With all the commentary lately about food safety and such with aquaponics, Perhaps we need a thread that will let us work out our priorities.
What tests/studies should we do first?
Perhaps even more important, what methods, criteria, etc whatever do we need to make sure are covered by these studies?
The method I like to follow is nature and that requires time and patience remember the farmer, this is not a computer, is farming and farming need time and patience. We all rush for our systems to mature in two weeks so we add worms from ho knows were, water from a lake near a nucplant, a filter from the town aquarium and anything that can speed the system because we want fast results. The word fast in Aquaponic shall be remove.
Build a system that you can control, ad more later, let nature act she knows how, give your system the time it need from 6 to 9 month to a year to mature depending on the stile you build, bacteria will grow in any time be patient. Need worms built your own compost let it sit for 3 months or so and bingo!! You got worms.
We have to go back to the fountain; Aquaponic is not a new science is creation on day one and on.
My system is a raft it is a pilot system for later build a larger, I starter with 24 tilapias by negligent and mistake kill 1/2 of them the new frays were eating by the larger fish, lost all the plants have to re seed in the middle of summer, now I have plants but no fruits, too late for developing I only have basil and cucumbers I may get some eggplants and peppers I doubt, but my system is working great the bio tank and the plant beds have tiny small snail were they come from, on the clarified tank when we remove the solid from the bottom it have red worms, were they come from, I put the worms back in the tank, when the flow & drain system is finish we will put them in it. The water is crystal clear Ph 6.8 never rush it any plant that we put in it, develops a very healthy rut system. Yes it work and we have learn and for the next season we are ready.
Aquaponics works and will give you many satisfactions just don’t rush. Grow your own everything and be happy the motive behind this is, fresh natural and daily .
This is my story. .CJ
Has anyone looked into what has been done on aquaponic systems? A lot of Universities are now sponsering a program in there corsces. What about UVI? They have been running systems for decades. What would you test? You have thousands of gallons of water. What is in 1 drop may not be the same in any other drop. This is a research project and can not be carried out by the average aquapon. What is in my system is no proof of what is in Chris's system. He is right about starting where we are and understanding what is happening. As long as we comply with food safety guidelines we should be alright. Did you see what they think caused the Listeria outbreak in the mellons? It was old and dirty equiptment being used. If they had used the proper guidelines they might never have gotten into the problem they have. A soil gardner can only follow the rules and hope nothing happens. He can not go out and test his soil for pathogens. The pathogen may be there but in very small quantities. There is no magic test to find it in 1 acre or 1000 acres. When the pathogen is taken in by the host (human) then it begins to grow. These are human and animal pathogens they need the correct nutrients and temp to flourish. Our water and fish do not provide that. But the dirty bugger can hang around for a while until it finds its proper host.
When I plate an organism in the lab I have to know where the specimen was taken so that I can kind of know what type of organism to expect and use the appropriate media to exclude most other organsims? I saw a Mystery Diagnosis progrem the other day where this man had a cut on his hand (small cut) it began to grow and grow. The doctor tried to culture it but he said it wasn't an infection because it didn't grow. The hand and arm got relly bad with lesions all the way up his arm. The Doctor said he needed to cut off the arm or he might die. The wife pleaded not to do so. Then the man became septic. Guess what it was an infection. It was a Mycobacterium organism that lives in fish aquariums. He had the cut stuck his hand in the aquarium and almost lost his life. Why didn't it grow out in the lab or why didn't it stain on a smear? Here is the secret Mycobacterium only grow on special media and they are very slow growing. They also don't stain with the normal Gram stain. They need an acid fast stain. These were not used because they did not suspect the organism that finally was found. I say all this to support what Chris said. To put it bluntly we have to know what we are doing. You can not culture every plant in your system. Food safety practices are the way to go.
By the way M tuberculosis takes 6 weeks on a special medium to grow big enough to see the colony. E coli takes 24 hours to be able it see the colony. They now use molecular techniques to id Mycobacterium.
