Conference Theme Announcement: Putting Out Fruits

This year’s Aquaponics Association Annual Conference theme is “Putting Out Fruits”. Putting Out Fruits will take place in Frankfort, Kentucky at Kentucky State University on September 20 – 22nd, 2019. 

Head to the Putting Out Fruits homepage for ticket info. (http://bit.ly/2UuUzxz)

The aquaponics movement is expanding rapidly, and the Aquaponics Association’s annual conferences are growing along with it. Two years ago we were in Portland, Oregon for “Putting Down Roots”; and last year we were in Hartford, Connecticut for “Putting Up Shoots”. Finally, this year’s theme reflects the culmination of our journey as we take the next step learning and growing together. We will produce tangible “fruits” to advance the practice of aquaponics, both for individual growers and for the aquaponics movement as a whole.

A major component of the Conference will be the tour and interactive session at the KSU Aquaculture Research Center. This Center hosts one of the most advanced aquaculture research programs in the nation, including indoor aquaponics research systems, saltwater aquaponics research, a 30’ x 70’ aquaponics demonstration greenhouse, a 10,000sq foot recirculating aquaculture research building, and 33 research ponds.

We’ve heard from many of you through our online survey [thank you for your input!] and we are excited to focus this year’s content around the following hot topics:

–    Integrated pest management

–    Nutrient deficiencies and nutrient supplementation

–    STEM curriculum and classroom aquaponics

–    Growing cannabis in controlled environments

–    Food safety

–    Organic certification

–    International case studies

–    “Green” solution applications

–    Successes with higher risk / higher reward and non-typical crops in aquaponics

–    Post-secondary aquaponics research

Conference attendees will walk away with cutting edge information, new connections and a greater understanding of core knowledge and best practices. In addition to farm-to-table tours and hands on activities, learning tracks will focus on Aquaponics Research, STEM Education, hobby/home aquaponics, commercial farming, and community based endeavors. Interactive sessions will allow all participants to discuss and plan what we can do together to advance aquaponics.

As always, the Conference will feature top aquaponics experts and a vendor showroom of aquaponics technology and services.

We are also still looking for presenters to cover the following topics: aquaculture and fish diseases (recognition and treatment); filtration and biofiltration; automation of aquaponics systems (feeding, monitoring, etc.); and case studies of successful small / medium / large growing facilities. Please submit presentation proposals by July 15.

To purchase your ticket and/or to submit a presentation proposal, please visit https://aquaponicsassociation.org/2019-conference/.

We hope to see you in Kentucky!

Kate Wildrick
Senior Advisor & Conference Planner
Aquaponics Association

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aquaponics in Prisons Saves Taxpayer Money

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

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

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

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

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

New Aquaponics Production System Offers Educational Opportunities 

New Aquaponics Production System Offers Educational Opportunities

The Chicago Botanic Garden has announced the launch of a 52,000-gallon aquaponics
production system, which will bring 2,500 heads of local and sustainably grown lettuce to the Lawndale
neighborhood of Chicago every week. The aquaponics system operates at the Farm on Ogden, a project
of the Chicago Botanic Garden and Lawndale Christian Health Center. The Farm on Ogden is one of the
first of its kind in the nation to support and sustain a healthy urban community by bringing food,
health, and jobs together in one location. It is home to Windy City Harvest, the Garden’s urban
agriculture education and jobs-training initiative.

In coordination with the aquaponics production system launch, the Farm on Ogden is
offering two educational opportunities: a one-day workshop or three-day intensive course. The one-day
workshop is for participants interested in learning about the fundamental principles of aquaponics
production, as well as tips and tricks for building an at-home or small-scale aquaponics system. This
course, offered on June 8, October 12 and December 7, will include hands-on work with the nursery
system and the 52,000-gallon aquaponics production system.

The three-day intensive course is for aquaponics professionals, job seekers in the expanding controlled
environment growing industry, and people or educators interested in learning how to grow food more
sustainably in cold weather environments. This course, offered May 17-19, September 13-15 and
November 8-10, is a unique opportunity to learn the nuances of designing, building, and operating a
large-scale aquaponic production system and train on a system with an innovative filtration design not
seen in any of the existing training courses or aquaponics operations in the country.

For more information about opportunities to train on the state-of-the-art facility in Chicago,
visit chicagobotanic.org/urbanagriculture/aquaponics.

Take the Global Aquaponic Practitioner Survey

Click: Head to the Global Aquaponic Practitioner Survey

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

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

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

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

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

Environmental Report Urges Food System Changes

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

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

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

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

Aquaponics in Mexico

By Claudia Andracki

The Aquaponics Association is always looking to expand our connections to aquaponics enthusiasts, whether in the U.S. or beyond. This time I had the opportunity to visit a facility located on the outskirts of Guadalajara, Jalisco. The company is called BoFish Aquaponics. You have seen the owner at our annual Conference and at some of the Aquaculture America conferences, his name is Carlos Leon.

While visiting my home town in Jalisco I took the opportunity to stop by and experience his farm. Carlos Leon is currently cultivating Tilapia and Shrimp in his facility and the water is used in floating rafts to grow a variety of lettuce, celery and a number of herbs. His facility is separated into two greenhouses. One holds his aquaculture and the other has the floating rafts.

We had a great conversation about marketing and promotion of the aquaponic products. Carlos finds that his products are easily sold but not recognizable in the market. He believes there is a need to help farmers  market their product and stand out from conventional farmers. He is also interested in making a closer connection between the Aquaponics Association and Latin America.

Carlos has a second location where he used to have his farm. He has two small systems that are used for demonstrations for patrons of the restaurant located on the premises. Carlos mentioned that the aquaponic systems are the attraction and having a restaurant on property is a convenience for the visitors. His mother is the one to manage the smaller systems on the restaurant property and he manages the bigger farm.

As I left Carlos extended an invitation to the Latin America Aquaponics Conference in October in Bogota, Colombia. We will keep you posted as the relationship between the Aquaponics Association and Latin America unfolds.

 

Claudia Andracki is a Board Member and the Treasurer of the Aquaponics Association. 

Aquaponics Funding Alert

 

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

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

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

Read more: MBE Aquaculture 

Community Aquaponics Discussions, Theme #3: Financial Challenges

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

Financial Challenges

By Tawnya Sawyer

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

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

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

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

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

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

Community Aquaponics Discussions, Theme #2: Location Considerations

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

Location Considerations

By Tawnya Sawyer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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