Aquaponics Role in Feeding the Future

In this video, Professor James Tidwell discusses the importance of aquaponics and aquaculture in feeding the future of the human race. Professor Tidwell is the Chair of the Division of Aquaculture at Kentucky State University.

See the slide deck presentation: Aquaponics Role in Feeding the Future

For even more great information on the incredible importance of aquaculture, see an article from Scientific American — It’s Time to be Honest about Seafood. This article details the necessity to develop a U.S. aquaculture industry. And, as an aquaponic-grower, we should all ask, what are you going to do with all that fish effluent!?

 

Do you want to help us promote aquaponics and connect aquaponic growers?

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

Food Safety and E. coli in Aquaponic and Hydroponic Systems

This document is The Aquaponics Association’s response to a recent publication on E. coli in Aquaponic and Hydroponic systems.

PDF Version: Food Safety and E. Coli in Aquaponic and Hydroponic Systems

April 27, 2020

By Tawnya Sawyer; Nick Savidov, PhD; George Pate; and Marc Laberge 

Overview of the Study

On April 6, 2020, Purdue Agriculture News published a story about a study related to the contamination risk of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) in Aquaponic and Hydroponic production. The full study was published in MDPI Journal Horticulturae in January 2020.

Researchers conducted the study from December 2017 through February 2018. The Study consisted of side-by-side aquaponic and hydroponic systems in a controlled environment lab growing lettuce, basil, and tomatoes with tilapia. The purpose of the study was to identify the food safety risks associated with soilless systems. The study indicates that both the aquaponic and hydroponic systems contained Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) at the time of sampling. It did not find the presence of Listeria spp., or Salmonella spp. 

The authors contend that the aquaponic system and specifically the fish feces were likely the sources of E. coli. However, we believe that there is no evidence to prove that this was the actual source of contamination since the authors admit traceback was not performed, and there were several other possible introductions.

The pathogen was present in the water and on the root system of the plants. The researchers did not detect it in the edible portion of the plants. However, if the water is positive for a contaminant, and it accidentally splashes onto the edible portion of the crop throughout its life, or during harvest, this could still result in a food safety concern.

History of E. coli in Soil-less growing systems 

Until now, researchers have only discovered environmental E. coli in soilless growing systems. It is essential to note that there are hundreds of types of non-fecal coliform bacteria in the air, water, soil, as well as the fecal coliform bacteria represented mostly by E.coli in the waste of all mammals, humans, and some birds. A vast majority of these coliforms are perfectly harmless.

The E. coli found in this Study — Shiga toxin-producing O157:H7 — historically has been associated with warm-blooded mammals, more specifically bovine fed corn in feedlots (Lim JY et al. 2007), as well as swine and turkeys. Further research must be performed to prove that cold-blooded, non-mammal aquatic species such as tilapia can harbor this strain of pathogenic E. coli. A wide group of studies, university professors and industry professionals currently refute the possibility that tilapia can harbor this strain. The lack of evidence detailing the ability of aquatic animals to harbor E. coli makes the fish contaminated with this specific strain of bacteria very rare and suspect.

Many foodborne illnesses from fresh produce such as romaine lettuces, green onions, herbs, and sprouts, are traced back to the soil; the irrigation water used in these crops (Solomon et al. 2002); the seed stock; or poor sanitation in handling facilities.

There are a wide variety of community and commercial aquaponic and hydroponic growing facilities that routinely perform pathogen testing and have not identified this pathogen present. If it was present, traceback procedures would be followed to identify and remove the source, as well as any necessary food safety precautions and recalls performed.

Our Position

The Aquaponic Association and its members agree that food safety and proper handling practices are critical to commercializing our industry and the safety of our customers. One thing that the study points out is that a contaminant can occur in a soilless system, which creates a potential food safety concern. We agree on this; however, we have numerous concerns with the procedures and statements made in the publication.

We have reached out to the professional investigator on this study Hye-Ji Kim to get answers to essential questions that the study publication does not adequately address. There are significant gaps and questions with the study.

 Concerns About the Study Findings and Publication 

Lack of Traceability

The study group is unsure how the pathogen was introduced into the two systems. They admit that no traceback was performed to identify the source of contamination. They speculate both in the study and in their email response that this pathogen was:

1) Accidentally introduced

2) That it is from the fish feces in the aquaponics system that splashed into the hydroponic system through the open top of the fish tank during feeding,

3) that it was from contaminated fish stock (which were provided by the Purdue Animal Sciences Research and Education Center)

4) That it was human contamination from visitors or operator handling issues.

A traceback was not conducted as it was not within the scope of the study (Kim personal communications). We disagree; the discovery of O157:H7 strain in the university greenhouse with the suspicion of fish being contaminated should have resulted in immediate action in order to track down the source of contamination and prevent infection of the university students and staff. Outside of a University setting, traceback would have been mandatory in a commercial facility. It is questionable that the University did not perform these procedures because it was “out of the scope of the study”.

Questioning Fish Feces as the Source of Contamination

Blaming fish feces as the contaminating source seems incredibly misleading when so many other options exist, and no traceback proved that as the source. The contents of the fish intestines were tested for the presence of E. coli, and none was found (Kim personal communications). It seems that if the fish does not have STEC E. coli inside its gut, then it is more likely the fish feces being positive would be related to the contaminated water that the feces was floating in.

