Do you think of yourself as the “Pond Authority” in your area? If you truly are an expert, customers will beat a path to your door to get the information and supplies they need for everything from waterfalls and filtration systems to chemical treatments and water plants. But like many local “Pond Authorities,” your expertise is probably limited to backyard water features and gardens. If that’s the case, you’re missing a huge market that’s often overlooked—farm ponds.
Farm ponds or “earth bottom” ponds are all across the nation and need service similar to a water garden, just on a larger scale. So if customers come to you for help with their farm ponds, don’t leave the money on the table and refer them to someone else. Become a farm pond expert yourself!
The benefits of selling farm pond products to the do-it-yourself customer
If you can sell supplies for backyard water features, you can sell farm pond products. A lot of what you already know can easily be applied to this new product line. Farm pond products are easy to sell and provide larger average orders. For example, a do-it-yourself farm pond customer can spend up to $1,000 per surface acre using a “proactive” management plan—to put this in perspective you spend the same if you were applying a do-it-yourself Scott’s® 4-step fertilizer/weed control program on an acre of lawn.
The benefits of farm pond products as a contractor or installer
Of course, there is even more profit potential if you operate as a contractor or installer in addition to selling farm pond supplies. A typical aeration system, for instance, can be installed with two people in just a few hours. There is no expensive equipment needed—just a small Jon boat and shovel. There is less competition than water gardens and a much higher profit margin. A standard two-plate system for ponds up to an acre can be installed in less than six man-hours with a profit of $1,500 to $2,000—not bad for a half days’ work!
Who are your customers?
Private pond owners, businesses, lake front property owners, condominium associations, apartment complexes and subdivision and/or lake associations are all likely prospects for your products and services. In many communities, it has become a requirement to construct a pond to handle watershed from parking lots, rooftops and other hard surface areas, so there are now more ponds than ever before. If you’re concerned you may not have a market in your area, drive around and look for these ponds. You’ll be surprised how many potential customers you’ll find!
What do you have to know?
Just like a water garden, a farm pond has an ecosystem that needs to be balanced. Although a farm pond has a much larger volume and a natural bottom, it can be much easier to establish and maintain. To really understand a farm pond and relate to your customer’s needs, you must first understand its life cycle. A farm pond’s life cycle can be broken down into two basic stages.
During the first stage, organic matter from plants, birds, other animals, and debris begin to accumulate in the pond. But because the nutrient load is low, there is minimal weed and algae growth. Any fish populations thrive. The first stage can last as long as 3 to 5 years, although if a proactive approach is not implemented the water quality of a pond will eventually deteriorate and the pond will begin its second stage. During this second stage excessive algae blooms and pondweeds become noticeable. Emergent plants such as grasses and cattails begin to grow around the pond’s edge. The bottom of the pond becomes a thick layer of muck. The water can also lose its clarity and may eventually become toxic to fish, resulting in the occasional fish kill.
Although in a perfect world you would like to start a pond out right, it is not always the case. Many times pond owners will not seek your help until they have a problem. The good news is this is your opportunity to look like a hero! In most cases, the customer can hit the “reset button” by simply doing a chemical application. This chemical application will clear the pond of visible problems and provide the necessary window to begin a proactive approach.
Muck or organics build up over time from rotting vegetation, runoff, leaves and other debris. This muck is rich in nutrients, which encourage algae blooms and eventually aquatic weeds. The end result is poor water quality. For this reason, you must focus your efforts on getting to the root cause of the problem first and not just treat the obvious symptoms.
When you understand these stages and explain it to your customers, you will be able to design a successful management plan for them.
What is the simple solution to a clean pond? Manage the nutrient cycle.
As mentioned previously, a chemical treatment is usually needed when a farm pond reaches stage two. But once the proliferation of algae and weeds is stopped, it’s a relatively simple to manage a pond’s nutrient cycle to prevent a reoccurrence of problems.
First, you must introduce aeration; this provides oxygen and circulates the water. This is accomplished with an underwater diffuser plate(s) operated by a compressor located on shore. Second, you must start a natural bacteria program to reduce the build-up of the organics or nutrients, the real cause of all your problems. Together, aeration and natural bacteria will keep a pond clean and give your customers the long-term success they are looking for.
The secret to success: Keep it simple.
When deciding on your product line, don’t offer 10 products that perform the same job. Find a system that is easy to explain to your customer and easy for your staff to sell. And don’t use your customer as an experiment; choose a proven system that works! If you’re a retailer that does not offer installation services, team up with a qualified contractor to capitalize on the non-do-it-yourselfer. Aeration systems are a profitable install. If you’re a contractor, find a retailer in your area that will showcase your products to generate leads for you installation business.
Just like water gardens, everything has a learning curve. If you get discouraged and are tempted to give up, just think about when you first started in water gardens. Aren’t you glad you got your feet wet?
About the Author
Jason Blake, a graduate of Michigan State University has dedicated his life to the pond industry. His first experience in the “pond” business started the age of 15 from his parent’s basement. Shortly after graduating from college he founded Airmax® Eco-Systems, a Michigan based business. With a vision for simple solutions and a proven system that works, he has made Airmax® the leading manufacture of farm pond products. Using his “simple” proven system, Airmax® has been able to establish Airmax® dealers across the United States consisting of specialty retailers and contractors.
Jason Blake, President
Airmax® Eco-Systems, Inc.
6135 King Road – Marine City, MI 48039