Commercial Aquaponic Systems

Patented Clear Flow Aquaponic Systems® with ZDEP®

  • Profitable
  • Dependable
  • Efficient
  • Sustainable

Commercial System Features
Commercial System Description
Commercial System Specifications

Complete Packages – Proven Designs

If you are planning a commercial aquaponics venture, our patented Clear Flow Aquaponic Systems® with ZDEP® are the only fully-developed, complete system packages available for large scale aquaponic food production. They include the equipment, manuals, documentation and support you need to get into and be successful in the aquaponics business.

Maximize Production

Nelson and Pade, Inc.®’s commercial line of patented Clear Flow Aquaponic Systems® with ZDEP® reduce waste and increase nutrient availability for additional plant growth.  In addition to the ZDEP®, All of our commercial systems use the accelerated nursery for faster production and increased income.

Learn more about the patented ZDEP® system


Commercial systems come in modules that can be duplicated for expansion, allowing a grower to easily increase size as the business grows.

Continuous Harvests, 365 days per year

The vegetable crops from these systems can be harvested daily to meet market demand. Our systems are designed for continuous vegetable production, 365 days/year. Each commercial system uses multiple fish tanks for staggered harvesting. With tilapia that means you will harvest a tank full of fish every 3, 4 or 6 weeks. If you use two modules, you will harvest a tank full of fish every 2 or 3 weeks. With 3 modules, it is every 1-2 weeks, and so on.

Customer Testimonial

Customer, Tony Stirling, IL, comments: “I recently purchased a Nelson and Pade, Inc. system and have been very happy with the entire process, from the planning stages all the way through the build and now into the actual operation. The staff there has been very open to answering any and all of my questions in a timely manner. The system comes with a detailed instruction manual, including pictures, that explains every little piece and exactly where it needs to go. I put the entire system together myself using their plans and had no issues.” 

Read more customer testimonials


  • Unlimited Expandability! Start with one or more modules. Add more modules to meet the growing demand
  • Modular Design
    • Risk mitigation
    • Crop diversification
    • Add modules for expansion
    • Consistency in operations, efficiency and training
  • Excellent Return on Investment
  • Advanced, science-based design
  • Proven system includes manuals and SOP’s
  • Efficient design reduces labor and increases profitability!

Contact our Sales Team

    • Phone: 608-297-8708

Request a Specification Sheet or More Information now!

System Description



Complete patented Clear Flow Aquaponic Systems® with ZDEP®

Proven, science-based design includes:

  • Fish tanks
  • Fish tank stands
  • Patented ZDEP® filter system
  • Clear Flow Aquaponic Systems® filter tanks
  • Filter tank stands
  • Raft tanks – Easy-to-assemble frames, cushion underlayment, custom-fit raft tank liners
  • Accelerated Plant Nurseries (table frames, channels, plumbing)
  • Automated Germination System (table, trays, plumbing)
  • Water pumps, plumbing, parts, gate valves and true union ball valves
  • Air blower, aeration system and air diffusers
  • Fish net, thermometer
  • Books: Aquaponic Food Production, Aquaponics Q and A
  • Documentation, Assembly Manuals,  Operation Manual
  • Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
  • Good Agriculture Practices (GAP) manual template

Optional Services, Equipment and Supplies:

Not included:

  • The customer is required to assemble the system.
  • The Customer is required to supply their own drain plumbing and the plumbing from the air blower (provided) to the tanks that require air.  These runs of plumbing are not included or drawn out because each system location is unique.
  • To save you money on freight, we do not include straight pipe and high density polystyrene 4′ by 8′ by 1.5″ sheets (for the raft tank and media bed frames). You will need to purchase this locally.
  • The Food safe plant rafts are not included in the system price
  • Freight

Request a Specification Sheet or More Information now!