In wild fish species, levels of E. coli appear to follow trends similar to ambient water and sediment concentrations; as concentrations in their environments rise, so do concentrations within the fish (Guillen et al., 2010).

Furthermore, it seems very suspect that a two-month-old system in a controlled environment lab could have been so quickly contaminated. It is well-known that E.coli cannot survive in a biologically-active environment, such as an anaerobic digester or aquaponic system (T.Gao et al., 2011). E. coli are outcompeted by other microorganisms, which adapted to survive in the environment outside animal guts much better than E. coli. Thus, E. coli O157:H7, which is specially adapted to live in cattle guts, will inevitably be replaced by other microorganisms.

As for the hydroponic system showing positive results, this also seems suspect if the nutrients were synthetic, as there would be very little chance for the E. coli to survive without a biological host or continuous contamination source being present. An accidental exposure in the hydroponic system would have become diluted over time, or the pathogen died off to the point that they would have been undetectable. The fact is the organic matter in hydroponics is virtually absent and, therefore, provides a poor environment for E. coli growth and propagation (Dankwa, 2019). Therefore. one would need a continuous source, not an accidental one (like splashing), in order to maintain the E. coli population in hydroponics.

Since both systems were contaminated, we suggest that there is a more likely common pathogen source that the researchers did not correctly identify and remove. The source of contamination could be from source water, filtering system, repurposed equipment, airborne in the greenhouse or HVAC system, human vector, lab equipment, the seed stock, nutrients, or other inputs.

The Purdue Animal Research and Education Center, where the researchers sourced the fish, is an operation that also has swine, cattle, and poultry production. Research suggests that pathogenic E. coli can travel 180 m through airborne exposure (Berry et al., 2015). Airborne exposure poses a more significant risk to controlled environments as pathogens can persist in the HVAC system (Riggio et al., 2019). STEC has the potential to live in dust particles for up to 42 weeks, which can act as a possible vector of contamination if there is a continuous source. Therefore, even a slight possibility of the pathogenic Shiga-producing O157:H7 strain of E. coli transfer from the Animal Research and Education Center resulting in the uncontrolled cross-contamination of other research labs and facilities certified below Biosafety level 2 not designed to work with the pathogenic bacteria would raise a serious concern about the existing safety practices (Boston University).

Lack of 3rd Party or Peer University Test Verification

It has also been recognized that there is a high frequency of false-positive signals in a real-time PCR-based “Plus/Minus” assay (Nowrouzian FL, et al., 2009). Hence the possibility that the PCR verification method may have resulted in inaccurate results. The pathogen was not verified by a 3rd party lab to be actual STEC E.coli O157:H7. Only positive or negative results were obtained for this study.

We recommend several other universities and third-party labs to run samples and validate the results. However, no samples have been provided, which may be impossible to obtain based on the study being conducted in early 2018. Without this verification, there are questions about the possibility of false-positives due to the presence of environmental E.coli, fecal coliforms, or a wide variety of other bacteria commonly found in nutrient-rich environments (Konstantinidis et al., 2011).

Impact of Sterilization

The study conclusion suggests that sterilization efforts are critical. “Our results indicated that contamination with bacterial pathogens could likely be reduced in aquaponic and hydroponic systems if the entire systems were thoroughly sanitized before each use and pathogen-free fish were used for the operation.” This statement is inaccurate and could be detrimental to proper food safety practices. As the microflora of the system develops, it creates an environment that can suppress phytopathogens (Bartelme et al., 2018) and other zoonotic pathogens as a result of antibiotic compounds released by beneficial bacteria (Compant et al., 2005). In Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS), some microbial communities take over 15 years to develop (Bartelme et al., 2017), resulting in greater stability over time.

Many papers support this hypothesis with regards to probiotics in wastewater treatment, aquaculture, and hydroponics. Microbial community analysis also depicts a greater microbial diversity in aquaponics over decoupled or aquaculture systems (Eck et al., 2019), indicating a more significant potential for suppression of pathogens in coupled aquaponic systems over RAS or decoupled aquaponic system. No pathogens were discovered in a mature coupled aquaponics system during 18 years of continuous research in Canada since 2002 (Savidov, personal communications).

These findings support the argument that more biologically mature systems are less likely to develop pathogens and that periodic sanitation should not be done outside of initial start-up unless a zoonotic pathogen (Henderson 2008), is detected. If a pathogen is found, producers should follow proper sanitation and recall procedures.

Conclusion

Overall, this and other research into food safety are ongoing, and new information becomes available continuously to help shape the best practices for proper greenhouse management. As the Aquaponic Association, we hope to provide the most accurate and reliable resources for this purpose. At the same time, we hope to reduce the possibility of studies like this creating unnecessary fear, or unsubstantiated claims that could harm the growth of the aquaponic (and hydroponic) industry. When a document like this is published, it will be quoted by the media, and referenced in other studies as if it is an absolute. Other research must be performed to validate or negate this study’s outcomes.

