TWO questions for the 2016 Ecological Economics Conference

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….


Thank You Chairman Mendelson and Council Member Cheh

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.

We need to use less water

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.

Aquaponics and Food Waste

The USDA estimated that in 2010, 31 percent—or 133 billion pounds—of the 430 billion pounds of the available food supply at the retail and consumer levels went uneaten. The estimated value of this food loss was $161.6 billion using retail prices. The calories associated with food loss are estimated at 141 trillion, or 1,249 calories per person per day.

There’s a good chance if we grow our own local food that we will waste less food. Unlike traditional soil agriculture, aquaponics can produce significant quantities of fresh fruits, vegetables, and fish in urban environments, allowing us city dwellers meaningful access to local food. You know what they say, “the shorter the supply-chain, the less room for food waste”!

our food system is not …. “sustainable”

buzzwords become buzzwords for a reason….

sus-tain-a-ble: 1) able to be maintained at a certain rate or level; or 2) able to be upheld or defended.

Here is an excerpt from a magical book, “The Third Plate; Field Notes on the Future of Food” by Dan Barber. He notes:

“…mounting evidence that our countries indomitable and abundant food system, for so long the envy of the world, is unstable, if not broken. Eroding soils, falling water tables for irrigation, collapsing fisheries, shrinking forests, and deteriorating grasslands represent only a handful of the environmental problems wrought by our food system – problems that will continue to multiply with rising temperatures.”

“Our health has suffered, too. Rising rates of food-borne illnesses, malnutrition, and diet-related diseases such as obesity and diabetes are traced, at least in part, to our mass production of food. The warnings are clear: because we eat in a way that undermines health and abuses natural resources (to say nothing of the economic and social implications), the conventional food system cannot be sustained.”

….joy 🙁


What is a “Food System”?

This is good definition of the “food system”, adapted from the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food. (sounds fancy). Basically the food system is everything you can possibly think of that has to do with putting food on your plate. The food system is:

  • all those activities involving the production, processing, transport, consumption, and cleanup of food;
  • the governance and economics of food production, its sustainability, the degree to which we waste food, and how food production affects the natural environment;
  • how food affects health and well-being, including nutrition, obesity and food safety;
  • food access, quality, and education in areas with poverty; and
  • the history, cultural, and social aspect of food.

Why is this important? Stay tuned……..


Priming the pump

Agriculture is a major user of ground and surface water in the United States, accounting for approximately 80 percent of the Nation’s consumptive water use and over 90 percent in many Western States. (USDA)

Aquaponics uses less than 10% of water compared to conventional agriculture, depending on the climatic conditions. Aquaponics can grow in locations with drought, poor soil quality, or challenging climates. (Goddek et al, 2015)

Aquaponics is most appropriate where land is expensive, water is scarce, and soil is poor. Deserts and arid areas, sandy islands and urban gardens are the locations most appropriate for aquaponics because it uses an absolute minimum of water. There is no need for soil, and aquaponics avoids the issues associated with soil compaction, salinization, pollution, disease and tiredness. Similarly, aquaponics can be used in urban and peri-urban environments where no or very little land is available, providing a means to grow dense crops on small balconies, patios, indoors or on rooftops. (Somerville et al, 2014)