Putting Down Roots Full Schedule

The aquaponics association has released the full Putting Down Roots schedule for the coming conference.

Click here for schedule: 2017 Putting Down Roots Schedule

PORTLAND, Oregon– The Aquaponics Association will kick off Putting Downs Roots – the 2017 national aquaponics conference – on Friday, November 3 at the Red Lion Hotel Conference Center at Jantzen Beach.

The conference will feature three days of aquaponics tours, presentations, discussions, and hands-on demonstrations by the world’s foremost aquaponics experts.

Putting Down Roots is about growing more of our food with aquaponics, the process of raising fish and plants in a synergistic recirculating system. Aquaponic growers intend to become the backbone of local food economies with efficient systems that can be placed anywhere, grow year-round, create jobs, save resources, and make us healthier.

Conference Chair Brian Filipowich stated: “In addition to hands-on applied knowledge, the conference will be a venue for growers to discuss industry issues like USDA organic eligibility, food safety, access to capital, and research needs. Putting Down Roots is about overcoming shared barriers so we can all grow more.”

Putting Down Roots will feature:

  • Over 50 aquaponics presentations across four learning tracks: Commercial Aquaponics, Community Aquaponics, Applied Aquaponic Skills, and Aquaponics in STEM Education;
  • Urban and rural aquaponics tours to commercial aquaponics projects;
  • Panel discussions and Q&A sessions with industry experts;
  • Putting Down Global Roots Banquet;
  • Aquaponics Showroom with commercial and hobbyist booths and demonstrations; and
  • Aquaponics Association members meeting and board votes.

Kate Wildrick, Conference Co-Chair and Director of the Ingenuity Innovation Center in St. Helens, Oregon stated:

“Aquaponics grows more than just food.  It is a very powerful catalyst for building community.   This year’s conference will showcase how individuals, businesses and other industries are actively participating to grow this emerging green industry and the future talent needed to sustain it.  The two-day STEM track will discuss current trends and opportunities for aquaponics in the schools.  We’ll hear from local students about how aquaponics has impacted their lives and create pathways to bring aquaponics to more schools throughout the nation.  Best of all, with our passport options, we have created affordable options for the public to learn more about aquaponics and explore what is happening locally with two tours.”




Aquaponics Association Calls on the NOSB to Retain Our Organic Eligibility

The Aquaponics Association submitted its official comment to the NOSB ahead of the Fall 2017 Meeting, at which it will vote on aquaponics’ organic future. The Association will also deliver web comments later this month. Here is the state of the Association’s Aquaponic and Hydroponic Organic Coalition:

Aquaponics and Hydroponics Organic Coalition Comment for the Fall 2017 NOSB Meeting

The Aquaponic and Hydroponic Organic Coalition recommends that the NOSB allow organic certification of aquaponic and hydroponic (AP/HP) farms that are compliant with USDA organic standards. These farming methods align with the organic mission and the integrity of the organic label stands much to gain by including them.

AP/HP are critical to improving the sustainability of our agricultural system, but revoking organic eligibility would move these industries backwards at a time we must foster their growth.

AP/HP fit the Organic mission. The Organic label is about empowering consumers to identify products that match their values. Consumers do not prefer organic because it is grown in soil; they prefer it because it is pesticide-free, environmentally sustainable, and relies on natural ecosystems for plant growth. So the question is: do AP/HP align with what the consumer expects when they purchase organic? Yes.

“Organic” is perceived by consumers to mean:

-Production without synthetic chemicals. AP/HP do not require synthetic pesticides or fertilizers.

-Production that fosters the cycling of resources, ecological balance, and biodiversity conservation. AP/HP can be constructed as closed-loop ecosystems in which only the minimum required water and nutrients are added and with minimal or no discharge. AP/HP have also proven they can produce more food than soil culture per land area, thus saving more of the natural environment from the toll of agriculture.

-Production that relies on biological ecosystems to support plant health. Organic AP/HP production relies on a robust microflora in the root zone—made of the same types and numbers of bacteria and fungi that thrive in soil. This flora converts nutrients into forms available to plants and maintains plant health by reinforcing naturally-occurring mechanisms of disease resistance—just as in a healthy soil. (see attached Soil Food Web Report)

-Production that responds to site-specific conditions by integrating cultural, biological, and mechanical practices. Consumers expect that organic produce has been grown with a healthy human element, where local customs, expertise, and ingenuity can overcome droughts, concrete jungles, and climate changes. AP/HP allow environmentally-sensitive agriculture where growing in soil isn’t possible.

The benefits of AP/HP include: water savings, reduced nutrient use and fertilizer runoff, shorter supply chains, food safety, and space efficiency.

