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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

2020 Internship Opportunities

Aquaponics is growing, and the Aquaponics Association pushing it forward!

The Association has many exciting projects to connect aquaponic growers and advance aquaponics! 2020 is already a big year for the Association as many new initiatives, strategic partnerships and new Members are emerging. Please see below for information about the internship and the areas in which we need help.

Internship Details

  • Interns must commit to a minimum of 10 hours per week
  • Interns must commit to a minimum of 16 weeks
  • All interships are remote
  • Upon successful completion of the intership (160 hour minimum) the Intern will receive a letter of recommendation and two years of Aquaponics Association General Membership
  • Interns that start before September 1, 2020 will receive one ticket to the Fall 2020 Aquaponics Association virtual conference

  • To apply, send 1) a resume and 2) a cover letter or brief statement of interest to community@aquaponicsassociation.org

 

We seek interns to assist help in the following areas:

Communications & Social Media

  • Write blog posts and articles;
  • Coordinate Association publications schedule
  • Oversee and execute publications across media including the Aquaponics Association website, Member forum, Facebook, Linkedin, Instgram, and Twitter accounts; track and grow followers and viewership
  • Create monthly newsletters and membership emails
  • Stay on top of the latest news in aquaponics

Public Policy

  • Research and write posts, articles, or reports on agriculture, the U.S. food system, and public policies that affect aquaponics
  • Review the implementation of recently-enacted Farm Bill policies that affect aquaponics, including the establishment of the USDA Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production
  • Represent the views of the aquaponics community to Congress, the USDA, and executive branch agencies that affect aquaponics
  • Study true-cost accounting, lifecycle analysis, ecosystem service-valuation, and related fields to compare the costs and benefits of aquaponics compared to other forms of agriculture
  • Research food safety and other laws and regulations that affect aquaponic growers, assist members navigating laws and regulations
  • Promote USDA and other grant opportunities to the aquaponics community
  • Research Organic Certification, the legal challenge to Organic aquaponics, and related labeling issues for aquaponics

Technology and New Media

  • Help improve the interactive Member’s area
  • Help create new interactive aquaponics resource database
  • Improve and modernize Association website, interactive Membership Area, and communications functions
  • Create interactive map for Members to post their aquaponic systems
  • Edit and distribute digital content, such as conference videos and webinars
  • Help plan and execute live online conferences and events

Aquaponics Research

  • Stay abreast of the latest aquaponics research, disseminate important research to members
  • Assist members in applying the newest research to their growing
  • Summarize the latest news about cutting-edge aquaponics projects
  • Understand and explain aquaponics concepts in water chemistry, fish health, nutrient cycling, filtration, etc.
  • Research and plan for an aquaponics research publication
  • Communicate with researchers and growers to identify research needs

Membership

  • Maintain and promote the Aquaponics Association Affiliate Page and its Affiliates
  • Solicit more Affiliate Members, maintain communications with Affiliates
  • Build Affiliate Profiles, list services, and create promotional posts
  • Utilize, promote, and drive usage of Association Member’s Area

Fundraising

  • Help identify, research, and communicate with foundations that support sustainable agriculture
  • Help research and apply for grant opportunities to fund Association activities or that could apply to Association Members
  • Help develop individual donor program and reach out to individual donors
  • help the Association and Members access the June 2020 $3Million in grant funding from new USDA Urban Ag Office

To apply, send 1) a resume and 2) a cover letter or brief statement of interest to community@aquaponicsassociation.org

Thank you for your interest in supporting aquaponics!

 

Presentation Proposals – Fall 2020 Aquaponics Association Conference

Dear Aquaponics World:

Get Ready for the Fall 2020 Aquaponics Virtual Conference!!

Due to COVID19 we are moving our annual conference to the Web this year. We are aiming for mid-October, 2020. 

We need YOU to share your experience and make the conference happen! Please fill out the form, below, to submit a presentation proposal. The Association will respond to your application within a week. All presentation suggestions are welcome.

Presentations are due August 15, 2020.

We are seeking presentations in all fields of aquaponics:

Community Aquaponics – To advance aquaponics in the home, neighborhood, and non-profit sector

STEM Aquaponics – To advance aquaponics in the classroom, in STEM curriculum, and in all forms of education

Commercial Aquaponics – To increase the commercial success of aquaponic farms and overcome roadblocks facing commercial growers

Aquaponics Research – To advance aquaponics research and connect researchers at colleges and research institutions

Do you have a presentation that doesn’t fit neatly into these categories? Don’t worry, we still want to hear from you, let us know your ideas.

