Aquaponic Gardening

A Community and Forum For Aquaponic Gardeners

Coming to consensus seems to be the route that this site is taking, and I think democratization of the topic in terms of statements and coverage areas may be better suited for discussion in a Forum setting, rather than just as a topic, which basically just winds up being a running thread (not that they aren't valuable in moving everything in the community forward), but Forums seem to me to be more about larger topics and general guidelines.
> I'm opening this new topic to be able to help easily define direction for food safety information, and to make the subject open to broader input on an easy to find location.  I thank you all for your future input in these discussions.

According to the American Academy of Microbiology food safety paper, " Consumers are often unaware of, or fail to apply, safe food handling practices."( http://academy.asm.org/images/stories/documents/Global_Food_Safety.pdf).  In conjunction with the caveats of proper food handling,  and liberal hand washing between dealing with different components of the system, aquaponic can be a very safe source of food.  As a Chef, and both a consumer and aquaponic producer, I have a rather unique vantage point on the subject of food safety.  The trust relationship that one has with the provider of one's food is incredibly basic and implicit. As a consumer, you must trust the food source completely, as what they provide becomes a physical part of who you are.  In my food service career, I was responsible for thousands of meals a week for over 25 years.  I take the trust relationship very seriously, and I feel that I give the subject the importance which it warrants.  If an aquaponic farm won't let you see their production area, it's not to protect trade secrets, it's to protect the image.  Know where your food comes from, and recognize the potential of aquaponics to earn local trust and support those around you directly, and remember, not all aquaponics systems and owners are created equally.  If you are interested in the business,  seek it out, and train yourself as both while inspecting closely the quality and process of great local food.
My goal here is to quickly create a framework for understanding of the importance of food safety, to help hobby aquaponists understand the risks, as well as provide  a jumping off point for further study for  the hobbyist,  the consumer, and the commercial grower. I encourage every consumer to understand what astronauts get for food safety, which is the safest food possible,  the (7 principles of HACCP http://foodsafety.unl.edu/haccp/start/gettingstarted.html ).  The problem with most food safety lectures is that they are just plain scary.  It's a teaching tactic, to impress upon the audience the dangers possible for chemical, bacterial, or physical contamination of the food, and it works, and can easily turn the cautious into paranoids with oversaturation of negative information.  We are each responsible for our own choices, and making intelligent choices is our survival instinct at its best.  I don't think aquaponics needs to scare anyone, it's an accepted part of the food stream at major cities throughout North America, fulfilling the roles of the three buzzwords; natural, sustainable, and organic (although the last is open to vigorous debate).   As local as your living room, and you're the one that fed the fish, so you know exactly what went into it.  Wash your hands often, don't handle the roots if possible, and maintain the balance of you system, and you'll increase the safety and proximity of your own food. 
 The food safety aspects of each commercial aquaponic operation are specifically contingent upon the food being produced and the recognized hazards associated with that type of production.  While aquaponics is a new technology, and will undoubtedly run into some problems not seen in other types of operations, we can use the separated components of aquaculture and agriculture to get an idea of what some of the potential issues will be and work to understand and mitigate those risks.  Here are two specific studies on aquaponic food safety  -- http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/oc/freepubs/pdf/FST-38.pdf and http://www.backyardaquaponics.com/Travis/Aquaponics-and-Food-Safety... - which are frequently used as benchmarks for demonstrating aquaponic food safety in business ventures. 

 Please add additional links and related information below, or in sub-discussions if you think they are important enough.  I feel that all the papers I cited are worth deeper discussions into practice in aquaponic gardening on all scales, from micro to commercial.

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Thanks for the papers.  I am very interested in the topic, but (un)fortunately, being in a third world country often means that these issues are not quite up there in the discussions around healthy food. You guys must come and check out the open-air meat markets here if you want to appreciate what the HACCP principles stand for.  Good discussion to start.  Hope it attracts a lot of traffic

Anyone contemplating a commercial venture really has to incorporate a HACCP strategy into not only the business plan... but the whole "psyche" of the organisation IMO....

 

I appreciate the differing standards that apply, or more often might not apply, in different countries.... but if you start from the structured point of view that a HACCP analysis demands.... you'll often highlight deficiencies in your processes, and even possibly in your system design, before you begin.... and the "mindset" can be carried through to all aspects of the business...

Thank you for this information. I'm going to read through all of this asap as I am not satisfied at all with the food handling practices at the GrowHaus. Much improvement needs to take place in this area.

It really is a worthwhile process...

 

The HACCP analysis and flowcharting forces you to breakdown your processes and design into component pieces... and not only identifies potential health hazards... but physical failure points... like pump failures and likely consequences...

 

Doing so, and having documented the processess... basically forms a systems/operation manual, or at least a good part of... which allows training of any employees much easier... and allows you to better manage both your operations and any staff... as well as covering any regulatory and compliance documentation...

JD Sawyer said:

Thank you for this information. I'm going to read through all of this asap as I am not satisfied at all with the food handling practices at the GrowHaus. Much improvement needs to take place in this area.

Aloha!

As far as I know, we are the first and only aquaponics facility to obtain Food Safety Certification for Good Agricultural Practices, in 2009. (If any one else knows of any one else who has accomplished this, please let me know!)

 

We are going through HACCP certification now. Primus Labs has agreed to develop a template for aquaponics, with us as their partner (read "guinea pig" in this process). They want independent, peer-reviewed studies that prove aquaponics is safe (i.e., nothing pathogenic crossed the cell wall of the produce from the fish waste, etc.)