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Commercial System Specifications

Small Commercial

The Small Commercial System is a great system to start  a full-time aquaponics venture.  The primary production is intended for lettuce, grown in raft tanks.  There is a living filter bed that allows some production of secondary crops, like kale or swiss chard.

  • Lettuce Production:
    • 32,250 – 46,350* plants/year (about 88 – 130*  lettuce plants/day)
    • plus 1,800 – 3,240* leafy green plants (like kale and swiss chard) in the Living Filter Bed
    • *depends on lighting plan
  • Fish Production: 
    • 1,900 lbs. whole tilapia/year (harvest just over 237 lbs./every 6 weeks)
  • System Dimensions:
    • Minimum greenhouse size or area indoors: 30′ x 110′ (3,300 sq. ft.)
  • Estimated Labor per day:
    • 5 – 8 hours/day in greenhouse
  • Small Commercial System Cost:
    • $ 59,995


Request a Specification Sheet or More Information now!

Large Commercial

The Large Commercial model is a great fit for a serious commercial venture. Start with any number of Large Commercial Modules and continue to expand to meet market demand.

  • Lettuce Production:
    • 80,000 – 110,000* plants/year (about 220 – 300* lettuce plants/day)
      *depends on lighting plan
  • Fish Production: 
    • 5,000 lbs. whole tilapia/year (harvest just over 384 lbs./every 4 weeks)
  • System Dimensions:
    • Minimum greenhouse size or area indoors: 41.5′ x 140′ (5,810 sq. ft.)
  • Estimated Labor per day:
    • 12 – 15 hours/day in greenhouse
  • Large Commercial System Cost: 
    • $ 79,995


Request a Specification Sheet or More Information now!

Greenhouses for Aquaponics and Indoor Farming

Nelson and Pade, Inc.® offers budget-friendly, freestanding  greenhouse packages.  These greenhouses can be used in cold, moderate and warm climates and will protect your crops from extreme weather conditions.

Learn more about our Greenhouse Kits

Determine your Net Profit and ROI for your Commercial Aquaponics Farm

Ok, so…the question everyone asks is, “How much can I earn?” There are a lot of variables in that equation (climate, location, infrastructure, utility costs, labor costs, marketing methods, management abilities, etc), but we can give you some guidance.  You can easily determine your estimated gross income by taking the number of heads you’ll grow x the price you will sell at, plus the number of pounds of fish x the price you will sell it at.  Our customers around the country typically sell their premium lettuce for $3-4/head retail or $2 -2.75/head wholesale and whole tilapia for $3-5/lb.  A ball-park guestimate (and reported to us by growers) for operational expenses is between $.90 – $1.40/head.  The difference is your net profit.

As a general rule, when our patented Clear Flow Aquaponic Systems® with ZDEP® are used in a commercial aquaponics farming venture, there is typically an ROI (Return on Investment) of 3-5 years from when the system is started.

We can provide detailed, project-specific start-up cost, operational cost, income and ROI projections for your business in our Project Planning service.


• Lettuce Production in raft tanks:  The amount of lettuce that you will grow will depend on the amount of light you provide.  The low end of the range assumes that you will have 10 hours of light per day.  The high end of the range assumes you will have 18 hours of light per day.  Grow lights are used to extend the hours of light beyond what is available form the sun.

•  All plant and fish production numbers assume proper environmental control, good management and following the Nelson and Pade, Inc. Standard Operating procedures and growing recommendations. Results may vary.

• Fish Production: based on raising Nile tilapia, stocked at 50 gram fish and harvested at 1.5 lbs. Results may vary.

• Greenhouse Space: This is the space the standard system configuration fits within, with room for optional equipment, packing and to walk and work. This will be the size of the greenhouse or building that you put the system in. If you have special space requirements, we can design the system to fit, but a custom design fee will apply.

• Estimated labor/day: This is the number of hours we estimate that it will take to maintain the system, feed the fish and seed, transplant and harvest the crops. Single or few crop choices will be on the lower end of the range.  A greater  number of crop choices will take the higher number of hours listed in the range.

