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i'm interested mainly in the business end of aquaponics, so here are some questions that have been proposed to me over the last few years. granted my responses are going to be my personal opinions and will be open to full discussion.

 

Does being a back yard warrior of aquapopnics qualify you to give training sessions for profit?

 

depends on what you're training. if you're going to train people on how to do what you've done, then by all means train away, but if you only have a small back yard system, then you shouldn't be selling advice on things like commercial systems. although in theory they are the same things just on different scales, but one small system is a far cry away from a full scale commercial system. the general rule of thumb for me is like a pay grade,you can advise below what you're currently at, but shouldn't ethically go above what you've already accomplished.

 

the sale of unbacked, theorized production numbers as facts.

 

this is an easy one, if you haven't actually done it, you cant claim to be able to do it, so you shouldn't sell products like manuals and kits without proper record keeping and time stamped photo evidence. there's alot of people out there claiming that they can grow things in just 4 weeks from seed to harvest...  well.. unless you're talking microgreens, im not convinced...

 

and last but not least for now, and my personal favorite...

 

the exploitation of a 2nd or 3rd world countries labor force to seek proper profit margins.

 

now here me out on this one... while creating an aquaponics business in any 1st world country is looking harder and harder with the increase of a federal minimum wage, 2nd and 3rd world countries with no minimum wage base leaves the proprietor free to pay what ever they want...

 

but here's the twist.

 

lets say the average wage in the united states is around $8 per hour now, and the average  wage of some 2n or 3rd world country is $2 per day. with that being said, you start your operation in the 3rd world country where you could pay $2 a day per person for labor, but you actually pay them $4-$6 a day which is 2-3 times the national average.

 

you're still exploiting the 2nd and 3rd world standards of wage, but you're giving these people jobs that pay twice to three times as much as they would be making other wise, all the while securing you high profit margins.

 

on one hand it's socially unacceptable to exploit these people, but on the other hand it is socially acceptable to pay them a higher wage than average.

 

if anyone else has more questions of ethics having to do with aquaponics feel free to chime in, because i know i haven't hit them all.

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TCL, you make perfectly valid points, and there are certainly many things required to get the association off the ground, and arguably many different priorities in any agenda to do so…

 

But if any member of the association, wishes to offer training in any aspects of aquaponics, then I think the association has a role to play in verifying that the training is representative of a level of accepted, or acceptable aquaponics principals, claims and/or methodologies… or represents an advance in aquaponics practices that can be demonstrated as such…

 

And I think that anyone wanting to offer training should do so under the banner of an affiliate membership, as opposed to say an individual member who may want to offer a “workshop” to showcase aquaponics principles and/or their systems…

 

(And this applies to any officers of the association as well IMO)

 

I think that’s a valid and reasonable distinction, both of the financial intent of those involved in any such offerings, and the intention of the materials being represented to the public…

 

It would allow for those who have become affiliate members to gain a benefit of an endorsement from the association that any training they might be offering meets certain standards and would provide, and build, a public confidence that such training is both knowledgeable and meets certain standards and performance expectations.

 

To my mind this would not only enhance public acceptance of aquaponics, but promote the legitimacy of the association itself.

 

Obviously this won’t stop non-members of the association, or the more unsavoury figures from offering either training, workshops or other material.

 

But it will provide a clear distinction between those sorts of peoples/businesses, and members of the association, and the association itself, in the eyes of the public.

 

Those affiliate members seeking to offer any training should be required to submit their course contents and proof of any claims to the association for verification.

 

Now as to what standards should become accepted benchmarks is a question that will no doubt engender much debate and ongoing discussion, and probably won’t be able to be determined and adopted overnight.

 

But I think it’s something that the association and its members need to give consideration to and build towards, perhaps with a view of a proposal being submitted to the next conference for adoption.

 

To me it would seem to be an obvious role for those who have been appointed to the policy committee and advisory board.

(Edited: I see you beat me to this point Sylvia)

Agreed SW... but there really are very few commercial aquaponic farmers with years of experience... and most of those that might qualify as such... probably aren't members of this community...

 

Most members here who have a "commercial" involvement, and I don't mean any disrespect... have only at best 12-18 months experience...

 

And the most successful of those are, and probably have been ... offering courses, plans and tours etc for some time..

 

And such offerings very probably constitute up to 50% of their actual income....

 

Personally,I agree with you.. this, and the relatively short length of time of operation... does not IMO sufficiently constitute a right to offer training in commercial aquaponics... for all the reasons you outline...

