2020 Statement on the Organic Certification of Aquaponic Crops

The Aquaponics Association is publishing the 2020 Statement on the Organic Certification of Aquaponic Crops to explain to policy-makers, the media, the public, and other industry players that aquaponics is a perfect fit for the Organic label; and that losing Organic-eligibility will set back this vital, sustainable industry. Over 200 organizations and individuals signed the Statement. 

See the full Statement and signatories, below, or click here for a PDF: 2020 Statement on the Organic Certification of Aquaponic Crops.

We have to raise our voices to keep Aquaponics, Hydroponics, and other Controlled-Environment Growing eligible for USDA Organic certification! A Lawsuit against the USDA is attempting to strip Organic-eligibility from hydroponics and other “container-based” agriculture, which will impact aquaponics growers.

In addition to this public Sign-On Statement, The Aquaponics Association has formally signed an Amicus Brief to the Court, expressing our view that aquaponics and other “container-based” growing must remain Organic-eligible. The Amicus brief was organized by the Coalition for Sustainable Organics.

***This campaign will persist even after the court case, you can still get involved! Sign on the next version and receive updates.

Here is the full Statement:

November 23, 2020

2020 Statement on the Organic Certification of Aquaponic Crops

In Relation to Case No 3:20-cv-1537 before the US District Court for the Northern District of California

The Aquaponics Association and undersigned organizations and individuals write to express our support for the continued eligibility for aquaponic crops to be certified USDA Organic. We are opposed to the pending lawsuit that seeks to revoke this eligibility: Case No 3:20-cv-1537 regarding the Organic Certification of “hydroponic operations, which are production systems that grow food and crops without any soil.”

Aquaponics is a food production method integrating fish and plants in a closed, soil-less system. This symbiotic relationship mimics the biological cycles found in nature. Aquaponics has been used as a farming technique for thousands of years and is now seeing large-scale viability to feed a growing global population with fresh produce and efficient fish protein.

Benefits of aquaponics include dramatically less water use; minimal agriculture discharge to air, water, and soil; the ability to grow food in cities, deserts, and other inhospitable climates; and more production per land area.

Aquaponic systems include a hydroponic component in which plants are grown. If this lawsuit is successful, many aquaponic growers will likely lose their organic certification that is critical to their economic success.

Aquaponics Fits the Organic Mission
The Organic label is about empowering consumers to identify products that match their values. Consumers do not prefer organic because it is grown in soil; they prefer it because it is pesticide-free, environmentally sustainable, and relies on natural ecosystems for plant growth.

So, does aquaponic produce align with what the consumer expects when they purchase “Organic”?… YES!

“Organic” is perceived by consumers to mean:

Production without synthetic chemicals
Many aquaponic farms operate with only Organic, OMNI-certified materials. Aquaponic systems can thrive without the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers.

Production that fosters the cycling of resources, ecological balance, and biodiversity conservation
Aquaponic systems can be closed-loop ecosystems in which only the minimum required water and nutrients are added and with minimal or no discharge. Aquaponics has also proven that it can produce more food than soil culture per area, thus saving more of the natural environment from the ever-growing toll of large-scale agriculture. And, aquaponics produces the most efficient animal protein: fish.

Production that relies on biological ecosystems to support plant health
Aquaponic systems rely on a robust microflora in the root zone—made of the same types and numbers of bacteria and fungi that thrive in soil. This flora converts nutrients into forms available to plants and maintains plant health by reinforcing naturally-occurring mechanisms of disease resistance—just as in a healthy soil.

Production that responds to site-specific conditions by integrating cultural, biological, and mechanical practices
Consumers expect that organic produce has been grown with a healthy human element, where local customs, expertise, and ingenuity can overcome droughts, concrete jungles, and climate changes. Aquaponics allows environmentally-sensitive agriculture where growing in soil isn’t possible. And, controlled environment growing offers the possibility of local food year-round.

This lawsuit, if successfully, would prevent entire regions of the country from the benefits of the organic label to their farmers.

In an era of climate change, resource depletion, and rapid population growth, the organic price premium is a critical incentive to draw more growers into aquaponics. If this lawsuit succeeds, the aquaponics industry will not grow as quickly and our environment, health, and economy will suffer.

On behalf of the Aquaponics Association, and the undersigned organizations and individuals (in italic), listed by state.

ALABAMA
Gardens on Air

Southern Organics
Dan Cloutier
James Green

ALASKA
Mike Ivkin
Tyrone Brown

ARIZONA
Troy Foote

CALIFORNIA
The Agua Farmers

AONE Aquaponics
Butler Valley Carole Sund Center
Celltech Co.
Class1 produce
Fresh Farm Aquaponics
Go Fish Farm
Lavineyard Farms
Milehigh Aquaponics
SchoolGrown Aquaponics
Seouchae Natural Farming
Shwava, Inc.
Smart Bee Controllers
Taylor B. Duryee
Dustin M Gannon
Karissa Lawson
Raymond J Sanders
Patrick Silvis
Elizabeth Van Pelt
Mark Weyant

COLORADO
R5 High School

The Aquaponic Source
Bountyhaus School Farms
Colorado Aquaponics
Dahlia Campus for Health and Wellness Aquaponic Farm
Ecoponex Systems International LLC
Emerge Aquaponics
Fisheries Technology Associates, Inc
Flourish Farms
Grand Valley Greens
GroFresh Farms 365
Northsider Farms LLC

