As we anticipate the upcoming Aquaponics Association elections in November 2016, I urge you to put your hat in the ring to serve as an elected officer, to guide aquaponics moving forward.
What is the state of the Aquaponics Association? We've been hampered by the woes of an all-volunteer organization, but several great things have happened.
1) The Aquaponics Association won a $150,000 grant with NASA to study the microecology of aquaponics systems! NASA is interested in aquaponics ecology because of what it can tell us about growing food in space. The Association was a key partner in this grant. On a related note: we’re looking for aquaponic growers interested in having the microflora in their systems sampled. Contact us at email@example.com and mention "NASA" to sign up.
2) AA has made several key steps in keeping aquaponics and hydro eligible for organic certification. These include collecting over 2,000 signatures on a petition to keep AP+HP organic; collaborating with Bright Agrotech to spread the news on the science behind organic AP & hydro; teaming up with orgs like the Recirculating Farms Coalition and the Coalition for Sustainable Organics to fight the narrowing of organic label to only soil farming; and testifying directly to NOSB on why aquaponics and hydro should be organic. The fight is still on. Sign up here to add your voice—deadline is October 26!
3) Food safety: At least three commercial growers have been able to get full-scale food safety certification, or are currently in the process, thanks to the Association’s work in this area. Being able to pass a food safety audit is key for these growers to attract investor funding and achieve market viability. Our hats off to these growers for their hard work and showing the world that our industry is up to the challenge!
4) For 2016 the Aquaponics Association made a commitment to participating at all the Mother Earth News Fairs around the United States, bringing information about aquaponics to the tens of thousands of individuals who attend these weekends. In past years we had attended the Asheville, NC and Seven Springs events, but 2016 saw the Aquaponics Association step up to provide presentations on aquaponics as well as man an information booth.
5) In February 2016 the Aquaponics Association continued its involvement with the Aquaculture community, participating in the combined World Aquaculture Society/Aquaculture America event in Nevada in February. For the years we have participated in Aquaculture America, there has always been an Aquaponics session.
6) In June our Organic Committee Director, Brian Filipowich, participated in the 2016 Conference for the International Society for Ecological Economics. He was able to get the good word out about the benefits of Aquaponics, as well as make contacts in the DC area for future collaboration. The Aquaponics Association was also tapped to participate in the Nevada Economic Development Conference in Reno, helping form a vision for how agribusiness could move forward in that booming but arid state.
7) In August members of the Aquaponics Association participated in the Aquaculture Innovation Workshop and International Recirculating Aquaculture Conference in Roanoke, Virginia. There is great research going on regarding ways to further improve the productivity of aquaponic systems. We are particularly excited about research that has been conducted by the folks at Lucky Clay into the factors required for establishing an economically sustainable Aquaponics business.
7) Finally, the 2016 Aquaponics Association Conference in Austin, Texas, is fast approaching. Adam Cohen and Dr. George Brooks have been doing a great job pulling this conference together and getting the word out. In particular, they have been able to reduce the cost of the conference by so much that even late registration is less than $400 - nearly as inexpensive as early bird registration had been for earlier conferences.
Moving forward, there are some recommendations we'd like our membership to consider:
A) Both the World Aquaculture Society and the US Aquaculture Society have fully elected boards, and they elect a person to shadow the President of the organization for a year, who subsequently becomes the President. The current process for the Aquaponics Association calls for regular elections without any guarantee of continuity, which has proven problematic in the past. It has been proposed that we adopt an elected board structure with built-in succession/mentoring, based on the World Aquaculture Society model. If such a recommendation were adopted, it wouldn't take effect until the 2017 elections.
B) Academics involved in aquaponics would benefit from having a society that allowed those with formal training to be recognized for their achievements. The Aquaponics Association would like to help support such a Society on behalf of the academic community. Such a society could also serve as an organization to enhance synergies between the various Aquaponics programs being established at colleges and universities around the world.