New Report Sets Targets for Global Sustainable Food Production

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

See the report:  EAT Lancet Report

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

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

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

TEEB Agrifood

True Cost Accounting – Sustainable Food Trust

email: info@aquaponicsassociation.org

PODCAST – Assoc Chairman Talks Aquaponics’ Future

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

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

 Aquaponics, a Primer

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

Farm Bill Creates Office for Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production

By Brian Filipowich

The 2018 Farm Bill (H.R.2) passed both the House and Senate and will be signed into law by the President imminently. The Bill creates the USDA Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production which should boost aquaponics, hydroponics, and other sustainable growing methods.

The Bill establishes the Office “to encourage and promote urban, indoor, and other emerging agricultural production
practices.” Related to this new Office, the Bill:

  • Provides for the assignment of a farm number for rooftop, indoor, and other urban farms.
  • Provides authority to award competitive grants to operate community gardens or
    nonprofit farms, educate a community on food systems, nutrition, environmental impacts,
    and agricultural production, and help offset start-up costs for new and beginning farmers.
  • Establishes an Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production Advisory Committee.
  • Establishes pilot projects to increase compost and reduce food waste, and create urban
    and suburban county committees.

In addition to the Office for Urban Agriculture, the Farm Bill also establishes the Urban, Indoor, and Other Emerging Agriculture Production Research, Education, and Extension Initiative. This Initiative does the following:

  • Authorizes competitive research and extension grants to support research, education, and
    extension activities for the purposes of enhancing urban, indoor, and other emerging
    agricultural production.
  • Provides $4 million mandatory for each fiscal year 2019-2023.
  • Requires the Secretary to conduct a census of urban, indoor, and other emerging
    agricultural production.

Unfortunately, there is plenty of bad along with the good: this Farm Bill continues negative policies that stifle smaller growers and wastefully support large industrial monoculture growers. Nevertheless, it is welcome to see the Federal Government acknowledging the need for investment in urban and sustainable growing.

Hopefully the Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production can meaningfully support the expansion of aquaponics!

Brian Filipowich serves as Chairman of the Aquaponics Association

Commercial Aquaponics Breakout Discussions

By John Roe

This year at our Putting Up Shoots conference in Hartford, Connecticut, I was fortunate to participate in a lively, encouraging, open discussion group entitled, “Overcoming Common Problems in Commercial Aquaponics”.  The thesis of the discussion was centered around answering common pitfalls, problems, and other hardships that have the potential to hinder aquaponics commercial operations in their infancy.  

The round table style discussion featured prominent commercial grower, Ken Armstrong from Ouroboros Farms, who generously opened his knowledge bank to help answer any questions asked from the room.  The discussion took place in three parts, over three days, with the group seeking to crowd fund ideas and shared personal experiences in overcoming common hardships.  The questions ranged from topics such as selecting real estate to helpful websites.  The group was fortunate to have most of their questions answered either from Ken Armstrong or another participant.

The thought behind a simple discussion group such as this was to build out a framework that will help growers that are hopeful to become commercial but have limitations, fears, or setbacks for any number of reasons.  We know, at the Association, that the future of aquaponics depends largely on a freshman class of commercial growers who seek to continue to build out our footprint nationally, help their communities locally, and to survive the hardships of any agrarian business.  The more we are able to help one another succeed, the better off we all will be.  This discussion was at the very heart of this message.

Recap of 2018 Hartford Aquaponic Tours

Recap of 2018 Hartford Aquaponic Tours

By Tawnya Sawyer      

Every year, aquaponic tours are a highlight of the Aquaponics Association Conference. This year’s Putting Up Shoots Conference in Hartford, CT included tours of three very different aquaponic systems: one hobby-homestead system growing into a commercial-scale farm, one community center with sustainability at the core, and one repurposed warehouse building with visions of creating the City that Feeds Itself.

Bigelow Brook Farm located at Rob Torcellini’s homestead has been a virtual community model for years. By sharing stories of construction, planting, harvesting, fish health, and many successes and failures, Rob has empowered people all over the planet with his aquaponic system. For years across the world wide web, we have grown with Rob in his geodesic dome. We have learned to install a window kit into a fish tank (scary at first to cut a big hole in a tank, but not really that difficult once you know the steps.) We have learned the do’s and don’ts of heating, and lots of other key steps in operating aquaponics. At the tour, Rob had the opportunity to showcase his new greenhouse nearing completion. He described the components of his filtration system, RaftMaster deep water culture structure, cool wireless sensor systems, and Growgrips. Rob plans to be a key part of the local food system, delivering food and offering tours and education within the surrounding community. We look forward to many more of Rob’s videos and seeing his new commercial greenhouse up and growing.

