Aquaponic Gardening

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I'm starting this forum topic for anyone who is interested in talking about the new Aquaponics Association.  While nothing will be set in stone when we officially adopt the Charter at the Conference on Sept 16, we'd like to get it as close to representative of what the aquaponics community is hoping for by that time.

If you go to the page that we've set up on the Association site (click here) you can download the Charter and Organizational structure, and answer some questions about your constructive feedback and how can we give you value for your membership dues.  Please take the survey!

Feel free to ask any questions about what we are doing here - the Organizing Committee (myself, Gina Cavaliero, Murray Hallam and Wayne Hall) is an open book, and everyone is a member in this community site.  We are 100% committed to creating an organization that will serve aquaponics well...although we obviously won't be able to do everything right out of the gate, nor will we be able to make everyone happy.  

I'd like to start the discussion rolling by asking a question  that I asked on Murray's forum this morning - how can we bring value to both Individual Members and Commercial members for their dues?  We've listed several things we could do on the survey linked above.  What are we missing?  What sounds great?

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In all honesty, and I'll admit I haven't been following the discussion on the forum...

I wasn't aware that the intended "Aquaponics Association" was intended to be an International association... presuming it to be just a US association...

I'm not opposed to an "international" association as such, and the proposed "fees" don't concern me either....

And I do commend the people involved and the work they have put into the idea...

But... I do have reservations about some aspects of the proposed "charter"... and will be responding (via the website) to them... and proposing motions to amend some clauses, along with reasons... that I hope the inaugural "conference" will debate and vote on...

In a "nut shell".... any association must represent not only "aquaponics" as an idea... and this will be the role of the association officers....

But it must also reflect the members of the association, and act in their interests... and be driven as such... by the members.... not by the executive...

Any other structure could, and is judging by posts on various forums... leave open questions with regard to "vested interests", or possible "conflicts of interests"...

Any international association must be altruistic... and so must those serving as officiers within such an association...

Hi Rupert.  I appreciate your thoughtful questions, especially given the grief you are starting to get from a certain Aussie forum.  

The Association started as a US concept, with the notion that it might expand later if warranted, but it was weird to think about an Aquaponics Association without Aussie involvement, and Murray was enthusiastic, and then the first charter draft was created by a guy from the Bahamas, and Kobus from South Africa has expressed an interest and now we have people from Pakistan and Israel who want to start branches....so like so many things in our world these days it just naturally morphed into an international organization.  We did need to recognize, however, that there are very different issues, needs, and regulations around associations in other countries so that is why we created the Chapter structure.  Each country, or group of countries (i.e. Caribbean) is a Chapter that will have it's own charter, based on the Association charter, and will collect dues...they are the collection point, not the Association.  So, the Australian chapter collects the Australian dues and pays a percent of them (15%) to the Association for the global work of the Association.

 

We wholeheartedly agree that the most important level of the Association is the member level, and that the Association must not only promote the "idea" of aquaponics, but also the needs of it's members.  We will be constantly surveying the members, as we are now, to find out what those needs are and how to better serve the.

 

The notion of altruism vs vested interests is an interesting one to me.  At the highest level I can assure you that the officers make no money from the association - they pay the dues just like everyone else.  They also have no stated privileges beyond any prestige that might come from holding any office.  Altruism?  As something of a student of Objectivism I'm not sure I ever buy into the notion of pure altruism, but suffice to say that, despite the possible large amount of often thankless work the officers will not be receiving any remuneration.  Just the satisfaction of knowing that they helped get what will hopefully be an incredible new organization off the ground.

Sadly Sylvia, I think some of the above response, and aspects of the charter, may raise concerns... rightly or wrongly.. as to the motivations of the principals... and an opportunity may be lost to form a "broad church" so to speak...

 

I'm uncertain as to the timing of when the proposal may have "morphed" into an international association... but there must have been a point at which that decision was made... and frankly, I think it should have immediately been presented to the worldwide aquaponics community... and input sort accordingly...

