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The Future of Food and Farming

I'd like to start a discussion about this executive summary.  What are your thoughts?  How can aquaponics play a role?

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Hi all,

My system isn't even running yet but I still have concerns. I believe we are talking about having a set of guidelines to follow that will be used to certify our products as Aquaponically grown. This is just to be able market and promote the produce to a society that believes what they read on labels. As I understand it we can't market this produce as "organic" but must advertise as "naturally grown." This seems to imply that the product is inferior to others, which in turn makes it less valuable. 

 

Regulations can get out of hand in a hurry, especially when money is involved. That is why there needs to be a balance in leadership (educators) that set the guidelines. Most times people that do not want regulations will steer clear of any governing body. This leads to one sided rules that do not convey the wishes of members.

 

Regulations are not needed to grow (or teach to grow) healthy sustainable food, but having a "marketable product" that consumers can have confidence in buying is very much needed for the commercial growers to compete with the better known methods. Unfortunately money is a big motivator and will be a deciding factor as how many commercial operations get started. With larger profit margins and consumer demand, Banks will be more willing to finance new aqua farms.

 

Maybe a bill of rights of sorts could be developed to protect against some future abuse.

I see it as a necessary evil  that should be addressed by good uncorrupted people before the greedy parasites get a chance too! 

Namaste Dear Aquapons,

 

Visiting my parents in UK and managed to get some internet time while they rested (you know...time difference...jet lag). Naturally, on to one of favourite sites to see what's happening ...and Hey! lots of new discussions on one of the most important topics for small "commercial" farmers in my opinion. I am really enjoying reading replies to this discussion and learning of the common fears of "Big Brother...Government" and it's ill effects on one and all re "Certification". 

 

Gina, Thank you for reminding Aquapons that it is not the "Big Brother...Government" Certification or telling current and future Aquapons "How to" and "what hoops to jump to get Certification",   but rather a set of guidelines developed by Aquapons like you, me and everyone who shares this way of life and wishes to participate in the relevance to the drafting of a set of "Generally Accepted Aquaponic Standards". You certainly do  not have to follow such when growing your food...no one forces you. If all that you do is grow food for yourself and a few friends, you may have no desire to...although you would be missing out on a lot of valuable information of "how to" and member experiences to educate and enhance one's Aquapon knowledge. It will become more relevant should you decide to "sell" your produce. In such cases, without the need for expensive "O" certification, small commercial farmers, yes including the "Backyard" farmer that sells to the local farmers market or other such facilities, if you chose to follow such and share membership / fellowship with similar Aqaupons in such an Association, mentioning that your "farm" is a "Member" of such (in marketing - labeling...much like "Fresh from Florida" ), should assist the consumer to identify that the food they are purchasing has been grown by a farmer that has knowledge of and likely follows "Generally Accepted Aquaponic Standards". Naturally one of the main aims of this non-profit Association would be, with member help, to educate the consuming public / the end user about the benefits of purchasing and consuming food grown by Aquaponic means.

 

Further, as Wayne reminds us in his reply, 

"Regulations are not needed to grow (or teach to grow) healthy sustainable food, but having a "marketable product" that consumers can have confidence in buying is very much needed for the commercial growers to compete with the better known methods. Unfortunately money is a big motivator and will be a deciding factor as how many commercial operations get started. With larger profit margins and consumer demand, Banks will be more willing to finance new aqua farms.

 

Maybe a bill of rights of sorts could be developed to protect against some future abuse.

I see it as a necessary evil  that should be addressed by good uncorrupted people before the greedy parasites get a chance too! "

 

I honestly do not like "Big Brother...Government" regulations et all. We Aquapons, existing as well as future, those farming in USA or around the World, need to come to a common understanding of the importance and relevance to the drafting of any"Generally Accepted Aquaponic Standards". We need to self govern ourself as we grow and share this wonderful way of life. Yes there are many other factors that one can discuss as to the future of food and what it take to grow such for example, our dependence on Oil, on Water, on Weather etc...we are not looking or discussing those topics in this discussion. That will be a totally different subject...here the object would be to determine "What is considered to be Aquaponically grown food and what are the best known practices in growing such"...hence the drafting of what we can loosely call "Generally Accepted Aquaponic Standards".

