Interest is growing for aquaponics—the combination of aquaculture (farming aquatic species) and hydroponics (soil-less plant culture). This interest comes from a diverse group including backyard hobbyists, non-profits, and commercial ventures. And it’s easy to understand the allure. Aquaponics produces sustainable, locally grown fresh produce, using recirculated water, and combines knowledge from various disciplines including animal husbandry, plant ecology, pest management, and engineering, to name a few. There are also a variety of opportunities for aquaponics as a teaching tool for students, entrepreneurs, and veterans. Particularly in California, aquaponics represents a drought-smart method of food production, where water use can be as little as 10 percent of conventionally-irrigated terrestrial crops.
The two main products of aquaponics are fresh produce and live fish. For commercial ventures, permitting starts with an Aquaculture Registration, which addresses the fish culturing half of the activity and is renewed annually. The registration sets the bounds on species raised at a particular location, and provides for legal transport and sale of live aquatic products. It is important to note, that it is unlawful to release any fish into waters of the state without permission from CDFW (Fish and Game Code § 6400). It is also important to recognize that, due to the new kind of activity and interest level represented by aquaponics (eg: semi-commercial/semi-hobby and often raising human-consumable fish), regulatory policies and codes are in the process of review; discussion from practitioners is strongly encouraged. Stay tuned for further discussions on this site and contact us if you have thoughts or questions: contact us.