 

I'll have to check through the threads, and I'm happy to stand corrected... but to my knowledge... no such indication was posted on any of the aquaponics forums... most certainly not here in Australia... and like myself, those that may have been aware of the forthcomng conference and proposed association would undoubtably have presumed that it was a proposal for a US association only....

 

And in that, I feel that both yourself, and Murray have erred, and many potential members will feel slighted....

 

The sudden announcement of the charter... while it may have been slated for announcement and have occurred by pure coincidence at the time of some discussion of such matters on the Australian forums... followed by the principals immediatley posting "endorsements" on Murrays forum... will no doubt raise even more suspicion, particularly amongst those prone to conspiracy theories...

 

I'm aware of the past difficulties, perceived or actual... between both yourself and Murray and Joel at BYAP...

 

However the fact remains, that the BYAP forum is the oldest and largest forum worldwide, and has a membership that is truely international... to date, absolutely no posts, (other than that which I posted), have made any reference to the proposed "international" association.. or the charter...

 

Many members of the BYAP forum in particular, and no doubt others even on Murray's forum... will feel "slighted" that a proposal for an "international" aquaponics association was never revealed, and input sort.... and undoubtably many will see the relationship between yourself and Murray as being one of mutual self-promotion... and question both your motivations and intentions with regard to the formation of this association...

 

Regardless, I don't feel that everything is necessarily "lost"... and with a degree of transparency... and some amendments to the charter... many may come to embrace it...

 

I'm currently drafting a series of "motions", and accompanying reasons in support of such... that I'll post in a document format in this thread shortly...

 

An American Association would be on no concern to us and we would happily wish you all the luck.  However, the endeavor to make an international one, and mention of an Australian Chapter, does raise quite a few questions for us in regards to consultation with industry in Australia which has clearly not been done, or we would know about it.

 

Is there any draft of how this association would benefit Australians or feedback from industry outside of the backyard environment?  I suspect the lack of consultation with industry may prove a large stepping stone here in AU.  We would lend our support, though with short notice and as yet no dialogue opened outside of backyard forums, the legitimacy of this proposal is now in question and makes it difficult for us to align with or support. 

 

I expect those of us that have a vested interest in the future of this industry in Australia and certainly those that have a great deal more influence with those that may be represented, would have been consulted to provide guidance and feedback.  Without this consultation, support will diminish rapidly and even present the opportunity to create an alternate association that is aligned with relative Australian industry, education and government.

 

Have you any material that can be put to industry here for comment, even though it may be too late?

 

Paul

www.earthangroup.com.au

 

 

Herewith an initial shortish response as it is nearly midnight this side.

 

I can understand what I think is developing on both sides of this discussion:  On the one hand there is a dynamic, growing interest in aquaponics and in furthering aquaponics driven by a relatively "new" entity, and on the other side, perhaps a less"open" (in terms of letting the rest of the world know what they are up to) but knowledgable and well established group that has been at it for a considerable period of time.

 

My experience of Australian forums have been less than pleasant at times, because of the fact that most seem to be rather partisan to a particular method of production, group of people etc.  I have also not seen a tremendous "groundswell" for this type of association coming forth from Australia before, although I have to say that I was not looking specifically for evidence before.  My initial reaction, based potentially on lack of facts, is that there does not seem to be a huge desire for this kind of advance coming from Australia.  The technology, methods and ethos seem to be relatively well accepted and with the distance between it and the rest of the AP world, it may also not have been all that practical to try and initiate a global body.  That said, I am sure that the people Rupert refers to would, and likely should, be more of a part of this venture than what I think they have been up to now.

 

I too, was taken a bit aback by the fact that the charter was developed almost in its entirety in one small group.  No matter the intentions, getting a document to review and being asked to be part of the drafting of a document are two different things. 

 

Sensitivities about inclusive or exclusive status aside, as a passionate practitioner of aquaponics in a developing country with little support structures, I see many advantages for myself and the industry if there is a large international association that I can be a part of.  I do not have the history in it or the demographic backing to demand to play a leading role, and therefore my approach is likely one of "lets just get this thing to work" rather than "so and so better be in charge or I'm not playing with".