Our findings conclude that while there is a low chance of the persistence of a pathogen in properly designed aquaponic and hydroponic systems, there is still a potential concern. No agricultural system is immune to this. Compared to soil production, soil-less crops grown in a controlled environment are far less likely to become infected pathogens from mammals, birds and other creatures which are difficult to prevent in field crop production. Human contamination or poor handling practices are of significant concern (Pattillo et al., 2015). The best way to avoid risk is to adhere to food safety guidelines set forth by the USDA, GlobalGAPs, the Aquaponic Association, and other accredited organizations.

contact: info@aquaponicsassociation.org

References

Bartelme, R.P., McLellan, S.L., Newton, R.J., 2017. Freshwater Recirculating Aquaculture System Operations Drive Biofilter Bacterial Community Shifts around a Stable Nitrifying Consortium of Ammonia-Oxidizing Archaea and Comammox Nitrospira. Front. Microbiol. 8. https://doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2017.00101

Bartelme, R.P., Oyserman, B.O., Blom, J.E., Sepulveda-Villet, O.J., Newton, R.J., 2018. Stripping Away the Soil: Plant Growth Promoting Microbiology Opportunities in Aquaponics. Front. Microbiol. 9, 8. https://doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2018.00008

Berry, E.D., Wells, J.E., Bono, J.L., Woodbury, B.L., Kalchayanand, N., Norman, K.N., Suslow, T.V., López-Velasco, G., Millner, P.D., 2015. Effect of Proximity to a Cattle Feedlot on Escherichia coli O157:H7 Contamination of Leafy Greens and Evaluation of the Potential for Airborne Transmission. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 81, 1101–1110. https://doi.org/10.1128/AEM.02998-14

Compant, S., Duffy, B., Nowak, J., Clément, C., Barka, E.A., 2005. Use of Plant Growth-Promoting Bacteria for Biocontrol of Plant Diseases: Principles, Mechanisms of Action, and Future Prospects. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 71, 4951–4959. https://doi.org/10.1128/AEM.71.9.4951-4959.2005

Dankwa, A.S., 2019. Safety  Assessment of Hydroponic Closed System 127. https://digitalcommons.library.umaine.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=4052&context=etd

Eck, M., Sare, A., Massart, S., Schmautz, Z., Junge, R., Smits, T., Jijakli, M., 2019. Exploring Bacterial Communities in Aquaponic Systems. Water 11, 260. https://doi.org/10.3390/w11020260

Guillen, Wrast, Environmental Institute of Houston, 2010, Fishes as Sources of E. coli Bacteria in Warm Water Streams, https://www.uhcl.edu/environmental-institute/research/publications/documents/10-015guillenetalfishreport.pdf

Henderson, H., 2008. Direct and indirect zoonotic transmission of Shiga toxin–producing Escherichia coli. J. Am. Vet. Med. Assoc. 232, 848–859. https://doi.org/10.2460/javma.232.6.848

Konstantinidis, Chengwei Luo, 2011. Georgia Tech Institute, Environmental E. coli: New way to classify E. coli bacteria and test for fecal contamination, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110411152527.htm

Lim JY et al., Escherichia coli O157:H7 colonization at the rectoanal junction of long-duration culture-positive cattle. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2007;73:1380–1382 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1828644/

Boston University Agent Sheet E.coli EHEC or STEC) (https://www.bu.edu/researchsupport/safety/rohp/agent-information-sheets/e-coli-0157h7-agent-information-sheet/).

Nowrouzian FL1, Adlerberth I, Wold AE., 2009 High frequency of false-positive signals in a real-time PCR-based “Plus/Minus” assay. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19161539

Riggio, G., Jones, S., Gibson, K., 2019. Risk of Human Pathogen Internalization in Leafy Vegetables During Lab-Scale Hydroponic Cultivation. Horticulturae 5, 25. https://doi.org/10.3390/horticulturae5010025

Solomon et al., Effect of Irrigation Method on Transmission to and Persistence

of Escherichia coli O157:H7 on Lettuce Journal of Food Protection, Vol. 65, No. 4, 2002, Pages 673–676 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11952218

  1. Gao*, T. Haine,  A. Chen,  Y. Tong, and X. Li, 2011, 7 logs of toxic strain of E coli  were removed by mesophilic AD process while ~ 5 logs increase of the strain were seen in water control with the same condition for 7 days

Pattillo*, Shaw, Currey, Xie, Rosentrater, 2015, Aquaponics Food Safety and Human Health, https://southcenters.osu.edu/sites/southc/files/site-library/site-documents/abc/aquaponics_workshop/AquaponicsFoodSafetyandHumanHealthAllenPatillo.pdf

 

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

Santa Fe CC Uses Aquaponics to Feed the Community During Pandemic

By Charlie Shultz

Like all schools across the nation, Santa Fe Community College (SFCC) was thrown into a tidal wave of confusion about how to move into a new paradigm of education, food production, and distribution by the coronavirus.

We teach one of the few Aquaponic accredited courses at the college level and we were in the middle of our Advanced Aquaponics semester. Two classes of students had started managing a diverse mix of balanced aquaponic systems on campus.

Students spent the weeks before Spring Break breaking down existing systems, gathering baseline data, and rebooting systems. Transplants had just gone in, then the virus began to spread and SFCC determined students could not return to campus for the remainder of the semester. Fortunately, most of our students had plenty of hands-on experience, then all class reverted instantly to an online format.

