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]

 

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.

Aquaponics in Serbia

Aquaponics is a small but growing club. This week Nemanja shared with us how he is a part of the Aquaponics community. It’s always great to learn about one another.
“ My name is Nemanja Živić, I am 27 years old and currently I am working as Technical Support Engineer for CHPs on Biogas in Serbia. During the Covid-19 quarantine period I finally made my first baby steps into aquaponics. For years I always read interesting news about aquaponics and I was always fascinated with it. During quarantine I realized I have enough time to make my micro ecosystem and test all the things I didn’t know. I Made my micro 10l system for less than 20€ with some of the things I already had in my house. This is the best way to step into aquaponics for people that are interested in it but never tried, just like me. You will maybe fail in the beginning but never stop trying. After all, like you can see in the pictures, all you need is a small aquarium, plastic grow bed, water pump and oxygen pump.
In Serbia there are not many people that have even heard about aquaponics right now. In the whole country you can probably count the number of active systems with fingers on both hands.
This is my first system and it has only one fish (koi) and now that he is getting bigger, this small aquarium is too small for him. I am already planning a new one that I will finish soon and it will not be simple in design. The goal is to have a big enough system that I could profit from. I would like to make this hobby into my future job.
As a renewable engineer I have to say aquaponics as it is right now has something that is overlooked by many. Currently I am also working on a study that can make the system way more efficient and cost effective. It is easy and simple to say it but I will need a lot of research to finish this study and a lot of experiments in the coming years. In this way aquaponics can shape our world being a renewable way of our food production and have a big impact on our world with all the benefits it already has.”
Nemanja’s Socials
(Linkedin – nemanja)

Quarter 2 COVID19 Economics Survey for Aquaponics and Allied Businesses

In response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), The Ohio State University and Virginia Tech are collecting information about how U.S. aquaculture, aquaponics, and allied businesses have been affected by this pandemic. This effort is being repeated quarterly to try and capture the evolving impacts of coronavirus disease.

Click: Take the Quarter 2 Survey

This survey is being supported by funding from the National Sea Grant Office (NSGO) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). Results from this study may be used to communicate the effects of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on commercial aquaculture, aquaponics or allied businesses to State and Federal agencies, in an effort to secure relief. Results from this study may also be published in the future. This survey will close on July 17, 2020.
If you would like a copy of the summary results, or have any questions about this study, please contact: Jonathan van Senten – [email protected] or Matthew Smith – [email protected]

 

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

Aquaponic Growers Eligible for Coronavirus Assistance

Multiple USDA representatives assured the Aquaponics Association that aquaponics operations producing qualified crops are eligible for financial support through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). The Deadline to apply is August 28, 2020. Growers are also eligible for Small Business Administration Programs.

 

By Thomas Wheet and Brian Filipowich

The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted the American agricultural industry in unprecedented ways. Farmers have watched harvests spoil, been forced to destroy crops, and have euthanized livestock due to the shifts in consumer behavior. 

The USDA created the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) to assist farms that have suffered economically due to the outbreak.

We reached out to the USDA to inquire about aquaponic growers’ eligibility for CFAP and received encouraging, yet somewhat inconclusive, responses. While aquaponics is not explicitly highlighted as an eligible growing method for CFAP, numerous USDA representatives assured our policy team that aquaponic operations producing qualified crops could receive financial support through the program. Because funding decisions will ultimately be conducted at the county level, both the Aquaponics Association and USDA personnel strongly encourage any aquaponics organization to reach out to its county’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) to confirm that the organization meets all criteria required to receive support before completing the application process.

  • Deadline to apply: The USDA is accepting applications until August 28, 2020. Make sure to check with your FSA at your local USDA Service Center for any questions regarding the application process. 
  • Who can apply for CFAP: 
    • Producers of eligible commodities who have experienced a 5% or greater price decline due to COVID-19.
    • Individuals and/or legal entities that average an adjusted gross income of less than $900,000 in 2016, 2017, 2018. Make sure to check the CFAP website for additional eligibility guidelines. 
  • Eligible crops: Non-specialty crops, wool, dairy, livestock, and specialty crops are all eligible for CFAP. For a complete list, make sure to take a look at the CFAP website.

General Business Assistance Programs
In addition to agriculture-specific economic assistance, the Federal Government has augmented general economic relief programs so that they also apply to agricultural. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program offers $10,000 loan advances for businesses experiencing a temporary loss in revenue and have less than 500 employees. The loan advances do not need to be repaid.

The USDA website notes: “For the first time, agricultural enterprises are now eligible for the disaster assistance from EIDL. As a result of the unprecedented legislation, American farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural businesses will now have access to emergency working capital.” The website also specifically notes that “aquaculture” businesses are eligible. Eligibility for CFAP is unaffected by participation in the PPP or EIDL. 