CONNECTICUT
Bigelow Brook Farm

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Anacostia Aquaponics DC LLC

P.R. Harris Food Hub
University of the District of Columbia

FLORIDA
Aquaponic Lynx LLC

The Aquaponics Doctors, Inc.
The Family Farm
GreenView Aquaponics, LLC
Sahib Aquaponics
Traders Hill Farm
Paul Fouche
Aubrey K Sloan
Pardeep K Vedi

GEORGIA
FM Aquaponic Farm

Georgia Aquaponic Produce LLC
TRC Aquaponics
Ula Farms
Alicia Holloway-Ricks
Amber C. Monroe

Mary Sharpe

HAWAII
Friendly Aquaponics, LLC

ILLINOIS
Central Illinois Aquaponics

KENTUCKY
K&L Organics

Purple Thumb Farms
Regenerative Ecosystems
West KY Aquaponics

LOUISIANA
Aquatic Ecosystems LLC
Carrie Brekeen 

MARYLAND
Bella Vita Farm

Greenway Farms, LLC
University of Maryland

MASSACHUSETTS
Aquaponics Academy
Garrett M. Tunison
Manrique Varela

MICHIGAN
Vital Aquaponics

Toure LEE

MINNESOTA
Bright Future Farms

Menagerie Greens Inc.
Eric Lundborg

MISSOURI
7Cs Winery

Aquatic Gardens Greenhouse
Irene Cassens
Lisa McLaurin
Barry Skelton
Ryan Warbritton
Janna White

MISSISSIPPI
Synergy Aqua Farms

Raymond Parker III

NORTH CAROLINA
100 Gardens

Front Line Urban Farms
Grace Goodness Aquaponics Farm, LLC
William Tilson

NORTH DAKOTA
Barfield Fresh Organic Produce & Fish, Inc.

NEW HAMPSHIRE
Victory Aquaponics
 

NEW MEXICO
Desert Verde Farm LLC

Growing the Greens
High Desert Aquaponics
Howling Coyote Farms
Lettuce, Etc. LLC
Openponics
Project Urban Greenhouse
Sanctuary at ABQ
Santa Fe Community College
Payton Davis
Dylan W. Martin
Rossana Sallenave 

NEW YORK
iGrow News

Oko Farms
Melissa Owens
Marc L. Maynard
 

OHIO
Berean Aquaponic Farms and Organics LLC

Wildest Farms

OKLAHOMA
Greener Grounds LLC

Reid Ranch
Symbiotic Aquaponic LLC
Donald Jackson
David Turner
Jeff Wimberly

OREGON
Ingenuity Innovation Center

Live Local Organic
Practical Aquaponics
Triskelee Farm

PENNSYLVANIA
Aquaponics at State High
Farms Close By
Yehudah Enterprises LLC
Jack Lyke

TEXAS
BioDiverse Technologies LLC

BnE Enterprises
Doodley Dee’s Farm, LLC
East Texas Aquaponics, LLC
GardenWorks Farms
Gentlesoll Farm
HannaLeigh Farm
K&E Texan Landscaping
King’s Farm
The Modern Victory Garden
R&B Aquatic Distribution, Inc.
Tarleton State University, Aquaponics Hydrotron
West Texas Organic Gardening

UTAH
Aquaponics Olio

Carl Searle
Pany Zak

VIRGINIA
Gold-Micro Corporation

Grace Aquaponics
Return to Roots Farm

VERMONT
The Mill ART Garden

Courtney Dragiff

WASHINGTON
Impact Horizon, Co.

The Farm Plan
Life Tastes Good LLC
Northwest Aquaponics LLC
Wind River Produce
Ed Favilla
Jason Morse
Don Mueller

WISCONSIN
Nelson and Pade, Inc.

Jayne Lauby

INTERNATIONAL
International Society of Horticultural Science

AUSTRALIA
Wirralee Pastoral Solum Farm
Practical Aquaponics

BHUTAN
Chhuyang – Aquaponics in Bhutan

BRAZIL
Habitat Marte

Pedra Viva Aquicultura

BULGARIA
Via Pontica Foundation

CANADA
Agro Resiliency Kit (ARK) Ltd.
Fresh Flavor Ltd
Lethbridge College
W.G. Guzman Technical Services
Garden City Aquaponics Inc.
Green Oasis Foods Ltd.
Pontus Water Lentils Ltd.
Aquatic Growers
University of Guelph
Power From Within Clean Energy Society
GREEN RELIEF
Graeme Smith Consulting
ML Aquaponics Inc
North Star Agriculture

EGYPT
Central Laboratory for Aquaculture Research

FRANCE
Vegetal Grow Development

INDIA
Prof Brahma Singh Horticulture Foundation, New Delhi
Blue’s and Green’s
Spacos Innovations Private Limited

ITALY
Grow Up 

JORDAN
Aquaponics AI

MALAYSIA
BNS Aquafresh Farming

NIGERIA
University of Abuja

PHILIPPINES
Central Luzon State University
IanTim Aquaponics Farm

PORTUGAL
True Spirit Lda

ROMANIA
Bucharest Association of Romanian Aquaponics Society

SAUDI ARABIA
Aquaponica

SENEGAL
Ucad Dakar

SINGAPORE
Aquaponics Singapore 

Contact:
Brian Filipowich, [email protected]

$150 Million in New USDA Grants for Sustainable Agricultural Systems

The USDA has published a Request for Applications for 2021 Sustainable Agricultural Systems Grants totaling $150 Million. The Grant is run by the USDA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative. Letters of Intent are due January 7, 2021; applications are due April 1, 2020. Click to view the Request for Applications:

2021 USDA Sustainable Agricultural Systems Grants

The purpose of the Sustainable Agriculture System Grants is to increase agricultural production by 40% in sustainable ways as we approach a world population of 10 billion by 2050, and to do so in the context of economic, societal, and environmental attributes of sustainability.