I love your point about 1000's of gallons and what might be in one drop may not be in another Raychel. It makes it so apparent that 1000's of samples will have to be tested to get any kind of reliable and credible data and that it has to occur in a structured, verifiable setting. There is so much buzz right now related to E. Coli and other pathogens in AP systems, but I think Raychel and Chris have excellent points that we need to consider the basic conformation of an aquaponics system first. Once a mean is identified, then the next step could be to explore what is not within the mean, such as pathogenic contaminants.
I don't know if UVI did any studies relating to food safety, but I actually have a question into Jim R. right now about that and to see if he knows where we can actually pursue this. I am visiting Chicago State Univ next week and will ask if any of this kind of testing is on their radar. I just spoke to a really cool lady that spent a year at UVI and also a year with Nic Savidov and will inquire with her if she knows of any research that is being conducted or who might be the best one to solicit. Surely some department out there is considering this!
Not wanting to be opposing anything anyone is saying about the difficulty, in theory, of tracking down contamination in a system, I would like to add something here. A long term, scientifically designed monitoring system is as much about what is found as it is about what was not found. Forgetting about what we could be looking for and focussing on WHY we might be looking for it may put this in another perspective.
We would like to monitor not because we sustect that there might be something wrong with aquaponics, but because someone else, somewhere else may want to make a statement to that respect and the industry would be required to do damage control. If the commercial aquaponics industry is going to be a whole lot of small farmers scattered all over the place implimenting good safety practice and nothing else, you are leaving the door open for a damaging contamination accusation that will be fought on a he said she said basis and while this is going on, your farm is dead and the AP industry as a whole is in trouble.
Let us say that we put 10% of all commercial systems to use as monthly sample sites. All the typical plating, all the possible contaminants. Not for the farmer's account. After 2 - 5 years, you start building a statistical probability of something X or Y actually spontaniously happening in AP, regardless of location. A pile of repetitive data looks useless to many people, but it is an awesome tool. Nothing beats long term data sets in an arena with a lot of variables, regardless of the problems Rachel highlighted. In the climate change debate, the most powerful cases are not the government or industry sponsered garbage, but the long term observation data. Pure and simple. I therefore see an enormous opportunity to bring stability and trust in an industry where good practice is implemented on the one end of the operation (the individual) and a monitoring project is implemented on the other side (industry based). This will not say what will and will not happen in the long run, but it will create the environment where the industry can promote and defend itself, and build an uderstanding of what makes AP work.
Then, aside from the above, I still see value in setting up special systems used to test contamination theory in a contolled environment. This is for specialists though, not the hobbyist.
I agree Kobus that it would be helpful if we could start logging lots of data from as many aquaponics operations as possible just to have the data when it comes time for statistics.
And I also agree about the whole lack of proof is not proof of lack. Ya can't prove a negative. but the Statistics from above could go a long way in defense against outrageous or unreasonable regulation if it come to that. Remember in any food safety situation where testing is done, they are only testing a small sample of anything. Heck, most imported food inspections are rarely anything more than looking at the paperwork as the truck pulls through.
So by starting up some testing just to see what we will find we are really just looking to see if there is anything food borne we really should be worried about on a regular basis within an aquaponics system so we can take measures to protect against any such if found.
I know we all want to stop world hunger and the best way to star is with our own neighbor, and for the rest time will tell.
I think it would be good to test many systems across the country to see what other bacteria and micro organisms are working for us than nitrobactor and nitrosononas. I am very curious to know if lactic acid bacteria(LAB) are present in systems. If LAB are present in systems naturally it could go a long way toward food safety. I have found a study on the capacity for LAB to inhibit harmful pathogens. http://www.piwet.pulawy.pl/doc/biuletyn_49-1/04_ligocka.pdf There could likely be other organisms present that have similar benefits but we will not know until someone can tell us what else is in there.