Keney Park Sustainability Project on Saturday was a great representation of blending soil gardening and indoor greenhouse aquaponic growing, with so much more. This project really took “community” to the next level with its urban park land and environmental stewardship, children and family programs, job skills training, nutrition, health and wellness, farm stands and a mobile market. Herb Virgo who led the tours and leads the charge in the program, really shined the light on the importance and value of community programs like this. The greenhouses were home to goldfish and koi, while they were growing a variety of leafy greens in towers, NFT (nutrient film technique), and media beds. The abundance continued outdoors where there were raised gardens, mushroom production, bees, and lots of open space for community education and engagement. Keney Park is a wonderful inspiration to many who see the vision of urban farming and community engagement in their home town.

Trifecta EcoSystems was the final tour. Located in an older repurposed warehouse building, this aquaponic system highlights indoor crop production rivaling an outdoor commercial farm. As their mission states, “With aquaponics, we’re empowering communities to grow their own food while inspiring future generations to play an active role in our world’s food system.” The Trifecta team lives this community model working to revitalize the area and promote “The City that Feeds Itself”. Trifecta uses deep water culture to produce a variety of cooking and salad greens, which are delivered to local restaurants, and farmers markets. They also provide educational programs and innovate through research and development. While indoor growing has seen its share of challenges, Trifecta is blazing the trail for growing food in an otherwise barren warehouse space. We need more models like Trifecta’s for local food production.

Where we will be in 2019!?

We are looking forward to the 2019 Aquaponic Association Conference and more exciting aquaponic tour locations. Association Members, please make sure to participate in the current survey (via email) so that your voice can be heard in where you think the conference should be hosted in September, 2019!

Tawnya Sawyer is the Manager of Flourish Farm (CO) and serves on the Aquaponics Association Board of Governors

 

Some more tour photos:

Fish at Bigelow Brook Farm

Plants in Bigelow Brook Farm Geodesic Dome

Keney Park Sustainability Project

Trifecta Ecosystems, aquaponics in an old factory

Trifecta Ecosystems

Keney Park Sustainability Project

Climate Change Report Highlights the Need for Aquaponics

By Brian Filipowich

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

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

So how can aquaponics help?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Putting Up Shoots Perspective from the Host

Perspective on the Aquaponics Association’s September, 2018 Conference in Hartford, CT

By Spencer Curry

I’ve been a member of the Aquaponics Association ever since the Denver conference in 2012 and have been to four conferences since then.  Back in 2012, I only had a basic desktop setup going. In fact, I returned from the conference to find that my little desktop system had flooded while I was away, soaking my bed in fish water.  That was just a small setback compared to the wealth of information and overwhelming feeling of community I found with the Aquaponics Association.

I still vividly remember workshops with Murray Hallam, Glenn Martinez, Rob Torcellini, and Max Meyers, and incredible conversations with more people than I could list here.  At the time, I had only experienced aquaponics through a few YouTube videos, so I felt like I had entered a whole new world with a wealth of information to be explored.

My partners and I took our inspiration from the conference and have been hard at work ever since, culminating in the incredible honor of hosting the 2018 Putting Up Shoots conference in my home state of Connecticut.  We grew from a small desktop setup to running a 3,500 sq. ft. indoor controlled environment aquaponics farm and building/servicing systems for dozens of clients around the state. However, with all of the hubbub behind hosting a conference, it didn’t hit me until the end of the first tour we gave during the 2018 conference just how far we have come as a company and as an industry since 2012.  Being able to showcase our creation to all of the people who have influenced, advised, and mentored us for the past six years will remain among the proudest moments of my life.

It also became apparent that we are not alone, nor unique, within the industry.  We had many conversations over the weekend that felt like talking with ourselves from 6 years in the past.  This industry is attracting more and more brilliant, inspired, and action oriented minds to help make our food system as awesome as we all know it can be.  This is so exciting to see because this industry needs more skilled people to make it flourish!

It is such an exciting time to be part of the aquaponics industry.  To all the people thinking about getting started with aquaponics, my recommendation is this: go to the conference.  Meet as many people as possible. Find those you resonate with and take action to get growing! All of us remember what it was like to be starting out, flooding bedrooms, basements and greenhouses. We love to share those stories, to help newcomers avoid the mistakes we made and see new generations of aquapioneers sprout!

To me, the value of the Aquaponics Association conference is all about these relationships.  It is the people in the room during the conference that are changing the world with aquaponics.  The people who will take it to the next level are in that room. You can meet them and even become one of them with enough persistence!

 

About the Author:

My name is Spencer Curry.  I am the CEO and cofounder of Trifecta Ecosystems, and in my spare time I am a Senior Advisor to the Aquaponics Association and have served in many different roles over the years.

Aquaponics in STEM Breakout Discussions

The Aquaponics Association’s Putting Up Shoots conference in September, 2018 featured breakout discussion sessions for Aquaponics in STEM Education and for other sub-fields of aquaponics. These sessions allowed all conference participants to give input and discuss steps we can take together to advance aquaponics in our respective areas.