The Grant Application states that projects should address: “(1) sustainable agricultural intensification; (2) agricultural climate adaptation; (3) value-added innovation; and/or (4) food and nutrition translation. These projects are expected to significantly improve the supply of affordable, safe, nutritious, and accessible agricultural products, while fostering economic development and rural prosperity in America.”

If you are interested in partnering with the Aquaponics Association on a grant proposal, please email us at [email protected] The Aquaponics Association is a 501c3 nonprofit organization with a registration in the Federal Government’s SAM Application System. The Mission of the Aquaponics Association is to expand the practice of aquaponics through education, advocacy, and connection.

The Grants are intended to support “research, education, and extension work by awarding grants to solve key problems of local, regional, national, and global importance in sustaining conventional, organic, and urban agricultural systems. These include farm efficiency, profitability and sustainability, ranching, bioenergy, forestry, aquaculture, rural communities and entrepreneurship, human nutrition, mitigating impacts of biotic and abiotic constraints on food production, food safety, mitigating food waste and food loss, physical and social sciences, home economics and rural human ecology, biotechnology, and classical breeding.”

At the Cultivating the Future Conference last month, we discussed that it’s difficult for aquaponics growers to apply for such large-scale grants because the application process is so long, arduous, and expensive. Maybe the USDA will find a way to make it easier for the most sustainable growers to obtain the resources we need to expand.

Conference presenter Angela TenBroeck, CEO of Aqua Hortus Farms suggested that rather than asking growers to undertake the expensive, arduous grant application process, the USDA go into the field and actively seek the growers doing the best work. What do you think?

 

Do you want to help expand the practice of Aquaponics?

The Aquaponics Association is a nonprofit that expands the practice of aquaponics through education, advocacy, and connection. Please consider a General Membership to support this cause. Your $60 Membership fee will help us grow aquaponics!

Benefits of Membership include:

  • Regular newsletters
  • Access to Aquaponics Association Members Forum with chat groups and direct messages
  • Ability to participate in working groups to move aquaponics forward: 1) Commercial Aquaponics; 2) Community Aquaponics; 3) Aquaponics in STEM Education; and 4) Aquaponics Research
  • Exclusive web content like checklists, best practices, conference presentations and full conference videos from top experts
  • Legislative & Regulatory Updates
  • Special Member Discounts

Membership fees also support:

  • Development and promotion of materials to educate the public about the benefits and opportunities of aquaponics!
  • Development of industry standards and best practices
  • Infrastructure to connect aquaponic growers from around the world
  • Strategic partnerships to expand aquaponics into new industries
  • Ability to speak with one voice to policy-makers and regulators on issues like Organic certification, food safety certification, and agriculture policy
  • Resources to improve aquaponic growers’ skills, growing capacity, and business opportunities
  • Resources to cultivate and develop aquaponics as an emerging green industry

Please consider a General Membership to support aquaponics!

 

 

Aquaponics Association Presents: Latest Developments In Aquaponics

The Aquaponics Association is Teaming up with our Affiliate Member, Indoor Ag Con, to present a free web conversation: Latest Developments in Aquaponics. This event is Wednesday, November 4, at 2:00pm EST.

Click: Register for the Latest Developments in Aquaponics Conversation

Panelists include:
Regina Greuel Cook, Co-Founder and Vice President of Marketing & Operations, Symbiotic Aquaponic
Claudia Andracki, owner, Desert Bloom Eco Farm and Aftaz Growing Systems
Carlos Leon, Biotechnologist Engineer, Aquaponia – BoFish
Charlie Shultz, Lead Faculty, Controlled Environment Agriculture Program, Santa Fe Community College

Do you want to help expand the practice of Aquaponics?

The Aquaponics Association is a nonprofit that expands the practice of aquaponics through education, advocacy, and connection. Please consider a General Membership to support this cause. Your $60 Membership fee will help us grow aquaponics!

Benefits of Membership include:

  • Regular newsletters
  • Access to Aquaponics Association Members Forum with chat groups and direct messages
  • Ability to participate in working groups to move aquaponics forward: 1) Commercial Aquaponics; 2) Community Aquaponics; 3) Aquaponics in STEM Education; and 4) Aquaponics Research
  • Exclusive web content like checklists, best practices, conference presentations and full conference videos from top experts
  • Legislative & Regulatory Updates
  • Special Member Discounts

Membership fees also support:

  • Development and promotion of materials to educate the public about the benefits and opportunities of aquaponics!
  • Development of industry standards and best practices
  • Infrastructure to connect aquaponic growers from around the world
  • Strategic partnerships to expand aquaponics into new industries
  • Ability to speak with one voice to policy-makers and regulators on issues like Organic certification, food safety certification, and agriculture policy
  • Resources to improve aquaponic growers’ skills, growing capacity, and business opportunities
  • Resources to cultivate and develop aquaponics as an emerging green industry

Please consider a General Membership to support aquaponics!

 

Organic Aquaponics – Microbial Nutrient Cycling!

An extremely large and diverse community of microbes lives in every aquaponic system. One role of this community is cycling nutrients.

Microbes release enzymes that decompose floating organic matter, take up the available nutrients, and eventually make these nutrients available to other microbes or to plants. This is the same symbiotic process that happens in healthy soil, known as the “Soil Food Web”. 

