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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David, I have been looking for something like this to start for three years.  If we debate voting issues and terms of office and structures etc. it makes sense because the draft is not perfect.  If we start tossing people out because of commercial interests then out goes Sylvia, Gina, Murray, BYAP, Rupert, Earthan, TcLynx, Friendly AP, Nelson and Pade, UVI...........This is just dumb.  The discussion started around voting weight for the different sectors (relevant) and ended here.  A commercial operator / consultant / supplier is going to end up representing the commercial secor.  Are we going to freeze their assets before they can serve a term?

David Waite said:
Kobus you ok. Though you were going to blow a keyboard. I think you need Nicole more than Rupert hehe. I personally hope every single person that writes in this damn discussion will put there neck out and join in some level on boards ect....ect. Ryan I hope you do it  to and buddy I hope you make a bloody fortune at it. There is nothing wrong with capitalism if they lift everyone up as well folks. Its ok if we all make money at this. Really!!!!!!!!!!

The more I read, the more I become confused as to what the "intent" of the proposed association is... and "who" it is intended to represent....

 

From my reading of the charter...

 

At any "Association" conference...

 

During the open session... anyone who registers can attend, but cannot speak or vote...

 

With the exception of branch delegates, chapter delegates, and members of the Board of Governors... presumably.. although not specified.. with an equal vote..

 

During the closed session... the same appears to be the case...

 

At any "Chapter" conference... the same scenario appears to be implied under 7.2... ""The Chapter shall be governed by the Bylaws of this charter..."

 

Which suggests that at any "Chapter Conference" of branch members... the same rules apply... while anyone who is a paid up member may attend... only the "Branch Delegates" can speak and vote... presumably on an equal vote basis...

 

I suspect the intention for any weighted votes... would be confined to the membership of the actual branchs... although this isn't specifically stipulated...

 

The only other interpretation of the "weighted" voting allocations... would be to imply the any particular "elected" delegate.. at any level... who happened to be a "commercial grower" or "supplier"... would hold 4 times the voting rights, and influence of anyone that was merely a "backyarder"... even if that "backyarder" was an actual elected delegate...

 

If this is the case.. then even a "backyarder" elected at either Branch, Chapter or even Board of Governors executive level.. would find themselves out weighted/voted... at all levels of the association...

 

In reality... it would probably be doubtful if any "backyarder" would ever acheive any elective role.... even possibly at "branch" level...

 

Which would seem contrary to the intention of Chapter 1, Article 5.1 .. which states that the "branch" is "the basic and most important unit of the Association"...

 

If the branch is the "basic and most important unit of the Association".... and the average "backyarder" has only a singular vote, and limited prospects of either an elective role, or influence on basic direction of the Branch...

 

Then as many are asking... what's in it for them... what do they get for their membership??

 

If the intention of the Association is to merely represent the role or objectives of "commercial growers" and "industry suppliers"....

 

Then form an "industry association" accordingly... and start a US Chapter only.... because everywhere else in the world at the moment just wont have the numbers to gain any level of representation or influence... other than at Chapter level (to some extent).. or Executive level.. but only if they're a "commercial" member....

 

Sorry.. but this appears to be a bit messy... and I'll happily change my mind if someone can clarify and simply state otherwise...

 

And it is becoming seen by more and more people, mainly backyarders... as merely a growers, or suppliers association... people with vested commercial interests.. rightly or wrongly...

 

And that's where the perceptions of "vested interests" are arising...

 

So perhaps someone can tell me.. and those watching...

 

At what level does a "commercial" member have a weighted 4 votes...

 

Why should a "supplier" ... at any level... have any, or more voting rights than an ordinary member...

 

If the owner of a commercial operation... grower or supplier.. wishes to engage in determining the improvement and/or advancement of aquaponics... for all...

 

Why can they not do so as an "individual" member... and register their business as a non voting "associate" member???

 

Such "associate" members can still be provided with "commercial" opportunities through sponserships of conferences, advertising opportunites... or even "trade" displays attached to any conference...

Sorry for missing all the fun this afternoon - I was gassing up the company jet for the next trip to vegas 

Seiously, I'm becoming pretty "over" of all the assertions around conflict of interest.  Personally, I started down this path because of a thread on this site (which I pay the fees for and spend time running every day...hmmm...is that conflict of interest?) which concluded that not only do we need an association, but wouldn't it be great to kick it off with a conference where we can all get together and actually meet each other face to face.  Gina and I took that ball and ran with it and have been busting our butts to pull off what promises be an incredible conference in two weeks.  Over the past few months we have had many people contact us saying that they are very interested in an association for a variety of reasons.  