SW said:

 

Commercial Aquaponic Farmers with years of experience certainly have the qualifications to teach others but that won't necessarily translate to being an effective teacher.  If you are a Commercial Aquaponics Farmer and still have the time, energy, passion and desire to teach others then I say go for it!  There is a large void in the aquaponic community for well thought out commercial training classes.

 

If you are a Commercial Aquaponic Farmer that is only looking at adding training others to supplement your income then please do everyone a favor and don't.  Putting together the curriculum and effectively teaching it is a skill set that few possess.

 

If you do develop a training program, do remember you are doing much more than just teaching.  You are directly influencing that person and that includes their dreams and aspirations in regards to aquaponics. You have a responsibility to provide them with PROVEN methods of being successful and without personal experience, how would you accomplish that?

 

Personally I wouldn't take someone's money for a commercial course if they have no aquaponics experience.  I would recommend they attend a beginners course, run a system for a year or so to gain experience & knowledge. Only then would I recommend the commercial course.  It is a large investment to get started and in most cases is someone else's money.

 

This line of thinking that the AA should be certifying body essentially saying what is right and what is wrong is full of bad implications. There are many industries that have such bodies that think they are doing the right thing in the beginning, but because of the inherent nature of human beings to desire power, control and money, devolve into petty political organizations. See this in action around the National Restaurant Association with a play to play game.

http://usactions.greenpeace.org/blog/greenwashing/2010/05/19/nation...

Those who crave power will rise to the top and will do things to serve their own interest. Just look at Congress which is supposed to be people we want there through our vote, and the only people they end up serving is rich people and corperations.

My point is that we should be very careful and cautious about being a body that certifies, standardizes and regulates because we are human and we will screw it up.

 

It is funny that the appeal of aquaponics is that you create an environment for life, and it grows with abundance. Let's just create an environment for growth and not tell the fish which way is the best way to swim. They will figure it out.

What value do you see then in an association at all Jonathan...

Growth is a dynamic process....

Teaching however can be dynamic and can also be passive....

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The reason Higher institutions take so long to achieve a degree is more of a business in this world economy..

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*  Colleges and Universities make money to pay high salary's to the staff by charging tuition. Their course outlines and sylabus is designed to stretch out the process.  By paying X amount of dollars and doing a defined routine the student earns (loose word) a degree....

- -  To put it in the way a college professor put it to me:  If you want an understudy/research group you really want post graduates.  Undergraduates can do the job and get the project/research done.  But Undergraduates are slow and will take a lot more time.

...

We were discussing our Bio Fuels Scholarship Programs and how they would integrate to our Research & Development goals.  He (The ASU Professor) was relating to how our scholarship program could be expanded to maximize the University Involvement (a fancy way of saying maximize income to the University).

..

Then you have the delimma of "Degree mills:  The so called fast track training programs that offer training/certifications for XX Dollars and only 18-months training.  They do so by stripping down the curriculum, they eliminate the humanities and academic over load and just teach the core.  But does a core training program offer so much more?  Is it not the purpose in training to cover "all aspects" and to provide well rounded individuals?  In the past 20-years Deploma mills have proliferated to the point that creativity is dying off.... Sure you can teach a person to drive in four steps 1) Learn to start, turn off car.  2)  Learn to Start and stop (or go and stop - depends upon how you want to put it).  3)  Learn to go forward and back up. 4)  Learn to turn right and to turn left.  ::::: But are you teaching a person to drive correctly and safe, or just the basics and leaving them to fend for themselves?  Is it ethical to call it driver's training?  Or do you actually have the student apply and hone the skills to do it right?

....

Teaching is and always should be a dynamic process when getting paid or relied upon to impart knowledge unto others.  If you want to passively teach - write a text book, or just write a book....

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Industry Associations definitely have their place.  But there is a delimma that strikes with a double edge sword here too....

Take the National BioDiesel Board (NBB): It started out as a nont for profit.  In fact it was promoted to further the development of BioDiesel as a motor fuel.  They received government funds in the form "public" grants and funding to get all the research done for the greater good.  So now BioDiesel has the required EPA Certifications to be produced and sold as a motor fuel.  Woopie!!!!!  But the NBB is now chaired and run by a "professional Board" and as such assesses a $0.50 per gallon production tax to all certified BioDiesel produced and sold by members.  The defacto tax is a revenue ploy.  To give it teeth they have incorporated the restriction on Bio Diesel EPA Acceptance to require that all "Acceptable" BioDiesel be NBB Certified to be EPA Compliant.  To be certified, the member only pay dues, and do production reporting and pay the $0.50 per gallon NBB fees.

