: Share informative articles about sustainable fish farming, the nutritional benefits of your fish, and recipes. This content can help position your business as a knowledgeable and responsible leader in the industry.
Email Newsletters: Regular newsletters can keep your customers informed about harvest schedules, new product offerings, and company news.
Experiential and In-Person Engagements
Farm Visits and Tours: Offer tours of your fish farm to interested customers, schools, and community groups to provide an educational experience and showcase your sustainable practices.
Participation in Local Food Fairs: Showcase your products at local food fairs, farmers’ markets, and community events to reach a broader audience.
Collaborations and Community
Partnerships with Local Chefs and Restaurants: Partner with local chefs and restaurants that prioritize fresh, local ingredients. Offer them a reliable source of high-quality fish for their menus.
Community Outreach and Education: Engage in community outreach programs, offering educational sessions about sustainable aquaculture and healthy eating.
Customer Relationship and Loyalty Programs
Loyalty Rewards for Regular Buyers: Implement a loyalty program for businesses that regularly purchase your fish, offering them discounts or other incentives.
Referral Incentives: Encourage word-of-mouth marketing by providing incentives for customers who refer new clients to your business.
Promotions and Advertising
Targeted Local Advertising: Use local media outlets, industry publications, and online platforms to advertise your fish products to a local audience.
Sustainability Certifications: If applicable, obtain sustainability certifications for your fish farm and promote these certifications in your marketing materials to appeal to environmentally conscious consumers.
Focus on USPs
Unique selling propositions, or USPs, are the characteristics of a product or service that set it apart from the competition. Customers today are inundated with buying options, so you’ll have a real advantage if they are able to quickly grasp how your fish farming business meets their needs or wishes. It’s wise to do all you can to ensure your USPs stand out on your website and in your marketing and promotional materials, stimulating buyer desire.
Global pizza chain Domino’s is renowned for its USP: “Hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.” Signature USPs for your fish farming business could be:
Great tasting, locally raised fresh tilapia
Farm to table trout — as fresh as it gets!
Freshest salmon in the South!
You may not like to network or use personal connections for business gain. But your personal and professional networks likely offer considerable untapped business potential. Maybe that Facebook friend you met in college is now running a fish farming business, or a LinkedIn contact of yours is connected to dozens of potential clients. Maybe your cousin or neighbor has been working in fish farming for years and can offer invaluable insight and industry connections.
The possibilities are endless, so it’s a good idea to review your personal and professional networks and reach out to those with possible links to or interest in fish farms. You’ll probably generate new customers or find companies with which you could establish a partnership.
Step 12: Build Your Team
If you’re starting out small from a home office, you may not need any employees. But as your business grows, you will likely need workers to fill various roles. Potential positions for a fish farming business include:
Fish Farm Workers – care for ponds, feed fish, process fish
General Manager – scheduling, accounting
Marketing Lead – SEO strategies, social media, direct sales
At some point, you may need to hire all of these positions or simply a few, depending on the size and needs of your business. You might also hire multiple workers for a single role or a single worker for multiple roles, again depending on need.
Free-of-charge methods to recruit employees include posting ads on popular platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Jobs.com. You might also consider a premium recruitment option, such as advertising on Indeed, Glassdoor, or ZipRecruiter. Further, if you have the resources, you could consider hiring a recruitment agency to help you find talent.
Step 13: Run a Fish Farming Business – Start Making Money!
Fish farming is an untapped market in the United States, and therefore a great opportunity for an ambitious entrepreneur. The US has only a tiny fraction of the global market, so if you are willing to make a smart investment, learn fish farming and work hard, your operation has the potential to dominate the US fish farming!
Your business homework is out of the way now, so it’s time to start swimming toward success by laughing your fish farming business.
Fish Farming Business FAQs
How profitable is fish farming?
Fish farming can be very profitable since fish is growing in demand. You just need to learn fish farming best practices and find suitable land for your fish farm, and you can be successful.
Tilapia is one of the easiest fish to farm. It can tolerate various water conditions and is resistant to many bacteria and parasites.
What fish sells the most in the US?
Salmon and tuna are the most consumed fish in the U.S. Tilapia also sells well because it’s inexpensive.
What is the most popular fish to farm?
Catfish are the most popular farm fish. They usually provide the best return on investment. Tilapia, trout, and yellow perch are also popular.
Which land is best for fish farming?
Farm fishing, also known as aquaculture, is best suited for land with access to a reliable water source, such as a river, lake, or ocean. Coastal areas with calm, sheltered bays or estuaries can provide ideal conditions for shellfish and finfish farming, while inland areas with ponds or tanks can be suitable for raising various fish species.
What are the 3 types of fish farming?
Shellfish farming: This type of farm fishing involves cultivating and harvesting shellfish, such as oysters, clams, mussels, and scallops, in coastal areas.
Finfish farming: This type of farm fishing involves raising and harvesting fish, such as salmon, trout, tilapia, and catfish, in tanks or ponds.
Crustacean farming: This type of farm fishing involves raising and harvesting crustaceans, such as shrimp, crab, and lobster, in ponds or tanks.
How to Start a Fish Farming Business
Decide if the Business Is Right for You
Hone Your Idea
Brainstorm a Fish Farm Name
Create a Fish Farm Business Plan
Register Your Business
Register for Taxes
Fund your Business
Apply for Fish Farming Business Licenses and Permits
Open a Business Bank Account
Get Business Insurance
Prepare to Launch
Build Your Team
Run a Fish Farming Business - Start Making Money!
Fish Farming Business FAQs
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