 

God bless,


This discussion remains lively and interesting.  What I have been pondering, and what has been amplified by some late posts such as updates about worms and their influence on a system (thanks Converse) is the fact that someone needs to take a very close look, at microscopic level, att all organisms that we need and can expect to encounter in a healthy AP system.  I am getting increasingly fed up with the sterile approach to life I see around me, and am sure that the "microbial coctail" that is our growing environment is going to need some very detailed description and discussion from a food safety point of view.

 

I agree that most AP farmers striving to go commercial will be maintaining good health standards in their systems, and that it may not be great to have "big brother" looking for excuses to butt in.  All I am pondering is what the "other side's" spin will be on AP crops regarding the high microbial counts for the media that we grow our crops in.  The average consumer is a bit stupid as far as I am concerned, and will not be able to know the difference between ebola and dipel.  I'm concerned that almost every third TV add in South Africa proclaims that a washing powder or a soap or a household detergent just about need to be able to kill everything microbial on sight as "bacteria is bad".  "Outside" is bad, "soil" is "dirty".  I wonder what this attitude will have on our production method's marketing angle, and if it is a world-wide issue.

  Good Points Kobus...If the consumer looks into what they buy that that is traditionally grown Organic vegetation ( that is, grown in soil in the ground, "organically" and labled as such), they will find that there are very similar microbial populations in healthy soils of truly organic soils as well, all contibuting to the nitrification cycle in soils too.  Yes, the average consumer is very uninformed.  There is a great newer book out called "Teeming With Microbes" I wish all schools would use with their biology programs.  It really spells out what life is in soil and how it all works together, written in a very understandable way, with great photos.  People would see the importance of things in life that are on the microscopic level, rather than taking the "bleach it away" approach to everything microscopic in life.

 

    I still shy away from the creation of standards/certifications/guidlines.  My earlier post states a good portion of my reasoning.  By the way, I feel this is a great community of people here....Yet, who are we to say that our group should be the clearing house of standards to be written?  There are other very good Aquaponics groups out there (both online and not) who are very knowledgable and comprised of good people too.  Is this a 'global standards'? Wow!  I've read some seemingly well intended "Best Practices" for other aspects of farming, that really do not fit across the board.  There is more than one way to properly skin a cat, and we need to be very careful about writing aquaponics into a box.

 

       I understand that many groups could have their own lable out there for membership that would show the world that  this aquaponic fish/vegetation was produced according to such-and-such standards accepted by "XYZ Group".   This runs along the same lines as being able to have lables on your farm product that says it is "Certified Organic", "Salmon Safe", "Oregon Tilth" Certified, and there are more.  I am sure your areas have similar lables available, each with a cost that is passed along to consumers after the "lucky" farmer has somehow fronted the $$$ for each, annually.  He who has the most stickers on their product wins?  As a farmer out there in the open market, I can tell you this can certainly be the case. 

 

     Time to look through the rest of this website (enjoying it all!) before I have to get out and do some real farming again today....Moving a bit slower after cleaning a coop the other day.  The farm fowl are enjoying the results, but my back is not.  Gonna have to pace myself today.

 

- Converse

    Reading more and just wanted to add a few coments.  First off, I am NOT arguing, and just want to add another perspective to the conversation.

    I am with Raychel on the:

"Once set in motion these things become steam rollers and run over the good intention people.  I don't really want to argue with people I just say "slow down"  Let the industry get established before you start making all the rules."

 

  Here is one point I want to clarify about this comment:

 " We were talking about the big picture, not just the advantage of getting an O cert to sell to big box stores, -Green Acre Organics"

   And I think that was stated similarly by another person on this thread.

