Finalize Your Business Plan

Congratulations! At this point you’ve done your research into markets, species, and gear and found a location with good growing conditions that nobody else is using. It’s time to put all this information together into a business plan to understand the costs and profit potential of your aquaculture business.



Business Planning

Yes, and many are free or inexpensive. Organizations like the Maine Aquaculture Association, Coastal Enterprises Incorporated, the Small Business Administration, and SCORE have experience helping aquaculture companies develop business plans. Another great option are general business training programs such as Top Gun run by the Maine Center for Entrepreneurs.

Some of the key elements are the lease size, species, gear type, costs (e.g., permits, seed, gear, labor, vessels, gas, insurance), time to first revenue (lease processing time + site build-out time + growing time), reasonable estimate of sales price, and where to sell.

A business model is a high-level approach to profitability based on factors such as your scale, revenue sources, customer base, and product story. For example, a small boutique farm has a different business model than a large volume grower. There is no one right business model. The important thing is to generate sufficient profit to support your business goals.

The most common mistake is not taking business planning seriously! Growing your crops is not enough — you also need to consider whether profits will exceed costs and who you will sell to. The timing of production cycles and customer demand plays an important role here. Another common mistake is overestimating production (underestimating mortality) and having unrealistic expectations about the selling price, which can put you “in the red” financially. This rookie mistake is so common that veterans have coined it “oyster math”. Be conservative in your expected production yields and sale price.

Sales outlets for Maine’s aquaculture products have traditionally been direct-to-consumer/restaurant, distributor, and/or wholesaler though progress has been made in recent years selling into retail such as high-end grocery stores. In general, it’s good to have a diversified sales strategy that includes out of state markets and multiple buyers. This strategy helps insulate you from local product surpluses, which can make it hard to find a buyer offering a good price and avoids putting all your eggs in one basket so to speak. Remember that you need certain specialized licenses to deliver your product and sell out of state. Contact Maine DMR Bureau of Public Health to understand and anticipate the permitting rules and costs.

Business Planning Resources