Two questions immediately pop up in my mind regarding this: 1) is it worth the cost; and 2) are there alternatives such as our own certifying group.
For growers intending to go commercial, this would definitely be a plus, as you can ask for higher prices. The alternative would be to educate the consumer on what certification actually means, and perhaps come up with our own set of standards and stamp of approval for Maui.
Two certifying agencies that certified the Friendly Aquaponics designs are,
Oregon Tilth: http://tilth.org/ (Certified High Density (HD) system)
Organic Certifiers: http://www.organiccertifiers.com/ (Certified Low Density (LD) system)
In addition, the question of worms (in our grow beds and bio-filters) as a potential source of E-coli came up as a hindrance to certification since this was not part of the original Friendly designs. Rebecca, could you please share some of your findings on that?
I wrote to Glenn at Olomana on Oahu asking about the worms and about Hawaii Organic Farmers. He said the worms were okay, and he had heard HOF was still functioning but not inspecting. He said one of their inspectors, Kathy, was under contract to his certifier Oregon Tilth.
I wrote to Oregon Tilth and Organic Certifiers---and California Certified Organic Farmers. The last one has replied: "there is no prohibition against worms in an organic aquaponic system."
Another reply: "Aquaponics are a very controversial area of certification and one which OTCO certifies with the caveat that the National Organic Program may eventually prohibit or make different interpretations when they finally make standards on the subject.
That being said, OTCO does currently certify several aquaponics operations, using the current NOP crop standards. As such, worms per se would not be prohibited, although there are additional restrictions over the use of worm compost, specifically having to do with whether or not the worms are fed on raw or adequately composted manure."
He alludes to the USDA's National Organic Standards Board's position that aquaponics doesn't fall under the organic label because it is soilless. (A search of the forums will give you more information on this. Timm wrote they hadn't been notified by their certifiers about it being an issue......)