In an era of climate change, resource depletion, and rapid population growth, the organic price premium is a critical incentive to draw more entrants into this market. If the NOSB revokes AP/HP organic eligibility, these industries will not grow as quickly and our environment, health, and economy will suffer.

AP/HP align with the values of organic that consumers expect, and they are highly sustainable. Rather than placing a greater toll on our environment and health, the NOSB should retain the organic eligibility of aquaponics and hydroponics.

Thank you,
The Aquaponic and Hydroponic Organic Coalition

Agua Dulce Farm
Anacostia Aquaponics
Aquaberry Gardens
Arbordale Nurseries
Archi’s Institute
Association for Vertical Farming
Austin Aquaponics
Berry Audit Services
Blue Mojo Farm, LLC
Boto Waterworks
Cali Summer Clubs
CC Grow Inc.
CEA Fresh Farms
Center Valley Organics LLC
Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy
City of Minot North Dakota
NC Simple Life Farms LLC
Downtown Farms and Aquaponics
Fazenda Urbana Inc.
Fresh Farm Aquaponics, Inc
Freshies Aquaponics
Friendly Aquaponics, Inc
Gateshead Consulting Corporation
Great Lakes Growers LLC
Heartland Aquaponics, LLC
Jenoe Group – Hydroponics
JoLi Farms
Joyful J Farms
Kabcao Aquaponics
Laughing Bear Enterprises
Living Justly Industries
Lotus Urban Farm and Garden Supply
Making Seeds 2 Cell
Manas Organic
Marine Science Faculty, Autonomous University of Sinaloa
Moroccan association of hydroponics
Northeast Brooklyn Housing Development Corporation
Oko Farms, LLC
Profound Microfarms
Rainsmith Agritech/Aquaponics
Renew Richmond
Solar Spice and Tea Trading Company
Springworks Farm
Symbiotic Aquaponic
Synergy Star Events
TerraFirma Aquaponixx
Texas Organic Matters
The Family Fish Farms Network, Inc
Trifecta Ecosystems, Inc
Verticulture Farms
Windy City Harvest / Chicago Botanic Garden
Yep Yep Organic Farm

Amber C. Monroe
Andrew Carter
Everett L Melton
Imad Jabbour
Ivy Diene
Juan Pablo Pesalaccia
Krishnagopal Sharma
Marc L. Maynard
Matthew Henley
Peter Tyler
Xina Ash

The NOSB Needs To Hear From Us ASAP

We all need to step up the pressure on the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) ahead of the Fall 2017 Meeting in Jacksonville, Florida Oct 31 – Nov 2.
There is a distinct chance the NOSB may finally vote and officially revoke the organic eligibility of aquaponic production
1 – Actions you can take NOW
2 – Actions in the coming weeks
Within a few weeks, the NOSB will release 1) the transcript of the August 14 Crops Subcommittee call on which they discussed the proposals for organic aquaponics and hydroponics; and 2) the official proposal and meeting materials that will guide the debate and vote at the Fall Meeting.
Once the NOSB releases these documents we will produce a full comment letter responding specifically to the proposal, and send this letter with all Aquaponic and Hydroponic Organic Coalition members signed on. We will forward you a copy of the comment and you can also submit your own or pass it along to others.
3 – Background on this issue

After three days of discussion in April, the National Organic Standards Board deferred deciding on the Organic eligibility of bioponic farming methods, including aquaponics. The NOSB will continue studying the issue and revisit it at the Fall 2017 meeting.

For the time being, water-based production is still eligible for Organic certification. The primary reason for the deferral was the lack of consensus on both the definitions of various bioponic methods and the interpretation of “Organic” by consumers and farmers alike.

Unfortunately, reports indicate that at the August 14, 2017 NOSB Crops Subcommittee conference call, the subcommittee is leaning toward revoking our organic eligibility.

Read a summary of the Spring 2017 Meeting

Tawnya’s Experience With The National Organic Standards Board

By Tawnya Sawyer

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) had their Spring 2017 meeting in April at the Denver Sheraton Conference Center (coincidently the same venue as the 2012 Aquaponic Association conference.) The panel of 16 board members had a lengthy agenda reviewing a variety of substances, different livestock management practices and a host of other important topics. Of major interest to our industry was the discussion related to the future of organic certification for hydroponics/aeroponics/aquaponics and greenhouse container growing.

The meeting ended with an agreement that the discussion would be officially continued to the Fall 2017 Meeting scheduled for November in Florida.