At the same time, the commercial hydroponic and aquaponic systems at SFCC were in full production. Food was being used in the campus cafeteria and the culinary department. As of late March, these outlets closed and there was no demand for our produce on campus. It has been 3 weeks since our shutdown and we have not stopped producing food. Currently, we are actually beginning to ramp up production for the needs of our community.

Our local mayor began an initiative to get food producers together as a collective and we are currently setting up centralized food distribution across Santa Fe for those in need. With so many out of work, and kids out of school, the demand for food resulted in the mayor approaching SFCC for help. Today was our first pickup from the city distribution program.

With information obtained from the GAP workshop at the 2019 AA conference, we have a good understanding of food safety procedures. We have developed strict protocols around our facility and have limited distancing to adhere to our government’s guidelines. We keep a 6 foot distance minimum between workers, limit to under 5 people at the facility at any one time, we always wear protective eyewear and gloves and we sanitize all surfaces, repeatedly throughout the day.

Early in the semester we had a student internship project develop into a marketing/food delivery project for the community. Twenty-five households per week were going to receive a free delivery of a fresh produce box, another 25 the following week and so on in exchange for survey input as a market study. Many of you know Nate Downey from the 2019 AA conference in Kentucky. We recently pleaded with our school president to let Nate continue his project through this unique time. He was granted permission to continue and his project of deliveries begins tomorrow! We all have our Food Handlers Certifications and will continue to keep our food safe for the public.

These are unique times and the education component certainly cannot be converted to all online. Our students need to go through fish and plant cycles from seed to harvest. Online content can be accomplished for the theory, but students cannot be proficient at aquaponics without getting to know the systems, and the biology, and manage those aspects daily.

Readers can follow our program updates on facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/sfccgreenhouse/ and more about Nate’s project can be found at https://www.lettuceetc.com/

Charlie Shultz is the Lead Faculty for Santa Fe Community College’s Controlled Environment Agriculture Program

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!

Commercial Growers Hit Hard By Coronavirus

Two weeks ago we sent a short, informal survey asking how the lockdown conditions are affecting aquaponic growers. This article provides the results from commercial aquaponic growers.

By Brian Filipowich

Commercial aquaponic growers have been hit hard by the coronavirus lockdown. We received about 25 survey responses from commercial growers and about two-thirds said their business decreased by over 50% or completely shut down.

About one-third of growers said they have had success shifting their sales from restaurants to local markets or deliveries. One farm even said their business has now expanded.

Several growers said that the lockdown affected business plans or government proceedings that were already underway. And several said they are already seeing some supply shortages, and fear more.

Quotes:

  • “Weekly produce orders have increased as many of my clients have chosen not to travel outside of their homes to purchase food. (I operate a customizable CSA) I am currently contemplating how much extra produce to grow this summer in my traditional soil garden.” – Aquatic Gardens

  • “Growing: no impact yet, although we’ve had to temporarily suspend 50% of our staff. This will eventually translate to longer cycles. Selling: All hotel and most restaurant business suspended. Consumer purchasing direct from farm increased, but not yet significantly. Pivoting to pop-up sales in the community and farm-to-porch sales.” ETX Aquaponics

  • “We are continuing to grow and allowing texts orders with touchless payment options we then take the goods outside for pick up.” – Bella Vita Farm

  • “Getting tons of request for fish of all sizes, sold out of hatchery size fish last couple days and now selling larger fish! Can’t supply all requests!” – Future Food Farms

  • “Trying to get organic certified and expand but gov. offices are closed.” – Double Diamond Aquaponics Farm

  • “Over the weekend we lost 90% to 95% of our market as almost every restaurant and country club closed operations.” – [withheld]
  • “Lost 90% of my business overnight” – [withheld]
  • “I only sell to restaurants and they are closed so my business has been shut down” – [withheld]
  • “We are completely unable to sell any of our fish because of state and federal lock downs. No sales what so ever! We have good demand we have good supply but with social distancing because of the corona virus we are unable to host fish sales” – [withheld]

Stay tuned for responses from research, STEM education, community, and personal growers.

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

 

How is coronavirus affecting your aquaponics?

Please take our online survey to let us know how the coronavirus outbreak is affecting you and your aquaponic growing.

Your input will help us determine if there’s anything we can do to help growers overcome common hurdles during these uncharted times. We will post the results and do our best to link folks to helpful resources and information.

Thank you, stay safe, and keep growing!

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

 

TrueNute Nutrient Management Services

 

Check out a great service from True Aquaponics, 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!

Are you having nutrient issues with your commercial aquaponic system? Unsure what deficiency you have and what to dose to fix it? Worried about whether or not you or your farm manager dosed nutrients properly? Do you need to balance the nutrients your plants have available to them?  Want to maximize ROI of your produce?

TrueNute Nutrient Management Service is here to help!

With TrueNute Nutrient Management Service you simply pay a monthly fee, send in your water to be tested. We then use that data to custom formulate a nutrient/mineral solution that you simply cut open and add to your system to re-balance your aquaponic system and maximized both yields and pest resistance. This service is already helping many farmers across North America get the best production possible for their farms and it will help your aquaponics farm too!