 

The bottom line for me is that the charter seems to be rather generic at first glance, and if I can get over the fact that no one asked me about any of the contents before hand, the situation now is who wants to climb aboard, who does not and what are the reasons both ways. I may be wrong, but I almost want to say to all involved in this discussion, if we set pride and ego aside (and I'm not referring to the people that have commented here but every single person that want to be a part of this association), is this not something that everyone wants, and then, what are your individual conditions for getting involved.  This should not be just about the people driving the discussions but the reasons for having them too.

 

 

Thanks for your thoughtful response, Rupert, especially since this gives me a chance to respond to the apparent concerns about disclosure and timing. I frankly don't understand what "immediately been presented to the worldwide aquaponics community." means because I'm not sure when we could have involved people any sooner.  Before the creation of the draft Charter?  That doesn't make any sense because we didn't even have a notion of what to involved them in!  While we were trying to hammer out a charter?  Have you ever tried to group edit a document with 4 people across 3 time zones? Not only is inconceivable that we could have managed this with more people, but the last time this was attempted with some of the people you mentioned it died before it even got off the ground.  We weren't going to let that happen this time.  We literally made the charter available the same day it was finished and ready for review - the thread on Murray's forum was pure coincidence.  That's about as immediate as it gets in my book

So, the Charter is out and open for comments!  If we were trying to be closed-door about this we wouldn't have made the effort that we are making now to solicit feedback - we would have just presented it at the conference, voted, and been done!  It would have been far easier to do it that way, but that would have been defeating the purpose of an open process that serves it's members.  So we are being as transparent as we can possibly be...the kimono is open.

I have no issue with Joel at all, and I think his forum is a tremendous asset to the aquaponics world. Should we have contacted Joel yesterday before releasing the Charter for review?  In retrospect that probably would have been a very good idea. That he will "will feel "slighted" that a proposal for an "international" aquaponics association was never revealed,"...never?  What are we doing now?  

Finally, describing my relationship with Murray as one of "mutual self-promotion" is one way to describe it...another is good friends and professional colleagues who support each other in a way that I hope this entire industry can strive for.  We should be working together for the good of aquaponics rather than spending this energy bashing efforts to do so.

I take your point regarding the writing of the charter Sylvia, and happily accept that the timing was "coincidental"...

 

But given, the proposal has "morphed" into an international association.. the amount of time left before the conference, where it will be put up for endorsement... is very short...

 

And I still believe that an announcement should have, and could have, been made to the aquaponics community worldwide... that the intention of the "association" was to be international... and that a "charter" would be forthcoming for comment...

 

Until yesterday, nobody had any idea that an "international" association was planned...

 

Now, let's be blunt.... there has been NO direction from Joel to any members of the BYAP forum "banning any discussion".... as can be shown by the fact that I raised it...

 

Any suggestion otherwise, particularly if based on "rumour"... or the postings in one particular small Australian forum... are simply untrue and scurilous... and frankly I think you should know better than to give them credence... let alone air them publically...

 

Quite simply... nobody knew anything about it, unless you had informed Joel privately.... and nowhere has Joel "thrown sticks" at the proposal...

 

Comments related to recent discussion of the possible need for an association... were raised primarily within an "Australian" context... and without any knowledge of the "imminent" release of the "international" charter...

 

Did you,  or any other of the "draftees" in fact contact Joel, or any other persons... with regard to the association being "internationalised"??

HI Earthan,

First, clearly we could have handled the introduction of this charter better!  I hope that you and your Aussie brethren can see past that foible and get behind this project.  Second, nothing is too late!!!  Now is the time to get in there, voice your opinions on the charter and Branch structure, and put your name in the hat to become an officer and help lead this beast!  Third, Chapters (i.e.Countries) will each have their own Charters that will be modeled after the Association charter, but will be your own...and it hasn't even started being drafted yet.

