Aquaponics in Prisons (1/3) — Saving Taxpayers Money

Officer Michael “Mac” McLeon is using aquaponics to transform the Texas Prison System.

Mac’s team set a goal to use aquaponics and grow a salad per day for their entire unit, including inmates AND the officers since they share the same meals. They are currently well on their way to the goal – at one salad every two weeks.

And this is not some limp-leaved lump of soggy lettuce… these are good salads! (see pic below). In addition to lettuce, the program also grows sun-loving fruiting crops like tomatoes and cucumbers, and fresh herbs for the dressing!

The Aquaponics Association has been supporting Mac in his efforts to spread aquaponics to prisons nationwide. Recently, Aquaponics Association Senior Advisor Kate Wildrick interview Mac and uncovered three key takeaways.

Check out the Exclusive Interview with Officer Mac: How Aquaponics is Transforming the Texas Prison System  (http://bit.ly/2HE7zJI)

Aquaponics in Prisons Saves Taxpayer Money

Macs interview revealed three key points. In this post, we’ll discuss the first key point: aquaponics in prisons can save taxpayers money in a variety of ways.

For starters, aquaponics directly reduces the amount of food that prisons must purchase by supplementing meals with onsite produce. The cost to grow crops inside the prison is minimal. Mac estimates that he saves the State of Texas $0.40 for every head of lettuce they grow. Imagine how much they could save Texas taxpayers with a bigger operation!

In addition to the direct savings of growing their own food, aquaponics in prisons can save taxpayers money in two major long-term ways: 1) lower inmate healthcare costs from dietary based diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure; and 2) reduced recidivism by giving inmates a meaningful, rewarding skill they can employ once released.

In some states, the cost per inmate can be up to $60,000 per year. Mac notes that most inmates will one day be released. Aquaponics can give these citizens a positive skill to keep them from backsliding into the system, which is a major cost.

Stay tuned for the next two Key Points of Aquaponics in Prisons!

Aquaponics in the Texas Prison System

Check out Kate Wildrick’s exclusive interview: How Aquaponics is Transforming the Texas Prison System. (link: http://bit.ly/2HE7zJI)

Stay tuned for much more, Officer “Mac” McLeon is only beginning to revolutionize the nation’s criminal justice system with sustainable agriculture!

Mac will be at the Aquaponics Association’s Annual Conference this September at Kentucky State University, we hope to see you there.

 

Take the Global Aquaponic Practitioner Survey

Click: Head to the Global Aquaponic Practitioner Survey

A group of researchers from the University of Washington on an international project – Cityfood – is running a global aquaponics survey.

This survey will provide researchers with real-world information about existing aquaponic systems and farms which define current practices. Using results from this survey, researchers aim to connect and empower aquaponic farmers, researchers and decision-makers.

The survey only takes 15-20 minutes to complete and will help researchers compile a report on the state of the field. As a participant, you will receive access to the report immediately after its release.

The Cityfood interdisciplinary team of aquaculture specialists, architects, and urban planners is jointly supported by the US National Science Foundation and the EU Sustainable Urbanisation Global Initiative/ Belmont Forum. This cohort sees aquaponics as a promising technology that can simultaneously address global challenges in the food, water, and energy sectors.

Survey link: https://redcap.csde.washington.edu/surveys/index.php?s=FRK4HKX78L

New Aquaponics Report from ATTRA

ATTRA just published a report: Aquaponics – Multitrophic Systems for Food Production. This Report introduces aquaponic systems, discusses economics and getting started, and includes an extensive list of resources that point the reader to print and online educational materials for further technical assistance. The Report is free to download here: http://bit.ly/2UckGKf

ATTRA is a sustainable agriculture program developed and managed by the National Center for Appropriate Technology.

Aquaponics Association Chairman Brian Filipowich was interviewed by author Lee Rinehart to give background information for the Report. Check out the podcast recording: http://bit.ly/2Fgh1lW

Environmental Report Urges Food System Changes

A new report Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform On Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services urges changes in our current food system.

The Report values the services that our natural ecosystems provide: clean water, clean air, and pollination. We take these services for granted, but population growth and economic growth are impairing the planet’s ability to perform these functions.

Mark Rounsevell, Professor at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany, stated: “The food system is the root of the problem. The cost of ecological degradation is not considered in the price we pay for food, yet we are still subsidizing fisheries and agriculture.”

New highly efficient grow methods like aquaponics, hydroponics, and aeroponics can reduce the space needed to grow food. These methods, particularly when practiced vertically, will leave more of our natural ecosystem intact to perform its life-sustaining services!

Aquaponics Funding Alert

 

A new program has been funded to advance U.S. marine aquaculture by helping minority-owned businesses around the nation engage and expand in the world’s fastest-growing form of food production.

The new Minority Business Enterprise Aquaculture Program is operated by the Florida State Minority Supplier Development Council (FSMSDC) in partnership with the Southern Region Minority Supplier Development Council.

The program is funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA). The agency’s $400,000 grant will be used to identify and promote minority-owned businesses that have potential to grow in the aquaculture industry and provide them with a combination of technical assistance, outreach, education and one-on-one consultations through live events, targeted educational information, individual in-person counseling and digital support.

Read more: MBE Aquaculture 

Conference Dates: September 20-22 @ KSU!

This year, the Aquaponics Association Annual Conference will be September 20-22 at Kentucky State University in Frankfort, KY.

Stay tuned for the first round of early bird tickets within a few weeks.

Kentucky State University hosts one of the most advanced aquaculture research programs in the nation, including indoor aquaponics research systems, saltwater aquaponics research, a 30’ x 70’ aquaponics demonstration greenhouse, a 10,000sq foot recirculating aquaculture research building, and 33 research ponds.

The goal of the conference is to unite growers from around the world and advance the practice of aquaponics. The Aquaponics Association looks to build on the momentum of the last annual conferences Putting Down Roots in Portland, Oregon, 2017; and Putting Up Shoots in Hartford, Connecticut, 2018. Each hosted the world’s top aquaponics experts, a vendor showroom of the top aquaponics technology and services, and tours of large-scale aquaponics projects.

Frankfort, Kentucky is a small, quaint town with some of the nation’s top bourbon distilleries, the Keenland Racetrack, and other cultural attractions close by.

Frankfort is reachable from Bluegrass Airport (LEX); Greater Cincinnati – Northern Kentucky Int’l Airport (CVG); and 60 minute Louisville Airport (SDF).

contact: info@aquaponicsassociation.org

Community Aquaponics Discussions, Theme #3: Financial Challenges

In the first post of this series, we described what we mean by “Community Aquaponics”. Then, we identified the first two themes from the Community Aquaponics breakout discussion groups: Community Involvement and Location Considerations. In this post, we look at the last theme identified by the Community breakout discussion groups:

Financial Challenges

By Tawnya Sawyer

Some of the community aquaponic programs are supported by non-profits that use a variety of funding sources to pay for capital costs for construction and possibly operating expenses. Being financially viable was a big topic of discussion and critically important to ensuring that aquaponics can be not only environmentally and socially responsible, but can also be sustained from a funding stand point. Some community ventures were not seeing a profit but hoping to within a short time. While others had a mission to make donations for all of their products and never expected to meet the cost of operations. Financing was considered a very important topic and one that many people find challenging. Some of the ways that community aquaponic projects have been funded historically include:

–Sources of funding to build an aquaponic system include grants, donations, crowd-source funding campaigns, bank loans, personal savings, and investors.

–Operational costs were a little tricker with some farmers indicating that they were able to pay for their expenses through produce and fish sales, tours and training activities.

–Many operated measure success not just with money, but many other factors such as how many people had improved their nutrition, become educated, had new job skills, learned to be more self-reliant, etc.

We envision that community aquaponics will be one of the most critical driving forces in expanding this industry. Creating models that prove out success at the community level is a critical step in the process. Luckily, there are many examples of well-established and well-run community aquaponics installations to provide those models. Looking forward to more engagement in the coming years and seeing new and innovative community aquaponic systems flourish locally and globally to inspire others.