Read more about the microbial community in an aquaponic system. Click:

Aquaponic Systems Utilize the Soil Food Web To Grow Healthy Crops.

Did you know that aquaponic systems are water-based… but they still have a “Soil Food Web”…. Maybe we’ll change the name to the “Water Food Web” since plants and bacteria can live without soil… but they can’t live without water!

Organic Court Case

Why is this important? Right now, a court case is threatening the ability of aquaponic growers to be certified as USDA Organic, even though aquaponics growers can abide by all the Organic regulations of the National Organic Standards Board.

Organic Certification is critical for many commercial growers to meet consumer demand and achieve equitable price points. 

Do you want to help us keep Aquaponics Organic? Click:

Sign onto the Statement to the Court to Help Commercial Aquaponic Growers stay Organic-Eligible.

Organic Court Case – Aquaponics Statement

We have to work together and raise our voices in collaboration to keep Hydroponics and Aquaponics Organic-Eligible! A Lawsuit against the USDA is attempting to strip Organic eligibility from hydroponics and other “container-based” agriculture which will impact aquaponics growers as well. 

We all know that aquaponics is an environmentally appropriate way to grow food that mimics natural ecosystem. And that the aquatic ecology is very similar to soil ecology, which is the “foundation to the organic standard”.

Plants can grow without soil — they can’t grow without water!

Organic Certification is critical for many commercial growers to meet consumer demand and achieve equitable price points. 

 Statements to the court by interested parties are due this month. Read the statement here, and sign below.

October 19, 2020

Statement from the Aquaponics Association and Undersigned Entities Regarding the Organic Certification of Container-Based Agriculture; Case No 3:20-cv-1537 before the US District Court for the Northern District of California

The Aquaponics Association and undersigned organizations and individuals write to express our opposition to the lawsuit Case No 3:20-cv-1537 regarding the Organic Certification of “hydroponic operations, which are production systems that grow food and crops without any soil.”

Aquaponics is a food production method integrating fish and plants in a recirculating system. This symbiotic relationship mimics the biological cycles found in nature. Aquaponics has been used as a farming technique for thousands of years and is now seeing large-scale viability to feed a growing global population with fresh produce and efficient fish protein.

Benefits of aquaponics include dramatically less water use; minimal agriculture discharge to air, water, and soil; and the ability to grow food in locations where soil is non-existent on urban rooftops, city centers, concrete, sand to arid deserts.

Aquaponic systems include a hydroponic component in which plants are grown. If this lawsuit is successful, many aquaponic growers will likely lose their organic certification that is critical to their economic success.

Aquaponics Fits the Organic Mission
The Organic label is about empowering consumers to identify products that match their values. Consumers do not prefer organic because it is grown in soil; they prefer it because it is chemical-free, environmentally sustainable, and relies on natural ecosystems for plant growth.

Aquaponic produce aligns with what the consumer expects when they purchase “Organic”

“Organic” is perceived by consumers to mean:

Production without synthetic chemicals
Many aquaponic farms operate with only OMRI-certified materials and follow NOP guidelines.

Production that fosters the cycling of resources, ecological balance, and biodiversity conservation
Aquaponics is an ecosystems in which reduces natural resource consumption, and produces zero waste. Aquaponics has also proven that it can produce more food than soil culture per area, thus saving more of the natural soil environment for crops that can perform better in field crop production such as corn, soy, wheat, and many vining crops. And, aquaponics produces the most efficient animal protein: fish.

Production that relies on biological ecosystems to support plant health
Aquaponic systems rely on a robust microflora in the root zone—made of the same types and numbers of bacteria and fungi that thrive in soil. This flora converts nutrients into forms available to plants and maintains plant health by reinforcing naturally-occurring mechanisms of disease resistance—just as in a healthy soil. (see the Aquaponic Soil Food Web Report)

Production that responds to site-specific conditions by integrating cultural, biological, and mechanical practices
Consumers expect that organic produce has been grown with a healthy human element, where local customs, expertise, and ingenuity can overcome droughts, concrete jungles, and climate changes. Aquaponics allows environmentally-sensitive agriculture where growing in soil isn’t possible. And, controlled environment growing offers the possibility of local food year-round.

This lawsuit, if successfully, would prevent entire regions of the country from the benefits of the organic label to their farmers.

In an era of climate change, resource depletion, and rapid population growth, the organic price premium is a critical incentive to draw more growers into aquaponics. If this lawsuit succeeds, the aquaponics industry will not grow as quickly and our environment, health, and economy will suffer.

Aquaponics is in no way intending to out compete soil growers. Instead aquaponics is part of the wholistic solution for feeding a growing population in places that traditional organic soil growers would not otherwise choose to or be able to grow. 

On behalf of the Aquaponics Association, and undersigned organizations

contact: Brian Filipowich
[email protected]

Aquaponics Association Statement on Aquaculture Executive Order

September 21, 2020

For Immediate Release

The Aquaponics Association has published a Statement regarding White House Executive Order 13921, Promoting American Seafood Competitiveness and Economic Growth.

Read the Full Statement: Aquaponics Association Aquaculture Statement, September 2020

The Executive Order’s attention to the amplification and development of U.S. aquaculture addresses the important goal of increasing the supply of domestic fish in our diets. However, the Executive Order’s method of achieving this goal risks severe negative consequences.