..

The NBB is now a Professional Certification and Standards Board.  Their Board of Directors is paid a salary in line with what a Wall Street Executive is paid.  So this is good for the BioDiesel Industry.  Growth is good, and all those backyard BioDiesel Producers need to accept the fact that they are taking BioDiesel main stream and moving into large scale production (Kinda like the Auto Industry - started in Henry Ford's Garage, now is spread all over the globe).

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The Aquaponics Association will also need to grow.  In today's economy no one really makes enough money (how can you make enough money?  You spend what you make, so if you make more you can spend more.).  There should be a managing board and committees.  The committees should be mainly associate members.  The majority of the managing board should also be elected associate members with the added bonus of financial compensation to pay for the member's expenses.   This scenario gives the balance needed for association growth and structure.  Just getting a group of people together in someone's garage every saturday is a club.   An association is supposed to set standards, standards of conduct, standards of operation, standards of acceptable practice, standards of acceptable end products, standards of marketing, standards of , well - standards.  There are state programs to certify contractors (Arizona is a prime example here). 

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In Arizona you need only pay an annual fee to the state Contractor's board.  Take a few exams (for another fee) and obtain an insurance policy underwritten by the State Contractors Board. This qualifies you to be a contractor.  As such you can make bids of say $100,000 for jobs and actually charge $200,000 in the end.  You can underbid and over charge, you can employ under qualified people (as long as you are a qualified contractor).

....

So is this good?  Certification Programs can and may not be viable - it is how they are managed and over seen.  Even the Lawyers associations (particularly the Bar Association) lacks a lot of teeth.   Sure, most states have passed laws making it a criminal offense to give legal advice for hire - but then fail to qualify, or over qualify the term "for hire".

...

In it's early stage any new born Association has its growing pains.  And everyone has their own idea of how life should be lived and enjoyed.  Aquaponics is over 30-years old (and I believe it can be traced back over 200 years in actuality).  But these are modern times and we have modern concerns.  A dymanic Aquaponics  Association can do wonders in promoting and motivating industry growth.  The problem (and key to success) is - what happens to the BackYard Aquaponics enthusiast?  Do they just fade into the wood work, or do they ramp up, pay up and become full scale commercial operations (it's for the good of all - right?)?

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I offer all these points to motivate you to look at the "whole" picture.  We can all sit and ponder the universe to no end.  That's what we pay theoretical physicists to do.  The rest of us get jobs....

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If I have stepped on a few toes.... oh well - Sorry.  Not my intention to discourage or point fingers.  My point is to make everyone realize and see that there are multiple sides and some very complex social issues as well...

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Another silly quote from the past:   ** Laws are not written, nor are they passed to eliminate socially unacceptable behavior.  Laws are written to "define" Illegal behavior/activity.  Laws do not eliminate illegal activity, they define it.  Therefore laws are passed and more often than not encourage the very behavior/activity that they were originally intended to discourage. ***  So if you are going to define the rules - get ready for activity that uses those very rules to what ever end......

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Yea, we are all humans, and we often screw up.  But the beauty of it all is we can usually make it right too...

...

Dave

Phoenix, AZ

The value i see is the promotion of the way of growing and all the benefits to mankind that it can produce. Simply put, the AA should nurture those who are new to the technology, provide information and fight for the rights of growers when the government seeks to restrict them by educating politicians and policy makers. I'm sure there are a few other common sense things, but lets not over reach.



RupertofOZ said:

What value do you see then in an association at all Jonathan...

sylvia, i did see that they made pizza and honorary vegetable of the food pyramid. as part of a joke online it said that it made the cut because of the basis of the tomato sauce providing the accepted daily value of vegetables... but tomatoes were deemed fruits not too long ago, so whouldn't that make pizza part of the fruits section of the pyramid? lol. it was a fun little play on words that made me laugh just a bit... honestly what does that say about american these days? has our standards of consumption slipped so low that we're now adding junk foods in our dietary plans?

 

as far as the "johnny-come-lately" comment, i hope that wasn't in reference to me. if it wasn't for new comers to science we'd still be believing that the earth was the center of the universe... sometimes stirring the pot brings things up from the bottom that are going either unnoticed and/or unheeded...

 

as always committees should always allow room for the growth of the science based on solid data.

 

the use of loose regulations as to what's acceptable and what's not being started at an early age of aquaponics would make it much easier to control things instead of letting this bloom into an uncountable number of off branches and let the water get so murky as to cloud and dividing lines before any sort of standardization can be started... 