Tawnya Sawyer is the Director of Colorado Aquaponics and a Board Member of the Aquaponics Association

Community Aquaponics Discussions, Theme #2: Location Considerations

In the first post of this series, we described what we mean by “Community Aquaponics”. Then, we identified the first of three themes from the Community Aquaponics breakout discussion groups: Community Involvement. In this post, we look at the second theme identified by the Community breakout discussion groups:

Location Considerations

By Tawnya Sawyer

There are so many creative locations that have already proven successful for community aquaponics. Some of those include: roof tops, community gardens and community centers, schools, universities and early childhood education centers, orphanages, food banks, homeless shelters, places of worship, detention centers, housing developments, villages and many more. Some of these locations enjoy the fresh food options and can use the aquaponic system as a means for education, nutrition, self-reliance, job skill training and food production.  Planning the proper location is a critical first step (prior to construction), to ensure that the system can be operated in the selected location long term. Some considerations for success include:

–Ensure that the greenhouse, community garden or aquaponic system is allowed to be operated within the city, county or zoning where it is being planned;

–Make sure that the location has adequate sunlight (southern facing), access to water, electricity, as well as necessary temperature and humidity controls (heating in winter if cold climate, and cooling in summer);

–Develop a partnership or leasehold agreement if the system will be installed in someone else’s building or property; and

–Consider any additional insurance, taxes, utilities and other expenses might be incurred where the system will be located.

Stay tuned to hear the last theme our discussion groups identified.

Tawnya Sawyer is the Director of Colorado Aquaponics and a Board Member of the Aquaponics Association

 

Community Aquaponics Discussions, Theme #1: Community Involvement

In the first post of this series, we described what we mean by “Community Aquaponics”. In this post, we talk about the first of three themes identified by the Community breakout discussion groups at our 2018 Hartford conference.

By Tawnya Sawyer

Community Involvement

Getting the community involved in building and operating a garden and aquaponic system can be a challenge. Since aquaponics requires continuous involvement to monitor the equipment, feed the fish and maintain the plants, it is critical to have a key person take the lead on these management activities. Often people that are excited to get started, may have a difficult time committing long term. Community volunteers can assist in maintaining the system, but without a strong lead, the system will be neglected. Some of the tactics discussed that have been implemented with success at various community aquaponic projects include:

  • Planning for and hiring a project lead or champion to manage the construction of the system. That same person(s) may also then be involved in daily operations once the system is up and running. There are examples of both paid and unpaid positions, ut the key is to ensure that some takes that ownership and responsibility. It is also necessary that they have the time and energy to commit to the necessary tasks.
  • Having a schedule, training and management of volunteers was necessary to ensure that everyone was participating, following food safety guidelines and working effectively together. Volunteer and intern activities were commonly coordinated by the farm manager person.
  • Having a means to get food or training to the community being served is necessary to meet people where they are. This has meant providing cooking classes, free samples, recipes, alternate forms of payment, different ways to pickup or deliver the food products, building trust and connections, and helping people value the quality of the food. Working with a community who has previously not had access to nutritious food is a learning curve and takes times to implement.

Tawnya Sawyer is the Director of Colorado Aquaponics and a Board Member of the Aquaponics Association

 

Community Aquaponics Discussions; Intro

By Tawnya Sawyer

The Hartford, CT Aquaponic Association conference included a Community aquaponics track for people to share their projects, stories and ideas on how aquaponics can create a positive outcome for communities, and also challenges that must be addressed to move forward. Having coordinated, presented, and attended the Community conference tracks since 2011, I continue to be impressed and inspired with the quality of the information.

Community aquaponics is all about getting highly nutritious food directly to the consumer without the hundreds to thousands of “food miles” or distance from farm to the table. Obviously this has become a popular concept in urban gardening and farming. But aquaponics can do this even better since an aquaponic system can be setup in a parking lot, repurposed in an old building, shed, barn, garage or greenhouse.

Community aquaponics is generally considered growing food for the purpose of serving a specific location or group of people. This may be for profit or non-profit oriented. Community aquaponics often has an open-door policy, meaning they encourage participation from volunteers, interns, schools, and the general public. They may have access to different funding methods that wouldn’t normally be available to someone building aquaponics for themselves or as a business. Some community aquaponics visions have been very altruistic, seeking to help others by all means, but those that have been successful have recognized the importance of operating like a business and ensuring they can be financially viable.

In the next three segments, we’ll discuss in more detail the top three themes that conference participants identified in community aquaponics: community involvement, location considerations, and financial challenges.

Tawnya Sawyer is the Director of Colorado Aquaponics and a Board Member of the Aquaponics Association

New Report Sets Targets for Global Sustainable Food Production

A new report from the EAT-Lancet Commission for Food, Planet, and Health offers scientific targets for global sustainable food production. The report also conveys an urgent need to change the way we produce our food.

See the report:  EAT Lancet Report

The EAT-Lancet Commission sets quantifiable targets for change, like reducing food system carbon dioxide emissions 2020. Researchers believe these parameters will return the food system to within sustainable planetary limits.

Reports such as the EAT-Lancet Commission for Food, Planet, and Health demonstrate the need for more efficient food production methods like aquaponics. Aquaponic growers around the world have proven we can grow fresh produce and healthy fish from barren deserts to urban rooftops. Aquaponics uses over 90% less water than traditional soil culture, does not emit toxic agricultural runoff, and does not require synthetic pesticides, antibiotics, or fertilizers.

Please see similar resources that call for a change in our food production system:

TEEB Agrifood

True Cost Accounting – Sustainable Food Trust

email: info@aquaponicsassociation.org

PODCAST – Assoc Chairman Talks Aquaponics’ Future

Aquaponics Association Chairman Brian Filipowich discusses the future of aquaponics with Lee Rinehart of the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service.

Listen to the podcast from the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT):

 Aquaponics, a Primer

full link to podcast: https://attra.ncat.org/category/audio/

Climate Change Report Highlights the Need for Aquaponics

By Brian Filipowich

The U.S. Government’s Fourth National Climate Assessment (November, 2018) highlights the need to adopt aquaponics at a large scale nationwide.

The report states: “over the next few decades, overall, yields from major U.S. crops are expected to decline as a consequence of increases in temperatures and possibly changes in water availability, soil erosion, and disease and pest outbreaks”; furthermore: “[c]limate change is also expected to lead to large-scale shifts in the availability and prices of many agricultural products across the world, with corresponding impacts on U.S. agricultural producers and the U.S. economy.”

So how can aquaponics help?

Aquaponics is a method of growing fish and plants in efficient, recirculating systems. Aquaponics does not require soil, and is practiced across the nation from cities to deserts. The ability to grow food anywhere allows all regions of the U.S. to create their own food supply without relying on long-distance, carbon-intensive food transport.

Aquaponics requires over 90% less water than traditional soil growth, making production far less susceptible to water shortages.

Aquaponics does not require synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, or antibiotics.

Also, aquaponic systems not only produce fruits and vegetables, but also edible fish — an extremely efficient source of healthy protein that can be grown in any environment.

Unfortunately, the U.S. economy is not set up to incentivise efficient food production methods like aquaponics, hydroponics, and vertical agriculture. A free market economy is based on producers incorporating all costs of production into the prices for goods. But certain costs of agriculture are not realized at the time of production and are passed to other parties or future generations, creating artificially low prices for inefficient goods.

Modern large-scale agriculture uses excessive amounts of water, carbon, pesticides, antibiotics and fertilizers. These elements create enormous costs passed to others such as climate change adaptation, healthcare costs, food waste, antibiotic resistance, and toxic nutrient runoff.

Conversely, aquaponic systems can grow much more efficiently, but without a means to monetize this efficiency.

The U.S. Government Climate Report highlights the need to change the current system: “[n]umerous adaptation strategies are available to cope with adverse impacts of climate variability and change on agricultural production. These include altering what is produced, modifying the inputs used for production, adopting new technologies, and adjusting management strategies.”