• System price: The base price of our systems includes everything in the system description. It does not include services, sales tax, shipping or optional equipment. Contact us for quote.

• Palleting Fee: This charge covers the cost of time and materials for packaging, palletizing and preparing systems for pick up or freight shipment.

Success in Aquaponics

Nelson and Pade, Inc.® offers the Aquaponics Success Package for any customer purchasing a Clear Flow Aquaponic System®.  This a great opportunity to to get started and be successful in aquaponics.

Optional Equipment

We offer all of the supplies you need to keep you system running…fish food, grow cubes, pest controls, etc.
Aquaponics Store

Customer, Jeff Hafner, Iowa, comments: “I am greatly enjoying the assembly and watching the system grow. My Dad says the greenhouse feels like heaven when he walks in. I went with Nelson and Pade because I knew my learning curve was steep and wanted to buy a system and have the support of knowledgeable people, without spending days and hours recreating the wheel.”


Commercial Systems FAQ

What does NOT come with the Commercial Systems?
Straight lengths of PVC pipe are not included because you can buy them locally and not have to pay for shipping. Our system plumbing ends at the drains of the filter tanks. You’ll need to connect the system drains to your drain. We don’t supply this because we don’t know how you will route the plumbing to your drains. You will need to supply the PVC pipe and connectors to route the air between the air pump (or blower) to the tanks that require air.  We do not supply this because it is impossible for us to project how you will rout the airlines.

The polystyrene sheets for the rafts and raft tank walls and media bed walls are not included with the Commercial Systems. In most cases, this product is available locally. We do provide specs, so you purchase the right items. If it is not available locally, we can provide it for an additional cost

Our Plant Rafts, which are safe for food contact, pre-cut and pre-drilled, are not included in the package, but are offered as an option.

If you have a concern about finding the straight lengths of PVC pipe or the polystyrene sheets locally, we can provide a quote to have them delivered to you.

You will need a source of potable fresh water (without chlorine and without contact with any copper pipe), electricity, a place to put the system (greenhouse-best choice, building-2nd best choice, outdoors-least favorite choice). You can look at the store for other items that you might want to purchase, such as grow lights, fish tank windows or supplies.

For a commercial operation, there are other things you will need to make it a complete business. For instance, a delivery vehicle, office equipment, packing tables, sink, storage cabinets, scale, produce cooler, etc.

What crops can I grow? What is most profitable?
Commercial systems are generally larger and designed to produce a great deal of lettuce, greens and leafy crops in one very efficient system. Commercial growers usually grow all leafy crops and sell most of what they grow wholesale to grocers, institutions or brokers.

What about fish?
Most of our growers raise tilapia because they are very hardy, fast growing and, when raised in our Clear Flow Aquaponic Systems® using our methods and purge process, they taste GREAT. Other fish, like blue gill and catfish, and other fresh water fish that do well at about 74℉ can also be raised.

What is the patented ZDEP® ?
ZDEP® is an acronym for near Zero-Discharge/Extra Production. It is a patented system that drastically increases plant production and reduces or eliminates any waste. Solid fish waste, which is removed from the main system, is processed in the patented ZDEP® filter. Then, clear, nutrient-rich water is returned to the main system to increase plant production. The solid waste can be used to grow additional crops in media beds or outdoor gardens. Learn more about the ZDEP®

What is an accelerated plant nursery?
Our accelerated plant nursery dramatically increases plant production using a 2-stage transplant method. This moves your crops through the system faster and, therefore, allows you to harvest and sell more plants every day.

Do I need a fish nursery?
Our commercial systems each have four, six or eight fish tanks, which are stocked using a staggered method (one tank every 3-6 weeks when using tilapia). We recommend stocking the tanks with 50 gram fingerlings. If you can purchase 50 gram fingerlings, you don’t need a nursery. If you can’t find fish that are stocking size, then you should start them in our nursery system. This is a very efficient method of starting with fry (very young fish) and growing them to stocking size. Our fish nurseries include plant grow beds.

