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19.3 Discussion and Conclusions

5 months ago

4 min read

This chapter has attempted to clarify the regulatory aspects relevant to understanding why aquaponics presently is not eligible for organic certification in the EU and the USA. As in the EU, the main paradigm behind organic farming in the USA is briefly, to manage soils in a natural way. In the EU, organic certification decisions for organic aquaponics are not carried out by local authorities, whereas the USA has seen a growth in this type of action in the last few years as well as an increase in private peer-review certifications and decisions of individual organic certification agencies.

In principle, all EU organic regulations are open to adaptation as soon as there is new scientific evidence, as stated in paragraph 24.

Parr. 24

Organic aquaculture is a relatively new field of organic production compared to organic agriculture, where long experience exists at the farm level. Given consumers' growing interest in organic aquaculture products further growth in the conversion of aquaculture units to organic production is likely. This will soon lead to increased experience and technical knowledge. Moreover, planned research is expected to result in new knowledge in particular on containment systems, the need of non- organic feed ingredients, or stocking densities for certain species. New knowledge and technical development, which would lead to an improvement in organic aquaculture, should be reflected in the production rules. Therefore provision should be made to review the present legislation with a view to modifying it where appropriate.

So, the horticultural, aquacultural and organic sectors would need to organize themselves, integrating knowledge from different domains. Yet, there are difficulties in convening such knowledge-intensive discussions as the experts and the communities of practice are fragmented and dispersed. Moreover, it is a knowledgeintensive endeavour: the NOSB subcommittee on Hydroponic and aquaponics stated that an in-depth justification would need more time (NOSB 2017; Hydroponic & Aquaponic Subcommittee Report, p. 2). In the EU, the most important Organic Research Institute (FiBL) involved in regulation and input testing is based in Switzerland. However, with its new organizational umbrella now located in Brussels, circumstances are expected to improve in the coming years. Still, to review all the details of every component of hydroponic and aquaculture will raise new questions that only a very few organic greenhouse and aquaculture experts in Europe will be able to answer. Aquaponics actors might then be in a situation to discuss (a) the circular economy approach, e.g. from the point of view of Life Cycle Assessment and in terms of the construction and production components used to compare it with a soil-based production and (b) to consider the question of how does aquaponics improve the on-site (sustainability) situation of fish and plant production. Asking such questions may stimulate ideas for new system-designed aquaponics that might be perceived as interesting by the organic community. However, it may also raise new (or in fact old) barriers to the implementation of large-scale organic production, e.g. thinking of organic pots that do not pose a challenge to the potting machine for aquaponics salads and fish welfare indicators in order to develop knowledge-based species-specific stocking densities. In this way, system design changes may raise new research questions.

For the time being, more collaborative research and development into developing aquaponics systems for the organic sector might be an interesting pathway that would best be discussed and developed among open-minded experts and growers from aquaponics, organic greenhouse production and organic aquaculture. To conclude, there is a great need for a knowledge exchange and discussion among the aquaponics and organic niches to explore the potentials and limitations of their respective production models, and reach some kind of consensus as to whether there is a future role for recirculating aquaponics systems in the organic community and what organic aquaponics could actually look like. But with the diverse visions of aquaponics systems by entrepreneurs, farmers, researchers and communities already in place, what would certify them all as organic mean for communication to the consumer, for marketing and for achieving sustainability goals? In the USA as in Europe, the question is who would benefit from organic certification of aquaponics? At present, aquaponics seems somewhat to be an ugly duckling both within the conventional and the organic agriculture regimes, but in the future it may turn into a beautiful sustainable swan—-and may be certified organic?!