   Out where I live there is not a concentrated population.  Our entire county (Mt. St. Helen's is in the county I live in) population just came up to 10,000 people.   This is not the only area in the world like this. Many, many others live where you can't see your neighbors.  You have to trek to get to them. So when others here are mentioning a backyard aquapon or a small farms farmer selling locally, that means different things in different areas.   If a producer in a more populated are wants to sell locally, they have a large customer base to draw from, all who can personally know how that aquaponic producer operates.   If a producer in a sparsely concentrated area wants to sell locally, they have a very limited customer base...and thus this also limits the possibilities of ecomonic benefit to their family.  The option then is to sell outside the area...and this is most likely NOT the big box stores.  But to compete on the open market where your product and how it was produced may not be known, you need some way of promoting it...Oh!  How about "Cerified Organic"   .........with the price tag, and hoops to jump through.  And as Raychel pointed out in her post, does it really mean anything other than someone spent some money to get that sticker?........

    This can be applied to aquaponics too.....need that sticker (with a cost) to sell outside your 'neighborhood'. That lable that says, these aquaponic standards were met...because if you don't have THE sticker it is not as good as the one that has it.  Thus keeping the very people we say we are trying to help with a hand up (not a hand out) from getting beyond subsistence with acquaponics to actually making a living.  Not necessarily wealth, but a living.  With this is in mind, I also am a huge believer in free enterprize.

    I enjoy where I live.   SO this is not a complaint.  I just want others to understand that selling out of your backyard or from a small farms farm means  different things in different localities.     

 

     My best to all of you as you search for the solution you seek in the future of food an farming.  Enjoying reading the perspectives. Gonna have to do soome speed reading now. Time to get outdoors and tend the farm soon...but I'm really enjoying reading all this!

 

- Converse 

You have made some lovely contributions (thank you very much for the bits about worms) and I do not think anyone will take offense at you taking a viewpoint on this topic.

 

I do think though, that the discussions here are not going to become some draconian control measures for world AP as designed by a few of us on the forum.  I, for instance, are not from the US and thus the entire contribution I have to make can be ignored by people who do not want to take advice from an African.  I am used to that.  You are correct in stating that farming, selling and "all natural products" meands different things to different people, and that definitions or regulations being recommended here, as I see it, is the beginnings of a discussion that will take a very long time to come to any conclusions.

Converse said:

    Reading more and just wanted to add a few coments.  First off, I am NOT arguing, and just want to add another perspective to the conversation.

    I am with Raychel on the:

"Once set in motion these things become steam rollers and run over the good intention people.  I don't really want to argue with people I just say "slow down"  Let the industry get established before you start making all the rules."

 

  Here is one point I want to clarify about this comment:

 " We were talking about the big picture, not just the advantage of getting an O cert to sell to big box stores, -Green Acre Organics"

   And I think that was stated similarly by another person on this thread.

   Out where I live there is not a concentrated population.  Our entire county (Mt. St. Helen's is in the county I live in) population just came up to 10,000 people.   This is not the only area in the world like this. Many, many others live where you can't see your neighbors.  You have to trek to get to them. So when others here are mentioning a backyard aquapon or a small farms farmer selling locally, that means different things in different areas.   If a producer in a more populated are wants to sell locally, they have a large customer base to draw from, all who can personally know how that aquaponic producer operates.   If a producer in a sparsely concentrated area wants to sell locally, they have a very limited customer base...and thus this also limits the possibilities of ecomonic benefit to their family.  The option then is to sell outside the area...and this is most likely NOT the big box stores.  But to compete on the open market where your product and how it was produced may not be known, you need some way of promoting it...Oh!  How about "Cerified Organic"   .........with the price tag, and hoops to jump through.  And as Raychel pointed out in her post, does it really mean anything other than someone spent some money to get that sticker?........

    This can be applied to aquaponics too.....need that sticker (with a cost) to sell outside your 'neighborhood'. That lable that says, these aquaponic standards were met...because if you don't have THE sticker it is not as good as the one that has it.  Thus keeping the very people we say we are trying to help with a hand up (not a hand out) from getting beyond subsistence with acquaponics to actually making a living.  Not necessarily wealth, but a living.  With this is in mind, I also am a huge believer in free enterprize.

    I enjoy where I live.   SO this is not a complaint.  I just want others to understand that selling out of your backyard or from a small farms farm means  different things in different localities.     