We do not support the de-regulation of off-shore fishing proposed as a means to boost production. Prioritizing short-term gains over meaningful, long-term viability of aquaculture is contrary to the spirit of the industry aquaculturists have worked so hard to build. Past implementations of largely unmitigated off-shore aquaculture are well correlated with the detriment of the overall fishing supply and environmental health of our waters.

Recirculating, Inland, and Aquaponic culture arose, in many cases, from our desire to conduct aquaculture in both an environmentally and financially sustainable manner.

We propose the following actions to expand domestic fish production in a safe, sustainable manner:

  1. Recognize Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS), Freshwater Pond, and Aquaponic seafood culture as sectors of co-equal importance to marine culture. 
  2. Establish regular lines of contact between the NOAA Fisheries offices, Regional Aquaculture Center network, USDA Extension Services, and the USDA Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production. 
  3. Continue to support regulation and oversight of American marine aquaculture to ensure the long-term safety and viability of our natural waters.

Please see the full statement for more details.

This Statement was prepared by Lucien Blakemore and Regina Greuel Cook of Symbiotic Aquaponic, an Affiliate Member of the Aquaponics Association. 

Contacts:
Brian Filipowich, Chairman
Aquaponics Association
[email protected]

Regina Greuel Cook, Vice President
Symbiotic Aquaponic
[email protected]

Do you want to support Aquaponics?

The Aquaponics Association is a nonprofit that cultivates aquaponics through education, advocacy, and connection. Please consider a General Membership to support this cause.

Benefits of Membership include:

  • Regular newsletters
  • Access to Aquaponics Association Members Forum with chat groups and direct messages
  • Ability to participate in working groups to move aquaponics forward: 1) Commercial Aquaponics; 2) Community Aquaponics; 3) Aquaponics in STEM Education; and 4) Aquaponics Research
  • Exclusive web content like checklists, best practices, conference presentations and full conference videos from top experts
  • Legislative & Regulatory Updates
  • Special Member Discounts

Membership fees also support:

  • Development and promotion of materials to educate the public about the benefits and opportunities of aquaponics!
  • Development of industry standards and best practices
  • Infrastructure to connect aquaponic growers from around the world
  • Strategic partnerships to expand aquaponics into new fields
  • Ability to speak with one voice to policy-makers and regulators on issues like Organic certification, food safety certification, and agriculture policy
  • Resources to improve aquaponic growers’ skills, growing capacity, and business opportunities
  • Resources to cultivate and develop aquaponics as an emerging green industry

Learn more: General Membership

 

Food Safety un-Scrambled

Food Safety un-Scrambled; Aquaponic Guide to Food Safety and Organics

Aquaponic, Hydroponic and Aquaculture farms can and do earn food safety and organic certifications.

By:  Juli Ogden, The Farm Plan President,  Farmer and GLOBALG.A.P. Farm Assurer

The Farm Plan is an Affiliate Member of the Aquaponics Association

(Juli will be presenting at The 2020 Aquaponics Conference October 16-18, learn more: 2020 Conference Website.)

 

Let’s Start with Food Safety’s Bottom Line

The bottom-line in food safety is to stop cross contamination between animals, water, manure, people and materials.  

When cross contamination happens, people become ill.  Children, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems are commonly affected first.  Sometimes people die. 

More than 20 years ago, in response to a number of deaths, German retailers began asking for proof that crops were safely grown.  This movement spread across Germany and then Europe, eventually circling the earth. 

Today, in order to sell their crops to large buyers, farms around the world need a food safety certificate. The largest farm certification program is GLOBALG.A.P. but the rules are written in highly technical language with zero instructions.  Food safety documentation and certification is an over-whelming burden for already overworked farms. 

The important step is to prove you grow safe and healthy food.  Most farms are much closer to ready than they think!  They have some cleanup, organization, and worker training to do.  Many chemical storage areas need basic improvements.  With the right guidance, it all becomes clear.

OVERVIEW

When the Aquaponic Association invited me to create a comparison of food safety certification options for aquaponic farms; it sounded pretty simple.  You have probably had similar ‘less than realistic’ thoughts.  This topic is an entangled mass of programs with no clear direction. Once you read each program’s overview, I will offer supporting facts and personal experiences. 

Most farms harbor some fear about food safety audits.  For aquaponic farms this is emphasized.  Your industry is a ‘teenager’.  Your fears are increased by the very factor that makes your farming model  so efficient. Your grow large crops in a small footprint, even inside industrial buildings, use limited amounts of water and greenhouse crops are protected from most animal and bird contamination.

So many positives.  So why is it scary?  It’s the public’s perception of fertilizing crops with live fish.  Information is often the best solution to fear. 

Know that the fish component of your farm is easily dealt with in certification.  Fish waste is not treated as manure.  According to a letter received from a large organic certifier, “The NOP (National Organic Program) Standards specifically exclude all aquatic animals from the definition of livestock and since the definition of manure only pertains to material produced by livestock, fish waste, as produced in an aquaponic system is not determined to be raw manure and there are no pre-harvest interval requirements.”   

That was a bit hard to read, but effectively, is says that fish poop is not ‘manure’!  Manure is the basis for many rules in both food safety and organics.  I have this documented.

Farmers around the world are uncomfortable and downright angry with food safety’s increased regulation, extra work, and extra expense.  It feels unreasonable when crop quality is how the farm survives.  Why should a farmer report how much water they use when farming is much like Goldilocks and the Three Bears?  Water use must be “just right” for a quality crop. That is not the only regulation that’s frustrating.  Many of those rules were designed for farms in less developed regions, but they still apply to every farm worldwide program.