For more information follow the link below:

https://trueaquaponics.com/pages/truenute-nutrient-management-service

If you have any questions, please email us at truenute@gmail.com or shoot us a text at 214-489-2311

USDA Grants Call for Aquaponics

Kentucky State University, 2019 Aquaponics Conference

By Brian Filipowich

Major Federal Grants have recently been published that can apply to aquaponics growers. USDA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Grants will disburse $192 Million for FY2020 across several different programs and specifically call for aquaponics and hydroponics projects.

Due dates for grant applications range from March 12 to May 28, 2020, depending on the project. The AFRI program is intended to invest in research, education, and extension projects that support more sustainable, productive, and economically viable agricultural systems.

Click here for AFRI Request for Applications.

Aquaponics projects can fit into multiple programs within the Grant, including:

  • Foundational Knowledge of Agricultural Production Systems
  • Pests and Beneficial Species in Agricultural Production Systems
  • Small- and Medium-Sized Farms
  • Water Quantity and Quality

Separately, USDA Aquaculture Research Grants have also been published. These grants total $1.2 Million. The due date is April 22, 2020.

Click here for Aquaculture Request for Application.

The USDA Aquaculture Program supports the development of an environmentally and economically sustainable aquaculture industry in the U.S. and generate new science-based information and innovation to address industry constraints.

Given that over 90% of U.S. seafood is imported, and seafood is a much more efficient source of animal protein than than beef, pork, and poultry, you’d think we need to invest more in aquaculture and aquaponics!

 

Phil Reasons – Can Aquaponics Change The Developing World

Phil Reasons delivers an inspiring presentation about aquaponics changing the developing world. Phil explains how just one fish a day can make a major economic and nutritional impact to the rural poor.

Do you want to help us spread Phil’s 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. Your $60 Membership fee will help us spread Phil’s message about aquaponics changing the developing world.

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

Stay Fishy!
John Roe

Aquaponics at Aquaculture America, Honolulu, HI

Aquaculture America is coming up Feb 9-12 in Honolulu, HI.

The Aquaponics sessions at the Conference will be Feb 10 from 11am-5pm; and Feb 11 from 10:30am to 12:30pm. There will be over 30 presentations on all aspects of aquaponics.

Aquaponics Engineer Huy Tran noted that aquaponics is growing rapidly; a few years ago at the Aquaculture America Conference there were only 4 aquaponics presentations.

On behalf of the Aquaponics Association, Dr. Nick Savidov and Charlie Shultz will present “Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) for Aquaponic Produce and Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) Certification, 2020 Update.” A special thanks to Meg Stout for spearheading that presentation.

Aquaponics at Massachusetts Corrections Facility

Berkshire Education and Correction Service in Massachusetts is about to open a new Aquaponics Lab, installed by Aquaponics Association Member 100 Gardens. The aquaponic system is expected to produce about 1,500 heads of lettuce and 80lbs of fish per week.

Check out this quick video of the facilities from Facebook.

North Central Aquaculture Conference Feb 1-2 in Columbus, Ohio

The 2020 North Central Aquaculture Conference, co-hosted by the USDA North Central Regional
Aquaculture Center (NCRAC) and the Ohio Aquaculture Association (OAA) will be held February 1-2,
2020 in Columbus, OH. Eighteen sessions comprising 54 presentations will be available for attendees to choose from.

Attendees can register here: http://ohioaquaculture.org/events

Click for 2020 North Central Aquaculture Conference Final News Release

Click here for 2020 Conference Agenda with Speakers

Auburn University Aquaponics Survey

A message from D. Allen Pattillo at Auburn University:

Hello fellow aquaponic enthusiasts!

The School of Fisheries, Aquaculture, and Aquatic Sciences (SFAAS) invites you to participate in a survey study to generate a ‘snapshot’ of the status of the aquaponics industry. This survey is designed for hobbyists, educators, and for-profit aquaponic producers. We recognize and appreciate your commitment to improving and advancing aquaponics.

This survey is intended for those age 18 and older, and the questions should take about 20 minutes to complete. Your responses will be kept confidential and any data collected will be presented in aggregate form to ensure anonymity. If you have any questions or wish to provide additional feedback, please do so in the comments section at the end of this survey.

The information you share with us will be used to develop targeted research, teaching, and extension efforts to support the needs of the aquaponics industry.  We invite you to share this survey broadly to aquaponic practitioners of any scale and interest level.

The survey can be accessed at: https://auburn.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_0riUVSI68QHL40d

Don’t miss this opportunity to let your voice be heard! Thank you for your participation. We look forward to hearing from you!

See additional information letter: Aquaponic Survey Information Letter_12-10-2019

Sincerely,

D. Allen Pattillo, M.S.
Ph.D. Student – Aquaponic Economics – Auburn University

Dap0005@auburn.edu

October Aquaponics News Roundup

Sick of the same old TV shows? You’re in luck! It’s the Aquaponics News Roundup! The fishtank pictured above is from FoodChain in Lexington, KY, a non-profit aquaponic farm we toured at the September Putting Out Fruits Conference. Now for the news…

A lot’s happening in the world of aquaponics! This installment of the News Roundup is focused on a non-profit’s mission to support disenfranchised youth, a look at how the industry can broaden food access in urban areas, and a corporate grant awarded to support a K-12 aquaponic initiatives.

