Introduction - James Carter (sorry its a long one!)

Hello everyone!
My name is James, and I am really excited to have found this group and Aquaponics! My journey started just over a year ago when I was looking for a growing solution for our new farm. We live in the Algarve, in southern Portugal and took the leap into a different way of life, buying our homestead of 32 acres after growing tired of working in the real estate and restaurant sectors for 20 years.
At first, we thought we would build a retreat centre but soon realised we didnt want to be so involved in hospitality anymore, rather, ‘hospitable’ but not hospitality!!
I started looking for different things to grow as I have no experience in farming and I thought some tower farm system with hydroponics sounded quite funky! After watching a few videos on Youtube, there was a link on the right to an Aquaponics farm in the States which I watched, and from that moment I was amazed by the idea of AquaP! So, research continued and I bought a few books on amazon which then led me to Murray Hallam in Australia, and his online course ‘Aquaponics Design Course’ which I quickly signed up for last march.
Being completely new to the topic and farming in general, he really inspired me with the concept and possibilities whilst remaining simple and not reliant on masses of technology, letting nature do her thing! So, I submitted my design for a small commercial / large home system and Murray gave me a great grade and feedback, and I set about building my first mini system as a pilot project for learning and developing my future!
At the beginning of september I had completed my baby system, consisting of 1 x 1000l fish tank, 1 2x1m media bed, 1 3x1m raft bed, 1 1x1m wicking bed, settlement tank and mineralisation tank.
So far until now, I have been realising all the different elements of the system, and especially learning how to overcome pests such as caterpillars and snails, as well as germinating seeds etc.
I found the initial phase quite challenging whilst cycling my system, as there are little to no others in my area I could find with systems or knowledge to help, and access to products and materials Murray used in Australia were very different or unavailable here, but so far I am really happy with progress and have a lot of data and ideas for improvement in my future systems.

So, filled with enthusiasm and a new passion for aquaponics, I have bored my friends and family senseless and am currently going ahead with market research in my area to build a larger commercial system. I have purchased a greenhouse of 1,200m2 although I think I will develop this in 2 or 3 stages as I establish myself and to keep the systems modular depending on the demand.
I would love to hear anyone elses experiences with a startup and here is a small list of what i feel are my challenges and opportunities ahead…

  • Portugal does not really understand aquaponics and has very tight aquaculture laws on species etc so it is challenging to get information and assistance from the government or official bodies. I am urrently using Koi carp but would really like an edible option in the future.

  • The population is small, just 10m people, with only 400k across the southern coastline which stretches about 100km. This makes volume of sale to open minded clients more limited.

  • Portugal and the Algarve is a very touristic destination so there is a large transient population during peak and low seasons, so reliable sales is tough to secure. Throughout Covid, the previous booming tourism sector has been hit hard, so a lot of potential customers in restaurants and hotels are not as available as before. The national market is available but in the south they are generally quite low income households.

  • There is not an established network of aquaponics practitioners to help with advise, marketing, awareness, and even materials supply, so things can be costly and time consuming as I will have to introduce the concept to a lot of ‘virgins’

  • The current price of construction materials and fuel has tripled in most cases, so with a limited budget, I will now need external assistance to get things moving.


  • The limited knowledge and experience in the region gives me the chance to shape the product to what I want and educate a new wave of Aquaponics lovers. I am excited by this challenge and want to help others gain the knowledge to have their own system too.

  • The lack of population may cap the overall scale of the system, but I believe with the principal of aquaponics being local and low impact on resources, it also allows for every town or area to have a farm or farms to serve that community without the need for huge infrastructures and carbon footprints.

  • We have on average 300 days of sunshine per year and a very mild temperate climate, so conditions for growing are very good, and the availability of solar power makes it a really viable solution to operate the system at zero emissions and cost after initial investment.

  • The population, although with a reasonable agriculture background, seems very open to the organic, sustainable and renewable methods of production and they are prepared to pay a premium for quality.

  • I would like to take the opportunity of this pandemic to use aquaponics as an educational tool in schools so they can realise where good quality food comes from which will benefit their immune system as well as provide an income and food security for themselves in the future. They could use a small system to supplement their school lunches, or sell to their parents giving them their own farmers market and a lesson in commerce!