Buyers are educated in safe food. They demand it.  Large retailers and crop brokers demand a food safety certificate from processors who demand it from farms.  If that has not yet reached your farm, believe me, it will. 

So how do you meet all the rules and stay in business?  How do you know what is required, what your choices are, and what will work best for your situation?  I can tell you what I did to cover my cherry orchard when it became required in 2012, and how I’ve moved forward. 

First, let’s review program options.

NATIONAL  ORGANIC  PROGRAM  (NOP) 

Organic certification is a choice that may increase your profit line.  It is not a food safety program, but many required steps are duplicated in food safety.  When following a food safety and organic program “do it once and use it twice” is an honest win for all.

The National Organic Program certifies crops grown with no prohibited substances such as most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Organic crops offer consumer health benefits and often sell for higher prices than conventional crops. An annual audit is required.  Organic farming on aquaponic farms is quite simple. Use only pre-approved materials and additives, keep good records, maximize biological activity and other techniques to manage weeds, insects and diseases.

FOOD SAFETY MODERNIZATION ACT (FSMA) 

FSMA is the only legally required food safety program that applies to certain crops grown in or imported to the U.S.  Crops eaten raw that do not go through a processing “kill step” such as cooking are covered by this rule.  The list of covered crops is long.  Crops which do go through a “kill step” are not required to follow the FSMA. 

  1. The first rule to recognize is that at least one person per farm must have earned a “Produce Safety Alliance” certificate and act as the trainer for the farm’s workers.    This is the total of all crops, human, and animal feed – not just “ready to eat” crop income.
  2. Farms” required to meet the rule include may grow, handle, process and/or store crops.
  3. Crops typically eaten raw, such as cherries, but sold 100% to a processor using a “kill step” (cooking, for instance) may become FSMA exempt.
  4. Water testing rules, as defined by FSMA, are under challenge from the farming industry and are “on hold for further review”. (Food safety certification also requires water testing.)
  5. A.P. certified farms may be less likely to be FSMA inspected.
  6. Farms with 3 year averaged annual income under $25,000, are FSMA exempt.
  7. Every farm has a “trainer” who attended a FSMA training course. They are responsible for on-farm FSMA training.

 

FOOD SAFETY CERTIFICATION PROGRAMS

You many notice food safety program names tend to end in G.A.P.  This is the acronym for Good Agricultural Practices.  The alphabetical program list that follows is really where your choices begin.  You will choose ONE food safety program. 

CANADAGAP is a well-accepted Canadian food safety program. There is annual fee, but commonly only a 4-year audit cycle.  Aquaponic farmers were at a loss over CanadaGAP’s 2019 decision to not certify aquaponic farms as of 2020Canadian farmers can jump this hurdle by certifying under GLOBALG.A.P. IFA.

  • GLOBALA.P. is the most widely accepted, GFSI approved food safety certification program in the world, with more than with more than two-hundred thousand certifications in 135 countries. GLOBALG.A.P. certified farms take very few extra steps to meet FSMA rules.  Integrated Farm Assurance (IFA) is the most often required, top level food safety certification for aquaculture, fruit and vegetable farms and covers growing, harvesting, and handling (washing, sorting, packing, storing, etc.).  GLOBALG.A.P. certified sites meet the universal food safety standards endorsed and accepted by the largest retailers worldwide.  An annual audit required.
  • PRIMUS-GFS is a well-respected GFSI approved food safety certification program. Primus GFS certified sites meet the universal food safety standards endorsed and is accepted by the largest retailers worldwide. They have something over twenty-thousand current certifications.  An annual audit required.
  • SQF is a GFSI approved food safety certification program that offers certification to confirm an organization produces, processes, prepares and handles food products to the highest possible standards globally. Emphasis seems to be placed on certifying large processing facilities.   This author is not aware of any aquaponic farms certified under this food safety standard but it does appear to be possible.  An annual audit required.
  • USDA GAP HARMONIZED standard is approved and accepted by many retailers who require a GFSI certified standard. Audits are performed in (at least) the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada.  Aquaponics may only certify under the Harmonized Program. An annual audit required.

ADDITIONAL PROGRAMS SOMETIMES REQUIRED BY CROP BUYERS

  • SOP – STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURES are written performance guides for each farm and facility process. SOP’S are a requirement for organic certification and some large crop buyers. Audits may or may not be required by the crop buyer.
  • HACCP – HAZARD ANALYSIS AND CRITICAL CONTROL POINTS “pinpoints” each farm process with a high food safety risk, performs an analysis of the risk and creates a management plan to ensure the problem does not happen. This is required by some crop buyers in addition to FSMA, GLOBALA.P. and /or National Organic Program Certification.
  • GOOD MANUFACTURING PRACTICES are similar to the SOP and HACCP above. It ensures products are consistently produced and controlled according to quality standards by minimizing risks.  This program often goes hand-in-hand with HACCP. Audits may or may not be required by your buyer.

IN MY EXPERIENCE

In 2012 I was required to GLOBALG.A.P certify my cherry crop. Those regulations did not include a single instruction.  How is a busy farmer, already wearing a dozen hats, supposed to get this job done with no guidance?. I outlined all 325 pages of complicated, overly academic regulation, page by page and the result was a rough food safety program.  My packhouse field man saw what I had done and had me to help the rest of his growers.  The gratitude for that training paved my path into food safety support.

Meeting the rules of food safety is not that hard when you know what they are.  The top points are to:

  • Protect your crop from cross contamination.
  • Protect your workers and the environment
  • Keep the farm clean and organized.
  • Keep track of certain jobs.
  • Answer it, now prove it is my mantra when setting up food safety.