INMED Partnerships for Children teams up with the Paxton Campus in Loudoun Country, Virginia to create an educational, aquaponic greenhouse: https://modernfarmer.com/2019/10/phoenix-looks-to-snuff-out-food-deserts/

In looking to mitigate food deserts, Phoenix, Arizona contemplates the role that aquaponic initiatives can serve in its long-term plan to transform the local food economy: https://modernfarmer.com/2019/10/phoenix-looks-to-snuff-out-food-deserts/

The Moon Area School District wins a $100,000 grant from Schneider Electric’s ‘K-12 Bold Ideas’ contest: https://modernfarmer.com/2019/10/phoenix-looks-to-snuff-out-food-deserts/

Tune in next time!

Food System Transformations Report

The Global Alliance for the Future of Food and The Biovision Foundation for Ecological Development recently published a report: Beacons of Hope; Accelerating Transformations to Sustainable Food Systems.

The Report “showcases the groundswell of people transforming our food systems in beneficial, dynamic, and significant ways, through nature- and people-based solutions. It provides a Food Systems Transformation Toolkit built on the principles of renewability, health, equity, resilience, diversity, and interconnectedness as a guide for discussion and collective action.”

Aquaponics is a powerful tool to transform food systems because – compared to soil agriculture – it uses less inputs, emits less waste, and can be practiced in any environment. Aquaponics is still evolving and has yet to reach mainstream status, but it will begin to play a greater role as we struggle to feed a growing global population at the same time as we confront resource and environmental challenges.

 

News Roundup: The Aquaponics Industry is Making Waves

Victory Aquaponics in NH
(Victory Aquaponics in NH)

The aquaponics industry is constantly adapting as it revolutionizes how, and where, local foods are produced. For this installment of the “News Roundup” we’re highlighting several interesting articles centered around industry leaders, crop diversification, and updates on the USDA’s support for this rapidly expanding sector.

Superior Fresh demonstrates aquaponics’ viability even in colder regions:
Aquaponic farmers are looking to join the cannabis movement:

That’s all for now, see you in a few weeks!

Conference Program!

The Aquaponics Association 2019 Board of Governors is proud to present the tentative program for the September 20-22 Putting Out Fruits Conference:

You can buy your tickets at the Putting Out Fruits homepage.

We hope you can make it,
Tawnya Sawyer, Conference Chair
Aquaponics Association

Bill Got His STEM Discount Ticket!

Bill Martin from the Helios Project just got his ticket for the Putting Out Fruits Conference September 20-22 at Kentucky State University. Are you a teacher or community grower? Learn about our STEM and Community Discount!

Here’s what Bill says about his project:

We created the Helios Project at Pomfret School in Pomfret, CT to empower students and provide a venue for authentic student learning and the application of 21st century learning goals. We use aquaponics as a rich and relevant platform for student innovation and to teach applied biology, chemistry, physics and engineering principles.

Everything done in the Helios Project is driven by the “need” for something new to be built or a problem to be solved by a group of students.  As much as possible students design, build, run and refine the aquaponics systems in our CERES passive solar greenhouse whose metal frame was assembled by students in a fall trimester class.  In addition to the sciences, The Helios Project has also benefited from the contributions of students from other Pomfret School departments such as art, photography and computer graphics who created a mural to adorn the exterior north wall, from computer science students who built the Helios Project website, and from videography students who created short films documenting various aspects about the Project.

Beyond monitoring the aquaponic systems, Helios Interns plant and harvest produce for the School’s dining hall and to donate to a local food bank and filet tilapia for an annual fish fry.  Finally, the Project provides opportunities for students to engage in independent research projects and to do outreach to area schools, teaching elementary to high school students about aquaponic topics.  The Helios Project is ongoing and the beauty of it is that there will always be more to do!

Conference Room Block at the Capital Plaza Hotel

If you’re coming to the Putting Out Fruits Conference September 20-22 you are eligible for a fantastic deal in our Capital Plaza Hotel room block. Rooms are $109/night and include a full hot breakfast. The room block rate expires August 17.

Our Conference Team is busy reviewing presentation proposals, analyzing conference surveys, and drafting a program that will advance aquaponics for growers large and small. And we want you to be there! Head to the Conference Homepage for ticket info.

Best regards,

Brian Filipowich, Chairman
Aquaponics Association

Putting Out Fruits only two months away!

We are less than two months away from Putting Out Fruits at Kentucky State University, September 20-22.

Our Conference Team is busy reviewing presentation proposals, analyzing conference surveys, and drafting a program that will advance aquaponics for growers large and small. And we want you to be there!

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

Our fruity theme is more than just words. The conference will produce: videos of expert panel discussions; digital presentations and cutting edge data; long-term goals we will set collaboratively for working groups; group statements to policy makers and regulators; and the building blocks for a stronger Aquaponics Association!

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.

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.

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

We hope to see you there!

Brian Filipowich, Chairman
Aquaponics Association

 

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

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

New Aquaponics Report from ATTRA

ATTRA just published a report: Aquaponics – Multitrophic Systems for Food Production. This Report introduces aquaponic systems, discusses economics and getting started, and includes an extensive list of resources that point the reader to print and online educational materials for further technical assistance. The Report is free to download here: http://bit.ly/2UckGKf

ATTRA is a sustainable agriculture program developed and managed by the National Center for Appropriate Technology.

