Aquaponics to be CERTIFIED as Organic?

By: Tawnya Sawyer

I know what you are probably thinking…aquaponics is already organic, so what’s the call for help all about? We all know that aquaponics is about building a flourishing ecosystem, reducing resource consumption, and growing incredibly nutritious food. Those are givens. But as an industry, the opportunity for aquaponics to be CERTIFIED as organic is under fire. With a few easy steps, you can help aquaponics maintain organic certification.

The National Organic Standards Board

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) is the government body that is in charge of the decisions related to what is and isn’t allowed under the organic guidelines. Twice a year they meet to discuss and vote on all range of topics dealing with organics. The spring 2017 meeting was in Denver, Co. Only a few people who had registered well in advance were able to provide two minutes of public comments. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to present. I did, however, get the amazing opportunity to spend almost two hours with the majority of the NOSB group providing a tour of Flourish Farms at the GrowHaus. This was a very eye-opening experience for them. They all expressed their appreciation in seeing a working aquaponic farm.  

Hydroponics/Aquaponics/Aeroponics discussed at the Fall NOSB Meeting

The fall NOSB meeting is Oct 31 – Nov 2 in Jacksonville, FL. During this meeting, it is possible that the discussion will continue or there could be a vote. Under review is to allow or deny hydroponic, aquaponic and aeroponic production to be certified organic. Unfortunately, the NOSB has grouped these three different growing systems into one. This has created a lot of confusion and misunderstanding. 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 organic eligibility for these forms of crop production.

Read a summary of the Spring 2017 Meeting

What Can You Do to Help?

Together we can present valuable insights and testimonies to help the NOSB better understand why it is critical to keep aquaponics (as well as hydroponics and aeroponics) organically certified.

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 the Aquaponic Association 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.

Why is Organic Certification Important?

Organic certification is a great marketing differentiator in a commercial growing environment.  Having the certification will also help improve the price for the produce grown on our aquaponic farms. Because we know that aquaponics is about creating ecosystems, it is valuable to be allowed to achieve and maintain certification.

Thanks for your help in this matter. Looking forward to meeting and speaking with you at the Annual Aquaponic Association Conference in Portland, OR Nov 3-5.

Tawnya Sawyer
The Aquaponic Source