 

     My best to all of you as you search for the solution you seek in the future of food an farming.  Enjoying reading the perspectives. Gonna have to do soome speed reading now. Time to get outdoors and tend the farm soon...but I'm really enjoying reading all this!

 

- Converse 

This summary begins with contestable suppositions coloring expectations toward a best case scenario. The expectation that many will be wealthier in the future struck me as counter-intuitive. Admittedly, my opinion is based on only a rudimentary understanding of economics combined with the recognition of an extreme-right trending political atmosphere in the United States, however, I would expect the vast majority in the next 20 to 30 years to be very poor, with increasingly concentrated wealth in the hands of a decreasing per capita number. Recommendations made in this summary will most likely be ignored at least in this country as have most recommendations concerning the sustainability of the environment, fuel consumption and food supply up to the present. Sustainability will continue to be viewed as “anti-business” until fossil fuel resources are spent and sustainable food production systems become the only viable methods.

When systems such as aquaponics become less expensive than current mass production, they will rise to the top. I suspect it will be too late for much of the worlds population. It is my hope that those of us who are willing and able, will teach as many as possible to grow local food for themselves and their neighbors. A society where less than 1% of the population is involved in agriculture seems in itself, unsustainable. I also suspect that even the current population will be difficult to sustain without extreme measures taken in sustainable human waste disposal. The political will for such changes will only be driven by desperation, never foresight. Composting human waste, an obvious need, will never be undertaken in the US because people in this country have an aversion to the thought that their food supply contains something that was fed by human waste in any form (although they often eat food grown in China and sold at Wal Mart fed by raw sewage without their knowledge.) Billions of tons of human waste is chemically destroyed yearly. Not only is it wasteful, but expensive. Without returning the waste in a positive way to the environment, the world food supply cannot be sustained. Much like a closed aquaponic system with no input of fish-food. You can't sustain the system while removing vegetables and harvesting fish without inputting something back into the system. Could human waste be used to grow worms and larvae for the fish? Obviously, yes. Human waste is a sustainability blind spot in our society.

Aquaponics and microponics are obvious choices in sustainability. They can be done with little land. Large amounts of food from fairly small spaces. We simply need to refine and perfect the techniques. With global warming an increasing problem, systems allowing for indoor/outdoor production will be needed. In my part of Texas this year, we had four months of 100+ temperatures, seldom with a single day below 100(f) – Outdoor crops died or were kept alive with massive watering only to be ultimately non-productive.

http://www.midweekkauai.com/2012/01/the-tsao-of-sustainable-food/  

Maybe this belongs somewhere else but I stuck it here.  This man is doing something.  We are advancing everyday,  Look how far we have gotten from the last post

Even lenders are starting to recognize the importance of local, sustainable farming.

http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/local-food-lending/

Thanks for publishing this Sylvia, although it has completely burst my bubble!  Only yesterday I uploaded to my site an article about the problems facing agriculture today and how we need to look at alternatives.  Now reading this it makes my own ramblings seem even more amaturish than I knew they were!  It is nice to see everything put so well though... although they did of course miss out the part about using aquaponics... which I remembered!

Oh well.... here is my article if anyone is interested... it is a shorter read to be sure!

http://www.japan-aquaponics.com/Articles/Agricultural-Problems.pdf

I wish I had a "Like" button right about now!



Green Acre Organics said:

First of all, I ask your forgiveness on a couple of things.  Athough I very much want to, I have not yet had the time to read this dissertation on the Future of Food and Farming, but I am compelled to respond now.  And secondly, I must apologize to Sylvia, who in our welcome letter when we joined this wonderful community said there was one rule, no flaming.  Well, I must, flame that is.

 

In light of the Secretary of Agriculture's recent decision to approve Monsanto's Roundup Ready GMO Alfalfa, I have to consider how it relates to the future of food and farming and how aquaponics plays a vital role in that future.  For our government to side with big agribusiness on this issue is decidely stating that food freedom and soveriegnty in this country no longer exists.  The allowance of such GMO crops and the undeniable cross pollination and contamination of non GMO crops that will occur has enormous implications for organic farming.  Our dairy  and beef supply will be fed GMO alfalfa and even those wanting to grow non GMO and organic crops will have no way of protecting their crops or essentially protecting their private property. Vilsack called for the co-existence plan that essentially acknowledges the continued domination of GMO crops. 