It will take a large-scale, concerted nationwide effort to change the way we incentivize food production. Until that point, our economic system will steer consumers towards produce that adds to the problem of climate change, and is less able to adapt to climate change.

Read more: https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/23/health/climate-change-report-bn/index.html?no-st=1543264267

 

Speaker Spotlight: Arvind Venkat

 

Arvind Venkat is Waterfarmers Canada’s Scientific Director overseeing the company’s technology, product and execution platform. He has been a noteworthy leader in the commercial Aquaponic space. Under his vision Waterfarmers have developed over half million square feet of commercial farming and continue to expand their reach. He has spent the last 5 years creating resilient design and operating procedures for large commercial farms for different climate and market environments. His contributions to nutrient stewardship, environmentally responsible design and farmer profitability modelling have been recognized as viable business formulas by investors and policy makers alike. Arvind works very closely with Murray Hallam of Practical Aquaponics and their newest project in the works is a walkthrough guide platform for new farmers for the first 6 months of operations. 

An Engineering and Management graduate from Kettering University, Michigan, Arvind started his career as an engineer at Bosch USA and quickly worked his way up to the Executive offices at National Aluminum at the age of 22. Arvind holds to his credit an MBA from MIT and 4 years of post graduate research at University of Toronto in the field of Renewable Energy. Outside the office, Arvind is a percussionist actively performing at top classical art venues around the world.  

Speaker Spotlight: Officer Michael McLeon

“The Michael Unit” started with a bathtub and solo cups and through trial and error has developed low-cost commercial aquaponic systems from used and recycled parts. From the development of this system the Michael Unit Field Force went on to win State Grand Champion in the “Herb Behind Bars” competition as well as developed community outreach programs that has helped over 800 families in need and wish to share the experiences and knowledge they have gained through developing an aquaponics program in a correctional environment.

The long term goal is to grow many salads every week within the walls of prisons across the US with aquaponics. Just another example of how aquaponics is transforming our food economy!

Get your Putting Up Shoots tickets today! — http://bit.ly/2NZ4WTV

The Ripple Effect

The Ripple Effect: How Aquaponic Conferences Grow Community and Remove Barriers

By Kate Wildrick

My name is Kate Wildrick, Co-Founder / Paradigm Shifter of Ingenuity Innovation Center.  For those of you who were able to attend the 2017 Putting Down Roots Conference in Portland, Oregon, I served as one of the conference co-chairs.  Since then, I have had an active role as a strategic advisor to the Aquaponics Association. My intention in writing this article is to share my personal, first hand experience of how attending an aquaponic conference can really serve as a powerful catalyst for building community, knowledge and resources.  This is my story.

My business focuses on creating sustainable solutions and sharing them using an open-source platform.  Aquaponics is one of the many things that we do. In 2012, my husband and I struggled our way through a mountain of (dis)information on the internet to find the best way to build an aquaponics system.  After moving onto 20 acres of land in St. Helens, Oregon on a lease to buy option (this is important later in my story), we set up a 1,500 square foot greenhouse and began constructing our system based off of Murray Hallam’s CHOP2 (Constant Height, One Pump) System.  At the time, I was working at a food manufacturing facility. With access to lots of food grade containers (also known as Intermittent Bulk Containers or IBC’s), we created a system working with resources we could repurpose and “upcycle.” This also included building with a lot of reclaimed wood.

As we built our system row by row, our friends told others.  Before we knew it, we were hosting regular tours and helping people get introduced into how aquaponics works.  We made every mistake in the book and shared what we learned to help others save money, time and frustration. Many encouraged us to go into designing and building systems and growing commercially, but my husband and I knew that we lacked the knowledge.  Nonetheless, we kept at it. We made new mistakes, met new people and kept expanding.

In 2014, we learned that Murray Hallam would be speaking at the Aquaponics Association’s Conference in San Jose, CA.  Too broke to attend, another colleague suggested we reach out to him and invite him to speak at our center. He made an introduction, and before I knew it, I was talking to Murray on Skype.  He accepted our invitation. With less than 30 days to promote the event, we somehow managed to pull it off. We sold every last seat!

2017 Putting Down Roots Conference Speakers, Portland, OR

Given the huge success, Murray decided that he wanted to return each year (which he did) to do his four day master class at our center.  The wealth of knowledge and connections made at these events were simply phenomenal. We learned even more about system design, commercial production, pest management and nutrient deficiencies.  Not only were we able to learn from Murray, but we connected with others who had small and large farms all over the world. We were able to discover the challenges and opportunities they were personally facing.  It was comforting to know that we were not alone in pioneering this emerging green industry.

In 2016, I attended the Austin, TX Aquaponics Association’s Conference as a speaker.  I had submitted a proposal to share what we had learned first hand about leveraging aquaponics as a community builder.  This was the first conference where I was able to meet many of my national colleagues. It was so exciting to meet each of these people who we had been following on YouTube and social media.  I returned home with many new connections and a bigger perspective on what was happening on the national and global fronts with the industry. Best of all, I was starting to connect the dots on how to position what we were doing to meet the growing demand of people needing access to living examples of various aquaponic designs and business and community models.

Brian Filipowich and Kate Wildrick, Co-Chairs of the 2017 Putting Down Roots conference take a moment to celebrate the turnout for the event.

In summer 2017, Brian Filipowich (now current Chairman of the Aquaponics Association), reached out to me to get my thoughts on hosting the Association’s annual conference in Portland.  We had met at the Austin conference, and we shared a lot of passion for cultivating the aquaponics community. I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to bring some of the cutting edge leaders and pioneers to the Pacific Northwest, as I knew many in my network would benefit and see how this is a real industry and it is not a fad.  Knowing I had to step up my whole event planning game to the next level, Brian and I set off to find a venue and get promoting.

This event was a huge blessing for me.  At the time, my family and I had been dealing with a devastating blow to our business and life.  We chose to leave the beautiful land we were on when we found out our friend and investor had no interest in honoring our initial agreements.  (Serving for 5 years on our advisory group, she watched us try to secure the land. The high risk venture of “aquaponics” and a business model that had never been done before left us with few conventional options.)  Having no desire to be bound by values that did not align to ours, we uprooted our whole life in 45 days and moved into a one bedroom basement at our friends’ house. Here my husband, mother-in-law, two year old son and I regrouped and wondered what new things would come our way.

The 2017 Putting Down Roots Conference became my sole focus.  With a limited amount of time to put together such major event, I knew it was going to take a lot to pull this off.  As the schedule came together, I began to revisit connections who had come through our center along with an Aquaponic Meetup Group we run to promote the conference.  On the state level, we belonged to an aquaculture task force that was established to bring together public and private organizations to strengthen and develop the aquaculture industry in Oregon.  We served as the voice for aquaponic industry. Often not taken seriously, we knew that this was our opportunity to show the State of Oregon what is possible. So, we gifted the Oregon Aquaculture Association a table at the conference to hear the speakers and connect with attendees.

When the conference happened, I was so excited.  Even though our business and home had been uprooted,
what was clear was that we had very strong roots in our community that aquaponics had helped us create.  During the event, we were able to bring attendees on a tour of an aquaponic R&D center that we were helping build for a new business venture,
Wind River Produce, in the Columbia River Gorge.  As with any build, we got to learn how to make things better.  Next, we went on a second tour to a food innovation center, The Redd, that serves as a business incubator and explored Live Local Organic, an urban application of an indoor aquaponic facility.  The owner, Joel Kelly, had come through our center many years ago hoping to find more information on how to do commercial aquaponics.  The tours were helped tell a story of how aquaponics could bridge the urban and rural divide, which has been a major discussion in the agriculture industry on a local and national level.

Arvind and Gayathri Venkat of Waterfarmers reconnect with Murray Hallam and Nick Savidov, Ph.D.