By Kevin Savage

In September 2012, I attended my first Aquaponics Association conference in Denver, CO.  I was new to aquaponics, and new to attempting to use aquaponics as a model for teaching science and agriculture in a high school setting.  The conference was a bit overwhelming with technical presentations, conversations during breaks and at meals, and networking with aquaponics practitioners (many of whom are now close friends).  I distinctly recall, however, that I met only one or two other individuals who were doing aquaponics in a secondary school setting.

At the 2013 Tucson conference, the number of educators and professional who were working with school had increased significantly, and by the 2016 and 2017 conferences (Austin, TX and Portland, OR), educators had dedicated presentation tracks to share with others how they were using aquaponics in elementary, middle, and high school, as well as college and university settings, to teach a myriad of science, agriculture, engineering, and mathematics principles.

In September 2018, members and friends of the Aquaponics Association gathered in Hartford, Connecticut for the Association’s “Putting Up Shoots” conference.  The “Shoots” conference included a STEM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Mathematics) technical track each day for education-focused presentations.  Each day also include STEM-focused breakout sessions, where educators and those interested in adding aquaponics to a school or classroom had the opportunity to gather and discuss such topics as “How do I get my administration on board with aquaponics?”, “How do I incorporate aquaponics into my biology/chemistry/botany curriculum?”, and “Where do I find funding to cover the costs of starting aquaponics?”  Some questions were easily addressed, but many others remained open-ended or unanswered, reflecting both the challenges and the opportunities for educators with a passion for experiential learning through aquaponics.  The most exciting part of these breakout sessions was that over the three days of the conference, nearly 40 different individuals attended at least one of these sessions, and 25 individuals attended at least two of them!  The participation of members in aquaponics in education continues grow!

Significant outcomes of these breakout sessions included introductions and networking, creation of a STEM education email group, and a “handshake” agreement to work with the educators of the U.S. Aquaculture Society to develop a forum or outlet for educators to share ideas and lesson plans, and to have a community in which to ask questions or seek assistance.

STEM Education is a primary focus area for the 2018 and 2019 Board of Directors, with the goal of creating a STEM Education Working Group.  This working group will be composed of Association Members with a passion to see aquaponics education continue to grow, and a willingness to contribute to this growth.  More information on the creation of this working group will be sent out in the near future.

Kevin Savage teaches and grows at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy in Ohio, serves as Aquaponics Association Secretary, and leads the Association’s STEM initiative.

Photos from Putting Up Shoots

Aquaponics Can Revitalize Connecticut’s Economy

By Brian Filipowich, Eric Pedersen, and Spencer Curry

The loss of a solid manufacturing base has left Connecticut trapped with long-term, structural economic problems.

But there is an elegant solution: tap into the state’s technological pedigree, agricultural past, and unused infrastructure to manufacture something different – world-class produce and fish.

Companies like Trifecta Ecosystems in Meriden and Ideal Fish in Waterbury are pioneers of an entirely new industry: aquaponics, recirculating aquaculture, and controlled-environment growing.  Aquaponics is a method of growing fish and plants in a closed system in which nutrient-dense fish water provides nutrients for hydroponic systems that grow produce all year long.

Already, Trifecta Ecosystems in Meriden has a total capacity to feed 200 families their weekly veggies all year round, in addition to 600 lbs. of fish protein grown per year.  Trifecta also helps more than 20 schools and non-profit organizations from around the state grow food for themselves using aquaponics.

Ideal Fish has tapped into the Brass City’s robust industrial infrastructure that includes high-quality manufacturing space, electrical power, water, waste water treatment, and transportation infrastructure. From Cleveland to Detroit, aquaponic farms are springing up in old factories.

The most advanced aquaponic growers in the nation, like Superior Fresh of Wisconsin, are growing sushi-grade salmon and over ten thousand units of greens per day in multi-acre controlled-environment greenhouses.  These growers provide a vision for Connecticut’s future.

We can no longer rely on shipping our food thousands of miles. Mounting environmental challenges and the demand for local food will force us to grow with these new efficient methods.

And aside from the produce itself, there will be thousands of jobs in agriculture technology, equipment, and training.

Why doesn’t Connecticut become an Aquaponics Center of Excellence? It sits between New York City and Boston, the largest food market in the U.S. It has the untapped or underutilized physical infrastructure, academic resources, and manufacturing expertise.  With world-famous agricultural institutions like UConn Agriculture Extension and UConn’s new Hartford campus, could farming be the answer to Connecticut’s economic woes?

September 21-23, the national Aquaponics Association’s annual conference Putting Up Shoots will be at the Hartford Hilton. The world’s top aquaponics growers will be presenting their work and discussing the potential for aquaponics. This is a great opportunity for the state of Connecticut to invest in an entirely new industry. Click here for conference info: http://bit.ly/2NZ4WTV

Eric Pedersen, CEO
Ideal Fish, Waterbury, CT

Spencer Curry, CEO
Trifecta Ecosystems, Meriden, CT

Brian Filipowich, Chairman
Aquaponics Association, Washington, D.C.