 

Presenter Guidelines Terms & Conditions

Presenters of pre-recorded videos must have the ability to record image and sound on their devices. Standard recording quality – such as for common video-chat applications – is good.

Upon acceptance of your program, you will be required to enter into a Presenter Guidelines & Consent and Media Release Form. By submitting a program for consideration, you agree and acknowledge that:

Presentations are given voluntarily for educational purposes. Speakers compensated according to the Aquaponics Associations Conference Guidelines and speaking engagements are not related to participation as event or conference sponsors.

The Aquaponics Association takes copyright laws seriously. Please be sure that you have clear rights to use all content including any images in your slides.

Proposal acceptance is based on the information provided at the time of submission. Any changes to content or speakers must be conveyed to Aquaponics Association in advance, and Aquaponics Association reserves the right to cancel or reschedule conference sessions based on changed information.

Presentations are not for the purpose of selling any goods and services, including your own. Solicitation of speaker products and services in such a way that undermines that purpose is prohibited. Exposure for your products and services should be provided via no more than 2 slides and/or up to 2 minutes of total audio time at the conclusion of the presentation.

If selected, you agree to abide by the timeline set by Aquaponics Association and meet all deadlines to the best of your ability.

You will have adequate computer hardware to support the relevant platform, including a microphone, projector and laptop computer for your presentation.

The Aquaponics Association may audio and/or video record your presentation and make it available for members and nonmembers, with or without charge. You authorize the Aquaponics Association to record, reproduce, and publish your presentation in whole or in part.

By submitting a conference proposal, you agree that you have read and understood you responsibilities as outlined in these terms and conditions, and that I will timely execute the Presenter Guidelines & Consent and Media Release Form, which may include additional and more detailed requirements, upon selection of my program.

Email: community@aquaponicsassociation.org

Aquaponics AI is your first cloud-based dashboard for Aquaponics

Check out Aquaponics AI, an Affiliate Member of the Aquaponics Association. The Aquaponics Association Affiliate Program allows aquaponics businesses and institutions to spread the latest products, services, classes, and events!

Aquaponics AI is a cloud-based software using a data and intelligence-driven approach to growing with Aquaponics for the small and large farm.  We provide you with technology to unleash your aquaponic superpowers.  We have calculators, resources, metric tracking, system insights, crop/fish/disease libraries, cycling guidance, customized maintenance checklists, and *unlimited* projects!
 
It’s finally time to ditch the pen and paper for digital logging and to gain instant and valuable insights into your system.
And check out the story of our aquaponic operation during COVID19: Remote Aquaponics during the Lockdown in Amman, Jordan
Contact: Jonathan Reyes & Daniel Robards at connect@aquaponics.ai

Aquaponics Association Working Group Participation

In 2019, the Aquaponics Association Board of Governors created the framework for four “Working Groups” to focus on advancing distinct fields of aquaponics. The Aquaponics Association is now beginning to establish these Working Groups, listed here:

Community Aquaponics – To advance aquaponics in the home, neighborhood, and non-profit sector

STEM Aquaponics – To advance aquaponics in the classroom, in STEM curriculum, and in all forms of education

Commercial Aquaponics – To increase the commercial success of aquaponic farms and overcome roadblocks facing commercial growers

Aquaponics Research – To advance aquaponics research and connect researchers at colleges and research institutions

 

WORKING GROUP FUNCTIONS & ACTIVITIES

Working Group functions are to:

  • represent the applicable field of aquaponics to the Aquaponics Association Board of Directors and the Public;
  • provide input to the annual conference program on this field of aquaponics;
  • moderate relevant Member chatrooms and conference breakout discussions;
  • maintain current information about this field of aquaponics; and
  • identify activities the Aquaponics Association can take to advance the relevant field of aquaponics.

 

WORKING GROUP PARTICIPATION

To join a Working Group, you must:

  • be a Member of the Aquaponics Association;
  • have at least one-year of experience in the applicable field of aquaponics;
  • commit to approximately 5 hours per month toward Working Group Activities, including Group phone / video meetings; and
  • commit to participating in at least 50% of Group phone / video meetings.