We also heard the heartbreaking stories of other aquapreunuers that had faced similar challenges that we had encountered.  We were not alone in dealing with the reality that there were a lack of resources to help grow this industry. It dawned on me that by telling our story,  that we could give permission for others to share theirs. Together, our voices could be heard.

After the conference, we took a short break only to find that we had ignited something big.  Beyond seeing an increase in our consultation services, new doors began opening up. The Oregon Food Bank wanted to collaborate and bring aquaponics to their headquarter location.  Discussions around aquaponic training for veterans and people of color began, and funds were sourced to build systems.  Other non-profits and for-profits sought to collaborate and see how they could get more aquaponic farms and community applications going on a local level.  The conversation had shifted. Instead of “making the case” for why aquaponics could solve a lot of issues, people and organizations began were now asking what they could do to help grow the industry.

Based on this feedback, we began focusing our efforts on developing pathways that could funnel this energy in a way that would be beneficial for all.  Given that we had nothing to lose and everything to gain, we decided to develop an aquaponic co-op venture that would help establish standards, best practices and workforce training to grow the industry.  Working with Murray Hallam and his student Arvind Venkat from Waterfarmers, we decided to expand the Wind River Produce model to serve as a way to grow and develop farms and farmers in the Pacific Northwest while alleviating the barriers that many have had to go through.  Working off of a solid and replicable commercial farm model and training curriculum, we then could adapt these processes and designs to integrate with the local food system and culture.

One unexpected, yet incredible surprise of hosting the Putting Down Roots Conference was the response that we received from Clint Bentz, the President of the Oregon Aquaculture Association.  After attending the conference, he was absolutely ecstatic as to what aquaponics could do for the State of Oregon. After meeting and relaying on what he learned to several of the task force members, the association asked me if I would be willing to help them put on an Oregon version of the aquaponics conference.  Working with another co-chair and aquaponic farmer, Michael Hasey of Oregon’s largest aquaponic farm, The Farming Fish, we set out on another short deadline to showcase what was happening with aquaponics on a local level.  The conference took place the weekend of June 23rd, 2018, and drew more than 70 people, including Oregon’s 1st District State Representative, David Brock Smith, who extended his support for growing the state’s aquaculture and aquaponics industries.  Here, the pioneers of the Oregon aquaponic movement shared their organization’s vision, challenges and desire to meet the growing demand for high quality, organic produce.

Reflecting on this conference, I still get emotional.  With the exception of a few speakers, I knew most everyone’s story, challenges, and triumphs.  I was in a very unique position as the Master of Ceremonies to help ask the questions and highlight the opportunities for collaboration to shift the industry on a local level.  Like my own experience at the Austin conference, many of these speakers had not ever met one another before or knew of their projects or farms. Together we told the collective story through our own stories.  We shared how we had moved the mark and explained what was needed to keep going. What happened at the end of the conference then took my breath away. People who attended began offering up resources. Business planning, CPA services, land, supplies, financial assistance were just a few I can recall.  I remember looking at the speakers who were still there and smiling. We had brought our local community together to help remove the barriers. We had even managed to raise another $1,000 to help the STEM students who presented at the Putting Down Roots conference fund their program in our local schools.

When you participate in an aquaponic conference, you give energy and support for those  who are the front lines. Your presence demonstrates that this is a growing movement, and one  that is not going away. You may never know how your interactions impact others and inspire innovation.  You may not realize how your words can encourage new results. My hope is that by sharing my story you can see how the ripples can come back in very unexpected and awe inspiring ways.  It is through these events that I find my inspiration to keep going.

Become Part of the City that Feeds Itself

By joining us for the 2018 Putting Up Shoots Aquaponics Association Conference, you’re becoming a part of something much bigger than aquaponics. In Hartford, CT, we’re making an impact on the city’s food ecosystem by becoming a part of the City that Feeds Itself™.

The City that Feeds Itself is the leading mission of Connecticut’s own Trifecta Ecosystems, our local conference partner. Trifecta is creating incentives for communities to grow their own food, while raising awareness about sustainable farming through education, workshops, and city projects.

With this year’s conference (our biggest yet!), we’re not only raising awareness about one of the most sustainable methods of farming, we’re also supporting local education, farmers in and around Hartford, the growth of food for local communities, and so much more. Learn more about the CFI here: https://bit.ly/2BWGjDR

Become a part of something bigger; register for “Putting Up Shoots” today! http://bit.ly/2NZ4WTV

Speaker Spotlight: Dr. Baker and Dr. Beecher

Speaker Spotlight – Dr. Kimberly Baker & Dr. Lance Beecher, Clemson University Cooperative Extension

“Promoting Spinach Consumption and Sustainable Agricultural Practices in South Carolina Schools using Aquaponics”

(Aquaponics Research & Food Safety Track)

Kimberly Baker:

Dr. Kimberly A. Baker completed her Ph.D. in Food Technology from Clemson University in 2016.  She is a registered and licensed dietitian and a trained chef.  Dr. Baker serves as the Food Systems and Safety Program Team Leader and State Consumer Food Safety Program Coordinator with the Clemson University Cooperative Extension.  Dr. Baker is also a certified Seafood HACCP Trainer and Instructor (Association of Food and Drug Officials), certified Food Safety Preventive Control for Human Food and Animal Food Lead Instructor (Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance), certified Produce Safety Alliance Lead Trainer (Produce Safety Alliance) and ServSafe® Instructor/Proctor (National Restaurant Association).  

Lance Beecher:

Dr. Lance Beecher serves as an Extension Associate and State Specialist with the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service. He received a Ph.D. from Clemson University in Environmental Toxicology and a M.S. and B.S. from Louisiana State University in Fisheries and Wildlife Biology. His background includes extensive work in aquaculture and aquaponics projects for over 25 years. His area includes recirculating system filtration and water quality management. Presently he is managing a 2500 gallon aquaponics system evaluating nutrient dynamics, sterilization techniques and aquaponics food safety protocols.  

 

This session will discuss a project conducted by Clemson Cooperative Extension about promoting spinach consumption and sustainable agricultural practices in South Carolina schools using Aquaponics.  The goals of this project were: 1) to increase nutritional knowledge and consumption of leafy green vegetables; 2) to enhance good handling practices and food safety during production and preparation; and 3) to promote South Carolina sustainable production practices, focusing on Aquaponics.  Two classes from two high schools participated in the project in which the class teacher was taught how to run an aquaponics system; and teach the students pre-determined learning content.  Lesson topics included: safe food handling, food safety of produce and nutrition and cooking of spinach.  Students and teachers were given a pre-test and post-test in order to evaluate knowledge gained.  This session will discuss how the project was implemented, project results and how this can be incorporated into other schools nationwide.  

Make sure you register for the conference today. Time is running out

Aquaponics in STEM Education

By Julie Flegal-Smallwood

According to Economic Modeling Specialists International (2017), STEM jobs will grow 13% between 2017 and 2027, while other career options will grow 9%. In addition, STEM jobs have a median salary of almost twice that of non-STEM jobs. The majority of STEM careers require at least some college, and most students, regardless of level, consider math, science, and other similar classes to be the hardest and most challenging. At the college level, this is often the reason many of my students are ready to graduate but still need to fulfill a college-level mathematics requirement. This is particularly true for low-income, minority, underprepared, or first generation college students.

 Aquaponics continues to be a content area which easily blends many aspects of STEM, and can turn “I can’t” attitudes into “I can”.  It allows students to be engaged in a real-world, important application of STEM. Redlands Community College in El Reno, OK has a robust Aquaponics program associated with two degrees  and a certificate program related to Agricultural Sustainability.

 Last year, I had a non-traditional (in almost every sense of the word) student who sat on the back row the first night of class, and looked as if he might bolt out the door at our break time. As a 36-year old Marine veteran, who also happened to be Native American and a first generation college student, Jason was dubious. He took the class only because he needed a 4-hour class to round out his schedule, and didn’t think it would have much “science and math stuff”.

