Aquaponics

Awareness Ranch LLC

Owner: Bali Bock

Address:
12626 W. Blue Aloe St.
Tucson, AZ 85735
Pima County

Mailing Address:
1144 S. 7th Ave
Tucson, AZ 85701

daytime phone: (707) 339-6212
evening phone: (707) 339-6212

Application Date: 2021-07-12

Applicant Details

Please briefly tell us why you are applying to be part of the Certified Naturally Grown program: *
Our farm strives to be a sustainable agricultural production model adapted to thrive in harsh desert environments. This certification would verify and help to demonstrate our ability to produce all natural products while minimizing negative impacts on the local ecology.
Are you currently third party Certified for your produce operation by any other organization (Organic, Biodynamic, etc)? *
no
Have you ever been certified in the past? *
no
Have you ever been denied certification? *
no
How did you hear about Certified Naturally Grown? *
From a local retail grocery business called the Food Conspiracy Co-Op located in Tucson AZ which we plan to sell our produce through.
For how long have you been growing aquaponic produce for market? What has prepared you to do this successfully according to CNG standards? *
6 months of growing for market experience but we have over 10 years of personal interest and experience as hobby produce growers using aquaponics and 4 years of experience operating a commercial small business focused on aquaponics and sustainable building. Another contribution to our preparation is 2 years of farm management experience as an operations manager for a large scale organic farm as well as over 10 years of experience as a manager in the retail and restaurant industries.

General Information

Please check all crops you grow in your aquaponic system. *





Please specify what other crops (if any).
Please check all markets you grow for (this will be displayed on your farm profile to help potential buyers find you). *











Please specify what other markets (if any).

System Design and Management

Please indicate what type of system you use (for hybrid systems, check all that apply): *







If you indicated you use an "other" system type, please specify what other type of system you use here.
If you use wicking beds, describe how the water his handled after it is used in the wicking beds. Does this water recirculate? If not, how is it disposed of?
The wicking bed systems on our farm are stand alone systems that are not incorporated or recirculated into the main aquaponics system. Our wicking bed system only recirculates water from its own system.
What materials are used for root support, growing media, tubing and pipes, tanks, troughs, and other materials that come into direct contact with system water? (check all that apply) *





























Are there any other materials you use in your system that are not listed above? If so, please indicate them here.
If you use soil or compost in your system, where is it used? Is it used only in the dead-end portion, or also in in the recirculating sections of the system?
Soil and compost are only used in the wicking bed system which is a separate stand alone system.
If you use compressed grow plugs, what is (are) the product/s name/s? Have you been able to confirm with the supplier that it/they do not contain synthetic nutrients?
If your system contains cement, does it come into direct contact with the water? Please describe how cement is a part of your system.
The cement is only present in the main fish tanks as the floor of the tanks. The tank walls and concrete floor are coated with a non-toxic water based membrane called Blue Max from the Ames Research company. The membrane creates a waterproof layer safe for potable water systems and protects the water from direct contact with the concrete floor and the tank walls which are made of steel.
If you use wood in your system, is it treated wood? Does it come into direct contact with the water? Please describe how wood is a part of your system.
We did utilize wood for support of the polyethylene liners that constitute our media growing beds. We used Dura Skrim as a liner which is a food safe polyethylene liner designed for aquaponics or hydroponics. The wood never makes direct contact with the water in our aquaponics systems.
If your system includes IBC totes purchased used, have you been able to confirm with your supplier that they were used only for food grade uses? If so, how have you confirmed this? If not, how do you intend to confirm this?
We purchased used IBC totes as preliminary tanks for fish and filter tanks/beds. The totes were all purchased from a single retailer that specializes in selling food grade IBC totes for rain water harvesting. This retailer is Arizona Sustainable Living and their website is https://arizonasustainableliving.com/
Please note that while IBC totes can be grandfathered in when they're in already in use at the time CNG certification is sought, CNG standards prohibit the introduction of IBC totes once CNG status is obtained. Please indicate that you understand this restriction on IBC totes by checking the box here. *
Does water circulate at a rate sufficient so that the water volume of the fish tanks(s) recirculates each hour? If it recirculates at a lower rate, please explain. *
Yes
Briefly describe how your system achieves appropriate aeration. *
Through the use of air pumps and air stones as well as the utilization of an “air lift” pump system to return water from the AP systems back into the fish tanks. This air lift systems provides a high oxygenation rate of the water while also saving energy through the use of an air pump rather than a mechanical water pump to return water to the fish tanks.
Briefly describe how your system achieves appropriate degassing. *
We achieve degassing through the use of highly oxygenated water with our air lift pump as well as a low fish stocking density and 50 foot long media beds that allow natural degassing. We monitor the water for dissolved oxygen levels and if necessary in the future we can incorporate a degassing tank into our system easily and quickly.
Does your system include any of the following: roofing materials, recycled plastics, or plastics that contain BPA? *
no