While trying to run our own fledgling businesses and strained personal lives we, Murray and Wayne drafted the organizational document for this new organization, often in the middle of the night, to insure that the first Association meeting was productive.  We did this in part because we felt an obligation to those who are looking for an Aquaponics Association, and who expect it to be kicked off at the conference as we have said it would, and in part because since we are all trying to scratch out a living in this tiny industry we live, eat and breath most hours, every day of our lives ... and we want to see it grow and expand.  

Will we profit from this?  Well, anything that helps grow and legitimize our industry is a good thing for those who are in it...including us...including Kellen's fish feed and tilapia business...including Rupert's systems business...including TC's various businesses...including Kobus's future business.  It is also a good thing for every commercial grower who has to answer fewer questions about food safety and worry less about inspectors shutting down their businesses. And for every backyarder who has more aquaponic gardeners in their region, and a place for fellowship with those gardeners that is physical, vs. virtual.  

Conflict of interest?  I think it is just simple interest...and if there wasn't any interest then why would any one want to do this?  And especially why would anyone want to go through the brain damage of leading this!!  As a news flash, you guys sometimes aren't the easiest bunch to lead . So I ask you, where is the conflict of interest?  Who is harmed if we all benefit from bringing more people into this world and ease the path for our commercial growers?

Further, there are much more productive ways for Gina, Murray, Wayne and I (the organizers/founders) to grow our businesses than to start an association!!  A MUCH better use of the time we've spent, and will spend in the future, getting this off the ground would have been to actually be selling products and trainings and building our businesses!  

As to who will be officers, they will be voted on at the organizational meeting on the 18th.  I, for one, will tell you that I have little desire to be an officer...I need that grief like another hole in my head...but I (we) also am (are) deeply committed to seeing this succeed and will do what it takes to insure that that happens...and if that means serving for a year or two as an officer to get it off the ground then I (we) will do it!  To exclude the organizers from being officers in order to indulge someone's unfounded perception of conflict of interest is ...well...I"m not even going to say it.

Sorry for the uber long post...I needed to get that off my chest.

Sylvia

Oh, and one more thing.  The biggest benefit that I've received from this association is the privilege of working with and getting to know these three incredible people - Wayne, Murray, and Gina. I'm proud to be a part of this team.

Hi Sylvia,

I think TC summarized the concerns of conflict of interest pretty well (thanks!), so I'll just go with "what she said". :-)

 

In response to some of the other recent posts.  Some folks are lumping commercial growers with suppliers/vendors, which I do not see as accurate.  Growers are growers, whether they have a tiny 10 square foot growbed or a 100,000 square foot state of the art facility.  They each should have a single vote as a "grower".  A commercial grower isn't seeking to sell his lettuce, tomatoes, etc. to the backyard growers, so there really is no conflict of interest.  He just wants to improve his operations, much like the backyard grower does.  The large and small growers largely share common interests.  In the event the association grows to the extent that it is determined a committee system for small and backyard growers and one for commercial growers would make sense (so they can focus on items specific to their segment), it's a simple thing to do and still serves the broader interests of the association as a whole.

 

Vendors/suppliers are seeking to sell products and services to the growers, hence the reason why they should have no voting or executive power/rights.  Their benefits as "associate members" are clear.  They get some access to the membership base FOR A FEE, in a manner the membership base feels appropriate, and this fee is used to improve the association for the growers.  This provides the association with a nice source of revenue while providing the vendors/suppliers with a very specific target audience to market to.  If the growers find their products/services of value, they have the option of buying from them with the added benefit of knowing that, when they do, they benefit their association at the same time by encouraging continued "associate membership" by the vendor/supplier.  It's generally a win-win arrangement, keeps the vendors/suppliers honest and helps to prevent vendor/supplier favoritism (promoting one kit, book, class, etc. over another)... all without giving the vendors/suppliers the ability to manipulate the association to suit their specific marketing desires, which would most likely be counter to the best interests of the association and its membership base.

 

If the association promotes a product, a business, a paid class, a book, a fee based consultant or a paid speaker it is typically seen as as a form of collusion, which is a big problem.  Should an executive board member or group of executive board members abuse their position(s) by promoting specific vendor/supplier offerings, they should be removed from the position and banned from future opportunities to serve.

 

These policies are also important to other potential/future "associate members" (vendors/suppliers) considering joining the association.  They need to know that they aren't going to be dealing with an association who is essentially protecting the "good ol' boy" group of vendors/suppliers already entrenched in the association.  For that matter, they need protections in place for even being allowed to join, since the vendors/suppliers already in the association would (from a  logical business perspective) like to prevent additional competitors gaining access to "their" captive audience of members, so would like to make it difficult or even impossible for them to join, and even when allowed to join, would like to limit the scope and abilities of the new entrant to compete against them.  The entire associate membership program must be structured and controlled so as to provide an even playing field for all vendors/suppliers, thus protecting both their interests AND the interests of the grower membership base from being steered to one vendor/supplier over another.  Otherwise, products/services that might well be inferior to what someone else has to offer, or for that matter inferior to what the grower could make/build/research themselves are pushed on them just to put some cash in a vendor's/supplier's pocket.  We all can certainly agree that would be a very bad situation.