With each class period he became more engaged, and by midterm asked if he could design a system for his home as his research requirement. Late at night, I would get text messages with pictures of the welding he had been doing or some tanks he had found to use in his homegrown approach. Our schedule included Saturday lab days and field trips, and he asked to bring his wife and children so they

 could learn more about his new passion. By the time we reached fish dissection, his 9-year old daughter was fixture in the class as well.

A year later, his life is much different. Instead of wondering if he could complete community college, he has upped his goals and wants to get a graduate degree in Microbiology or Chemistry, and hopes to work in the Aquaponics industry. In the meantime, he has three systems at home, is working on another one, and is a permanent volunteer in our greenhouse. He credits aquaponics at helping him break through significant PTSD issues, giving him a goal, and passing on some excitement to his five children, three of whom are girls.

 

We  have a STEM Track at this year conference. Check out our STEM Education Conference Discount.

Aquaponics Across Connecticut!

The Putting Up Shoots Conference features tours of four sites across the great state of Connecticut.

Guests will get a first-hand look at all angles of aquaponics: commercial, food safety, community, research, and STEM education.

Tours will inform afternoon sessions and team-building. We will identify ways that Connecticut growers are breaking down barriers and growing more with aquaponics, and how we can all apply these lessons.

Check out the Putting Up Shoots Conference Homepage for ticket info.

Also check out the draft Putting Up Shoots Schedule.

Email community@aquaponicsassociation.org for questions.

Hope to see you there!

 

 

People, Planet, and Profit – Tawnya Sawyer Speaker Spotlight

Tawnya Sawyer from the Aquaponic Source and Colorado Aquaponics will be at the upcoming Putting Up Shoots conference in Hartford, September 21-23.

Tawnya will host multiple discussions in the Commercial Aquaponics Learning Track. Here’ the first:

People, Planet, Profit – Aquaponics’ Triple Bottom Line

All savvy businesses leaders these days are focused on the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit. Aquaponics is one of those premier “green-technologies” that has it all. Aquaponics is about feeding people nutritious food, providing job skills, and greater self reliance. It’s about the planet by reducing waste, and natural resource consumption, while mimicking a natural ecosystem. And if done correctly, aquaponics can also be a profitable endeavor if that is your goal. This session will create an open forum to discuss various different aquaponic projects here and around the world which have achieved the triple bottom line and how others can use those models to build their own aquaponic venture.

Tawnya’s community forum engages thousands of home hobbyist, schools and farmers all over the world. We will share their success stories as well as their toughest tragedies in an attempt to ensure that your aquaponics system will flourish. The more you know, the more you grow.

Get your tix today!

 

You Built It – Now What!?

Tawnya Sawyer from the Aquaponic Source and Colorado Aquaponics will be at the upcoming Putting Up Shoots conference in Hartford, September 21-23.

There is so much excitement around designing and building an aquaponic system. But, once you have it all built, now what? From cycling to harvesting and everything in between, the system depends on you. Tawnya’s session will discuss the most important aspects of managing and optimizing your aquaponic system, from day to day operations, preventative practices and avoiding common mistakes.

Topics include:

  • Cycling and bacteria management;
  • Source water and water quality;
  • Solids management and mineralization;
  • Keeping your fish healthy and happy;
  • Selecting and growing abundant crops; and
  • Pest prevention and recovery.

Get your Putting Up Shoots Tickets today!

Check out Tawnya’s other discussion: People, Planet, Profit – Aquaponic’s Triple Bottom Line

STEM & Community Scholarship Drive

This year, just as every year, the Association Board is deluged with requests from amazing growers that would love to attend the annual conference but don’t have the financial means.

But we need all growers represented to break down barriers and grow more of our food with aquaponics. These growers are on the front lines, often making a difference with aquaponics in the most difficult circumstances.

Therefore, we are seeking funders to sponsor an even more affordable set of tickets for STEM and Community growers.

If you or someone you know are willing to sponsor tickets for teachers, students, or non-profit growers, head here for more information: STEM & Community Scholarship Drive.

CEU Credits for Putting Up Shoots

Redlands Community College in El Reno, OK is pleased to partner with the Aquaponics Association to award continuing education credit for Putting Up Shoots conference attendance. Educators and other professionals who would like CEUs for all or part of the conference can complete an on-site request form indicating the sessions attended. Upon submission, attendees will be mailed a certificate designating the appropriate number of CEUs. In addition, this continuing education credit will be formally transcripted at Redlands Community College. Questions regarding continuing education credit can be directed to Conference Vice-Chair Julie Flegal-Smallwood (julie.flegalsmallwood@redlandscc.edu).

Aquaponics Happy Hour!

 

Hope you are ready to have a good time at this year’s Putting Up Shoots conference in Hartford, CT, because we have Friday and Saturday evening happy hours! We’ll be getting some “supplies” from the local micro-brewing industry, and talking about how aquaponics can help their cause with fresh local hops.

 

Have you ever been to an aquaponics conference happy hour? If not, you’re missing out, we are a wild and fun-loving bunch! Come mix and mingle with like minded individuals. Pick each other’s brains while having a good time. 

This is your chance to make important business contacts, mingle with the most advanced aquaponic growers in the world, and have a great time!

Don’t miss this opportunity.

Register today!

Click here for Putting Up Shoots Conference

 

Aquaponics Conference is at The Hilton

We’re so excited to host the 2018 “Putting Up Shoots” Aquaponics Association Conference at the Hilton Hartford in Hartford, CT!

This gorgeous venue will host all of our sessions, breakout groups, happy hours, and guests from near and far, making it easy to see every speaker and network all weekend long!

Stay at the Hilton and experience spacious, comfortable guest rooms with beautiful views of the city, innovative bistro dining, a gym and indoor pool, and so much more!

Located in the heart of Hartford, CT. Just steps away from many things to do in the evening after a fun day at the conference.

We have set up a block of rooms at a special rate at The Hilton Hartford.

Book your room today !

Senate 2018 Farm Bill Provisions for Aquaponics and Hydroponics

Aquaponics and/or hydroponics are referenced in four different sections of the Senate’s 2018 Farm Bill Draft, listed below. Click here to join our 2018 Aquaponics Farm Bill Coalition and sign our letter to Congress.

SEC. 7212. URBAN, INDOOR, AND OTHER EMERGING AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION RESEARCH, EDUCATION, AND EXTENSION INITIATIVE.

Within one year of passage of the Farm Bill, the USDA Secretary must conduct a census of urban, indoor, and other emerging agricultural production, including information about—

(A) community gardens and farms located in urban areas, suburbs, and urban clusters;

(B) rooftop farms, outdoor vertical production, and green walls;

(C) indoor farms, greenhouses, and high-tech vertical technology farms;

(D) hydroponic, aeroponic, and aquaponic farm facilities; and

(E) other innovations in agricultural production, as determined by the Secretary.

 

SEC. 11122. RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY

The Federal Crop Insurance Corporation will conduct research that evaluates the effectiveness of policies and plans of insurance for production targeted toward local consumers and markets, including policies and plans of insurance that—

(i) consider small-scale production in various areas, including urban, suburban, and rural areas;

(ii) consider a variety of marketing strategies

(iii) allow for production in soil and in alternative systems such as vertical systems, greenhouses, rooftops, or hydroponic systems;

 

SEC. 12302. URBAN AGRICULTURE. OFFICE OF URBAN AGRICULTURE AND INNOVATIVE PRODUCTION

The Farm Bill Creates the Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production. The mission of the Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production is to encourage and promote urban, indoor, and other emerging agricultural practices, including—

(A) community gardens and farms located in urban areas, suburbs, and urban clusters;

(B) rooftop farms, outdoor vertical production, and green walls;

(C) indoor farms, greenhouses, and high-tech vertical technology farms;

(D) hydroponic, aeroponic, and aquaponic farm facilities; and

(E) other innovations in agricultural production, as determined by the Secretary.

