Partnership with Indoor Ag Con

The Aquaponics Association is proud to partner with Indoor Ag Con in support of their upcoming conference. Themed “Growing the Future,” the 2020 edition of Indoor Ag-Con will be the showplace for robotics, automation, AI, breaking technology trends and product innovation.

Aquaponics Association Board of Directors Member and Treasurer Claudia Andracki will join the full line-up of industry experts, thought leaders and executives leading programs across three tracks: Business; Science & Technology; and Alternative Crops. Ms. Andracki is the owner of Desert Bloom Eco Farm, a solar-powered farm one hour outside of Las Vegas.

Ms. Andracki will join the panel discussion “The Latest Developments In Aquaponics” on opening day, May 18 from 9 – 9:45 am. Click here for a sneak preview of confirmed speakers. Click here for a sneak preview of the conference schedule in development.

As part of the Aquaponics Association industry alliance with Indoor Ag-Con, Association Members can save
an additional $100 off the Early Bird registration rate for the upcoming May 18-20, 2020 edition at the Wynn Las Vegas, and save up to $400 off the regular full conference pass rate for the premier trade event for the indoor & vertical farming industry. Members, stay tuned for an email from us with the Promo Code.

As part of the partnership, Indoor Ag Con will become an Affiliate Member of the Aquaponics Association.

Click here to learn more about Indoor Ag Con.

GLOBAL G.A.P. Made Simple Conference Presentation

Here is a video of Juli Ogden’s presentation Global G.A.P. Made Simple from the Putting Out Fruits conference in September 2019. Juli discusses how aquaponic farms can utilize Global G.A.P. certification, and takes questions from the audience.

This video is about 26 minutes long, and is audio-only for the first minute and 20 seconds.

Juli has an upcoming webinar: Organics Made Simple. The webinar will teach aquaponic and hydroponic farmers what they need to obtain Organic certification and boost their profit margins. Watch the free 90-minute Organics Made Simple Intro Video.

And, click here if you’d like to purchase a ticket for the full 4-session webinar. The webinar includes:

  • Four pre-recorded sessions
  • Live online Q&A sessions
  • Participant Binder mailed to your door, including:
    • Policy
    • Forms, Logs and Tracking Systems
    • Internal Audit
    • Reports
    • Risk Assessments
    • Mock Recall
    • Crop Tracking
    • Management Plans
    • Document Gathering
    • On-Farm Checklist
    • Paperwork Checklist
    • Worker Training Program
    • Sign Package
    • Urgent Updates to the Farm Plan
    • Ongoing Support
    • Future Year Updates
    • Organization System
    • Global G.A.P. Made Simple Food Safety “How to Guide”

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!

 

SAVE THE DATE: Tulsa, Oklahoma September 25-27

ANNUAL CONFERENCE SAVE THE DATE

The Aquaponics Association is excited to announce that we will hold our annual conference in Tulsa, Oklahoma from September 25 – 27! Stay tuned for much more info and tickets within a few weeks.

2019 PRESENTATIONS AVAILABLE FOR MEMBERS

Did you know that Aquaponics Association Members have free access to the conference slide decks from last year’s conference at Kentucky State University? Click here to learn about Membership and access these informative presentations from experienced growers.

Members, to access the slides you can go to the main Members Area and look under Member Content, click “2019 Conference Slide Decks”.

ORGANICS WEBINAR

Tickets are one sale for the Organics Made Simple Webinar starting February 5, led by Juli Ogden. This webinar will give you everything you need to know to get your aquaponic or hydroponic farm certified Organic!

Congress Funds Office of Urban & Innovative Agriculture

By Brian Filipowich

The new Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production created by the 2018 Farm Bill had been sitting in limbo for the past year. The USDA declined to establish it without dedicated funding from Congress.

On December 20, 2019, the President signed into law H.R. 1865, The Further Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2020. The Law includes $5 million for the Office.

The Mission of the Office is to encourage and promote urban, indoor, and other emerging agricultural practices, including:

  • community gardens and farms located in urban areas, suburbs, and urban clusters;
  • rooftop farms, outdoor vertical production, and green walls;
  • indoor farms, greenhouses, and high-tech vertical technology farms; and
  • hydroponic, aeroponic, and aquaponic farm facilities.

