After five months of planning, the first annual Aquaponics Fest weekend has now come and gone.  And what a weekend it was!  Over 250 aquaponics enthusiasts from all around the country, and from as far away as Japan, came together to learn from the experts and from each other, see some cool new products, and celebrate this growing revolution we call aquaponics.  Yes, there are many things we learned from this inaugural event, and yes, there is much that we will do differently next year But also yes, we feel – and attendees appear to agree – that this year’s Fest exceeded our goal to create a fun and educational annual gathering of aquaponic gardeners and educators.

Almost all attendees loved the Fest, rating the speakers a 4.5 overall on a scale of 1 – 5, and 94% said they would either definitely or probably come back again next year.  They summed it up best with comments like these:AquaFest110

“We thoroughly enjoyed the Festival. It was small enough to allow good contacts with the presenters and big enough to generate good questions from the attendees.”

“I loved it! It was a great mix of practical information and things to think about, or things that I might consider in the future… And the community aspect was great, I liked seeing the diverse group of people that came out.”

“I was amazed. This is the most informative and useful conference I have been to in my life and I’m 64 and attend a lot of excellent conferences. I attended one session per hour from the time I arrived Saturday morning until the time the conference ended and thought every single speaker was top notch. They knew their stuff and spoke extremely well!”

“Fantastic, wonderful, terrific, amazing!!!!! Seriously now, I truly enjoyed being there. I wish I would have had the time and mental stamina to see just about every presentation. There were some I had to miss because I had to choose. Great work.”

You also had lots of excellent, constructive suggestions for how we can improve next year, and based on these will make many changes including:AquaFest222

  • Since 50% of you identified yourselves as beginner level, we plan to erect a second speaker’s tent to create a third speaker venue that will allow us to have more speakers focused on “Aquaponics 101” level topics.  We also plan to have more topics on education and aquaponics.
  • While the food trucks were excellent, they took too long to serve and ran out of popular items.  Next year we plan to take pre-orders for sandwiches and just make those available for pickup at the Fest, and make the lunch break a little longer.
  • In order to create more time for people to mingle, we plan to arrange an informal social gathering the Friday night before at a local pub – probably the Oskar Blues Brewery Tasty Weasel Tap Room just up the street.
  • AquaFest294So that we can involve more people (and generate more money for Grants for Plants!), we will shift our silent auction benefiting Grants for Plants to the main festival.
  • Even though we filmed about half the presentations for the DVD set we are now working on, feedback suggests that even more would be better so that is what we will strive for next year. In addition, next year we hope to make the results available through an online service instead of shipping DVDs.
  • We intend to setup an “Ask the Experts” booth where speakers can answer questions after their presentations without the pressure of needing to clear the room for the next speaker.
  • We will list the speakers on a big poster board outside each venue to make it easier for everyone to see who is coming up.

Any more ideas? Please offer your suggestions in the comments below.  This is your event – let’s make it as good as it can possibly be.

We hope we see you at the second annual Aquaponics Fest next year!