The Recirculating Farms Coalition is a collaborative group of farmers, educators, non-profit organizations and many others committed to building local sources of healthy, accessible food. Through research, education and advocacy, we work together to support the development of eco-efficient farms that use clean recycled water as the basis to grow food. We believe these recirculating farms can create stable green jobs and supply sustainably-grown food – fruits, vegetables, herbs and humanely-raised seafood – in diverse communities nationwide, and someday, worldwide.
Our primary food production systems in the United States are overly industrialized – for example, concentrated animal feed lots, factory fishing boats, and massive fruit and vegetable farms. Reliance on imported foods, with minimal safety inspections and a huge carbon footprint to transport products around the globe hurts us and our environment, providing fewer jobs, increasing pollution and delivering consumers lower quality food. The U.S. government, in response to the public’s growing complaints about our troubled food system, continues to explore various ways to boost domestic food production. Unfortunately, it mostly does so in a manner that encourages further industrialization and poor food quality. Our challenge is to promote an alternative to this model, one that establishes healthy, natural, and community-based food production.
We envision a movement toward community-based food production. This can provide safer, better quality food and domestic green job opportunities. A different way of growing, “recirculating farming,” is emerging nationwide and can meet these goals.
Recirculating farms use constantly cleaned, recycled water in place of soil as the basis to grow food. They can grow plants (recirculating hydroponics), fish (recirculating aquaculture), or plants and fish together in one system (aquaponics). Recirculating farms come in a variety of shapes, sizes and styles, but they all have one main theme – recycled water. These farms are entirely closed loop, and can operate without chemicals or antibiotics, efficiently use water and energy, and be located virtually anywhere — importantly, near the people they serve. This cuts down on use of fuel for shipping and refrigeration and lowers costs of the farm; savings that can be passed on to the consumer, making good food more affordable. These farms can provide a wide range of products, including finfish, shellfish, herbs, fruits, vegetables, and flowers.
Our vision is for communities across the country to have recirculating farms as a source of local, healthy fresh food and stable jobs in a green business.
Our organization has a three-prong approach: outreach/education, policy-making, and research and training.
Working together, our members help to establish successful recirculating farms. We raise awareness among both policy-makers and the general public, so people understand the benefits from this type of farming. We are also a coordinating group for existing Coalition members, and we reach out to others in the field; we develop educational materials, attend events, organize communities to support development of recirculating farms, and work to elevate hydroponics, land-based aquaculture and aquaponics to well-recognized and strongly supported ways to grow food in the U.S.
To better promote recirculating farming, one aspect of our educational program will be establishment of a model farm in a strategic location. This will act as a testing site to improve technology, a training site to develop experts in recirculating farming, a farm for people in the media to visit and learn from and, importantly, a means to show how recirculating farms can contribute to a truly local food system.
One of the primary efforts of the Coalition is to work with policy makers and provide educational materials that promote their support of research and development funding to encourage expansion of recirculating farms in the United States. We actively work with federal and state elected officials and agencies.
Research and training:
To help promote and train people in recirculating farming, our Coalition members work to guide and support development of demonstration, research and teaching facilities in strategic locations nationwide. Currently, research and development is being conducted at academic, government and business facilities across the country to improve the techniques and methods used in recirculating farming to offer the consumer healthy, local, and sustainable products. Some primary areas of ongoing research include alternative fish feed ingredients, increased energy efficiency, and waste capture and recycling.
The Recirculating Farms Coalition grew out of a program initiated at Food & Water Watch, a national consumer advocacy organization. In 2009, staff with the Fish Program at Food & Water Watch coordinated a meeting of leading recirculating aquaculturists, hydroponic and aquaponic farmers, other scientists and government agencies involved in agriculture and fisheries fields. The outcome of this meeting was a unanimous call for a coordinating entity that could help raise the profile of recirculating farms in the United States and push for policy, legislative and educational initiatives. Thus the Coalition was born. In its infancy we were a group of professionals, entrepreneurs and others interested in exploring a better, more local way to provide food. Since that time, the Recirculating Farms Coalition has grown in membership and developed strategic plans to promote policy, legislative, and educational activities.