 

Vendors/suppliers aren't bad.  In fact, they are a logical "partner" in the association structure.  However, their scope and rights must be extremely limited if you want a viable, credible and worthwhile association.

 

Hope that helps. :-)

Hi Sylvia,

I think TC summarized the concerns of conflict of interest pretty well (thanks!), so I'll just go with "what she said". :-)

 

In response to some of the other recent posts.  Some folks are lumping commercial growers with suppliers/vendors, which I do not see as accurate.  Growers are growers, whether they have a tiny 10 square foot growbed or a 100,000 square foot state of the art facility.  They each should have a single vote as a "grower".  A commercial grower isn't seeking to sell his lettuce, tomatoes, etc. to the backyard growers, so there really is no conflict of interest.  He just wants to improve his operations, much like the backyard grower does.  The large and small growers largely share common interests.  In the event the association grows to the extent that it is determined a committee system for small and backyard growers and one for commercial growers would make sense (so they can focus on items specific to their segment), it's a simple thing to do and still serves the broader interests of the association as a whole.

 

Vendors/suppliers are seeking to sell products and services to the growers, hence the reason why they should have no voting or executive power/rights.  Their benefits as "associate members" are clear.  They get some access to the membership base FOR A FEE, in a manner the membership base feels appropriate, and this fee is used to improve the association for the growers.  This provides the association with a nice source of revenue while providing the vendors/suppliers with a very specific target audience to market to.  If the growers find their products/services of value, they have the option of buying from them with the added benefit of knowing that, when they do, they benefit their association at the same time by encouraging continued "associate membership" by the vendor/supplier.  It's generally a win-win arrangement, keeps the vendors/suppliers honest and helps to prevent vendor/supplier favoritism (promoting one kit, book, class, etc. over another)... all without giving the vendors/suppliers the ability to manipulate the association to suit their specific marketing desires, which would most likely be counter to the best interests of the association and its membership base.

 

If the association promotes a product, a business, a paid class, a book, a fee based consultant or a paid speaker it is typically seen as as a form of collusion, which is a big problem.  Should an executive board member or group of executive board members abuse their position(s) by promoting specific vendor/supplier offerings, they should be removed from the position and banned from future opportunities to serve.

 

These policies are also important to other potential/future "associate members" (vendors/suppliers) considering joining the association.  They need to know that they aren't going to be dealing with an association who is essentially protecting the "good ol' boy" group of vendors/suppliers already entrenched in the association.  For that matter, they need protections in place for even being allowed to join, since the vendors/suppliers already in the association would (from a  logical business perspective) like to prevent additional competitors gaining access to "their" captive audience of members, so would like to make it difficult or even impossible for them to join, and even when allowed to join, would like to limit the scope and abilities of the new entrant to compete against them.  The entire associate membership program must be structured and controlled so as to provide an even playing field for all vendors/suppliers, thus protecting both their interests AND the interests of the grower membership base from being steered to one vendor/supplier over another.  Otherwise, products/services that might well be inferior to what someone else has to offer, or for that matter inferior to what the grower could make/build/research themselves are pushed on them just to put some cash in a vendor's/supplier's pocket.  We all can certainly agree that would be a very bad situation.

 

Vendors/suppliers aren't bad.  In fact, they are a logical "partner" in the association structure.  However, their scope and rights must be extremely limited if you want a viable, credible and worthwhile association.

 

Hope that helps. :-)

Don't let this forum get you down. I am looking forward to meeting all four of you so I can give you a big pat on the back, might even buy you a beer if you let me. It's hard to get farmers to agree on where to hold a barbeque much less how to write a charter. Take  deep breather relax and know that what you are doing is the right thing. It will benefit us all if we let it.

 

I think I'm at 6 cents now...

 

 

Sylvia Bernstein said:

Oh, and one more thing.  The biggest benefit that I've received from this association is the privilege of working with and getting to know these three incredible people - Wayne, Murray, and Gina. I'm proud to be a part of this team.
Yeah !!!  Me too.....having loads of fun....Can't wait to get on that jet on the 15th to meet Wayne and Gina face to face and share a glass of spring water.

 

Maybe the 4 of you could announce that your going to take a '40 % pay cut', just to show your good intentions.  Also, as a fund raiser...you could sell lottery tickets, for rides on The Association's corporate jet, to the yearly meetings....