Aquaponics Association Chairman Brian Filipowich was interviewed by author Lee Rinehart to give background information for the Report. Check out the podcast recording: http://bit.ly/2Fgh1lW

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/

Vendor Spotlight: Skretting; the global leader in aquaculture feed

Skretting, the world’s largest producer of aquaculture feed, is one of the great companies joining us in the Putting Up Shoots Conference vendor showroom THIS WEEKEND in Hartford, CT.

Do you have a product or service you’d like displayed in front of hundreds of aquaponics-enthusiasts? We still have a few tables left. Check out our conference homepage for more info: http://bit.ly/2NZ4WTV

About Skretting: “Our mission is based on the challenge of feeding a global population that is forecast to reach 9.5 billion people by 2050. The fast growing world population, increased urbanisation, a growing middle class and changing diets will lead to a surge in demand for protein, especially in emerging markets. Our ambition is to contribute to meeting the rising food needs in a sustainable manner. We will do this by constantly seeking innovative ways to raise the efficiency and nutritional value of our products, the productivity of our activities and those of our customers, and to reduce the environmental impact of our value chains. Sustainability is in the nature of our business.”

Hope to see you at the conference!

Speaker Spotlight: Officer Michael McLeon

“The Michael Unit” started with a bathtub and solo cups and through trial and error has developed low-cost commercial aquaponic systems from used and recycled parts. From the development of this system the Michael Unit Field Force went on to win State Grand Champion in the “Herb Behind Bars” competition as well as developed community outreach programs that has helped over 800 families in need and wish to share the experiences and knowledge they have gained through developing an aquaponics program in a correctional environment.

The long term goal is to grow many salads every week within the walls of prisons across the US with aquaponics. Just another example of how aquaponics is transforming our food economy!

Get your Putting Up Shoots tickets today! — http://bit.ly/2NZ4WTV

Aquaponics Across Connecticut!

The Putting Up Shoots Conference features tours of four sites across the great state of Connecticut.

Guests will get a first-hand look at all angles of aquaponics: commercial, food safety, community, research, and STEM education.

Tours will inform afternoon sessions and team-building. We will identify ways that Connecticut growers are breaking down barriers and growing more with aquaponics, and how we can all apply these lessons.

Check out the Putting Up Shoots Conference Homepage for ticket info.

Also check out the draft Putting Up Shoots Schedule.

Email community@aquaponicsassociation.org for questions.

Hope to see you there!

 

 

Yemi Amu: Aquaponics Design for Small-Scale Production

From city lots to classrooms, aquaponics is a good fit for any urban space, no matter the size. Yemi Amu, a New York City aquaponics professional with over a decade of farming experience, shares in this talk practical design considerations and best practices for creating aquaponics systems in unconventional spaces. Yemi’s guidelines for design, building, materials and plant selection will benefit those interested in growing a diverse selection of fish and crops in small spaces or on a limited budget.

In this talk participants will learn:

  • How to design for your space
  • Designing systems for a purpose (such as production or education)
  • Designing aquaponics systems for scalability
  • Designing systems for ease of use and functionality
  • Selecting materials for a budget
  • Appropriate fish and vegetable choices

About Oko Farms

Founded in 2012, Oko Farms is an aquaponics education, production and design/build company in Brooklyn. Oko Farms operates New York City’s largest and only outdoor aquaponics farm located in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Every year, hundreds of visitors, ranging from public school students to government officials, learn about sustainability and ecosystems by visiting our unique and diverse aquaponics farm.

Our 2,500 square foot aquaponics system houses a variety of freshwater animals, including channel catfish, tilapia, crawfish, freshwater prawns, gold fish, koi, and bluegill. Plants cultivated include rice, lemongrass, mint, okra, peppers, spinach, beans, leeks, chamomile, tomatoes, eggplant, and many more. Our system also features a number of aquaponic farming methods, including deep water culture, ebb and flow, and nutrient film technique.

About Yemi Amu

Yemi Amu is the founder and farm manager of Oko Farms. She directs all of Oko Farms’ programs including education, design/build projects and community related activities. For the past decade, she has facilitated the creation and maintenance of over 20 edible spaces throughout NYC; created and implemented various culinary, nutrition and gardening programs for both youth and adults; and promotes aquaponics as a tool for environmental awareness and stewardship. Yemi has a M.A. in Health and Nutrition Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. She was awarded Hunter College NYC Food Policy Center, Rising Star in NYC Food Policy (2016).

The Amazing Microbiology of Aquaponics

As our nation prepares to pass the once-every-5-year Farm Bill, let’s remember that aquaponic systems have been shown to have the same – if not more – quantity and diversity of rich microbiology as organic soil.

Check out our Aquaponics Food Web Report: Aquaponics food web aug 2018

Whether as a consumer, grower, policy-maker, or business owner, we all make decisions that affect
where and how our food is produced.

As we shape our new food system, one critical consideration is whether we retain access to high quality
fresh fruits and vegetables, particularly those grown sustainably. We must assess whether new growing methods like aquaponics can deliver fruits and vegetables grown from seed with the same symbiotic biological processes used by plants since the dawn of time.

Our report shows that aquaponic systems feature a vibrant, thriving community of happy little micro-critters!