Do I need a purge system?
If you are raising fish to eat, we highly recommend a purge system. Using our purge system and purging techniques, your harvested fish will have a clean, fresh taste. The meat will have a firm texture. With any farmed fish, if you don’t purge them, you will likely be disappointed in the quality. If you are raising ornamental fish, like koi or goldfish, you don’t need a purge system.

What is the seed germination system?
We recommend starting all plants from seed in an aquaponic system and it is most efficient to start the seeds in a smaller germination system than in your main culture system. Our commercial systems include the automated germination systems to provide proper water flow to the grow cubes that the seeds are started in. Using our germination system and techniques, lettuce seeds will germinate within 24 hours and the first green shoot will emerge within 48 hours.

Can you provide me a financial analysis, ROI and estimate of how much money I can make?
There are too many variables, such as climate, crop choice, budget, size, system, environmental control choices, infrastructure, management and marketing abilities and level of investment for us to provide a one-size-fits-all answer for how much money you can earn. We do provide projections for how much you can grow, electrical requirements for the system and estimated labor. From there, you can work through the numbers to get an idea of the rough costs. If you are going to the bank or looking for investors, consider our project planning services in which we work through all of the numbers and provide a very detailed report that gives all of the information you’ll need for your business plan.

What are the SOPs and GAP manual template?
The SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) and GAP (Good Agriculture Practices) template are tools that you’ll need to implement a food safety and bio-security program. Clear Flow Aquaponic Systems® in a controlled environment allow you to grow safe, healthy food year-round. Our SOPs and GAP template help you set up programs to keep the food safe and free of contamination as well as keep your operation running efficiently. The well-developed and valuable tools are only available when you purchase Clear Flow Aquaponic Systems®.

Can I assemble commercial Clear Flow Aquaponic Systems® myself?
If you have mechanical and plumbing skills and don’t mind taking on a project, you can build the commercial systems yourselves. But we strongly recommend that before you do so, you attend our Aquaponics Master Class® and Extended Stay Learning Program, in which we will teach you the ins-and-outs of system assembly and operation. We also recommend our Assembly Guidance Service.

The installation involves assembling the tank stands, set the stands and tanks in place, insert seals, assemble the raft tanks (no concrete required) and living filter beds and put the liners in, assemble and glue PVC pipe and assemble and glue the aeration system.

How are the raft tanks made?
Our raft tanks are easy to assemble and do not require concrete, concrete block or any back-breaking labor. No tools are required. It typically takes about a ½ day to assemble our metal raft tank frames, insert the side walls and install the underlayment and food-grade liner.

Should I bury the system plumbing or place it onto of a concrete floor?
The system is intended to be set on a concrete or other solid floor, or it can be partially buried so the plumbing is out of the way. If you install it on a floor, you should consider building decking or ramps over the plumbing, so that people don’t trip on it. If you partially bury it, it is more work initially, but a cleaner installation. If you plan to pour a concrete floor before receiving any aquaponics equipment and want detailed custom floor plans for plumbing, electrical, etc, you will have to pay a design fee for that service.

Can I build my commercial greenhouse?
If you have the skills and tools, yes you can build your greenhouse. If you’ve never built a greenhouse and don’t want to waste time figuring it out, you can hire a greenhouse builder to get it done professionally. Often, in hindsight, the people who build their greenhouse wish they had just hired a contractor and gotten it done quickly, giving them the chance to get into business and earn income faster.

Is this available as a franchise?
Our complete system packages essentially include everything that comes with a franchise. But we don’t charge a franchise fee. Why pay other companies (especially less experienced ones) a franchise fee when we include it for free?