I've always heard, giving birth was a pain.

Thanks to the 4 of you, for all the hard work and time 'given'.


Sylvia Bernstein said:

Sorry for missing all the fun this afternoon - I was gassing up the company jet for the next trip to vegas 

 

 

 

Thanks, Tom!  I'm taking you up on that beer, buddy.  David, as one of the few people on this thread who has actually given birth I can assure you that this is a bigger pain in the ass...but at least I can drink wine during it!   And Murray...hey! ...what about your cab driver?

Rupert

 

I responded to these same questions yesterday or so I thought

 

This particular section you are referring to regarding the Association Conference - Article 8.3 is a remnant and should in fact have been removed, again thank you for pointing this out. This particular section is being reworded to better reflect a consistency with the rest of the Charter, and to make sure that every member has equal footing on matters.

 


RupertofOZ said:

The more I read, the more I become confused as to what the "intent" of the proposed association is... and "who" it is intended to represent....

 

From my reading of the charter...

 

At any "Association" conference...

 

During the open session... anyone who registers can attend, but cannot speak or vote...

 

With the exception of branch delegates, chapter delegates, and members of the Board of Governors... presumably.. although not specified.. with an equal vote..

 

During the closed session... the same appears to be the case...

 

At any "Chapter" conference... the same scenario appears to be implied under 7.2... ""The Chapter shall be governed by the Bylaws of this charter..."

 

Which suggests that at any "Chapter Conference" of branch members... the same rules apply... while anyone who is a paid up member may attend... only the "Branch Delegates" can speak and vote... presumably on an equal vote basis...

 

I suspect the intention for any weighted votes... would be confined to the membership of the actual branchs... although this isn't specifically stipulated...

 

The only other interpretation of the "weighted" voting allocations... would be to imply the any particular "elected" delegate.. at any level... who happened to be a "commercial grower" or "supplier"... would hold 4 times the voting rights, and influence of anyone that was merely a "backyarder"... even if that "backyarder" was an actual elected delegate...

 

If this is the case.. then even a "backyarder" elected at either Branch, Chapter or even Board of Governors executive level.. would find themselves out weighted/voted... at all levels of the association...

 

In reality... it would probably be doubtful if any "backyarder" would ever acheive any elective role.... even possibly at "branch" level...

 

Which would seem contrary to the intention of Chapter 1, Article 5.1 .. which states that the "branch" is "the basic and most important unit of the Association"...

 

If the branch is the "basic and most important unit of the Association".... and the average "backyarder" has only a singular vote, and limited prospects of either an elective role, or influence on basic direction of the Branch...

 

Then as many are asking... what's in it for them... what do they get for their membership??

 

If the intention of the Association is to merely represent the role or objectives of "commercial growers" and "industry suppliers"....

 

Then form an "industry association" accordingly... and start a US Chapter only.... because everywhere else in the world at the moment just wont have the numbers to gain any level of representation or influence... other than at Chapter level (to some extent).. or Executive level.. but only if they're a "commercial" member....

 

Sorry.. but this appears to be a bit messy... and I'll happily change my mind if someone can clarify and simply state otherwise...

 

And it is becoming seen by more and more people, mainly backyarders... as merely a growers, or suppliers association... people with vested commercial interests.. rightly or wrongly...

 

And that's where the perceptions of "vested interests" are arising...

 

So perhaps someone can tell me.. and those watching...

 

At what level does a "commercial" member have a weighted 4 votes...

 

Why should a "supplier" ... at any level... have any, or more voting rights than an ordinary member...

 

If the owner of a commercial operation... grower or supplier.. wishes to engage in determining the improvement and/or advancement of aquaponics... for all...

 

Why can they not do so as an "individual" member... and register their business as a non voting "associate" member???

 

Such "associate" members can still be provided with "commercial" opportunities through sponserships of conferences, advertising opportunites... or even "trade" displays attached to any conference...

Hum...

 

So it is sounding to me like many people are not too keen on the weighted votes thing.  And I can agree with that.

I would be tempted to suggest for the start up, just have everyone be Individual members.

 

And I know I did suggest that suppliers/vendors should perhaps not be able to hold office (could be me trying to get out of being able to run for an office

I fear that is too big a grey area here.  Does this mean some one w...

 

So, my suggestion on that is lets start out by giving this thing a great big KISS and make it all more simple.  One type of membership (1 vote) for now with a discount for students.  Once we find out who actually wants to join and make this thing work we can then figure out how things should best change.

 

Next.  I want job descriptions for the different "officers"  Primarily, I want to understand the function of the Trustees and why the drafters thought the positions should be "lifetime."

 

 

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