The Office will disburse $10 million in grants before 2023 intended to “facilitate urban agricultural production, harvesting, transportation, and marketing.”

Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) was the main sponsor of the new Office, and was responsible adding it to the 2018 Farm Bill. This past Fall, Senator Stabenow introduced an amendment to appropriate the $5 million to fund it.

The next step is to establish the Advisory Committee that will guide the establishment of the Office. The Committee is to be composed of 12 individuals from various sectors of the urban and innovative ag field.

The Farm Bill directed the establishment of the advisory committee by Summer, 2019. The USDA missed the target date because of the lack of funding and the USDA’s major relocation project from Washington, DC to Kansas City, MO, which “has resulted in catastrophic attrition at USDA’s top research agencies.”

Hopefully, with the new funding, the USDA can establish the Office soon.

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

Commercial Aquaponics Breakout Discussions

By Brian Filipowich

At the Putting Out Fruits Conference in September, 2019 we held breakout discussions for Commercial Aquaponics, Community Aquaponics, and Aquaponics Research & Education. These small-group discussions allowed all participants to provide input on how we can work together to advance aquaponics in each area.

This article reviews participants’ input from the Commercial Aquaponics discussions from Friday and Sunday.

On Friday, we asked participants what they view as the main roadblocks to advancing Commercial Aquaponics. Participants identified the following issues:

  • Public Awareness
    The aquaponics community needs to be better at educating consumers about the quality and benefits of aquaponic fish and produce. And we need to do better garnering political support for our cause.
  • The Aquaponic Workforce
    Because modern aquaponics is still new, there is an inadequate supply of specialized labor with aquaponics knowledge. And, there is a long, steep learning curve to bring new employees up to speed.
  • Pest Management
    Pest management can be tricky in aquaponics because many pesticides in normal agriculture may not be safe for the aquaponic ecosystem, which also includes fish and bacteria. Monoculture growing in a greenhouse can make this even more difficult because some insects may proliferate once they find a large crop they like.
  • Infrastructure
    Some growers have a tough time accessing affordable infrastructure like electricity and water.
  • Financing
    Most banks and insurance companies don’t understand aquaponics.
  • Regulations
    Some growers run into unforeseen regulatory issues, and a lack of scientific study to address food safety and regulatory questions.
  • Are “fish veggies” yucky?
    Some consumers believe that plants grown in an aquaponic system may not be safe to eat because of the fish. Others think the fruits and veggies might taste like fish! (they don’t)

Then, on Sunday, we asked participants if they had ideas how we can work together to advance Commercial Aquaponics. Participants identified the following ideas:

  • New Technologies
    New technologies that make aquaponics more efficient will save money and help commercial growers’ bottom lines. One specific example was nano-bubble technology.
  • Connecting Growers
    An online map that displays aquaponic farms, training centers, and suppliers will help growers connect and identify resources and advice.
  • Extension Agents
    Land-grant colleges offer extension services to spread agriculture information to farmers. Because aquaponics is new, some colleges know much more about aquaponics than others. It is inefficient for growers to struggle with problems when an extension agent in another state already knows the solution. By improving aquaponics knowledge among extension agents nationwide we can save growers time and energy rather than recreating the wheel state-by-state.
  • Baseline Standard Operating Procedures
    Establishing baseline Aquaponics Standard Operating Procedures would let all growers and outside stakeholders know exactly what occurs in an aquaponic system. This will prevent mistakes from growers, and prevent misinformation spreading among outside parties. Such standards could also include lists of acceptable and unacceptable materials or supplements to use in an aquaponics system.
  • Grants and Funding
    More funding would speed up the advances in technology and business practices and bring aquaponic production to the mainstream faster.
  • Legal / Regulatory Representation
    The aquaponics community needs to be able to address legal and regulatory issues that have the potential to set back – or push forward – the entire industry. For example, a major food safety certifier recently announced it would phase out aquaponics eligibility in 2020, based on unfounded concerns. The Aquaponics Association has responded with the 2019 Aquaponics Food Safety Statement. Other examples include working Congress to fund the new USDA Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production, which is intended to be the USDA’s central hub for aquaponics and other new agriculture techniques; keeping aquaponics eligible for Organic certification; and including aquaponics in the 2018 Farm Bill. As the industry grows, so will misinformation. We must be ready to speak out with one voice when these circumstances occur.