What is the “Success Package”?
The Success Package saves you money on the services and training that will get you up and operating your commercial aquaponics venture successfully. The Extended Stay Learning  Program, our Assembly Guidance and the Nelson and Pade Grower Program provide you with the training, technical support and guidance you need to get started and become successful in commercial aquaponic farming. The Success Package makes these services available at a discount at the time you make the system purchase.

General Questions

Have you sold many?
As of Jan, 2018, there are nearly 500 Clear Flow Aquaponic Systems® around the world, with sizes ranging from home food production to large commercial ventures. In the next year, that number will likely double or even triple. We have shipped systems to almost every US State and 27 countries.

Why buy a Clear Flow Aquaponic System®?
Place your order, receive the shipment, assemble the system, add fish, add plants. Buying our system eliminates the need to invent and design a system, find and order the fish tanks, filter tanks, raft tanks, plumbing parts, water pump and aeration system. It all comes as one science-based, proven system with easy to understand assembly and operation manuals, developed by Nelson and Pade, Inc.® who have a longer history and more experience in designing, building, operating and refining aquaponic systems than any other company.

Do you offer training?
Nelson and Pade, Inc.® believes that success in aquaponics comes with a science-based system, proper training and tech support and we offer all three. For people in the knowledge-gaining process, we offer a variety of learning opportunities. We also offer our Nelson and Pade Grower Program.

If I attend a Master Class, do I get a discount on a system?
YES, follow this link to our incentive page.

Why doesn’t the optional equipment come with the system?

Clear Flow Aquaponic systems® are system packages and include components in the aquaponics loop: all tanks, filter tanks, tank stands, grow beds, plumbing, pumps, valves and the aeration system. There are additional items that some people need and others do not, depending on their climate, crop choices, infrastructure, etc.

Do I need a controlled environment greenhouse?
No matter how good your aquaponic system is, it will not function to maximum capacity if the environmental conditions are outside the comfort zone for the fish and plants. A controlled environment greenhouse can provide natural sunlight, proper temperature, humidity and ventilation. Modern greenhouses are designed for every climate, from the tropics to northern climates with extreme winters.

Can I grow in a warehouse, basement or garage?
Yes, but you’ll need to provide a full light spectrum with grow lights, the proper temperature, humidity and ventilation. Remember, plants evolved outdoors, under natural sunlight. When you bring them indoors, you’ll need to provide the light and environmental conditions they need to grow. One beneficial use for an existing building is to use it to house the office, packaging area, fish and filter tanks and then build a greenhouse on the south end for the plant production. Buildings also typically have a lot of infrastructure (electricity, natural gas or propane, water, driveway, bathrooms, etc) that can be an asset as you start and operate your aquaponic business.

What is Bio-Security?
Bio-security is a combination of equipment and procedures that you implement to keep your food safe. Essentially, our bio-security program keeps pathogens and pests out of our greenhouse so that our crops stay healthy and the food is safe to eat. We achieve this in our Clear Flow Aquaponic Systems® in conjunction with controlled environment agriculture.

How can I learn more about aquaponics?
Nelson and Pade, Inc.® is known around the world as the leader in aquaponics education. We offer the 3-day Aquaponics Master Class®, our Extended Stay Learning Program and the Nelson and Pade Grower Program. Plus, in partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, we have developed and offer the first-of-its-kind 3-credit, full semester aquaponics course. Join us for any of the learning opportunities.

Why do your systems cost so much?
We have designed these highly productive systems, sourced the parts, wrote manuals, built and packaged the systems for you. We use very high quality components, water pumps and air blowers and we use food grade tanks, liners and plumbing to keep your crops and you safe. If you sourced out equivalent quality parts, you would spend just as much or more, but not have our designs, our 20+ years’ experience available to you, our assembly, operation, SOP and GAP manuals, or our tech support. When you look at the quality and longevity of the materials, the design, manuals and support we offer and the production and ROI Clear Flow Aquaponic Systems® provide, you will see they are a great value. Plus, they are 90% made in the USA.