 

Gotta run 


Earthan Group said:

An American Association would be on no concern to us and we would happily wish you all the luck.  However, the endeavor to make an international one, and mention of an Australian Chapter, does raise quite a few questions for us in regards to consultation with industry in Australia which has clearly not been done, or we would know about it.

.....

Have you any material that can be put to industry here for comment, even though it may be too late?

 

Paul

www.earthangroup.com.au

 

 

I stand corrected.  Clearly I was not getting correct information.

RupertofOZ said:

Now, let's be blunt.... there has been NO direction from Joel to any members of the BYAP forum "banning any discussion".... as can be shown by the fact that I raised it...

 

 

As I'm running short of time, and probably wont get around to posting the "motions of amendments" until later tonight...

 

A couple of specific questions...

 

The primary focus of any aquaponic association must surely be to represent the groups of commercial growers and backyard enthusiasts... they are the members for which the "association" is primarily intended to represent... are they not??

 

IS there not a case to actually suggest that "suppliers and retailers" should either have NO voting rights or at best only singular voting rights.... rather than be weighted with the same 4 votes that growers have been allocated??

 

Should suppliers be allowed to hold office positions at all???

 

Nowhere is there a greater possiblility of perception, or actual "conflict of interest" occuring than that which assigning suppliers and retailers voting rights, or office positions migth give rise to, or be perceived...

 

Should the "trustees" have voting rights???

 

Should the "trustees" be elected, and hold position for a fixed term, as opposed to a "lifetime or resignation"???

 

International or not this association is needed! I am fairly new to the aquaponics world and trying to venture into the commercial side of it. And there are a lot more just like me. Unfortunately the regulators in my state have no clue what I'm trying to do because there is no one out there talking about the importance of aquaponics. I have read enough forums to know that most of the people involved in aquaponics want to make it better and teach others about the benefits of growing your own food. Why not come together globally and solve the problem of food production for future generations. Who cares who started the association and what benefit they will receive from it. (Quite frankly I have never served on a board that didn't demand more than what it gave to those serving, and I've served on plenty). I commend those folks who are stepping out and trying to get this goose off the ground. This is not going to be an easy task. Getting creative independent minded people to work together is always difficult. Especially with the diversity of people and environments that are involved.

As far as self promotion goes...I have been farming for over 25 years and have been involved with many associations that promote the industry. Most of them are there so that those involved can protect their interest, expand their market share, increase profits, and be heard in the political arena. Some do a good job and some don't, but in my opinion there is nothing wrong with promoting what you are passionate about especially if it increases the awareness and profitability of that industry. And quite frankly I want someone heading up the association that has some skin in the game. I do agree that there needs to be some "grass roots" support and not leave all of the decision making up to just a few folks at the top. I'm no genius but I think if you piss off enough of the association members you probably won't hold the position you were elected to for long.

Aussie vs American? Man I hope we can work this out because the Australians have a lot to offer with experience and knowledge in this field. I look forward to working with some of them. But if no one wants to be in the Australian chapter I don't think the Association is going to force it on them. I didn't read that part of the charter if it's in there.  I hope we can have Association meetings in Australia so I can go visit some of the folks that have been Aquapons for so long. I also understand the reason for making Florida the home of the association seeing as Florida has a large number of commercial operations there.

Any way I hope we can all work together  to make this association successful. It is definitely needed.

 

IMHO,

 

Tom

 

 

Should all exec. positions become vacant each year?  I understand the need for the Chair to be stable for at least a given period (3 years) of time when an association starts but to suggest the Chairs position is not up for re election is not a good sign at all.

 

Further the Chair is the CEO where as generally in an association the Chair is impartial and only has a casting vote in the event of a tie and only the members can make decisions around finances of the association.  Perhaps it is an American Law thing that differs from AU.

 

While I am sure you have put a great deal of effort putting this together, I think you have acted prematurely and not provided enough time for people and potential supporters time to digest and supply feedback.

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