I know Nick Savidov conducted a test that ran for several years, but as far as I know, he never published the data, and I have so far been unsuccessful in getting him to return my emails and phone messages (I have been trying since November, 2010). I also have a paper entitled "Food Safety and Aquaponics", by Gordon Chalmers, DVM, but it does not contain the kind of thrid-party peer reviewed results that Primus is looking for. ANYONE who knows of any papers that have been published along these lines, PLEASE let me know.

I will let you know how our re-inspection goes. It's yet to be scheduled, but it's the biggest item on my agenda, and I think we'll be ready for it in within 30 days.

   Aloha from Miami !

 

  Having in your area several aquaponic farms which are "Organic" for many years, like   http://www.olomanagardens.com/

 

looks like you are far ahead from Florida.  

 

  Thank you for sharing and good luck on the inspection

 

 

 Peter

Thanks for your well-wishes. Long story, far from complete, but bottom line is, we're out of Costco, until someone manages to convince Primus that fish poop is safe.

It bears repeating that infection-control guidelines are effective only when they are followed with scrupulous precision. Adherence to those well-established principles is documented to contain and prevent the spread of such infection as the resistant NDM-1, an organism capable of a proverbial death sentence.

This is a quote that I took from a Continuing Education article I was just reading.  I will add to this in a few minutes as I wrote a big dissertation and it didn't put it up here and I must go back to work



Raychel A Watkins said:
Saving…It bears repeating that infection-control guidelines are effective only when they are followed with scrupulous precision. Adherence to those well-established principles is documented to contain and prevent the spread of such infection as the resistant NDM-1, an organism capable of a proverbial death sentence.  

This subject has been bothering me ever since I read that Gina drank the water from her system.  Everyone needs to go back to the days when you thought organic meant that your food was safe from everything.  I think we now know that is not true.  The organic farming products have proven to contain disease causing bacteria of the worst kind.  But we aquapons say fish are cold blooded and don't carry E. coli.  This statement is true but this is not the only organism that is a danger. How about Salmonella, Shigella, Hepatitis A, and rat lung worm to name a few.  We who have outside systems are especially vulnerable.  I have a problem with ground snail, birds overhead, rats that fall into the system trying to get a drink, toads getting into my troughs on the ground, the herons that sit on the edge of my fish tanks watching the fish, and first and foremost the people who work with me.  How good is their hygiene?  Most of the bacteria I mentioned are spread by humans and their bad habits.  Have you ever looked at your water under a microscope.  Let me tell you it would scare you to death and these critters would not even be harmful.  Have you ever plated out your water on media to prove there are no bad bacteria.  I doubt that any of us have.  I plan to soon just to see what might be there.  I have access to a clinical lab and the media to do this.  I can't take it all the way unless I want to pay for it..  But I can tell a lot of organisms without to much fancy media.  

The quote I wrote on June 22 was about some super bugs that are in Europe and they have the ability to become resistant to ALL antibiotics and to pass this on to other bugs.  The situation is becoming very dangerous in the world of microbiology as far as human disease organisms are concerned.  TC Lynx said something about drinking out of streams.  Has anyone ever hear of Giardia or Cryptosporidium.  Do you remember a few years ago when Cryptosporidium got in the water system I think in one of the midwest states and made a lot of people ill.  If we were to drink the water from our streams here in Hawaii we run the risk of catching a serious disease caused by an organism in the water.  I can't remember the name at the moment.  It is Leptospirosis.  Our canal waters have flesh eating bacteria in them.

None of this is meant to scare you but just to say that because something is clear it is not necessarily safe to drink.  Maybe your water is pure but to actually promote that aquaponic water is pure is really pushing it.  We need to practice food safety and if we don't the Gov is already making laws that will put us out of business because of the cost we will incur.  The legislature just passed a bill here that would have put a end to small farmers. Because we rose up and protested to the Gov He vetoed it but there is next year and it will come eventually.

Dan Brown started this discussion in the first place.  I suggest that we all go back and see what he said.  He is a Chef and he knows the importance of food safety.  I worked microbiology for years and am still involved in it and know what the future is bringing.  A word to the wise should be sufficient.

I have not written this to offend anyone or make fun of anyone but to ask you to use caution and not be so quick to drink the water.

Aloha Raychel

I don't think people will be offended by your caution Rachel.  With increasing world populations, "natural" water is scarce (water that has not been impacted on by human activity) and the mis-use of chemicals, either in agriculture, industry or medicine means that there are a lot of nasties around in our water.  As an ex-Nature Conservator here in South Africa, I recall walking into the mountains for a 60 mile patrol with half a gallon of water on me, expecting to find the rest in the mountains.  The only rule really was "do not drink it if it is stationary or if it pongs".  We can still drink water from our mountains in undeveloped areas, and typically hiking trails bargain on the fact that this would be possible.  Elsewhere, the picture is different I know.  My home system outside also attracts rats that try to eat the passion fruit.  I have dogs and cats thus do not want to put poison out.  Eveything just gets washed properly.

Raychel A Watkins said:

Living here has thrashed my former sterile hydroponic self  into an absolute tizzy. I simply cannot believe how the locals survive. Six years now and every time I go out to eat I get the runs (sorry), but locals can eat anything and be just dandy. I guess they have, over the centuries, developed antidotes or tolerance. I honestly dare not (but still have to) eat at any restaurant less than four star, unless I inspect the kitchen and make friends with the chef and owner so I can bring my own veggies, and meat.

 

As for water...well, thank goodness we have technology as in RO filters, otherwise....

Cheers buddy

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