Long time no post, everyone. The conference was a smashing success– I met some other scientists and industry folks who are interested in aquaponics, and we’ve been email-storming each other ever since. The downside is that that has taken up time normally used for blogging. Alas, it takes time to hatch a proper bit of mad science.
The main takeaway from the conference (for me anyway) was that before AP can really move forward, we need to figure out some fish-friendly ways to control pathogens– both fish diseases and foodborne pathogens for people.
This appears daunting but doable. Commercial aquaculture (in the West) only began 20-30 years ago, so veterinary care for fish is still in a fairly primitive state. One of the most common treatments for parasites on fish is formaldehyde. Needless to say this will not fly in aquaponics.
Coming from a horticulture background gives an interesting perspective on this situation. 70 years ago the state-of-the-art in plant health was lead arsenate. People loved it– it killed fungi, bacteria, AND bugs! What’s not to like? But the end result is that now there are romantic old orchards where you can’t eat anything that comes out of them because the soil is full of lead and arsenic.
Nowadays for crop care we have some sweet high-tech tools like clay particle films, mail-order predators and parasitoids, bugscaping, banker plants, SAR elicitors, and so forth. I think we can get there with fish and foodborne pathogens. There already exists in nature a wealth of possible tools like cleaner wrasses, quorum sensing, bacteriophages, working with bacterial biofilms to get benign bacteria to outcompete pathogens, and so forth. And science has sped up considerably since the lead arsenate days, so I don’t think it’s going to take aquaculture 70 years to get there.