 

The CEO and founder of Organic Valley put out an incredible statement today.  He said, " Today, we are saddened that the industrialization of agriculture is still going on; however, it is important to remember that Organic continues to offer a lifeline to farmers who are choosing to work with Mother Nature rather than trying to change it...We are counting on our consumers to vote with their dollars and show the USDA that the future of agriculture in America is more than GMO food. Consumers deserve to have a say in the food they consume. Now more than ever, Organic is the best choice."

 

So how does this relate to aquaponics and the future of food and farming?    There is often much discussion on this forum about the future of aquaponics for food production in a commercial sense as opposed to its presence as a hobby or backyard market.  Some of my fellow aquapons are doubtful of the viability for aquaponics commercially.  Well we are not.  Most of you probably know that Green Acre Organics is a commercial aquaponics farm in Brooksville, Florida.  We believe that aquaponics is part of the solution for the food crisis we face and the governmental failure of not protecting our food sovereignty.  The very fact that aquaponics grows 'better than organic' food in an environmentally savvy way means that aquaponics can be vital in the future production of safe, non GMO foods.

 

We  envision the future of commercial aquaponics to encompass multiple small aquaponic farms and centralized distribution hubs.  A model of this already exists in North Carolina where a nonprofit hub offers distribution, marketing, cold storage and transport for small conventional farms.  Why can we not adopt this model for aquaponic farms?  Aren't the services this nonprofit is offering the solution to most of the issues facing the small farmer?  With the hub providing these essentials, the farmer can concentrate on just that, farming.  What does this mean for us at Green Acre and how do we aspire to bring this vision to reality?  Promotion, teaching, sharing, inspiring!  We want to see a flurry of small aquaponic commercial farms sprout up.  We are not concerned with competition as there is such a demand and necessity for clean, organic sustainably produced foods.  Contrary to most business practices where sharing and divuIging of what corporate America calls trade secrets, we want to scream out about our philosophy and the science of aquaponics.  Instead of competition, we can foster collaboration.  I cannot speak highly enough about those that have taught us, shared with us, inspired us; from Tim and Susanne at Friendly, to Sylvia Bernstein, to Will Allen, and James Godsil and the incredible ground work going on at Growing Power and Sweet Water.  The revolution has begun. 

 

Not to long ago, Sylvia asked on the forum what aquaponics means to us and there were many wonderful repsonses from among the now, what is it, 881 members of this community.  I ask this community another question, how can you personally make a difference with aquaponics?  Really, we here on this forum are the leaders in the aquaponics world!    How can we make aquaponics make a difference?  How can we make aquaponics the beacon in the food abyss we are sinking further and deeper into?  Now more than ever there needs to be a Farm Revolution!  At Green Acre we like to say that aquaponics can Feed the Future!  Now we must Fight to Feed the Future!  Fight agribusiness, fight the domination of farmers, fight the desecration of organic crops.  I implore you to join us in this campaign.  Think outside the box!  Think beyond backyard aquaponics for those without backyards!  Agribusiness doesn't have to be a dirty word when it comes to aquaponics!  Please also understand that I am not saying that there is not a need for backyard systems or belittling their very important role in anyway.  Where would commercial aquaponics be without the wonderful path carved by backyard aquapons?  Most certainly a very substantial part of the movement to food sovereignty can be led by millions of backyard systems. 

 

So, in conclusion to my rant or flame as Sylvia would call it, I invite those of you on the fence about commercial aquaponics or even those entirely on the other side of the fence, into my backyard.  Share our vision.  Help us to change the future of food and farming.  Become inspired and let's inspire the world together. 

 

Gina Cavaliero

Green Acre Organics

 

hello, we manage and maintain 5400 plants a month and rear 8500 fish at a time. this is in central texas, i want to talk about the ergonomics of deep water raft culture vs grow beds and other hybrid aquaponics.

 simply put what can we grow every day and harvest every week with the live where you work concept, family owned and operated, we have actual chores every day,

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