About a hundred people were in attendance to hear the various discussions. Public comments were allowed on the second day of the meeting in three minute pre-scheduled increments. Sascha Bollag from the Recirculating Farms Collation and Michael Hasey from The Farming Fish in Oregon (a certified aquaponic and soil farm) were able to speak and provide valuable insights as to the reasons that aquaponics and other soil-less growing techniques should maintain organic certification.

During the discussion portion of the meeting on day three, the board members expressed confusion, and agreed they didn’t have enough information to make a final decision. They were having a difficult time understanding many of the definitions, growing principles, sustainability and impact that including or denying the certification would create.  A few members expressed that they had never seen any type of greenhouse production using these growing techniques, and that they felt it would be valuable to visit an indoor production facility to better understand soil-less growing methods. They also discussed that the techniques are different enough that trying to put them into the same “category” may prove too difficult, as was the suggestion that an alternate labeling method be considered.

Luckily, when the meeting adjourned, I was able to invite the board to visit Flourish Farms, our 3,000 sq ft aquaponic farm located at the GrowHaus in a Northwest Denver food desert community. I felt very fortunate to have the opportunity to speak openly for almost 2 hours helping the board members better understand aquaponics and hydroponics since both growing methods are demonstrated at the GrowHaus.

Overall, there was recognition that trying to combine these methods into one group, and trying to apply soil guidelines may be creating more challenges than can easily be overcome. These are different growing methods and some should be certified and some clearly should not (such as synthetic hydroponics). It was very rewarding to be able to exchange ideas and help inform the discussion. I encourage other farmers to reach out to the board and offer opportunities to visit your farms as this can have a positive impact on the future designation of organic aquaponic certification.


In 2015 an NOSB Task Force was created to review hydroponics/aeroponics/aquaponics and greenhouse container production. Some of the challenges identified are related to building soil fertility, liquid fertilizers, raw manure, use of plastics, and sustainability if power were to fail. Many of these considerations have been addressed in the document Aquaponic Systems Utilize the Soil Food Web to Grow Healthy Crops, which has been presented to the NOSB for their review. Additional positions by the Recirculating Farms Coalition and the Aquaponics Association were also printed and submitted for the board’s review.

Putting Down Roots

The Aquaponics Association has announced its 2017 national conference, Putting Down Roots, to be held in Portland, Oregon November 3 – 5.

The Conference will feature the following aquaponic experts:

  • Dr. Nick Savidov, Lethbridge College
  • Murray Hallam, Practical Aquaponics
  • Jon Parr, SchoolGrown
  • Angela Tenbroeck, Center for Sustainable Agricultural Excellence & Conservation
  • Arvind Venkat, WaterFarmers

The Conference will also feature tours of local aquaponic operations including Live Local Organic, a certified organic aquaponic farm that supplies 71 individual stores and 10 retailers.

The Conference will also feature a vendor showroom to display the newest aquaponic technology.

The Putting Down Roots Conference aims to help aquaponics growers build stronger communities and become the backbone of their local food economies.

Here are listed the four main pillars of Putting Down Roots, and conference activities to achieve these goals:

  1. Developing Industry Infrastructure
    • Moderated discussions and Q&A sessions with successful aquaponic growers about the steps to success
    • Interaction with local Oregon financial, legal, and political professionals about what they need to hear from aquaponic growers
    • Discussion for the role that the Aquaponics Association should play in industry growth
  2. Discovering Opportunities
    • Presentations from economists about which aquaponic farms are the most successful, and why
    • Lessons on targeting the right market
    • Discussion with business experts about how to assess rooftops, basements, and/or vertical growing options
  3. Integrating STEM
    • Lessons on the best strategies to get aquaponics in your local STEM education programs
    • Curriculum discussions with fellow aquaponic educators
  4. Building Our Capacity
    • Learn the most up-to-date advancements in water chemistry and system design to run your system more efficiently
    • Hands-on lessons and walk-throughs to build a better system
    • A wide range of parts and supplies in our vendor showroom to view and discuss with suppliers

Kate Wildrick, Co-Founder / Paradigm Shifter of Ingenuity Innovation Center in Saint Helens, Oregon, states:

“We are very excited that the Aquaponics Association will be hosting their annual conference in Portland, OR.  Given that we serve as a community resource and voice for this emerging green industry, we are observing a lot of curiosity from groups that a few years ago had little to no interest in aquaponics being a viable food production system, let alone a powerful community builder.  There is no better time than now to bring people together from various backgrounds and industries to discover where the opportunities are and collaborate on how we can remove the barriers.  The conference is bringing some of the best experts in the world to share their knowledge and expertise. This is sure to inspire new ideas and solutions.”

