Recirculating Farm Coalition Promotes Sustainable Agriculture & Aquaculture
September 17, 2011 | Andrew Burger
The newly established Recirculating Farms Coalition (RFC) has launched a national campaign to promote the growing of local, fresh food and the creation of green jobs. The organization, which counts educators, farmers, chefs, non-profit groups and others among its members, seeks to achieve its objectives by focusing on the development of eco-friendly recirculating farms.
For reference, the organization defines a recirculating farm as one that uses clean recycled water, rather than soil, as a basis to grow food. These farms can grow plants (hydroponics), fish (aquaculture), or both plants and fish together (aquaponics).
The RFC sees hydroponic and aquaponic farms as an ecologically healthy and sustainable means of growing high-quality food locally as well as a way to create sustainable jobs at a time when large-scale, ‘industrial’ farming practices are drawing increasing scrutiny, and food and economic security are of growing importance.
“The current U.S. unemployment rate is 9.1 percent, and about one in six people are struggling to buy food. Building recirculating farms in diverse communities nationwide can provide fresh, local food and create stable jobs in a sustainable business, two things the U.S. very much needs right now,” explained Marianne Cufone, the Recirculating Farms Coalition’s executive director.
The RFC points out that aquaponic and hydroponic systems enable farmers to use space, energy and water much more efficiently to raise fin-fish, shellfish and/or grow vegetables, fruits, and herbs and flowers. Well-designed hydroponic and aquaponic farms reuse as much as 99% of their water and recycle their own waste, according to the organization.
In addition, the fish and produce that is grown in aquaponic and hydroponic systems can be raised without antibiotics or other drugs or chemicals. The systems are also scalable: they can be as small as a desktop for personal use, or large enough to be commercial operations.
The Recirculating Farms Coalition (RFC) grew out of Food & Water Watch, an organization that “works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainably produced.” A 2009 meeting coordinated by staff of the organization’s Fish Program that brought together leading recirculating aquaculturists as well as hydroponic and aquaponic farmers and others led to a call for a nationwide organization that could develop programs to raise the profile of recirculating farms and increase access to local food.
The newly launched organization is taking a three-pronged approach to realizing its aims through public outreach and education, policy making, and research and training.
RFC members are providing education and training for farmers, working with local, state and federal agencies to craft policies to drive the development and growth of hydroponics and aquaponics, and the creation of educational programs and materials.
In addition to serving as an information network hub for hydroponic and aquaponic practitioners and enthusiasts, the RFC also intends to build a model teaching and demonstration farm. The organizations primary areas of research include alternative fish feed ingredients, increased energy efficiency, and waste capture and recycling.