Community Collaboration and Partnership: Takeaways from the 2019 Putting Out Fruits Conference

FoodChain nonprofit Aquaponic Farm serving foodbanks in Lexington, KY; Putting Out Fruits Conference Tour

By: Kate Wildrick, Strategic Advisor / Community Builder 

As the sun gently warmed the rolling hillsides surrounding the KSU Organics Research Facility, I watched as several new and familiar faces entered the building eager to learn and connect with others.  The annual Aquaponics Association’s Conference focused on showcasing how the movement was growing and expanding while seeding new opportunities to generate fruitful results. The theme of “Putting Out Fruits” built on previous conference themes around the industry’s roots and the growth of new science and research, applications of aquaponics and community endeavors.  

With a sold-out venue, the halls were brimming with enthusiasm and conversation.  It soon shifted as people made their way into one of three spaces where sessions focused around STEM / Education; Commercial; and Community topics.  

“It is time for your session,” my colleague reminded me.  

Picking up my notebook, I shuffled through the halls to the Community room.  In an effort to start up the dialogue around all of the wonderful ways in which aquaponics can build community, I noticed that our room had a lot of empty seats that continued to fill. Taking note, we launched into a community discussion with three panelists that included Murray Hallam, Practical Aquaponics; Juli Ogden, The Farm Plan; and Mac McLeon, an innovator of growing aquaponics projects and farms in the prison system.  Together, we opened up the discussion to explore how each of their unique work in education, food safety and workforce development could lend itself to cultivating new opportunities not only for partnership but to also help solve and remove some of the barriers that are holding the industry back.  

During our time together, we made powerful connections.  As each participant shared who they are and what they saw as challenges and opportunities in the aquaponic industry, we shifted the dialogue into looking at how community partnership could help serve as a tool.

Keney Park Sustainability Project in Hartford, CT; Putting Up Shoots Conference Tour

Together, we began to explore the hot topic of food safety. Using the recent ruling with the Canada GAP certification looking to not certify aquaponic farms, Juli Ogden explained the logical solution of simply replacing CanadaGAP with GLOBALG.A.P..  We dove into how community partnerships could play a role in the gathering and sharing of research and information to help educate others inside and outside the aquaponic industry. Food safety touches every aspect of aquaponics from design and construction, workforce training and development and market viability.   In our discussion, it was clear that there was a blatant need for more research; industry standards; and continued training and education to ensure that aquaponics as an industry can continue to grow and expand.

Mr. McLeon shared how his relationships within the prison system could open the door for big community collaboration projects to emerge.  Working within the prisons, research and development could be done in partnership with higher education. Developing a partnership between the two could open up doors to not only gathering information and data, but analysis and evaluation by academics to help advance the industry.  Connections were also made around how workforce training and development can also happen within the prison system to help offenders build new and marketable skills to help them transition after they are released. Training programs, such as Mr. Hallam’s aquaponic curriculum (already nationally accredited by Australia), could help provide a baseline for workforce competencies. As each panelist contributed to what these partnerships could do, others in the audience who had community based aquaponic projects also connected how they could participate in helping offenders transition into paid employment.

Aquaponics at the Mississauga Food Bank in Canada

The second community session focused on a group discussion around what the Aquaponics Association could be doing to help advance and grow community solutions.  There were many takeaways from our time together that had definitely been sparked by the first discussion. The top three included:

  1. Provide more opportunities for other community-based/driven aquaponic models to participate in the conferences.  The suggestions included having a special community priced booth to bring awareness to local, domestic and international endeavors and provide ways for people to get involved.  These packages could help NGO’s, non-profits and benefit companies.
  2. Create a better virtual space and way for people to connect their projects, mission and vision within the aquaponics community to help mobilize resources.
  3. Bring more awareness to the other members in the Aquaponic Association to help grow the Community space.  Suggestions included featuring how partnerships can help solve our growing challenges and also showcase who is working on what issues while communicating how to get involved.

With 2019 coming to a close, I look forward to seeing how these recommendations will help shape, grow and influence our members and our community together.  More importantly, I look forward to seeing more community participants in next year’s conference increase.

Do you have ideas for how the Aquaponics Association can boost Community Aquaponics?

ACTION ALERT: Tell Congress to Support USDA Urban / Innovative Ag Office

(Bella Vita Farm, Brookeville, MD)

Please call or email your two senators and one representative and ask them to Support the new USDA Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production.

In the next week or two, Congress will decide whether or not to fund the USDA’s new Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production. The Office was created by the 2018 Farm Bill but still needs to be funded.