By:  Juli Ogden, The Farm Plan President,  Farmer and GLOBALG.A.P. Farm Assurer

In an industry known for its complexity Juli is pioneering a way of doing things that is within reach of every farmer, no matter how small or how large. (BM)

On and off the farm with Juli Ogden:  Juli is happily married, still works on her farm but focuses on food safety consulting and public presentation.  She was a professional real estate expert, author and radio show host for Business Talk Radio and Lifestyle Talk Radio.  At the age of 32, Juli was named Washington State Small Businesswoman of the Year.  Juli is an industry acknowledged food safety expert and public speaker.

Do you want to support Aquaponics?

The Aquaponics Association is a nonprofit that cultivates aquaponics through education, advocacy, and connection. Please consider a General Membership to support this cause.

Benefits of Membership include:

  • Regular newsletters
  • Access to Aquaponics Association Members Forum with chat groups and direct messages
  • Ability to participate in working groups to move aquaponics forward: 1) Commercial Aquaponics; 2) Community Aquaponics; 3) Aquaponics in STEM Education; and 4) Aquaponics Research
  • Exclusive web content like checklists, best practices, conference presentations and full conference videos from top experts
  • Legislative & Regulatory Updates
  • Special Member Discounts

Membership fees also support:

  • Development and promotion of materials to educate the public about the benefits and opportunities of aquaponics!
  • Development of industry standards and best practices
  • Infrastructure to connect aquaponic growers from around the world
  • Strategic partnerships to expand aquaponics into new fields
  • Ability to speak with one voice to policy-makers and regulators on issues like Organic certification, food safety certification, and agriculture policy
  • Resources to improve aquaponic growers’ skills, growing capacity, and business opportunities
  • Resources to cultivate and develop aquaponics as an emerging green industry

Learn more: General Membership

Virtual Aqua-Conference Dates: Oct 16, 17, 18

(Putting Out Fruits – 2019 Annual Conference at Kentucky State University)

The Aquaponics Association Board of Governors is excited to announce that our 2020 Virtual Aqua-Conference will be held October 16, 17, and 18. 

The Conference will unite growers from around the world to share information and ideas to help us all grow better. We will collaborate and discuss how we can work together to expand the practice of aquaponics. Four learning tracks – Commercial, Community, Research, and STEM Education – will present focused content for growers of all shapes and sizes!

Do you want to present at the Conference? We need to hear from all voices and all level of growers! Presentations can be live or pre-recorded, and from as short as 15 minutes to as long as an hour and a half. Click here:

Submit a Presentation Proposal

Run The World Virtual Events Platform

We are sad we will not be convening in person this year, but excited to be moving to the Run The World Virtual Events Platform! This cutting-edge platform can host multiple session formats and allow guests to interact and make new connections! What a way to expand aquaponics to new frontiers!

Session formats include talks, panel discussions, virtual tours, and fireside chats! Guests can comment and ask questions in real time, and interact with direct messaging and chat rooms!

Stay tuned for ticket info and programming. Email us at [email protected] with questions.

Click here: Submit a Presentation Proposal

Do you want to support Aquaponics?

The Aquaponics Association is a nonprofit that expands the practice of aquaponics through education, advocacy, and connection. Please consider a General Membership to support this cause.

Benefits of Membership include:

  • Regular newsletters
  • Access to Aquaponics Association Members Forum with chat groups and direct messages
  • Ability to participate in working groups to move aquaponics forward: 1) Commercial Aquaponics; 2) Community Aquaponics; 3) Aquaponics in STEM Education; and 4) Aquaponics Research
  • Exclusive web content like checklists, best practices, conference presentations and full conference videos from top experts
  • Legislative & Regulatory Updates
  • Special Member Discounts

Membership fees also support:

  • Development and promotion of materials to educate the public about the benefits and opportunities of aquaponics!
  • Development of industry standards and best practices
  • Infrastructure to connect aquaponic growers from around the world
  • Strategic partnerships to expand aquaponics into new fields
  • Ability to speak with one voice to policy-makers and regulators on issues like Organic certification, food safety certification, and agriculture policy
  • Resources to improve aquaponic growers’ skills, growing capacity, and business opportunities
  • Resources to cultivate and develop aquaponics as an emerging green industry

Learn more: General Membership

USDA Soilless Urban Ag Survey

Researchers at San Diego State University are conducting an important survey to understand soilless urban agriculture’s economic, environmental and social benefits, as well as the regional and local barriers and opportunities influencing the industry’s development.

Take the Survey: Systems Analysis of Hydroponic, Aquaponic, and Aeroponic Food Production in the United States

The goal is to understand the factors influencing the industry and the support it needs to be more successful and impactful. The survey is funded by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture program.  Researchers need to hear from ALL participants in soilless food production businesses and organizations including farmers, CEOs, owners, directors, managers, scientists, volunteers, etc.

The success of this project depends on this survey reaching as many people who work in soilless urban agriculture as possible! If you grow in soilless urban systems please take 10 minutes to complete the survey! 

Take the Survey: Systems Analysis of Hydroponic, Aquaponic, and Aeroponic Food Production in the United States

Do you want to support Aquaponics?

The Aquaponics Association is a nonprofit that expands the practice of aquaponics through education, advocacy, and connection. Please consider a General Membership to support this cause.