Click here for the Putting Down Roots Conference Flyer

Brian Filipowich, Conference Chair: community@legacy.aquaponicsassociation.org

Aquaponics Association Advises U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to Keep Aquaponic Species Off the “Injurious” List

The Aquaponics Association has submitted its opinion to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) that the FWS should take no current action on the Center for Invasive Species Prevention’s (CISP) petition of September, 2016. CISP petitioned the FWS to list 43 new aquatic species as “injurious”, including several species vital to the aquaponics industry. These listings would make it difficult or impossible to grow many of the common aquaponic fish.

The Aquaponics Association has submitted its opinion to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) that the FWS should take no current action on the Center for Invasive Species Prevention’s (CISP) petition of September, 2016. CISP petitioned the FWS to list 43 new aquatic species as “injurious”, including several species vital to the aquaponics industry. These listings would make it difficult or impossible to grow many of the common aquaponic fish.

The Aquaponics Association urges the FWS to conduct a more stringent ecological risk analysis before it takes any actions; and to balance CISP’s goal of preventing invasive species proliferation with the aquaponics industry’s safe and legitimate use of a wide variety of fish.

In December, 2016 the Aquaponics Association sent a letter to FWS Director Mr. Craig Martin stating that certain species on the petition are vitally important to the aquaponics industry and should not be listed as “injurious”. Furthermore, most aquaponic systems are “closed-loop” and do not have a natural means for fish to escape into natural waterways.

The Aquaponics Association continues to follow the FWS’s actions on this petition, and will advocate that the FWS keep species important to the aquaponics industry off the injurious list unless a thorough assessment of ecological risks shows such action is necessary. See below for a copy of the Aquaponics Association’s letter to the FWS.

Contact: Brian.filipowich@gmail.com

Aquaponics Association Letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Mr. Craig Martin, Chief
Branch of Aquatic Invasive Species
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
5275 Leesburg Pike
Falls Church, VA 22041

Dear Mr. Martin:
The Aquaponics Association urges the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to take no action on the 43 aquatic species which were petitioned to be listed as injurious by the Center for Invasive Species Prevention in September, 2016.

Aquaponics is a highly efficient method to grow fish and plants in a recirculating, symbiotic system. Aquaponics uses 90% less water than traditional soil growth, and it does not require pesticides, fertilizers, or antibiotics. It can also grow food in urban or drought-stricken environments.

Aquaponics practitioners employ a variety of aquatic species. Several species popular in both commercial, educational, and personal aquaponic systems are included on this petition, such as varieties of Tilapia, Carp, Catfish, and Perch. If these species were to be listed as injurious, it would be extremely damaging to the aquaponics industry.

The aquaponics industry is growing rapidly, and commercial systems are becoming mainstream. This is good news for our health and our environment because aquaponics is a highly sustainable source of local fresh produce, and an efficient source of protein. The listing of these aquatic species as injurious would be harmful not just for our industry, but for our entire environment.

Aquaponic systems are closed-loop, without any logical way for aquatic species to escape into the wild. Aquaponics has been practiced successfully for decades without any known incidence of aquatic species escaping. Therefore, the Aquaponics Association urges you to take no current action regarding this petition.


Thank you,

Brian Filipowich
Director of Public Policy
The Aquaponics Association

Official Statement on the Ongoing NOSB (National Organic Standards Board) Aquaponic Eligibility Debate

The Aquaponics Association’s official statement on the ongoing NOSB (National Organic Standards Board) Aquaponic eligibility debate. Prepared by:

Brian Filipowich

Aquaponics Association, Directer of Public Policy, February 2017


The Aquaponics Association Urges the National Organic Standards Board to Maintain the Organic Eligibility of Aquaponic Produce

The Aquaponics Association very strongly urges the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) to maintain the ability of crops grown in aquaponic systems to carry the organic seal. The 15-member NOSB met in St. Louis last November and considered a proposal to revoke the organic eligibility of crops grown in water-based systems like aquaponic, hydroponic, and perhaps even soil-based “container-grown” systems. The NOSB noted that in 2016 there are 52 certified organic hydroponic/aquaponic operations. The NOSB plans to vote again in April, at the Spring 2017 meeting in Denver.