Also from the SBA, the Payroll Protection Program offers guaranteed loans to support the payroll of businesses with less than 500 employees during the coronavirus pandemic. Unfortunately the PPP deadline is June 30, 2020 (the day of this posting).

What is the Economic Effect of COVID on Aquaponics?

Surveys have indicated that COVID19 has hurt commercial aquaponic growers. See: 1) Survey Results; COVID’s Effect on U.S. Aquaponics; and 2) Commercial Growers Hit Hard by Coronavirus.

We must do more to support commercial aquaponic growers during the pandemic so that we don’t set back our most efficient, sustainable form of agriculture.

Are you a grower that receives, has applied, or plans to apply for economic assistance through these government programs? Please complete this quick survey to let us know your experience, and if you have any questions or comments on the process.

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

Survey Results: COVID’s Effect on U.S. Aquaponics

Researchers from Virginia Tech, Ohio State, and Engle-Stone Aquatic$ conducted a formal survey to determine the effect of COVID19 on U.S. aquaculture, aquaponics, and allied businesses, see: Commercial Aquaculture Survey Results.

And the researchers parsed out the data for aquaponics: COVID19 Aquaponics Survey Results.

Background

On March 23rd, 2020, Virginia Tech Seafood AREC and The Ohio State University Extension initiated an online survey of the U.S. aquaculture, aquaponics, and allied businesses. This survey was designed to capture and quantify the effects of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on the aquaculture, aquaponics, and allied industries. The survey will be distributed at the conclusion of every quarter for 2020, to attempt to capture the evolving impacts of COVID-19 over time.

 

Ed’s Heartbreaking Aquaponics Move; Classroom to Wine Cellar

By Ed Tivnan, Director of STEM Aquaponics
Aquaponics Association

On Monday, March 23, 2020, the faculty at the Tremont High School in Concord, Massachusetts got the closure orders from the Governor that our school building would be closing by noon the next day. So, I had 24 hours to disassemble and move out the best example of natural sustainability that could be found in any classroom in the country. For all the right reasons, yet it still broke my heart that our “Aquaponics in the Classroom” learning experience would end this way.

Classroom aquaponics record-keeping chart and graphs

Six weeks prior, starting in January 2020, my Tremont High School Biology students had been daily enjoying, while learning, Organic Gardening, Water Quality Testing, Teamwork and Next Generation Biological Practices, Big Ideas and Connections. They started off class by conducting 10 water quality tests: Air, Water, and Soil Temperatures, Nitrates, pH, Hardness, Alkalinity, Ammonia and Dissolved Oxygen.

One student was designated the Lead Scientist and lead the group of testing students and entered all information on a shared Google spreadsheet (See Spreadsheet). At the same time each student planted their own vegetable pots of Carrots, Broccoli, Kale, and Peas. They were deeply engaged in both the physical and scientific aspects of organic gardening. During weekly lab periods, students discussed trends in the water testing data to determine whether these trends were healthy or unhealthy for the three Keystone Communities of Plant, Fish and Microbes. At the same time students weekly sketched and journaled about the growth patterns of their individual plants. While also learning to take care the Aquaponics Unit “biological needs” by daily feeding the fish, weekly filling the fish tank when the water was low and pruning plants that needed attention.

As an educator I had a living classroom unit that contained all five major taxonomic kingdoms (Plants, Animals, Bacteria, Archaebacteria and Fungi) which I regularly incorporated into my Next Generation Science Standard Biology lesson plans. Furthermore, the entire school benefited by being entertained by the fish and the lush greenery in the wintertime.

So, when the order came to evacuate the school building, I had to reluctantly “think quickly on my feet”. My godson’s wife had asked me to build her an aquaponics unit in their home 2 months prior to the Governor’s order. Subsequently after finally disassembling the aquaponics unit that afternoon, I transferred the unit to their house in Newton New Hampshire. They had the perfect spot in their cellar, an abandoned wine cellar room. In a matter of three weeks the unit was reassembled, water was again circulating, most of the classroom plants were replanted, and fish were swimming again in fish tank, Subsequently we had successfully gone from a “An Aquaponics in the Classroom” to an “Aquaponics in the House.” Stayed tune for updates.

Do you want to write a short article to share your personal story?

Do you have an interesting story about how COVID-19 is affecting your aquaponics? Do you want to share it with the aquaponics community on the Aquaponics Association’s social media?

Are you expanding your system? Changing what you grow for friends and family? Sourcing fish in your local pond? Instructing the Elementary School maintenance staff via telephone how to buffer pH?

Tell us in under 500 words and please include at least two pictures of your aquaponic setup. We will post your stories. Your stories help us all reach new audiences for aquaponics!

 

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