Benefits of Membership include:

  • Regular newsletters
  • Access to Aquaponics Association Members Forum with chat groups and direct messages
  • Ability to participate in working groups to move aquaponics forward: 1) Commercial Aquaponics; 2) Community Aquaponics; 3) Aquaponics in STEM Education; and 4) Aquaponics Research
  • Exclusive web content like checklists, best practices, conference presentations and full conference videos from top experts
  • Legislative & Regulatory Updates
  • Special Member Discounts

Membership fees also support:

  • Development and promotion of materials to educate the public about the benefits and opportunities of aquaponics!
  • Development of industry standards and best practices
  • Infrastructure to connect aquaponic growers from around the world
  • Strategic partnerships to expand aquaponics into new fields
  • Ability to speak with one voice to policy-makers and regulators on issues like Organic certification, food safety certification, and agriculture policy
  • Resources to improve aquaponic growers’ skills, growing capacity, and business opportunities
  • Resources to cultivate and develop aquaponics as an emerging green industry

Learn more: General Membership

Run The World — Our 2020 Online Conference Platform

The Aquaponics Association’s Annual Conference for 2020 will be on the Run World Virtual Events Platform. This exciting platform can host multiple session formats and allow guests to interact and make new connections! What a way to expand aquaponics to new frontiers!

Session formats include talks, panel discussions, virtual tours, and fireside chats! Guests can comment and ask questions in real time, and interact with direct messaging and chat rooms!

Do you want to present at the Conference? We need to hear from all voices! Presentations can be live or pre-recorded, and from as short as 15 minutes to an hour and a half.

Submit a Presentation Proposal

Session Formats Include:

TALKS — One speaker giving a presentation with the option of screen-share slide presentations. Talks can be live or pre-recorded. Attendees can interact through live comments, questions, and emoji reactions; and presenters can poll the audience and see results in real-time.

Talks can be as short as 15 minutes, or as long as an hour and a half! Now that we are breaking free from physical conference logistics, the possibilities are endless!!! 

“ASK ME ANYTHING” — 1 speaker receiving and answering live questions from attendees.

FIRESIDE CHAT  —  2 speakers having a live conversation in front of an audience. Attendees can interact through live comments, questions, and emoji reactions.

PANEL DISCUSSION  —  Up to 8 people livestreaming together with an audience.

VIRTUAL TOUR  —  Showcase a video of your system and answer audience questions!

BREAKOUT DISCUSSION  —  Up to 8 people having a private conversation so that all participants can engage and share their ideas. Do you have a topic we need to be talking about? Let us know!

COCKTAIL HOUR  —  Attendees are matched with eachother via virtual handshake and can connect through engaging 5-minute audio chats. After the party, they can choose who to follow up with through one easy click. Fun networking!

DIRECT MESSAGING  —  Throughout the Conference, guests can interact with one-on-one chat conversations!

Stay tuned for ticket information

New USDA Grants for Socially Distant Ag Education

The USDA recently published a new grant opportunity: Innovating Formal and NonFormal Educational Experiences in Food and Agricultural Sciences During the Time of Social Distancing.

See the funding opportunity on page 19 of the Request for Applications: USDA Social Distance Ag Education Grants

Applications are due August 20, 2020.

Grant Information Webinar is Tuesday, July 28: Register here for the Grant Webinar

Do you have an interest in partnering with the Aquaponics Association on this grant opportunity? Email us at [email protected] We are also happy to write letters of support for aquaponics proposals.

Regarding this grant, the USDA states:

“This program area priority addresses the need to develop and deploy rapid, reliable, and readily-adoptable strategies in workforce preparation through formal K-14 education, as well as in youth development through non-formal (e.g., extension) education to cultivate interest and competencies in STEM and agriculture during this challenging time. Funded projects are expected to develop tools, techniques, and other practices that can be rapidly adopted at home or by various educators and extension specialists to ensure the effective formal and non-formal education of K-14 students and youth development.

Help us Fight for Aquaponics!

The Aquaponics Association is a nonprofit that connects growers and works to increase aquaponic production. Please consider a General Membership to support this cause.

Benefits of Membership include:

  • Regular newsletters
  • Access to Aquaponics Association Members Forum with chat groups and direct messages
  • Ability to participate in working groups to move aquaponics forward: 1) Commercial Aquaponics; 2) Community Aquaponics; 3) Aquaponics in STEM Education; and 4) Aquaponics Research
  • Exclusive web content like checklists, best practices, conference presentations and full conference videos from top experts
  • Legislative & Regulatory Updates
  • Special Member Discounts

Membership fees also support:

  • Development and promotion of materials to educate the public about the benefits and opportunities of aquaponics!
  • Development of industry standards and best practices
  • Infrastructure to connect aquaponic growers from around the world
  • Strategic partnerships to expand aquaponics into new fields
  • Ability to speak with one voice to policy-makers and regulators on issues like Organic certification, food safety certification, and agriculture policy
  • Resources to improve aquaponic growers’ skills, growing capacity, and business opportunities
  • Resources to cultivate and develop aquaponics as an emerging green industry

Learn more: General Membership

USDA Announces $4million Community Ag Grants

The USDA is soliciting grant applications from community-based and non-profit organizations, institutions of higher education, and tribal entities.

Funding of approximately $4 million is for the purpose of leveraging USDA, state, local and private sector resources, to address local agricultural and natural resource issues, encourage collaboration and to develop state and local leadership and partnerships to assist limited resource and socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers, ranchers, agricultural producers and communities through agriculture industries.

Head to the USDA Community Grants Web Page for more information.

Send us a message to [email protected] if you would like to discuss partnering on a grant proposal, or would like a letter of support for your grant proposal.