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

2019 Aquaponics Food Safety Statement

The Aquaponics Association presents the 2019 Aquaponics Food Safety Statement, signed by over 130 organizations, including 98 from the U.S. This statement explains the food safety credentials of produce grown in aquaponic systems.

PDF version: 2019 Aquaponics Food Safety Statement

December 9, 2019
Aquaponics Food Safety Statement

Established Science Confirms Aquaponic Fish and Produce are Food Safe

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. Aquaponics has been used as a farming technique for thousands of years and is now seeing large-scale viability to feed a growing global population.

Benefits of aquaponics include dramatically less water use; no toxic chemical fertilizers or pesticides; no agriculture discharge to air, water or soil; and less food miles when systems are located near consumers where there is no arable soil.

Aquaponics has consistently proven to be a safe method to grow fresh, healthy fish, fruits, and vegetables in any environment. Governments and food safety certifiers must utilize the most current, accurate information to make food safety decisions about aquaponics at this time when our food systems adapt to a growing population and environmental concerns.

Food Safety Certification for Aquaponics

For years, commercial aquaponic farms have obtained food safety certification from certifying bodies such as Global GAP, USDA Harmonized GAP, Primus GFS, and the SQF Food Safety Program. Many aquaponic farms are also certified USDA Organic. These certifying bodies have found aquaponics to be a food safe method for fish, fruits, and vegetables. As far back as 2003, researchers found aquaponic fish and produce to be consistently food safe (Rakocy, 2003; Chalmers, 2004).  Aquaponic fish and produce continue to be sold commercially across North America following all appropriate food safety guidelines.

Recent Certification Changes Based on Unfounded Concerns

Recently, Canada GAP, a food safety certifier, announced that it will phase out certification of aquaponic operations in 2020, citing concerns about the potential for leafy greens to uptake contaminants found in aquaponic water.

Correspondence with Canada GAP leadership revealed that the decision to revoke aquaponics certification eligibility was based on research and literature surveys related to the uptake of pharmaceutical and pathogenic contaminants in hydroponic systems. However, these concerns are unfounded based on the established evidence.

First, the Canada GAP decision assumes that aquaponic growers use pharmaceuticals to treat fish, and that these pharmaceuticals would be taken up by plants causing a food safety risk.

In fact, pharmaceuticals are not compatible with aquaponics. Aquaponics represents an ecosystem heavily dependent on a healthy microorganism community (Rinehart, 2019; Aquaponics Association, 2018). The pharmaceuticals and antibiotics referenced by Canada GAP would damage the beneficial microorganisms required for aquaponics to function properly.

Second, the CanadaGAP decision misrepresents the risk of pathogenic contamination. Aquaponic produce – like all produce – is not immune to pathogenic contamination. However, aquaponics is in fact one of the safest agriculture methods against pathogenic risk. Most pathogenic contamination in our modern agriculture system stems from bird droppings, animal infestation, and agriculture ditch or contaminated water sources. In contrast, commercial aquaponic systems are “closed-loop” and usually operated in controlled environments like greenhouses. Almost all operations use filtered municipal or well water and monitor everything that enters and leaves the system.

Aquaponics and Food Safety

If practiced appropriately, aquaponics can be one of the safest methods of food production. The healthy microbes required for aquaponics serve as biological control agents against pathogenic bacteria. (Fox, 2012) The healthy biological activity of an aquaponic system competitively inhibits human pathogens, making their chances for survival minimal. This is, in effect, nature’s immune system working to keep our food safe, rather than synthetic chemicals.