 

WORKING GROUP ADMINISTRATION

Each Working Group:

  • will have a Director, appointed by the Board, that reports to the Board and sets the Working Group Agenda;
  • will aim to have at least one Group phone or video call every 2 months to advance the Working Group Agenda;
  • may use the Aquaponics Association Member’s Area Discussion Rooms for day-to-day discussions and notices; and
  • will immediately begin planning for applicable program track for the Aquaponics Association’s Fall 2020 Virtual Conference.

Join a Working Group!

 

Home Aquaponics is Expanding During the Lockdown

(Aquaponics Victory Garden from Dr. George Brooks)

By Brian Filipowich

We recently sent a short, informal survey asking how the lockdown conditions are affecting aquaponic growers. This article provides the results for home / personal aquaponic growers. We got about 30 responses in this category. (Also see the results for Commercial Aquaponic Growers.)

Survey respondents indicate that the lockdown conditions are giving them more time to physically improve their systems, and to do more research to hike up the long and rewarding aquaponics learning curve. At the same time, personal growers are seeing increased value in growing large quantities of their own food.

Tawnya Sawyer from The Aquaponic Source stated that they have “seen an increase in home and hobby as well as farming customers who now have the time and energy to produce their own food. One of the most exciting things is that people who haven’t heard of aquaponics before are calling and looking to get started right away. They really love the idea that aquaponics is fish-powered, more natural than hydroponics, and more fun and easier than toiling in the soil.”

Several growers said the lockdown had no effect on their aquaponics. And zero respondents stated that the lockdown had negatively affected their growing. The one exception is possible supply shortages. One major theme among home growers is potential supply shortages, particularly for fish.

The lockdown conditions show us all how fragile the global food system can be. Aquaponics gives home growers the ability to produce large quantities of their own food and work towards food independence, even without access to soil. We will have to monitor supplies and make sure home growers have what they need to keep growing!

Here are quotes from home growers about how COVID has affected their aquaponics:

  • “We stocked up on feed, and the system is running well. We may run into supply issues down the road. Everything is healthy.” – Zack Walker
  • “I will be upgrading my system, building a greenhouse to give me more space to grow food for my extended family. I am also using my system to teach my grandkids about growing their own food.” – Black Hills Aquaponics
  • “I’ve planted fast crops for friends and family.” – Frank
  • “Personally I have a lot more time for my aquaponic system maintenance and upgrades since we can’t go to the college institute because of the outbreak. And also a lot more time to study about aquponics.” – Leon
  • “There are certain materials that are not readily available in my location , like bio balls, activated carbon bio rings and some other stuff. Unfortunately, imports are being restricted from China which is the source of my materials. This poses some threats to my aquaponic garden.” –Stephen P.
  • “Farming helps alleviate stress as always, but now I/we may be depending on my urban farm!” and “It’s hard to find fingerlings in Arizona.” – Paul
  • “The lockdown has given me a lot more time to focus on aquaponics.” – Barbara
  • “Our aquaponic system is a hobby/home system. It provides us with most of the green vegetables and tomatoes that we eat. We harvest two or three times a week for salads and cooking which keeps us out of the grocery store as much as would otherwise occur.” – Dennis Howard
  • “I have focused a lot more on the growing of my own food. It has always been a hobby for me and now we are ramping it up out of potential necessity.” – Chip Nelson
  • “We are witnessing more people expressing their interest with our aquaponics growing.” – Terence K.

RELATED — Read about Aquaponics Victory Gardens

Help us spread the message!

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

 

Lawsuit Threatens Aquaponics Organic Eligibility

The Center for Food Safety (CFS), along with a coalition of organic farms and stakeholders, filed a lawsuit challenging the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) decision to allow hydroponic operations to be certified organic. The Court has set a hearing date for June 11, 2020.

The lawsuit claims that hydroponic operations do not comply with the Organic Food Production Act because they do not foster soil fertility, as required in the Act. The lawsuit mentions aquaponics, but does not make a legal distinction between aquaponics and hydroponics. A decision against the USDA would likely have the same effect for aquaponics as hydroponics. See the lawsuit.

Aquaponic, hydroponic, and controlled-environment growers must fight to ensure our crops stay Organic-eligible!

Aquaponics is Organic with a Capital “O”!

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 the question is: does aquaponics align with what the consumer expects when they purchase Organic? YES!

“Organic” is perceived by consumers to mean:

Production without prohibited chemicals — the NOSB publishes a list of banned substances that are not allowed in production. Aquaponic systems are able to flourish without these chemicals. Aquaponic systems rely on Organic materials and a robust microbial ecosystem for natural system immunity.

