Keeping Aquaponics Organic

The National Organic Standards Board meets in November 2016 to discuss excluding aquaponics and hydroponics as "organic"

The National Organic Standards Board meets in November 2016 to discuss excluding aquaponics and hydroponics as "organic"

From the desk of Brian Filipowich, Committee Chair for the Aquaponics Association Organics Committee:

Dear Aquaponics Association Member:

We write to inform you that the Aquaponics Association has formed an Organics Committee to represent our industry in the National Organics Program (NOP) deliberations as to whether aquaponics food production will remain eligible for organic certification. Below is information about the Committee, and information about the current state of NOP deliberations.

Committee Membership
Brian Filipowich, Director of Programs and Policies, the Aquaponics Association
Meg Stout, Chairman, the Aquaponics Association
Sarah Taber, Director of Food Safety, the Aquaponics Association
Rob Nash, Owner/Operator, Austin and HannaLeigh Farms
Cissy Bowman, Founder, Indiana Certified Organic; Member of Certified Naturally Grown’s Aquaponics Standards Advisory Committee
Joe Schram, Commercial Aquaponic Farmer

Committee Operation
The Organics Committee will consider matters relating to aquaponics producers’ eligibility for organic certification and recommend actions to the Aquaponics Association Board. The Association Board will ultimately decide what actions to take.

Current State of Deliberations
In 2010, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) recommended prohibiting “hydroponic and aeroponic” systems from organic certification due to their “exclusion of soil-plant ecology intrinsic to organic farming systems”. Such a rule would apply to aquaponics as well. Research indicates that beneficial bacteria are abundant on the roots of hydroponic and aquaponic plants, which should satisfy the requirement for soil-plant ecology. The movement to ban “soil-less” from organic is still being pushed by a group called Keep the Soil in Organic (

Despite the NOSB’s recommendation, the NOP did not take action and aquaponics and hydroponics have still been organic-eligible. (The NOSB is an advisory body to the NOP)

The NOSB is revisiting the recommendation to ban soil-less systems. To inform this decision-making, the NOP appointed a Hydroponic and Aquaponic Task Force. The Task Force just issued a report, which can be found here. In general, the report was favorable to aquaponics and hydroponics retaining organic eligibility. However, that does not mean the NOSB cannot choose its own course of action. The NOSB is expected to consider public comment on this issue at their Fall 2016 meeting to be held November 16-18 in St. Louis, Missouri. Written comments or requests for a 3-minute oral speaking slot (in person or via webinar) must be made by 11:59 pm ET on 26 October. Visit the NOSB Fall 2016 website for more information.