Urban Ag News Organics Article — The state of the USDA’s deliberation of whether aquaponic produce will remain eligible for organic certification. (Written by Anacostia Aquaponics Director Brian Filipowich)
Let’s make 2017 a big year for aquaponics in Washington, DC! Check out what we’re up to:
You see, in our economic system we don’t account for the hidden costs of food production. Aquaponic producers have difficulty monetizing their benefits because industrial agriculture producers have an implicit subsidy to use as much water, carbon, pesticides, fertilizers, and antibiotics they want! Even a conservative economist should support public actions to force producers to internalize these costs of production so that others don’t have to pay later.
Click the link below to check out a PDF presentation by Anacostia Aquaponics Director Brian Filipowich on this topic. It was given at the Aquaponics Association conference in Austin, TX this past November.
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)
Click here for more info and the signup form for the Aquaponic and Hydroponic Organic Coalition: http://aquaponicsassociation.org/organic-coalition/
The National Organic Standards Board is considering revoking aquaponic and hydroponic organic eligibility.
We feel strongly that AP/HP – if practiced accordingly – embody the spirit of organic that consumers expect when they see the organic label: 1) AP/HP are highly sustainable and employ nutrient recycling; 2) AP/HP do not need synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, or antibiotics; and 3) A large body of research shows that the roots of hydroponic plants contain the same quantity and diversity of root bacteria as soil plants, which is central to organic’s “soil-plant ecology”. And, finally, if we’re going to make necessary changes to our food system we have to retain incentives for new sustainable growing methods, rather than taking away incentives — banning AP/HP would be a step in the wrong direction.
A great article about the future of aquaponics
Today Anacostia Aquaponics Director Brian Filipowich attended the 2016 Ecological Economics conference with two major questions:
ONE — How do we quantify the benefits of Aquaponics; and TWO — How do we monetize the benefits of aquaponics?
Good stuff so far, more to learn, more to do….
DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and Council Member Mary Cheh are working to make positive changes to the Urban Farming and Food Security Act of 2014.
Two main provisions of the Act are to identify DC-owned vacant properties to convert them into farms; and also to provide landowners with tax incentives to lease vacant land to farmers and gardeners throughout the city. But unfortunately, although passed into law these provisions haven’t gone into effect because they are stuck in regulatory limbo. Hopefully Chairman Mendelson and Council Member Cheh are successful in their efforts to address these issues.
There’s lots of resources at this link, check it out!
Nestle – the world’s largest food company – recently found that if everyone on the planet ate the average american meat-heavy diet, then the world would have run out of fresh water 15 years ago. The report also found that if we continue on the current water consumption trend, then one-third of the world will encounter fresh water scarcity by 2025. See the article in the link, below.
Aquaponics uses LESS THAN 10% of the water as traditional soil farming for the same output.