Production that fosters the cycling of resources, ecological balance, and biodiversity conservation — Aquaponics can be constructed as closed-loop ecosystems in which only the minimum required water and nutrients are added and with minimal or no discharge. Aquaponics has also proven it can produce more food than soil culture per land area, thus saving more of the natural environment from the toll of agriculture.

Production that relies on biological ecosystems to support plant health — Aquaponic production relies 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 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 dramatically expands the market of Organic produce.

Aquaponics is Essential for the Sustainability of Our Food System

Aquaponics is critical to improving the sustainability of our agricultural system, but revoking Organic eligibility would move this industry backwards.

The benefits of aquaponics include: dramatic water savings, reduced resource inputs, less fertilizer runoff that causes toxic dead zones, shorter supply chains and carbon emissions, greater food safety with controlled-environment growing, and greater production per land area.

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

Background Info

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) voted 8 to 7 in 2018 to continue the Organic eligibility of aquaponic and hydroponic operations. The Aquaponics Association fought to maintain aquaponics’ organic eligibility by submitting written comments for NOSB meetings; collecting and delivering over 200 signatures in favor of organic aquaponics; providing in-person statements and answering panel questions at NOSB meetings; and by taking Members of the NOSB to a tour of Flourish Farms, a commercial aquaponic farm and Aquaponics Association Affiliate Member in Denver, Colorado.

Aquaponics aligns with the values of Organic that consumers expect. Rather than placing a greater toll on our environment and health, we should reject this lawsuit and support Organic Aquaponics.

contact: info@aquaponicsassociation.org

Do you want to help the Aquaponics Association 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

COVID-19 Article Submission

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!

Coronavirus Shows the Importance of Local, Efficient Agriculture

Aquaponic system at the University of the District of Columbia

By Brian Filipowich

The coronavirus outbreak is already disrupting international travel and trade. The pandemic could impact the global food supply chain and leave some populations without adequate nutrition.

This pandemic shows that we need to invest in local agriculture to boost our supply of local, reliable food. Aquaponics, hydroponics, and controlled-environment agriculture can produce large amounts of food with minimal space and resources. These water-based growing methods do not require soil and can be practiced from arid deserts to urban rooftops.

Hidden Cost of the Global Food Supply Chain

Our modern food system involves long travel distances and several steps along the supply chain. The average head of lettuce in the U.S. travels approximately 1,500 miles. Over 90% of our seafood is imported.

The coronavirus is exposing one major hidden cost of our global system: it is at risk from disruptions like pandemics, extreme weather events, military events, and economic or political upheavals. As the climate changes, these extreme events are more likely.

How does this hidden cost of the global food supply chain manifest itself?

An american consumer can find similar prices for a tomato grown 100 miles away and a tomato grown in another country 2,000 miles away. But during a global travel ban or category 5 hurricane, your local tomato will still be there. How do we account for this benefit during the good times, so that there are enough local growers to support us during possible disruptions?

Aquaponics, Hydroponics, and Controlled-Environment Agriculture

The problem is that with a changing climate, water shortages, and growing population, there is less land to grow for more people. Deserts, freezing climates, and urban areas do not have the arable soil to grow a meaningful amount of their own food to achieve food security.

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. Benefits include dramatically less water use; no toxic chemical fertilizers or pesticides; and no agriculture discharge to air, water or soil.

Hydroponics is the practice of growing plants in water-based systems with externally supplied nutrients.

Controlled-Environment Agriculture (CEA) is the practice of raising crops in a protected, optimal environment like a greenhouse.

These growing methods maximize the amount of crops that can be produced per square area per year. Plants can be grown densely and quickly because conditions are ideal and roots are delivered exactly what they need. And controlled-environments allow for year-round production.

Aquaponics brings the added benefit of fish – an efficient supply of animal protein. It takes 30 pounds of feed to produce a one-pound steak, only 2 pounds for a one-pound tilapia filet. Fish can be grown densely and indoors, compared to the large operations required for beef, pork, and poultry.

Economies across the globe must find ways to value the hidden benefits of local, efficient agriculture to encourage more local growing. There will always be another coronavirus-type event, let’s make sure we have a reliable supply of local food for it.

Food Safety Presentation from Aquaculture America

Photo: East Fork Creek Gardens, a Member of the Aquaponics Association

At the Aquaculture America Conference this month, Aquaponics Association Members Charlie Shultz and Dr. Nick Savidov delivered a presentation on aquaponics food safety: Good Agricultural Practice for Aquaponic Produce and Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) Certification, 2020 Update.