 

SEC. 12616. MICRO-GRANTS FOR FOOD SECURITY

The purpose of this section is to increase the quantity and quality of locally grown food through small-scale gardening, herding, and livestock operations in food insecure communities in areas of the United States that have significant levels of food insecurity and import a significant quantity of food.

An eligible entity that receives a subgrant under this section shall use the funds to engage in activities that will increase the quantity and quality of locally grown food, including by …(F) starting or expanding hydroponic and aeroponic farming of any scale.

 

Click here to join our 2018 Aquaponics Farm Bill Coalition. We’ll sign your name onto our upcoming letter to Congress. We’ll be telling Congress they must support sustainable agriculture.

Senate Farm Bill Includes Provisions for Aquaponics and Hydroponics

Read what the Senate’s Farm Bill includes for Aquaponics, click here: Senate Farm Bill Fact Sheet

The U.S. Senate on July 5 passed a draft of the 2018 Farm Bill that includes provisions specifically relating to aquaponics, hydroponics, and other sustainable growing methods. (Maybe our 200+ signature sign-on letter had an effect!)

The Senate’s draft is an improvement over the House draft, which did not even mention aquaponics. But Congress must still do more to support local, efficient agriculture.

The House and Senate must now reconcile their two versions and vote on a final version in the upcoming weeks. We need to make sure that, at a minimum, the Senate’s aquaponics provisions are included in the final draft.

The Farm Bill is intended to provide an adequate national supply of food and nutrition. It is passed once every five years. Both the House and Senate version of the 2018 Farm Bill allocate over $400 billion in spending.

In February, the Aquaponics Association sent over 200 signatures to Congress. We asked Congress to ensure that crop insurance, crop subsidy, research, conservation, and all other Farm Bill programs apply equally to aquaponics as to traditional soil growing.

We need to make sure Congress supports sustainable agriculture. Click here to join the 2018 Aquaponics Farm Bill Coalition. Next week we’ll send another letter to Congress reminding them of the importance of aquaponics to the future of food production.

 

Grocer Boasts of Local Aquaponic Salmon

Festival Foods, a Wisconsin grocer, recently boasted that it’s the first retailer to sell Superior Fresh‘s Atlantic Salmon:

“Superior Fresh is an industry leading aquaponics facility specializing in leafy greens. Their facility, which is situated on a 720 acre native restoration property in the Coulee Region of Wisconsin, is now producing Atlantic Salmon for our Meat & Seafood Department.”

Festival Foods also stocks Superior Fresh’s leafy greens.

“We’re thrilled to be the first retailer to sell this incredible product! Fish at Superior Fresh are raised indoors in a recirculating aquaculture system, a method of aquaculture that is the best for the environment and gives growers complete control to create the perfect growing conditions. All Superior Fresh production water is irrigated and does not get discharged to surface waters of the state.

“Six reasons you need to try this delicious fish:

1. They’re grown right here in Wisconsin!

2. They are grown without any antibiotics or pesticides ever. No contaminants or pollutants like you’ll find in the ocean.

3. They’re high in Omega-3 fatty acids.

4. Superior Fresh received the Highest Sustainability Ranking of “Best Choice” by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch.

5. The fish are fed an organic diet.

6. Amazing flavor!”

https://www.festfoods.com/blog/wisconsin-based-aquaponics-facility-superior-fresh-producing-atlantic-salmon-festival-foods

9th-Grade STEM Presentation: One Step Closer to Mars with Aquaponics

Click here to watch the full video: One Step Closer to Mars with Aquaponics.

Last year at the Putting Down Roots conference, 9th-graders from Meadow Park Middle School presented their NASA-sponsored aquaponics research to a crowd of the world’s top aquaponics experts. Their presentation displayed aquaponics potential for STEM education.

STEM Aquaponics is one of the four learning tracks this September 21-23 in Hartford, CT at the Putting Up Shoots conference. STEM educators from across the country will share their stories of how they integrated aquaponics into their STEM programs. Also checkout our STEM & Community Putting Up Shoots discount rate.

 

 

STEM Education & Community Aquaponics Discount

The Putting Up Shoots conference needs to be accessible for STEM Education and Community aquaponics growers if it’s going to live up to its name. Growers of all shapes and sizes need to be part of the conversation: how do we break down barriers and grow more of our food with aquaponics?

That’s why the Aquaponics Association is implementing the Putting Up Shoots STEM Education & Community Aquaponics Discount, click the link for more details and application information.

Aquaponic Atlantic Salmon are first-ever grown on US soil and harvested commercially for US customers

Superior Fresh of Wisconsin celebrated July 4th by taking one giant leap for the U.S. economy: their Atlantic Salmon became the first ever grown on U.S. soil and harvested commercially!

Superior Fresh’s Atlantic salmon have some of the highest omega-3’s compared to all other salmon, were raised with minimal environmental impacts, are fed an organic diet, and have never received antibiotics or pesticides!

The U.S. imports over NINETY PERCENT of the seafood we consume.  We need more local aquaculture.

With aquaponics, Superior Fresh uses the waste stream from the salmon to also produce the highest-quality leafy greens. This is a win-win situation for our environment and the economy.

The Story of STEM Aquaponics at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy

By Kevin Savage

Aquaponics at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy (CHCA) in Ohio had humble beginnings – it began as a 3-week module in an agriculture unit of an environmental science elective course.  Under the guidance of two commercial aquaponic-growers, the first small aquaponic system was constructed in a CHCA classroom in November 2011, using a repurposed aquarium and recycled 2-liter bottles.  Students of Kevin Savage and Gary Delanoy completed construction of the system.

During the following academic year, aquaponics became a significant component of the Environmental Science I & II course sequence.  Over the next three years, as many as six different aquaponic systems were operating at any given time, and included student-built media bed, deep-water culture, nutrient film, and vertical tower systems.

 

In January 2018, the aquaponics program moved into a new 4,000 square foot on-campus greenhouse.  The greenhouse, with its attached 2,000 square foot classroom and laboratory facilities, is now the home for classroom instruction, student & faculty research, and a 3600-gallon DWC production growing system.

Since the beginning, lesson plans were modified from activities provided by other educators or found online, or were created by Savage and Delanoy.  Their lesson plans and activities have covered several scientific disciplines: biology, botany, chemistry, and even physics.

During the 2015-2016 academic year, Savage and Delanoy began teaching aquaponics using an Engineering Design Process (EDP) approach.  This iterative or cyclical approach to problem solving allows students to utilize and build on their “scientific method” skills, while solving practical problems associated with designing and building small-scale aquaponics systems in a classroom or greenhouse setting.  Teaching with this approach requires that the students develop mastery of basic science concepts associated with aquaponics, the technology integrated into even the smallest of systems, and the engineering principles (and required math skills) needed to complete a successful design under given constraints.  In short, the engineering design process approach provides the opportunity to include STEM (science-technology-engineering-mathematics) education as the basis for a hands-on course, such as “Introduction to Aquaponics.”

Since the 2016-2017 academic year, Savage and Delanoy have relied heavily on the “Small-Scale Aquaponic Food Production” UN-FAO technical manual as their primary “textbook” for their students.  They have developed STEM-focused lecture, assessment, and lab-type activities using the content of this document.  Lesson plans are reviewed and modified each year, and work is ongoing to correlate these lesson plans and activities with curriculum standards (notably, the Next Generation Science Standards, NGSS).

Kevin Savage also serves as Secretary of the Aquaponics Association. Kevin will be presenting about the CHCA’s progress at the Putting Up Shoots conference this September 21-23 in Hartford, CT. He’ll answer your questions about growing STEM aquaponics at your institution.

Take a look at our conference page for more information
on how you can attend or become a presenter

YOU are the next great aqua-pioneer!

The Putting Up Shoots conference is coming up this September 21-23 in Hartford, CT.

Last year in Portland, Oregon we caught two aquaponic trail-blazers – Murray Hallam and Nick Savidov – having a personal chat… probably about nitrification rates or Oreochromis niloticus.

Murray and Nick are back again this year, but we need YOU to make the conference truly special. We need a wide range of engaging sessions from all perspectives to make the most impact.

