Aquaponics combines aquaculture with hydroponic plant production. Hydroponics is a method of growing plants in a water based, nutrient rich solution that does not use soil. Instead, the root system is supported using an inert medium such as perlite, rockwool, clay pellets, peat moss, or vermiculite.
Aquaculture is defined as the farming of fish, crustaceans, molluscs, aquatic plants, algae, and other organisms. In an aquaponics system, the waste produced from aquaculture supplies the nutrients for the hydroponically-grown plants.
Operations growing fresh produce in aquaponic systems cannot use the CanadaGAP Program to obtain certification. CanadaGAP uses a generic HACCP model as the basis for the food safety requirements and procedures published in the CanadaGAP Food Safety Manual and Audit Checklist. Additional science is needed to validate that all potential hazards have been appropriately addressed in the CanadaGAP generic HACCP model. Unfortunately, peer-reviewed scientific studies on potential chemical hazards associated with aquaponic systems are limited at this time.
The scope of the CanadaGAP program is limited to whole fresh fruits and vegetables. A food safety certification program that addresses both aspects of an aquaponic system – that is, the production of fresh produce and the farming of fish or other aquatic organisms – may provide a more complete assessment of an operation’s implemented food safety program.