We are in our winter now, so although mild, I am taking the opportunity to research and plan the greenhouse build and phase one of the system. Initially, products will be lettuce based in rafts with media beds supporting other products, such as beans, tomatoes, eggplant, and others. I am thinking the first system will be something like 6 rafts of 20m x 1m and about 24 2x1m media beds. This will give me growing area around 168m2 with approx. 3,360 raft growing spaces. This would occupy one of my tunnel lengths (30x10m) once considering walkways, fish tanks and filters etc. and I have capacity of 4 x this amount or more with a larger module design.
My goals are not to rock the stock market, but I would like the system to pay back in 2 - 3 years if possible, and give me a satisfying income to enjoy and use as an education to others as well. We also started a health food brand locally this year and my wife is a nutrition consultant so our aim is to build a workshop kitchen and some accommodation so people can visit for courses and a break from town as well, so the financial drivers for aquaponics are there, but not perhaps the same as others may view.
Our company is ‘Roots - Living Wellness’ so that is what we do, go back to our roots, and live a life full of wellness.

Thank you for those who managed to make it to the end of this long intro and I hope to learn a lot from you all and contribute wherever and whenever I can.

All the very best to all in the year ahead.

James Carter
[email protected]
insta: @roots_livingwellness


Thanks for sharing your thoughts! We will keep in touch :slight_smile:

Hi James, pleased to E meet you. My wife and I have also just started on our Aquaponics journey, being just over a year and a half now, after being involved in the Film Industry for 34 years. We’re farming in the Western Cape in South Africa and also close to a holiday town so the population fluctuates. The farm is a commercial one and has just started to pay the 2 workers wages after all this time.
The reason I’m so interested in your story is that we both want to emigrate to Portugal in the next 3 or 4 years and will continue to farm aquaponically. We’re looking to be just outside Porto approx 30 to 40 mins or so.
We started off with Mozambican Tilapia but they would die off during winter from the cold and then we tried with Rainbow Trout but they died off from the heat in Summer, now we are using Catfish and find them to be just about bombproof.
They’re an okay edible fish but lend themselves more to smoked pate’s etc. Let me know what the Portuguese authorities will allow you to use as fish. I’ve heard that the Israeli’s are using mullet with some success but I haven’t researched that yet as I think mullet will be very good for the market.
All The Best
Andre Weavind
Pond in Thyme.


Thank you, James for sharing your thoughts with us and welcome to this group.

Congratulations to you for that bold move you have made in the world of aquaponics and the strides that you have made so far. I would like to wish you, even greater success with your project.

Starting with a baby system, in my view, is an excellent strategy. I think the quality of your produce from the baby system may be all that is needed to bring others on board. In addition, the lessons you are learning and the data you are collecting from the system are invaluable, as they will serve you well as you undertake the building your commercial system.

I love the idea of building a workshop kitchen… and you can also consider the use of wind power to compliment solar power for the system.

I am looking forward to see how your project unfolds!


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Hi Andre,

Great to Emeet you as well and I would like to apologise for the delay in getting back to you as we have been a little crazy, and been hit with the flu (not the ‘vid’!), end of year tax and inventories etc etc etc.

Sounds great that you have got yourself established and I imagine I am going through many things like you did, leaving industry for farm / sustainable life!? I would love to hear more about your system and specs and how you have built it up!?

I moved to portugal in 1998 and it has been the best decision of my life. It is probably the best place in the world in my opinion for overall life. I say this not just as a biased resident but also through travels and meeting many people who have lived elsewhere, hearing their opinions. We have an amazing climate, down here in the Algarve we have higher extremes than the north but the whole country has an amazing and comfortable balance without too much cold or heat. There are no extreme political groups and there is a quit placid population who are happier to be happy than radical. There are no dangerous predators in the countryside, snakes are non venomous, no nasty spiders, no wild animals to slaughter livestock, with exception to ‘mild’ ones, like foxes and mongoose, and a few birds of prey, but we certainly dont need to head out armed to the teeth for a country walk!

The socialist govnt is challenging and as a foreigner from northern europe, it can take some time to adapt to the cultural differences and the sometimes ridiculous charges and bureaucracies, but if you can just accept it, keep quiet and paddle on, life is good! For me the benefits far outweigh the negatives.