The presentation reviews the current state of Good Agriculture Practices (G.A.P.) for aquaponics and also discusses recent developments in aquaponics food safety.

For more information on aquaponics food safety, read the 2019 Aquaponics Food Safety Statement, signed by over 130 farms and organizations.

The Aquaculture America conference was held in Honolulu, HI, and featured a day of aquaponics workshops and presentations.

 

Will you help us grow Aquaponics!

Are you interested in supporting the Aquaponics Association so we can speak with one voice on food safety issues?

Please consider an Association Membership!

Your $60 Membership Fee helps to grow Aquaponics!

  • Development and promotion of materials to educate the public and policy-makers about the benefits and opportunities of aquaponics
  • Development of industry standards and best practices
  • Online learning opportunities like webinars and conference videos to improve growers’ skills and reach new growers
  • Infrastructure to connect growers, suppliers, advocates, educators, and funders from around the world
  • Annual conference for growers to connect face-to-face and build community
  • Ability to speak with one voice to policy-makers and regulators on issues like Organic certification, food safety, and agriculture policy
  • Resources and strategic partnerships to cultivate and develop aquaponics as an emerging green industry

Learn more: Aquaponics Association Membership

 

Aquaponics Can Reduce Food Miles

By Brian Filipowich

Long travel distances for our food lead to excessive carbon use, energy use for refrigeration, food spoilage, nutrient depletion, and poorer food security.

Aquaponics – and other controlled-environment growing techniques like hydroponics and aeroponics – can greatly reduce the distance food travels from farm to plate.

For the first time ever, researchers recently attempted to map out the entire U.S. food supply chain. The resulting map, above, shows an intricate web of food moving across the country. The full report is public and can be found here: Food flows between counties of the United States (Lin, 2019)

The map illustrates that our food travels long distances before it reaches our plate. “Food miles” is the measurement that tracks the actual distance food travels from farm to plate.

“Studies estimate that processed food in the United States travels over 1,300 miles, and fresh produce travels over 1,500 miles, before being consumed.” (ATTRA, 2008)

One reason for high food miles is because most food requires a large amount of open land and arable soil, and requires a specific climate to be grown at a large scale. Only certain parts of the country meet this criteria, and these areas must transport food long distances to reach all U.S. consumers. The map to the right shows the nine counties in the U.S. (highlighted in red) from which most food originates.

But aquaponics – and other modern growing methods like hydroponics and aeroponics – are water-based and do not require large amounts of arable soil. Also, these modern growing methods are usually practiced in “controlled-environments” like greenhouses that maintain ideal growing environments for plants throughout the entire year.

Aquaponic systems that raise edible fish can further reduce food miles by cutting down on the distance needed to transport the animal protein in our diets. The demand for animal protein is expected to rise along with world population growth. But farms that raise beef, pork, and poultry need large tracts of land far from population centers. Conversely, aquaponics and other recirculating aquaculture operations can raise fish in urban or suburban areas. And, because fish have a much more efficient feed conversion ratio than land animals, less feed stock needs to be grown and shipped, further increasing efficiency.

To read more about food miles, see Food Miles, Background and Marketing from ATTRA.

One often-overlooked benefit of local food is greater food security. Our complex web of food is susceptible to systemic shocks such as weather or disaster events. In extreme cases, disruptions could make it difficult to get enough food to a certain population. A greater proportion of local food allows areas to be better-prepared in cases of unexpected events.

But, before we assume that all food miles are bad, more research is needed to measure the tradeoffs between local and long-distance. For instance, studies show that it’s often more efficient to import fruits from distant warmer climates than to heat a local greenhouse in the winter.

More needs to be done to evaluate, quantify, and account for the hidden costs of our food system, including food miles. Analytic tools such as True Cost Accounting, Cost-Benefit Analysis, and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) create a more complete picture of the true cost of a product. LCA takes into account the costs of a product’s entire life cycle: production, processing, packaging, transport, use, and final disposal. LCA uses indicators not traditionally captured in a product’s market price, such as resource depletion, air and water pollution, biodiversity loss, human health impacts, and waste generation.

Analytic tools like LCA can uncover the true cost of shipping foods long distances and incentivize local agriculture. Aquaponic and hydroponic growers will benefit because – without the need for soil – they can get as close to consumers as possible. The result will be fresher food, less strain on the planet, and local economic growth!