 

the exchange of information for monitory gain account for a large portion of a facilities income, but that that information actually means and what that information is being translated into are quickly heading in opposite directions with no controls being set on their correlation. just because an aquaponics system can be commercially viable in the Philippines does that mean that the owners of that farm have the right to sell their business plans looking to start these up in the united states without warning them of the differences in not only location but economical standards? i know this may come off as common sense, but most times people are blinded by numbers. like most people are saying, teaching someone how to build and maintain a system can be rather easy once you work out the finer details, but fitting that system into an area of an economic standpoint as far as marketable products is an entirely different story... after all, how many aquaponically powered lettuce farms does an area need? these issues should also be brought up in an ethical commercial aquaponics class... yes these systems are capable of producing large amounts of produce quickly, but if you aren't coached on which products to grow, you'll end up with a very large amount of unnecessary product... it's nice to sell the dream of a lettuce farm, but again i ask, how many of them can one area handle and still be economically viable?

 

most of what i've seen from the classes i've either attended or got note from have only centered around the construction and upkeep of the system... this alone can cost a few thousand dollars... and then when these people go to put their knowledge from paper into the the real world, they are sorely disappointed by the lack of knowledge gained about market saturation, over head, and proper business management... instead of calling these things "commercial aquaponics courses" the name should really be changed to "how to build and run a large system and the rest is up to you." this would at least clear the air as to what kind of class you're actually taking.

Very Well stated there.  MOST of the Aquaponics classes have been mostly on Aquaponics and very little on business.  But as you said, a business that works well in once place might not translate.  There have been a rash of people online asking for business plans.  And I've had people who know nothing about aquaponics contact me like I can give them all the info needed for them to start up a huge commercial operation with just a short chat on the phone and the info that they have a few acres somewhere and like the idea of aquaponics.

Damon Polta said:


most of what i've seen from the classes i've either attended or got note from have only centered around the construction and upkeep of the system... this alone can cost a few thousand dollars... and then when these people go to put their knowledge from paper into the the real world, they are sorely disappointed by the lack of knowledge gained about market saturation, over head, and proper business management... instead of calling these things "commercial aquaponics courses" the name should really be changed to "how to build and run a large system and the rest is up to you." this would at least clear the air as to what kind of class you're actually taking.

im not sure if i put this one pearl up here yet or not, but i got another one.

a week or so ago i was approached by a guy to build a large scale system designed to be built in a bomb shelter. well i asked him my standard questions about the different variables that concern the systems such as water supply, ambient air temp, and maintenance, and things of that nature... all the answers were acceptable except one...

the answer that bothered me was the fact that he was not going to set any plans for running the system... he also said that the system wouldnt be turned on... it would just be built and when the time came they would turn on the system and hopefully it would work... i know this all sounds like it can be just be tested and shut off and left for a rainy day... but you're missing one big aspect... the fish...

something tells me that when the day comes that the bombs drop and every one is running to this shelter, the last thing on anyones mind is going to to be, 'hey, we need to grab 4000lbs of fish before we get down there." so how can someone in good conscience build a system, knowing full well that when the times comes for people to survive on this system, not only would it take a good 2 months to start producing food in the first place, but knowing that without the live fish the produce the nutrients to the system, the whole system isn't even worth the lumber that it's made out of?

i know i could do this thing and just write it in my contract that im not accountable for the running of the system just the building of it... but the last thing i want on my conscience is knowing that when the time comes, and people are going to be looking to something that i designed to save their lives, and it fails, and they all die... that's just too much... i mean yes, the money would have been great because it was a solid offer, but really? it all boils down to accountability... fiscal, and moral. 

It is only a moral issue if you dont tell him what it takes to get it running and up to maturity.  If you explain this, and he still wants it and is willing to take the risk of not having the time to accomodate the lag, then it is on him.  Where I live, we have a large community of survivalists, end of the worlders, or what ever you want to call them. The hills around the town are full of bunkers stocked for the apocolypse.  They have bought, and built, every bizzarre gimmick to survive the attack of the lizard people that live in the mountain nearby (One of their beliefs, not mine. LOL) It helps them to take their focus off their fears and to believe they are prepared for their worst nightmares come true. So, if you build them a truly workable system if it were to be successfully started, then you have committed no injustice.  The only dent may be in your ego for not having it actually run.

I think Damon's dilemma is that the guy who was gonna pay him to build it was not the "end user" and seemed to have no intention of forwarding the information about how to successfully start up and run the system to the "end users".

Damon, I believe you posted this exact same situation (e.g. "pearl") on Nov 21...

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