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Paul Rye Kledal, Bettina König, and Daniel Matulić

Abstract Due to the cyclic or systemic nature of both aquaponics and organic production, organic certification appears to be a natural step for a researcher, system designer or commercial-oriented aquaponics producer to engage in. However, the underlying principles and justifications of aquaponics and organic production differ considerably between respectively a technological- and a soil-based understanding of nutrient cycles and long-term sustainability in food production. These principles are confirmed in both the organic regulation regime of the EU and USA, and presently leave the question ambiguously open as to whether aquaponics as a food production system can be recognized and certified as organic. Despite an openness in the organic regulation for new knowledge, adaptations and innovations, the organic sector itself has shown a reluctance to recognize more knowledge-based intensive speciality crops and technologies. This is particularly difficult with respect to small organic sub-sectors such as horticulture and aquaculture production. Both are very specific subsystems of the agricultural sector, where aquaponics potentially would belong at the intersection between organic greenhouse horticulture and organic aquaculture. Organically certified aquaponics would therefore need to establish a niche within the organic sector. So in order to move forward, there is a great need for a more serious but open-minded exchange and discussion among the aquaponics and organic sub-sectors themselves to explore the potential but also limitations of their respective production models. However, between the two food production systems, there should be room for debate with a view to finding new and feasible roles for aquaponics in the organic community.

Keywords Aquaponics · Organic certification · EU organic regulation · US organic regulation · Recirculating aquaculture · Hydroponics


P. R. Kledal

Institute of Global Food & Farming, Hellerup, Denmark

B. König

Faculty of Life Sciences, Thaer-Institute, Horticultural Economics and IRI THESys, Humboldt

Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany

D. Matulić

Department of Fisheries, Beekeeping, Game management and Special Zoology, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Zagreb, Zagreb, Croatia

© The Author(s) 2019 487

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