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17.2 Aquaponics and Risk: A Development Perspective for Fish Health

5 months ago

6 min read

Fish pathogens are prevalent in the aquatic environment, and fish are generally able to resist them unless overloaded by the allostatic load (Yavuzcan Yıldız and Seçer 2017). Allostasis refers to the 'stability through change' proposed by Sterling and Eyer (1988). Put simply this is the effort of fish to maintain homeostasis through changes in physiology. Allostatic load of fish in aquaponics may be a challenging factor as aquaponics is a complex system mainly in terms of the water quality and the microbial community in the system. Hence, the diseases of fish are generally speciesand system-specific. Specific aquaponic diseases have not been described yet. From aquaculture, it is known that fish diseases are difficult to detect and are usually the end result of the interaction between various factors involving the environment, nutritional status of the fish, the immune robustness of the fish, existence of an infectious agent and/or poor husbandry and management practices. In order to sustain aquaponic systems, an aquatic health management approach needs to be developed considering the species cultured, the complexity of environments in aquaponics and the type of the aquaponic system management. Profitability in aquaponic production can be affected by even small percentage decreases in production, as seen in aquaculture (Subasinghe 2005).

Aquaponics is a sustainable, innovative approach for future food production systems, but this integrated system for production currently shows difficulties in moving from the experimental stage or small-scale modules to large-scale production. It could be hypothesized that the lack of economic success of this highly sustainable production system is due to major bottlenecks not scientifically addressed yet. Without a doubt, the cost-effectiveness and technical capabilities of aquaponic systems need further research to realize a scaling up of production (Junge et al. 2017). Research activity and innovations applied since the 1980s have transformed aquaponic technology into a viable system of food production, and although small-scale plants and research-structured plants are already viable, commercial-scale aquaponics are not often economically viable. The claimed advantages attributed and recognized for aquaponic systems are the following: significant reduction in the usage of water (compared to traditional soil methods of growing plants), bigger and healthier vegetables than when grown in soil, production of plants does not require artificial fertilizer and aquaponic products are free of antibiotics, pesticides and herbicides.

17.2.1 Risk Analysis Overview

Risk is defined as 'uncertainty about and severity of the consequences of an activity' (Aven 2016), and the risk picture reflects (i) probabilities/frequencies of hazards/ threats, (ii) expected losses given the occurrence of such a hazard/threat and (iii) factors that could create large deviations between expected outcomes and the actual outcomes (uncertainties, vulnerabilities). Risk analysis offers tools to judge risk and assist in decision-making (Ahl et al. 1993; MacDiarmid 1997). Risk analysis is based on systematic use of the available information for decision-making, using the components of hazard identification, risk assessment, risk management and risk communication as indicated by World Organisation of Animal Health (OIE) (Fig. 17.1). This framework is commonly used for pathogen risk analysis (Peeler et al. 2007).


Fig. 17.1 Risk analysis (OIE 2017)

Risk analysis in food production, including aquaponics, can be applied to many cases, such as food security, invasive species, production profitability, trade and investment, and for consumer preference for safe, high-quality products (BondadReantaso et al. 2005; Copp et al. 2016). The benefits of applying risk analysis in aquaculture became more clearly linked to this sector's sustainability, profitability and efficiency, and this approach can also be effective for the aquaponics sector. Therefore, disease introduction and potential transmission of pathogens can be evaluated in the context of risk to aquatic animal health (Peeler et al. 2007). Various international agreements, conventions and protocols cover human, animal and plant health, aquaculture, wild fisheries and the general environment in the field of risk. The most comprehensive and broad agreements and protocols are the World Trade Organization's (WTO) Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement, United Nations Environmental Program's (UNEP) Convention on Biological Diversity and the supplementary agreement Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and the Codex Alimentarius (Mackenzie et al. 2003; Rivera-Torres 2003).

A key challenge regarding the field of risk relates to our depth of knowledge. Risk decisions are related situations characterized by large uncertainties (Aven 2016). Specifically, animal health risk analysis depends on knowledge gained from studies of epidemiology and statistics. Oidtmann et al. (2013) point out that the main constraint in developing risk-based surveillance (RBS) designs in the aquatic context is the lack of published data to advance the design of RBS. Thus, to increase robust

Table 17.1 Composite research needs for aquatic animal health in aquaponics

table thead tr class="header" thResearch area/th th Research need /th /tr /thead tbody tr class="odd" td rowspan=7 Basic research/td td Understanding the aquatic animal health and welfare concept in aquaponics in terms of the species of aquatic organisms and the system used /td /tr tr class="even" td Understanding the stress/stressor concept for aquatic organisms in aquaponics by the species and the system used /td /tr tr class="odd" td Understanding the allostatic load for aquatic organisms and the emergence of diseases /td /tr tr class="even" td Understanding the welfare concept in aquaponics /td /tr tr class="odd" td Characterizing the critical water quality parameters against aquatic animal health /td /tr tr class="even" td Understanding the sensitivity of aquatic organisms to the aquaponic environment /td /tr tr class="odd" td Revealing the microbial profile for the different systems of the aquaponics /td /tr tr class="even" tdHealth indicators/td td Developing and validating health indicators for aquatic animals raised in the aquaponic systems /td /tr tr class="odd" td rowspan=2 Database development/td td Field data on the health/disease of aquatic animals in the aquaponics /td /tr tr class="even" td Field data on the microbial profile including pathogens /td /tr /tbody /table

knowledge of risks in aquaponics, studies that both increase scientific data and reduce specific weaknesses and uncertain fields in aquaponics operations are needed. Some research areas that require more data for risk analysis in aquaponic systems are presented below (Table 17.1).

In terms of risk analysis for aquatic animal diseases or health in aquaponic systems, the OIE Aquatic Animal Health Code (the Aquatic Code) can be considered because the Aquatic Code sets out standards for the improvement of aquatic animal health and welfare of farmed fish worldwide and for safe international trade of aquatic animals and their products. This Code also includes use of antimicrobial agents in aquatic animals (OIE 2017).