The Aquaponics Association firmly believes that we can deliver what consumers expect when they see the organic label:         

1)  No synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, or antibiotics

2)  Sustainable production

3)  Healthy, active microbiology


The NOSB eventually found that more work will be needed before making a final decision on this matter, and they sent it back for more work in the Crops Sub-committee. They did, however, pass a non-binding resolution stating their belief that crops with “entirely water-based substrates” should not be eligible. And, in their statements, several members of the NOSB expressed a keen interest in revoking aquaponic organic eligibility. Even if the NOSB does eventually make a final decision, it would still take years for the National Organic Program (NOP) to write and implement rules. (In fact, the NOP did not act on the NOSB’s 2010 recommendation to ban hydroponics). So, for the foreseeable future, aquaponics remains organic eligible. We will see movement and more clarity on this issue at the next NOSB meeting in April 2017.

Dr. Sarah Taber, Aquaponics Association Director of Food Safety, delivered a statement illustrating the depth of empirical peer-reviewed research showing that the roots of aquaponic plants contain the same quantity and diversity of root bacteria and fungi as soil-grown plants. This statement spoke to a key consideration of organic eligibility: whether plant nutrients are delivered via biological processes or inert mineral solutions.

Brian Filipowich, Aquaponics Association Director of Public Policy, made a statement about consumers’ organic expectations, the sustainability of aquaponics, and the economic effect of the organic seal on aquaponic growers. He noted that the price premium of organic crops is critical to incentivizing new entrants into sustainable growing. (See the full statement for the further discussion of efficiency and economics.)

Aquaponic systems are their own ecosystem of fish, plants, and bacteria that thrive in a symbiotic environment. Because the systems are closed-loop, only the minimum necessary inputs are added (fish food) and with no environmentally-damaging runoff. Aquaponics uses over 90% less water than soil- grown crops. We can also offer a healthy, efficient, and delicious source of animal protein: fish such as Tilapia, Blue Gill, and Perch. And regarding organic: we can’t use antibiotics or chemical pesticides in our systems because it would kill our bacteria and our ecosystems.

Because aquaponics is not soil-based, it can provide fresh local produce in urban or drought-stricken areas. If we are going to meet the demand for affordable organic produce in the decades to come, we will need to employ efficient methods like aquaponics. And, controlled environment production offers full-year jobs, rather than seasonal.

The Aquaponics Association has formed the Aquaponic and Hydroponic Organic Coalition to advocate on this front. The Coalition is a group of over 50 aquaponic and hydroponic growers and stakeholders.                   

Click Here, to Join the Aquaponic and Hydropoponic Coalition.

The Coalition will continue to fight for organic eligibility until the NOP resolves the issue.


Join our cause to ensure the future of aquaponics is protected! 

Washington Post Boosts Tilapia

The Washington Post recently ran an article of interest to the aquaponic community: Tilapia Has a Terrible Reputation. Does it Deserve It? (Tamar Haspel. Washington Post. October 24, 2016.)

The Post found that tilapia has an unfair bad rap, and this should make us aquaponic folk angry! Because its costing us!

The article states: “Tilapia, in short, is an environmentally friendly, lean, low-calorie source of protein. We need all of those we can get.” And they did a taste test among some top Washington, DC food gurus; tilapia ranked 2nd of 6 among similar types of fish.

The commercial performance of tilapia is important to the success of the aquaponic industry. Tilapia is the most commonly used aquaponic fish because of its ability to withstand wide variances of ph, temperature, and water quality. And cuz its a quick efficient grower. In a 2015 survey, Commercial Aquaponics Production and Profitability, Findings from an International Survey (Love et al, 2015), researchers found that 69% of respondents used tilapia.

While tilapia is not as healthy or delicious as salmon, it is a lean source of healthy protein. Aquaponics offers us a way to grow this lean healthy protein locally, even in urban areas. This could have dramatically positive repercussions for our health, environment, and economy. But, perversely, these fish are more of an economic liability than an asset for most aquaponic operations, as found in a 2015 paper: Economics of Aquaponics (Engle, 2015).

Right now, tilapia is undervalued because of consumers’ misconceptions (which stem from poor-quality chinese tilapia imports). We need to show consumers that tilapia – when raised appropriately – is healthy and tasty. Then the price of tilapia will rise like the water in your media bed!

For some aquaponic operations, an increase in the price of tilapia will have a significant effect on their bottom line.

(And this does not even go into the fact that we don’t adequately charge for the costs of our food system to our environment and health. Is it REALLY cheaper to buy a tilapia raised in unhealthy conditions shipped from thousands of miles away in China?????!?!?!? We need to start building the hidden costs of our food system into our food prices. These costs include extreme water usage, carbon usage, pesticide usage, antibiotic usage, fertilizer usage, and nutrient runoff. Then the price of long-distance industrially-produced food would go up and we would be incentivized to buy local food… which would also benefit our economy!)

And see another good industry survey: An International Survey of Aquaponics Practitioners (Love et al, 2014)