Click here to Submit a Presentation Proposal.

We have four contiguous learning tracks so there is room for everybody to share their aquaponics knowledge: Commercial Aquaponics; Community Aquaponics; STEM Aquaponics, and Aquaponics Research & Food Safety.

ALL digital presentations will be shared electronically to conference attendees and Association members, so your presentation will be put to good use and become part of our digital archive.

We’d love to learn from you this September!

 

Speaker Spotlight: Nick Savidov, Lethbridge College

The Development of the First Zero-Waste Food Production System Based on Aquaponics

Putting Up Shoots 2018 Conference Presentation

Aquaponics is an integrated fish and plant system that recirculates liquid fish effluent. However, while
research on aquaponics has grown, research into utilizing both liquid and solid waste is limited. In 2015,
Lethbridge College received a $2.1 M NSERC CCI-IE grant to advance commercial integrated fish and
plant systems. As part of this project, Lethbridge College developed a technology that is not only
capable of utilizing liquid fish effluent, but which can convert solid waste into soluble organic fertilizer
using an aerobic fermentation process. This technology is built on the success of prior research done by Alberta Agriculture scientists from 2005 to 2015. Utilization of both liquid and solid waste streams in aquaponics is a promising breakthrough for in-land aquaculture. Moreover, it establishes aquaponics as an example of true zero-waste technology in agriculture. This paper will discuss the potential of aerobic digestion along with the complete waste management process cycle in commercial aquaponics including dewatering, pre-filtration, micro-filtration and biofiltration components.

Aqua-nerds love graphs like this!

 

 

Speaker Spotlight: Rob Torcellini, Bigelow Brook Farm

(Photo Credit: Douglas Healey for The New York Times)

Rob Torcellini is hosting a stop on the Husky-Ponics Tour and moderating an “Ask the Experts” panel discussion

By Kevin Savage

Mention the name “Rob Torcellini” or “Bigelow Brook Farm” in a gathering of aquapons, and ask folks what they think of first.  The comments are varied, and reflect Rob’s involvement and engagement in aquaponics over the past decade, and in the Aquaponics Association since its inception.  In no particular order, Rob is known as:

  • One of only a handful of members to be active in the Association since the first conference in Orlando in September 2011;
  • The guy who designed his own geodesic dome greenhouse using Russian CAD software, and then fabricated nearly all of his own structural pieces and built the greenhouse himself;
  • The guy who designed and built his own rocket mass heater to provide heat to his geodesic dome greenhouse;
  • The guy who designed, and used 3-D printing technology to “print” a bell siphon, and then demonstrated the siphon to the attendees at the 2017 “Putting Down Roots” conference last November in Portland, Oregon;
  • The producer of a myriad of YouTube videos (nearly 240!) documenting just about every conceivable thing that there is to document related to raising fish and growing plants using aquaponics;
  • One of the friendliest and most personable members of the aquaponics community.

In addition to being an aquaponics grower, Rob also designs, manufactures, and distributes products for the aquaponics industry.  Over the past decade, Rob has opened Bigelow Brook Farm for an ongoing virtual farm tour, and has shared his experiences with aquaponics, including all of the challenges that come with being an aquaponics grower in USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 6A.  Rob’s latest project at Bigelow Brook Farm is construction of a new large greenhouse (and yes, he’s building it himself) to contain a new aquaponic production system.  As is Rob’s approach to any new project, he has been video-documenting just about every step of the process, from site preparation to installation of the supporting hoops to floor placement & leveling to covering the hoops to enclose the structure.  His videos provide his technical basis and reasoning behind many of his decisions along the way; mixed in are personal anecdotes that include successes, as well as the occasional item that didn’t turn out quite like Rob wanted or expected.

Those attending the Putting Up Shoots 2018 Aquaponics Association Conference in Hartford, and participating in the conference’s Husky-Ponics Friday Tour program will have the opportunity to meet Rob, and to see first-hand all of the features that make up Bigelow Brook Farm, including the now-famous geodesic dome greenhouse, as well as the new larger greenhouse and its new aquaponics system.

Speaker Spotlight: Ryan Chatterson, Aquaponic Engineering and Design

Finding Profitability In An Ever-Changing Aquaponic Landscape
Putting Up Shoots Conference Presentation
September 21-23, 2018  —  Hartford, CT

With 16 years of experience in the Aquaponic industry as well as being the proud owner of a profitable Aquaponic farm, Ryan Chatterson will discuss several ways for the everyday Aquaponic Farmer to find profitability. Attendees will learn:

  • what questions to ask before even starting your designs;
  • how farm scale dictates the markets you will be selling into (as well as the crops to grow);
  • what it costs to get into the business; and
  • what is takes to jump out of the red and into the green permanently

Profitable Aquaponic farming is a reality everyone can achieve given the proper foresight and planning!

Check out the gorgeous aquaponic tomatoes from Ryan’s farm! Somebody find some fresh basil, mozzarella, a pinch of coarse salt, and a splash of balsamic vinegar ASAP!

            

The Husky-Ponics Tour!

Come take the Husky-Ponics Tour with us! September 21, 2018 at the Putting Up Shoots Conference we’ll be visiting two aquaponic farms deep in Husky territory: the University of Connecticut Spring Valley Student Farm, and Rob Torcellini’s Bigelow Brook Farm. Find more info at this link: The Husky-Ponics Tour

How to Work with Your Food Safety Auditor

Food Safety: Answers and Updates 

FOR FRUIT AND VEGETABLE CROPS

By Juli Ogden and Ben Marchant / The Farm Plan LLC

At The Farm Plan, we provide many farmers with on-site audit support. In my opinion, one of the most important pieces of advice I can give farmers is ‘learn to work with your auditor’. No matter if this year will be your 1st certification, or

your 10th, following some simple steps makes the audit process simpler and easier for everyone. First, let’s define what food safety is – in this context, we’re

referring to raising a crop in a safe and sustainable manner that will not harm consumers. This is obviously in everyone’s interest to show the professionalism and commitment to producing safe crops within our industry, as well as broadening the base of the retailers willing to purchase our product.

An audit can be intimidating. The thought of a potentially unfriendly stranger poking around until they find something so that they can say ‘Gotcha!’ is in the minds of many farmers. Fortunately, the reality is somewhat different. The auditor is there to do a job, and they receive no special consideration for passing or ‘failing’ a farmer. Their goal, simply, is to move through an audit checklist as efficiently as they can. If they need to spend additional time to answer the questions completely, they will use it, and conversely if the opportunity exists to finish the audit earlier than scheduled because the farm is in obvious compliance without the need to dive deep, then they will be glad to finish up a little earlier. It’s in your best interest to be as organized as possible, ready to show compliance against each control point.

Auditors have different personalities. They are typically drawn from the industry they audit or have spent time learning your industry. Different auditors will have different ideas and there will be some, though hopefully minimal, variation between them. One auditor may mark a control point ‘compliant’, and the next year a different auditor will mark it ‘non-compliant’. It happens, and while it’s OK to ask questions and challenge a finding, keep things polite and professional. For you, a non-compliance might feel like a personal affront to the hard work you put in day in, day out, but to the auditor ‘it’s just business’ as they say. If you can show additional data that might sway the auditor, ask if that would help them reconsider their finding. And if not, it’s better not to argue. Seek a second opinion once the audit is complete.

It is your right to challenge an audit finding.  While I don’t recommend arguing every finding raised by the auditor, if you have a genuine concern that the finding does not reflect your compliance with the control point, you should contact the certifying body (CB) employing the auditor. Again, professionally and politely provide your data and show how you comply with the control point. This check and balance won’t always go in your favor, though, and if it doesn’t it’s often best to just move on. There is a further escalation available for very serious issues, such as auditor misconduct and fraud, but we’ll cover that another time.