The Government of Alberta, Canada ran extensive food safety tests in aquaponics from 2002 to 2010 at the Crop Diversification Centre South (CDC South) and observed no human pathogenic contamination during this entire eight-year period (Savidov, 2019, Results available upon request). As a result of this study, the pilot-scale aquaponic operation at CDC South was certified as a food safe operation in compliance with Canada GAP standards in May 2011 (GFTC OFFS Certification, May 26, 2011). Similar studies conducted by University of Hawaii in 2012 in a commercial aquaponic farm revealed the same results. (Tamaru, 2012)

Current aquaponic farms must be able to continuously prove their food safety. The U.S. Food Safety Modernization Act requires farms to be able to demonstrate appropriate mitigation of potential sources of pathogenic contamination as well as water testing that validates waters shared with plants are free from contamination by zoonotic organisms. So, if there is a food safety concern in aquaponics, food safety certifiers will find and document it.

Conclusion

The recent certification decision from Canada GAP has already set back commercial aquaponic operations in Canada and has the potential to influence other food safety certifiers or create unfounded consumer concerns. At a time when we need more sustainable methods to grow our food, it is essential to work on greater commercial-government collaboration and scientific validation to ensure fact-based food safety standards.

In order to expand the benefits of aquaponics, we need a vibrant commercial sector. And for commercial aquaponics to succeed, we need reliable food safety certification standards based on established science.

Consumers can feel secure knowing that when they purchase aquaponic fish and produce, they are getting fresh food grown in one of the safest, most sustainable methods possible.

Sincerely,

The Aquaponics Association, along with the undersigned entities

UNITED STATES

Alabama
Gardens on Air – A Local Farm, Inc.
Southern Organics

California
AONE Aquaponics
Fresh Farm Aquaponics
Go Fish Farm
SchoolGrown Aquaponics
Seouchae Natural Farming
Shwava, Inc.
University of California, Davis

Colorado
The Aquaponic Source
Bountyhaus School Farms
Colorado Aquaponics
Dahlia Campus for Health and Wellness Aquaponic Farm
Ecoponex Systems International LLC
Emerge Aquaponics
Flourish Farms @ The GrowHaus
Grand Valley Greens, LLC
GroFresh Farms 365
Northsider Farms LLC

Connecticut
Marine Bait Wholesale

Delaware
Aquaponics AI

Florida
The Aquaponics Doctors, Inc.
Aquaponic Lynx LLC
The Family Farm
GreenView Aquaponics, LLC
Sahib Aquaponics
Traders Hill Farm

Georgia
FM Aquaponic Farm
Georgia Aquaponic Produce LLC
TRC Aquaponics
Teachaman.fish
Ula Farms

Hawaii
Friendly Aquaponics, LLC

Idaho
FoodOlogy

Illinois
Central Illinois Aquaponics

Kentucky
Janelle Hager, Kentucky State University
K&L Organics
Purple Thumb Farms
West KY Aquaponics

Louisiana
Small Scale Aquaponics

Massachusetts
Aquaponics Academy
Lesley University
O’Maley Innovation Middle School

Maryland
Anne Arundel Community College
Greenway Farms, LLC

Missouri
Www.PlentyCare.Org

Minnesota
Menagerie Greens Inc.

North Carolina
Grace Goodness Aquaponics Farm, LLC
100 Gardens

New Hampshire
University of New Hampshire

New York
iGrow News
Oko Farms

New Mexico
Desert Verde Farm
Growing the Greens
High Desert Aquaponics
Howling Coyote Farms
Lettuce, Etc. LLC
Openponics
Project Urban Greenhouse
Sanctuary at ABQ
Santa Fe Community College

Ohio
Berean Aquaponic Farms and Organics LLC
CHCA Eagle Farms
Wildest Farms
Williams Dairy Farms

Oklahoma
Freedom FFA
Greener Grounds LLC

Oregon
Alternative Youth Activity
Ingenuity Innovation Center
Live Local Organic
Triskelee Farm

Pennsylvania
Aquaponics at State High
Yehudah Enterprises LLC

Puerto Rico
Fusion Farms
Granja Ecologica Pescavida

Rhode Island
The Cascadia Bay Company

Tennessee
Great Head LLC

Texas
BioDiverse Technologies LLC
BnE Enterprises
East Texas Aquaponics, LLC
Gentlesoll Farm
HannaLeigh Farm
K&E Texan Landscaping
King’s Farm
Tarleton State University, Aquaponics Hydrotron
West Texas Organic Gardening

