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Protocols are set, followed, and enforced for a reason - to protect you, your farm, and the plants and animals you rear. Disregarding protocols or selectively choosing which practices to follow can lead to negative ramifications. These consequences can affect your entire operation and potentially result in crop and fish loss.

Standard operating procedures (SOPs) ensure that farms run smoothly and that all employees, volunteers, and workers are on the same page. Everyone will have the same, standardized response to situations. This standardization helps keep systems running consistently, allows for cleaner and more accurate data collection, and allows a producer to act proactively, not reactively. Key support for following farm maintenance schedules, standard operating procedures, and activity logs include biosecurity, system functionality, and human health concerns. 

Developing a Biosecurity Plan for Your Aquaponic Farm

Developing a solid biosecurity plan for your farm is the foundation of disease prevention and control. Biosecurity is the practice of minimizing introduced risks that can spread through your systems. Biosecurity practices focus on animal, pathogen, and people management. Animals receiving proper care and husbandry face less stress and do not develop disease as easily as poorly managed populations.

Pathogens should be contained, reduced, and eliminated if found within systems. Producers are responsible for educating staff and visitors about appropriate behaviors when touring facilities or interacting with elements of a system. Common biosecurity practices include shoe disinfection stations, regularly washing hands, wearing gloves, separating filtered water from unfiltered water, working with sick fish last, and using specific equipment for each raceway or system. These practices will limit the amount of stress your fish are subjected to, thereby making them less likely to become diseased. Following strict biosecurity practices will set your farm up for success. 

Importance of Having a Farm Maintenance Routine and Activity Log

Furthermore, serious hazards can arise if systems are not routinely checked for issues and serviced for maintenance. Leaks can develop overnight, which can swiftly turn into flooding. Pumps breaking down can be detrimental to water circulation or dissolved oxygen content.** Losing power can trigger mass fish mortalities depending on how long it is out and if a producer has a backup generator.** Accidents and injuries can occur if the equipment is kept in an unsuitable condition. Farmers should maintain an activity log and record when the equipment was last checked, fixed, or replaced. 

Proper Fish and Crop Handling

Farmers producing fish and plants must properly harvest and store the whole fish or fillet and crop yield before going to market for human consumption. Many aquaponic producers must follow the Food and Drug Administrations' (FDA) Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) policy if planning to harvest and process their fish and sell their plants. Following HACCP regulations and developing a food safety plan is critical to maintaining the integrity and safety of your product. It is important to follow the guidelines HACCP and your farm sets to keep consumers healthy and avoid food-borne illnesses and costly fines. You could contaminate the product if it is improperly harvested, processed, or stored, and consequently, someone could fall ill from consuming your product.

How Aquaponics AI Can Help Take the Load off and Streamline Your Standard Operating Procedures

Aquaponic AI is a software company that integrates technology into aquaponic systems. This technology can help you safely follow biosecurity, system functionality, and human health protocols on your farm. The software offers growers different resources for tracking data and trends within aquaponic systems.** Aquaponic AI elevates farms to the next level by offering farmers resources that aid in the development and implementation of farm protocols and practices.** Successful grow spaces operate on the premise of being proactive and preventative, not reactive.

Pre-made and Custom Checklists for Your Aquaponic Farm

Aquaponics AI offers a pre-made task checklist that helps producers become aware of potential system issues before they balloon into larger problems. A schedule accompanies a checklist that reminds producers to complete daily and weekly system tasks. Items the program encourages producers to check include leaks, water quality parameters, water temperature, and that the fish are fed at least once in the morning and once in the evening. Farmers can mark the task as complete, write additional notes, or add further activities such as harvest and food safety notes. The software logs entered data and securely stores the information so producers can access the numbers anytime and anywhere.

Aquaponic AI offers extensive customizable options that ensure no system detail slips through the cracks. Aquaponic AI also provides a notebook feature that prompts producers to record data, such as water quality, and a research feature.  Farmers can search the research feature and explore potential fish and plant diseases along with species-specific living parameters. 

Following farm rules, protocols, and set activity logs contribute to a farm's overall success. *People will have a standardized response to situations, which keeps systems running consistently, allows for cleaner and more accurate data collection, and allows a producer to act proactively, not reactively. *Aquaponic AI offers producers tools to create and implement procedures and record additional information or new tasks with ease.

Our user-friendly interface helps producers understand the bigger picture of why following certain farm practices, standard operating procedures, and activity logs are important. Ultimately, following farm procedures can help to improve biosecurity measures, ensure that your systems and equipment continue to run smoothly, and that producers consider human health when harvesting products.

Julianne Grenn

M.S. Graduate Student

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