For the most part, your auditor will be happy to be at your operation. They will have questions, and often genuine interest in how you do things. They may have a passion for food, food safety, and educating those around them. While there are rules precluding auditors from being overly familiar with your operation, depending on the standard, you can request the same auditor 3 or 4 years in a row before you are required to have a new auditor. Scheduling conflicts may not always allow this, but CB’s will do their best to honor your request. As mentioned, some auditors see things differently, or you may just feel more comfortable with a certain auditor. The consistency from year to year may ease your concerns.

 

Prior to your audit, it’s a good idea to contact the auditor. If that is not possible contact the representative at the CB to obtai

 

nthe list of documents the auditor will request, and in which order they prefer to see things. Having your documents organized the way the auditor prefers relieves stress and shows that your farm is organized, getting you off to a good start. When your auditor arrives on-site, treat them like a respected supplier. Have them sign-in and ask if they would like to conduct the physical inspection prior to the paperwork. This small change in schedule will allow the auditor to see the answer to many control points, and once inside they will be able to mark the question ‘OK’ without conversation, saving everybody time.

And please remember that there is always help available, you do not have to go through it alone if you do not want to. 

Updates

  1. CROPS FOR PROCESSING:  This new GLOBALG.A.P. standard simplifies rules for crops slated to be frozen, juiced, used to make pre-cooked meals and other types of processing. www.thefarmplan.com/GGcfp.
  2. FSMA PRODUCE SAFETY RULE Add-On:  This additional GLOBALG.A.P. module may be requested for your audit.  This is not mandatory and does not replace a FSMA Inspection but, according to GLOBALG.A.P. trainers, “may decrease the likelihood of your farm being inspected”.  Expect more change in the future.  See www.thefarmplan.com/FSMApsr.
  3. FSMA Compliance and Water Testing Rules:  These remain in a state of flux.  See new rules compliance target date chart at www.thefarmplan.com/FSMAdates.

Important New Economic Agriculture Report

This new TEEB report is kinda nerdy, but if you are an aquaponic grower it’s vitally important.

TEEB (“The Economics of Ecosystems & Biodiversity”) is a global initiative focused on “making nature’s values visible”. They have just released their latest report; Scientific and Economic Foundations.

Here’s the problem the report addresses: our current food system is loaded with invisible costs: 1) health care costs from pesticide use; 2) antibiotic resistance from rampant antibiotic use in our meat; 3) excessive water use; 4) aquatic dead zones from agricultural runoff; 5) excessive carbon use for food transport; 6) biodiversity loss from clearing land to feed a growing population, etc etc etc…

Here’s one specific example: a forest provides value to every human being: 1) it filters water; 2) it prevents erosion; 3) it sequesters carbon and releases oxygen; and 4) it preserves biodiversity which prevents against infestation, disease, and extinctions which could irreparable harm our entire ecosystem.

So if a large industrial grower clears 1,000 acres of forest to grow more corn, who is paying for this loss of value? Somebody else, or future generations.

In our “free market” form of capitalism, these costs should be taken into account and built into the cost of production. But because these costs are hard to quantify and evaluate, we simply ignore them and stick our heads in the sand like a flock of ostriches.

TEEB is the world’s leading effort to actually put a pricetag on these costs.

As aquaponic growers, we are able to grow the most fruits, vegetables, and fish with the absolute minimum resources necessary. And we can do it without pesticides, without antibiotics and without agricultural runoff. And we can do it local no matter where you are, from cities to deserts, from rooftops to warehouses.

In our “free market” economy, we need to put a price tag on hidden costs in order for aquaponic growers to fully monetize their efficiency.

Can you imagine how much aquaponics would grow if our economy started to charge the true cost of water, carbon, antibiotics, pesticides, deforestation, agricultural runoff, etc? The price of the industrially produced lettuce from 1,000 miles away would go way up, but the aquaponic-grower from your hometown could deliver it without an increase.

This TEEB report is a critical step in that direction.

 

 

Call for Conference Presentations

My name is Kemp and I am Co-Chair for the annual Aquaponics Association conference this September in Hartford, CT.

The word is out! We have some incredible things happening at the organization right now! We have a fully staffed board from all across the country and from all walks of life. We have instituted weekly board calls to bring the Association into compliance and to create a better user experience for our members. In continuing to build on our first quarter success the board has set it’s sights on the yearly Conference and we are actively building out the content that will drive this event.

It is our hope that in delivering a top-tier conference, that we can substantially move Aquaponics forward as a respected, sustainable, and replicable medium.

Are you a commercial grower with a specialty crop?

Are you a STEM teacher with incredible students?

Are you a backyard hobbyist with a great story to tell?

Are you a researcher with groundbreaking aquaponic technology?

We hope to bring the best speakers and ideas to the front this year and we would love to hear from you!

Please submit a proposal if you are a speaker that may be a benefit to our industry or know of someone that would be a great addition to our conference.

CLICK HERE to submit a proposal

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and please visit our website!

I look forward to hearing from you,

Kemp Bromberg
Putting Up Shoots Conference Co-Chair
Executive Board Member, Aquaponics Association

Carlos Leon; Development of Bio-Engineering for Commercial Aquaponics

Carlos Leon of Acuaponia will discuss the Development of Bio-Engineering for Commercial Aquaponics this September at the Putting Up
Shoots conference. Carlos operates commercial farms in Mexico, and is one of several international speakers at the conference.
Design criteria for aquaponic systems have evolved over the past several years. At first, the focus was just fish and plants. But now, new hybrid systems use biotechnology to incorporate other products.
Carlos will discuss the commercial production of shrimp and algae in aquaponic systems; and the newest technologies that make this possible.
He’ll be presenting in the Commercial Aquaponics learning track. Stay tuned in the coming weeks to hear about speakers from the Community Aquaponics, STEM Aquaponics, and Aquaponics Research & Food Safety learning tracks.

 

Ken Armstrong; Putting Up Shoots Speaker Spotlight

This September at the Putting Up Shoots conference, Ken Armstrong from Ouroboros Farms will talk about his experience on the front-lines of the aquaponics industry in his presentation, “The Future of Aquaponics Is Now”.

Ken will highlight the history of commercial aquaponics and the Aquaponics Association over the last 6+ years. He’ll also talk about the next frontier of industry growth, aquaponics business ideas, and the proven Ouroboros business model.
Participants will hear what it takes to run a commercial farm, how to approach restaurants, and more about the educational opportunities we provide in both aquaponics and general agricultural methods.
Ken is also interested in how we can all work together to ensure that aquaponics has a bight and profitable future… Teamwork!

House Farm Bill Doesn’t Even Mention Aquaponics

Our Chairman Brian Filipowich has been busy keeping aquaponics in the news.  Check out the article he contributed to UrbanAGNews.com about the 2018 Farm Bill.

“The House Agriculture Committee recently passed its draft of the 2018 Farm Bill (H.R.2) to the House floor for consideration. The bill doesn’t even mention sustainable production methods like aquaponics, hydroponics, vertical growing or greenhouse growing…” click on the link to see the full article (urbanagnews.com)


We are working on this and much more to help promote aquaponics as a standard for sustainable and organic growing.

Keep us posted if there is anything you would like to share with us. Sign in to our members area to share your news and posts for the rest of the aquaponics community to be a part of it.

Aquaponics History in the Making!

Aquaponics History in the Making!

To date, collaborative aquaponics work in Europe has been conducted under the umbrella of the EU Aquaponics Hub of the European COST program which is coming to an end this year. Practitioners needed a new organization to continue collaborating and sought the advice of the Aquaponics Association of the U.S.

At the end of the conference the top brains got together to plan the next step, and the EU Aquaponics Association was born!

The attendees appointed Ragnheidur Thorarinsdottir from the University of Iceland to be the initial chair of the Association.

 

When the day was over we gathered to celebrate, and the EU growers proved they can party just as well as us in the U.S.

Many attendees of the EU conference expressed interest in attending the U.S. conference in Hartford, CT this September 21-23. Last year in Portland, OR we had representatives from over 10 countries, maybe we can beat that this year in Hartford?

Get your tickets today!