Utah
Aquaponics Olio
Wasatch High School

Virginia
Grace Aquaponics
INMED Partnerships for Children
Return to Roots Farm

Vermont
The Mill ART Garden, LLP

Washington
The Farm Plan
Impact Horizon, Co.
Life Tastes Good LLC
Northwest Aquaponics LLC
Wind River Produce

Washington, DC
Anacostia Aquaponics DC LLC
P.R. Harris Food Hub

AUSTRALIA

New South Wales
Wirralee Pastoral
Solum Farm

BHUTAN

Thimphu
Chhuyang – Aquaponics in Bhutan

BRAZIL

Rio Grande do Norte
Habitat Marte

Santa Catarina
Pedra Viva Aquicultura 

BULGARIA

Burgas
Via Pontica Foundation

CANADA

Alberta
Agro Resiliency Kit (ARK) Ltd.
Fresh Flavor Ltd
Lethbridge College
W.G. Guzman Technical Services

British Colombia
Garden City Aquaponics Inc.
Green Oasis Foods Ltd.
Pontus Water Lentils Ltd.

Ontario
Aquatic Growers
University of Guelph
Power From Within Clean Energy Society
GREEN RELIEF

Quebec
ML Aquaponics Inc

Yukon Territory
North Star Agriculture

EGYPT

Cairo
Central Laboratory for Aquaculture Research

FRANCE

Paca
Vegetal Grow Development

INDIA

Delhi
Prof Brahma Singh Horticulture Foundation, New Delhi

Karnataka
Blue’s and Green’s
Spacos Innovations Private Limited

ITALY

Turin
Grow Up 

MALAYSIA

Negeri Sembilan
BNS Aquafresh Farming

NIGERIA

Abuja
University of Abuja

PHILIPPINES

Nueva Ecija
Central Luzon State University

Metro Manila, NCR
IanTim Aquaponics Farm

PORTUGAL

Madeira
True Spirit Lda

ROMANIA

Sectors 2 & 4
Bucharest Association of Romanian Aquaponics Society

SAUDI ARABIA

Riyadh
Aquaponica

SENEGAL

Senegal
Ucad Dakar

SINGAPORE

Singapore
Aquaponics Singapore 

Contributors:
Brian Filipowich, Aquaponics Association
Juli Ogden, The Farm Plan
Dr. Nick Savidov, Lethbridge College
Tawnya Sawyer, The Aquaponic Source
Dr. R. Charlie Shultz, Santa Fe Community College
Meg Stout, Independent

Contact:
Brian Filipowich
info@aquaponicsassociation.org

 

 

References

Chalmers, 2004. Aquaponics and Food Safety. Retrieved from http://www.backyardaquaponics.com/Travis/Aquaponics-andFood-Safety.pdf

Filipowich, Schramm, Pyle, Savage, Delanoy, Hager, Beuerlein. 2018. Aquaponic Systems Utilize the Soil Food Web to Grow Healthy Crops. Aquaponics Association. https://aaasociation.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/soil-food-web-aug-2018.pdf

Fox, Tamaru, Hollyer, Castro, Fonseca, Jay-Russell, Low. A Preliminary Study of Microbial Water Quality Related to Food Safety in Recirculating Aquaponic Fish and Vegetable Production Systems. Publication of the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, the Department of Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering, University of Hawaii, February 1, 2012.

Rakocy, J.E., Shultz, R.C., Bailey, D.S. and Thoman, E.S.  (2003). Aquaponic production of tilapia and basil:  comparing a batch and staggered cropping system.  South Pacific Soilless Culture Conference. Palmerston North, New Zealand.

Rinehart, Lee. Aquaponics – Multitrophic Systems, 2019. ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture. National Center for Appropriate Technology.

Tamaru, Fox, Hollyer, Castro, Low, 2012. Testing for Water Borne Pathogens at an Aquaponic Farm. Publication of the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, the Department of Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering, University of Hawaii, February 1, 2012.

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?