Njulian

Organic?!?

16 posts in this topic

The USDA is considering adding aquaponics into the allowable "certified organic" realm in the coming up year. I kind of like the idea of aquaponics being what it is without the "label", however would like to see the industry be able to tap that market and reach those premium prices.

I am in a journey of setting up a commercial system and interested in hearing some thoughts on considerations for being "organic" or probably better phrased "certified organic".....

Any thoughts on an organic grow media or supplemental nutrients?

Jake Levi and GaryD like this

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There are a few certified organic operations already. Friendly Aquaponics in Hawaii (and the umbrella farms stemming from their trainings) and Urban Organics in Minnesota and im sure several others that I don't know about.

Rockwool is prohibited, but coconut coir isn't and I don't think perlite is either? Calcium carbonate, potassium bicarbonate, and potassium sulfate are all allowed for supplementation. There are some "loop holes" that allow for the use of Epsom salts and some iron products (ex. Biomin) if there are "documented deficiencies" which I have called the OMRI office before to ask about.

They were very unfamiliar with aquaponics and hydroponics in general. I asked if I have to wait to see if my plants are sick (deficient in magnesium, or iron, or whatever) to document a deficiency and use "allowed with restriction" supplementation or can I test the water quality to see if I'm below minimum ppm values and if I am, then am I allowed to supplement? She couldn't give me a clear answer. It doesn't seem right that I would have to wait for the plants to show deficiency. It really puts us at a large disadvantage against other growing methods. Hopefully their office will continue to further educate their employees on the fundamentals of aquaponics.

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Hello Njulian.  Here's my 2 cents...

 

I'm on the path to do commercial aquaponics, trying to follow the suggestions and methods the Friendly AP people have laid out for organic cert, even though I may not pursue at first.  But I'm moving slowly, and probably won't have a system up until spring.  I'm converting poultry houses to AP greenhouses, 100ft at a time.

 

I will be growing bluegill, and one area where I will be experimenting is supplementing the plant needs through changes to the fish diet.  As for media, I think the only purpose of media is to provide structure.  Coconut coir in a net pot inserted into a raft is the choice so far.  I'm doing DWC like the Friendly system, and whatever is too big for the raft's buoyancy will have a waterproof plastic crate (food safe) under it.  If I need more support I may have some beds (gravel or alternatives), but I'm thinking that won't be necessary.  And I see gravel beds as requiring a lot more labor and more difficult to change.

 

I hope you will keep us updated on how it goes!

 

Ben

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I've been toying with the idea of a mini dissertation against the organic label being applied to aquaponics.

The general jist lies in the fact that "organic" should mean natural in all senses of the word. I'll dig up the standards one certifying organization lives by, and aqp certainly does not meet them.

That being said, most certified organic farming practices fall out of some of these bounds so the problem is not with aqp, but with the organic movement in general. Maybe it complicates it further, but organic should be reserved for true holistic farming and another term, such as all natural, should be regulated, but to a lesser standard.

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In what aspect do you observe aqp not being holistic or falling short from "organic"?  A lot of what the USDA establishes for organic is not just the product, but how the product development impacts the environment around it.  In that sense, aqp is certainly (in most cases) less of an impact to the environment and can be produced with organic materials.  When you say not holistic, are you referring to a controlled environment/lighting as opposed to soil based crops? 

 

I really would rather be an advocate for aqp produce having a better public awareness for what it is separate from "organic" because it has environmental impact and human health considerations in its own right.  Maybe the big aqp producers can join together and make a certifying organization to build public awareness and compete with the "organic" industry in both quality, environment and market price.....

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I like that direction.  But when one settles perfectly on the "Organic" goals one is probably doing something more than just Aquaponics, as is frequently discussed in this forum.  There is the limitation of materials defined by the Organic rules, and that is what is usually certified in AP, but the original goal of Organic was to be improving the environment (usually stated "soil").  Take an AP system and loop the outputs back to the inputs like with creating fish food input and you have every piece in the original Organic description, but it might no longer be thought of as just Aquaponics.

 

In my case I still say Aquaponics, but I plan to learn how to use hay for my fish filtering, which will then feed vermiculture that creates a component of the fish food (along with ducks and/or chicken eggs).   Inputs: Sun, air, fish food (during startup), duck food (during startup), BSF and/or other insects., oyster shells (minor), chelated iron(minor, if nec.), Outputs: fish (minor), vegetable produce (major), worm castings/potting soil (?).

 

I'm still looking through how to get certain desirable properties (like producing/increasing omega 3s and certain vitamins) with good productivity and the least labor.

 

Oops, there I go jabbering again.  Back more to your subject...

 

I do like your direction; it's only semantics - the meaning and extent of "Aquapnics" that I question.  Is that really going to be our "magic" marketing word that equates to a strong form of "being organic"?

 

Aquaponics - Naturally Healthy.

 

A physically protected aquatic ecosystem teaming with life, maintaining balance naturally, while producing food and valuable compost, without need or tolerance of biocides.

Jake Levi likes this

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Hello all,

 

I operate and manage a USDA certified organic aquaponic farm in San Diego California.

 

As I understand it, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSP) has recommended to the National Organic Program (NOP) that Hydroponics and Aquaponics should NOT be certified organic. Currently, hydroponic and aquaponic growers can becertified so long as they meet all of the requirements outlined for all growers under the NOP handbook guidelines. The NOP has stated that they simply havent implemented all of the recommendations that the NOSB has made to them, and that there is a backlog of recommendations that need to be implemented. This is a little scary, because it meanse we could lose our organic certification once that recomendation is adopoted.

 

Facundo, we have to test our water to show an Iron deficiency before adding any to our system but we don't have to wait for the plants to show signs of the deficiency.

 

If anyone has questions I'd be happy to answer what I can.

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I'd heard similar rumours of review kgorham... basically realigning the "organic" standard to be solely "soil based"... as it is here in Australia...

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Thanks for your reply. What type of iron do you use then? And what concentration constitutes a deficiency? Same with magnesium...in hydro I don't let magnesium fall much lower than 35-40 and I add iron if it is below 2ppm, but my water quality analysis and resulting plant growth in aquaponics shoes I can run most nutrients at a magnitude lower and have healthy, robust growth.

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I've little faith in the "organic" label in the USA. Different certifying agencies apply the standards differently as they interpret them.

edmolina likes this

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Does the brand of fish food used impact the organic certification ?

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As far as I am aware, most organic certifications of aquaponics systems relate to the plant growing aspect of the system....and not the fish.  Certified organic fish food is still in the realms of the "nice to have" and can be difficult to find.

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