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Organic food sales in the United States rose by 5.9% in 2018, totaling \$47.9 billion dollars. It is no surprise that aquaponic farmers want the organic label to bolster their marketing and sales, and equally no surprise that soil-based farmers do not want their selling power to be diluted. The heart of organic production is cultivating soil, so how can produce be certified organic if there is no soil? In 2015, a taskforce was assembled consisting of individuals representing both the soil-based organic industry and the hydroponic and aquaponic communities. The goal was to describe hydroponic and aquaponic systems and practices, examine how hydroponics and aquaponics align or conflict with USDA organic regulations, support their decisions with science, and explore alternatives. At its 2017 fall meeting, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) voted 8-7 against a proposal to prohibit hydroponic and aquaponic production in organic agriculture. Although aeroponics is prohibited, both hydroponics and aquaponics remain eligible for organic certification, while the USDA considers the NOSB decision. While aquaponics lends itself to a more sustainable growing methods, only OMRI approved items can be used during production. This prohibits the use of rockwool, hydroxide bases, chelated iron, and other common tools of the trade. Currently, only 17 of 80 certifiers will assist aquaponic farms with organic certification.
Source: Janelle Hager, Leigh Ann Bright, Josh Dusci, James Tidwell. 2021. Kentucky State University. Aquaponics Production Manual: A Practical Handbook for Growers.