 

 

Aquaponic Atlantic Salmon are first-ever grown on US soil and harvested commercially for US customers

Superior Fresh of Wisconsin celebrated July 4th by taking one giant leap for the U.S. economy: their Atlantic Salmon became the first ever grown on U.S. soil and harvested commercially!

Superior Fresh’s Atlantic salmon have some of the highest omega-3’s compared to all other salmon, were raised with minimal environmental impacts, are fed an organic diet, and have never received antibiotics or pesticides!

The U.S. imports over NINETY PERCENT of the seafood we consume.  We need more local aquaculture.

With aquaponics, Superior Fresh uses the waste stream from the salmon to also produce the highest-quality leafy greens. This is a win-win situation for our environment and the economy.

Important New Economic Agriculture Report

This new TEEB report is kinda nerdy, but if you are an aquaponic grower it’s vitally important.

TEEB (“The Economics of Ecosystems & Biodiversity”) is a global initiative focused on “making nature’s values visible”. They have just released their latest report; Scientific and Economic Foundations.

Here’s the problem the report addresses: our current food system is loaded with invisible costs: 1) health care costs from pesticide use; 2) antibiotic resistance from rampant antibiotic use in our meat; 3) excessive water use; 4) aquatic dead zones from agricultural runoff; 5) excessive carbon use for food transport; 6) biodiversity loss from clearing land to feed a growing population, etc etc etc…

Here’s one specific example: a forest provides value to every human being: 1) it filters water; 2) it prevents erosion; 3) it sequesters carbon and releases oxygen; and 4) it preserves biodiversity which prevents against infestation, disease, and extinctions which could irreparable harm our entire ecosystem.

So if a large industrial grower clears 1,000 acres of forest to grow more corn, who is paying for this loss of value? Somebody else, or future generations.

In our “free market” form of capitalism, these costs should be taken into account and built into the cost of production. But because these costs are hard to quantify and evaluate, we simply ignore them and stick our heads in the sand like a flock of ostriches.

TEEB is the world’s leading effort to actually put a pricetag on these costs.

As aquaponic growers, we are able to grow the most fruits, vegetables, and fish with the absolute minimum resources necessary. And we can do it without pesticides, without antibiotics and without agricultural runoff. And we can do it local no matter where you are, from cities to deserts, from rooftops to warehouses.

In our “free market” economy, we need to put a price tag on hidden costs in order for aquaponic growers to fully monetize their efficiency.

Can you imagine how much aquaponics would grow if our economy started to charge the true cost of water, carbon, antibiotics, pesticides, deforestation, agricultural runoff, etc? The price of the industrially produced lettuce from 1,000 miles away would go way up, but the aquaponic-grower from your hometown could deliver it without an increase.

This TEEB report is a critical step in that direction.

 

 

Aquaponics Association Makes an Appearance at Aquaculture America

 

The three day Aquaculture America Trade show gave us an opportunity to come face to face with some of our current and future members. Thank you to all that stopped by the booth. We had a great turn out and are looking forward to seeing you all at our annual conference coming up in Hartford, CT. Keep a look out for exact dates and prices.

Washington Post Boosts Tilapia

The Washington Post recently ran an article of interest to the aquaponic community: Tilapia Has a Terrible Reputation. Does it Deserve It? (Tamar Haspel. Washington Post. October 24, 2016.)

The Post found that tilapia has an unfair bad rap, and this should make us aquaponic folk angry! Because its costing us!

The article states: “Tilapia, in short, is an environmentally friendly, lean, low-calorie source of protein. We need all of those we can get.” And they did a taste test among some top Washington, DC food gurus; tilapia ranked 2nd of 6 among similar types of fish.

The commercial performance of tilapia is important to the success of the aquaponic industry. Tilapia is the most commonly used aquaponic fish because of its ability to withstand wide variances of ph, temperature, and water quality. And cuz its a quick efficient grower. In a 2015 survey, Commercial Aquaponics Production and Profitability, Findings from an International Survey (Love et al, 2015), researchers found that 69% of respondents used tilapia.

While tilapia is not as healthy or delicious as salmon, it is a lean source of healthy protein. Aquaponics offers us a way to grow this lean healthy protein locally, even in urban areas. This could have dramatically positive repercussions for our health, environment, and economy. But, perversely, these fish are more of an economic liability than an asset for most aquaponic operations, as found in a 2015 paper: Economics of Aquaponics (Engle, 2015).

Right now, tilapia is undervalued because of consumers’ misconceptions (which stem from poor-quality chinese tilapia imports). We need to show consumers that tilapia – when raised appropriately – is healthy and tasty. Then the price of tilapia will rise like the water in your media bed!

For some aquaponic operations, an increase in the price of tilapia will have a significant effect on their bottom line.

(And this does not even go into the fact that we don’t adequately charge for the costs of our food system to our environment and health. Is it REALLY cheaper to buy a tilapia raised in unhealthy conditions shipped from thousands of miles away in China?????!?!?!? We need to start building the hidden costs of our food system into our food prices. These costs include extreme water usage, carbon usage, pesticide usage, antibiotic usage, fertilizer usage, and nutrient runoff. Then the price of long-distance industrially-produced food would go up and we would be incentivized to buy local food… which would also benefit our economy!)

And see another good industry survey: An International Survey of Aquaponics Practitioners (Love et al, 2014)