This new Office is intended to be the USDA’s central hub to handle aquaponics, hydroponics, vertical growing, and other new growing methods. It will coordinate matters for these growers and offer new research and funding opportunities. (See Summary)

INSTRUCTIONS:

1 – Identify your two federal senators and one federal representative.

2 – Find the phone number of their Washington, DC office on their website.

3 – Call each Office and ask to speak to the staff member that handles agriculture policy. [You may not get to speak to the staff, they may ask you to leave a message or give you an email address. Wherever you land, use the message below.]

4 – Tell them you’d like the Senator / Representative to Support the new USDA Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production created by the 2018 Farm Bill. If you’re feeling chatty you can tell them what you do and why your work is important.

Thanks for supporting urban and innovative agriculture, future generations will thank you!

Brian Filipowich, Chairman
Aquaponics Association

 

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.

 

Aquaponics News Roundup 9/30/19

The aquaponics industry keeps on building momentum! In this “News Roundup” we’re emphasizing the financial impact that the industry will have in the near future, an educational initiative to develop both students and the community, and the growing intersection between cannabis and aquaponics.

by Thomas Wheet

FoodChain; Friday Conference Tour

We will be touring FoodChain, an aquaponic farm in Lexington, KY on Friday, September 20 at the Putting Out Fruits Conference!

Since 2013, FoodChain has been operating an indoor aquaponic farm in an abandoned bread factory in order to demonstrate how cities can turn underutilized, industrial spaces into food production.

Their farm uses a deep-water recirculating system with 7,000 gallons of water, 500 tilapia, and thousands of plants.

Says FoodChain: “Our farm is special: although we are able to cover 1/3 of our operating costs with the food we produce here, we are also able to do a lot of research and best practice development for other producers! Being a nonprofit frees us up to make resources like our Barrelponics Manual and Microgreen Cost Analysis available to anyone interested in pursuing aquaponics!”

After the tour, we will have social time / open dinner in a social area of Lexington, KY, before buses take us 45 minutes back to Frankfort for more socializing and aquaponic revelry!

There are still a few tickets and vendor tables left to the Putting Out Fruits Conference, head to the Conference Homepage to get your tickets ASAP!

Check out the Saturday KSU Aquaculture Research Center Tour Info if you missed it.

 

 

Podcast: Conference Discussion

Aquaponics Association Chairman Brian Filipowich appeared on the Growing with Fishes Podcast to discuss the upcoming Putting Out Fruits Conference and other Association activities.

Here’s how to access the podcast.

Podcast host Steve Raisner will be at the Conference, presenting on the newest advances in Insect and Pest Management, and partaking in an Aquaponic-Cannabis Production Panel.

(FYI it was recorded at 10pm eastern time and Chairman Bri-guy was tired!)

Commercial Aquaponics Learning Track

Commercial Aquaponics is one of the learning tracks at the upcoming Putting Out Fruits Conference, September 20-22 at Kentucky State University. This learning track features presentations and panel discussions intended to boost the aquaponics industry as a whole, and to give individual growers the tools they need to succeed in the market. See the Putting Out Fruits Program.

Some major topics of the Commercial Aquaponics Learning Track are:

-food safety and organic certification;
-commercial aquaponics industry survey;
-monetizing fish and shrimp;
-designing and installing an aquaponic system for profit;
-international commercial aquaponics case studies;
-specialty crops in aquaponics; and
-aquaponic cannabis and hemp cultivation.

This track also features breakout discussions that allow all participants to discuss their views on the commercial aquaponics industry, and how we can work together to make the road easier for everyone.

For info about vendor tables or general tickets, head to the Putting Out Fruits Conference Homepage.

Are you interested in supporting free and discounted conference tickets for STEM educators, students, non-profits, and community growers? Please lend a hand with aPutting Out Fruits Sponsorship! Sponsorships start as low as $250 and go a long way to making the Conference accessible to ALL Aquapioneers!

KSU Aquaculture Research Center Tour

Saturday afternoon of the Putting Out Fruits Conference, participants will split into groups and rotate through multiple sites and demonstrations at the Kentucky State University Aquaculture Research Center. These stations include:

-The Aquaponics Demonstration Greenhouse;
-Fish Disease Overview;
-Insect and Pest Management Demonstration;
-Saltwater Shrimp Tour;
-Fish Processing Tutorial;
-Hatchery and Ponds Tour; and
-Replicated Aquaponics Research Tour.

For info about vendor tables or general tickets, head to the Putting Out Fruits Conference Homepage.

Are you interested in supporting free and discounted conference tickets for STEM educators, students, non-profits, and community growers? Please lend a hand with a Putting Out Fruits Sponsorship! Sponsorships start as low as $250 and go a long way to making the Conference accessible to ALL Aquapioneers!