Onto aquaponics, I believe it will be a very welcome system of production here, as we have a lot of small communities with very few large cities, so the ability to build multiple farms to service a community rather than a country will make it easier to start up and more sustainable in the long run. Again, my experience is in the algarve which is the traditional ‘fishing village’ where the wealthy northerners descend for holidays in the summer from their industrial exploits and then the place is pretty quiet the rest of the time! I adore Porto, and it has a completely different feel to Algarve. For me, being English, it really feels like going to some sort of hybrid euro british colony where there is huge architectural influence, and the people are very proud of the old relationships with the UK and there is an ‘old money’ class that oozes quality for me. We used to own a restaurant and had the pleasure of being invited to some of the vineyards and the hospitality from the hosts was like they were welcoming old family home, gives me goosebumps! Anyway, great choice for your move I am sure, and wish you all the best there! I have a few contacts in real estate throughout the country, so if you need any guidance or a second opinion, happy to help where I can.

Regarding fish use here, the Aquaculture industry is quite limited right now, although things are changing. I spoke with someone who wasn’t very helpful in telling me what I can do, but more about what i can’t! This is still a new and uncharted type of farming here so the governing bodies don’t understand it so the knee-jerk reaction is to reject rather than educate, but it is evolving. Tilapia here is out, koi carp is ok but not considered edible, and now they have apparently just fully regulated trout so this is something I am looking at although my summer temps will be the challenge. I was told ‘African Catfish’ are ok, and I will be looking more at the options soon, so we can keep in touch on that. I was given a list of what species are NOT allowed so here it is, but I am not experienced enough yet to go into it too much, just sticking with Koi!
The list of currently prohibited fish species in Portugal:

  • Alburnus alburnus
  • Ameiurus melas (= Ictalurus meles)
  • Australoheros facetus (Cichlasoma facetum)
  • Carassius auratus
  • Carassius gibelio
  • Channa spp.
  • Ctenopharyngodon idella
  • Esox lucius
  • Fundulus heteroclitus
  • Gambusia holbrooki
  • Gobio lozanoi
  • Gymnocephalus cernuus
  • Hypophthalmichthys molitrix
  • Ictalurus punctatus
  • Lepomis cyanellus
  • Lepomis gibbosus
  • Micropterus salmoides
  • Misgurnus anguillicaudatus
  • Oreochromis spp.
  • Osmerus mordax
  • Perca fluviatilis
  • Perccottus glenii
  • Pseudorasbora parva
  • Pterois spp.
  • Rutilus rutilus
  • Salvelinus fontinalis
  • Sander lucioperca
  • Scardinius erythrophthalmus
  • Silurus glanis
  • Tilapia spp

When you do make the move, not sure how aware you are of the tax regimes and residence benefits there are? We have a very interesting scheme for tax residency for foreigners which is known as the NHR (non-habitual residents) scheme. And then there is the Golden Visa scheme which may also suit you depending on your nationality. I can send some links of info if you need.

Wish you all the best and look forward to continuing our conversation, and maybe there will be something to work together in the future.

Kind Regards


No Worries, thanks for the response and the list of fish that we cannot use. The fact that African Catfish is good is a real winner, I’ve got them in now and they’re absolutely bombproof, can handle the heat and don’t worry about the cold either.
I’m going to try the Golden Visa route and buy a smallholding outside Porto and hire 2 or 3 people to look after the system for me. I’ll probably bring my new system over as it was built with the move in mind, it’s a ten Media bed system with 10 4.5 m Long Deep Water Channels and 200 Dutch Buckets. This last holiday season we moved around 4 or 5 tons of lettuce through the 2 systems that we have. The other system is smaller 8 Media beds and 5 Deep Water Channels with 40 Dutch Buckets, but it’s a permanent fixture, unfortunately.
I would love to have a few of your contacts for property in Portugal and also get to know a few people before making the big move.
We will be coming out to do a scout of the area hopefully towards the end of this year, with the aim of investing in a place early next year, after selling the farm here.
All the Best,

Sounds great Andre,
I would love to see some pictures of your system. Also, any tips with the catfish would be great as I may do a test system with them!

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