Water Sources

CNG standards vary according to water source. Please indicate below ALL water sources you use for your aquaponic system, and answer the corresponding questions.
Do you use Municipal water? *
no
Do you use well water? *
yes
What are the ground water contaminants of concern in your region? *
Arsenic, Uranium, Flouride, Nitrates and Bacteria.
What experts did you consult to determine contaminants of concern? *
Arizona Department of Health Services website with information about Well Water Quality in the area.
Have you tested your well within the past year, and if so, what were the results? *
The well is a Co-Operative well company called Avra Valley Water Co-Op and they conduct regular testing of the water on a weekly basis and then provide an annual report to members.
Are you willing to start testing annually? *
Yes
Do you treat or filter the water before adding it to the system? If so, what methods are used? *
The water company treats the well water with chlorine but no treatment is done on our farm beyond conditioning the water for proper pH. However we do own a UV light filtration system for water that may be incorporated in the future when necessary.
Do you use rainwater? *
yes
Of what materials are the catchment surfaces and storage tanks made? *
Metal roof panels purchased new and food grade IBC totes for storage with hard PVC pipe for tubing and metal gutters purchased new.
Do you use a flush diverter? *
no
If yes, how many gallons does it divert? What is the surface area of the catchment area in square feet? *
No diverter. The rainwater is not used within the aquaponics system directly. It is only used to water seedlings for plant starts as our well water on site is simply too hard or high in mineral content to utilize.
How often do you test for contaminants? *
Regular tests are done weekly by the water co-op company.
Do you store rainwater before adding it to the system? *
yes
If yes, is the storage container closed and food Grade? ASLO, do you use the water within 3 days? *
Yes the container is closed and food grade. The water is used over a period of a few weeks and only to water plant starts after it has been sanitized with chlorine.
Do you treat or filter the water before adding it to the system? If so, what methods were used? *
It is sanitized with Chlorine.
Do you use surface water? *
no
If you use a water source that is not named here, please elaborate.

Water Quality: Nutrients, pH, solids

How do you ensure a good match between stocking density and crop production? *
We utilize a low stocking density of fish in relationship to the volume of water in our fish tanks as well the monitoring of Nitrate levels on a regular basis to ensure levels well below 150ppm at any given time. Our fish stock is relatively young and small in size but as they mature we can increase our growing area to match our stocking density. In addition to this our systems utilize modular NFT trays that cultivate products that require less nutrients and a much faster growth cycle of 7-14 days. This allows us to turn “On” or turn “Off” trays as needed to maintain proper levels depending on the stocking density and available nitrates in the system in relationship to the crop production.
Please describe how you design and operate your system to provide biofiltration that corresponds to production of fish waste and crops. *
A radial flow filter Is used to remove solid fish waste in conjunction with a high surface area media filter that provides bio filtration using silica rock and beneficial bacteria seeded from a separate established system.
Do you ever add supplemental nutrients? If so, what materials or products have you used? List ingredients and product names. How much of these do you use? How frequently? *
Neptunes Harvest brand Organic Seaweed Fertilizer which is OMRI listed. It is used only sparingly to introduce nutrients to the system for plants as our fish stock was purchased less than a year ago and are relatively small and young. As the fish mature and increase in size our use of this supplemental nutrient will decrease until it is no longer necessary.
Do you use worms in your system? *
yes
What steps do you take to ensure worms do not introduce pathogenic bacteria to your system? *
The use of worms will be incorporated into our systems in the near future with safe handling practices being utilized including rinsing the worms upon delivery and purging their digestive system with wet cornmeal for 24hrs and then rinsed again. We plan to propagate our own worms after an initial purchase from a reputable vendor.
What materials do you use to buffer pH? *
Food grade Phosphoric Acid
What methods do you use to prevent the build up of waste solids in your system? *
A radial flow filter with a large ball valve to regularly flush solids build up as necessary. We also incorporate a sphagnum moss filter after the radial flow to capture any residual solids.
Please indicate how often you monitor each of the following:
pH? *
Daily
Temperature? *
Daily
Dissolved oxygen? *
Monthly
Ammonia? *
Once a week
Nitrites? *
Once a week
Nitrates? *
Once a week
Use this space if you'd like to share additional information about your water quality and monitoring practices.

Seeds, Transplants, and Crop Health

Do you grow some or all of your own transplants? *
yes
What growing media do you use? Please list the ingredients. *
The seedlings are started in a mixture of vermiculite and coco coir which is then rinsed off before transplanting into the aquaponics systems. Seedlings are only fed water and organic seaweed fertilizer when necessary.
Do you use any chemically-treated or genetically modified seeds? *
no
Do you purchase some or all of your transplants? *
no
Describe your primary insect pest challenges AND methods of prevention and control. (Do not answer "none". You MUST indicate actual pest challenges or LIKELY challenges, and you must ALSO indicate how you manage or how you would manage them. If you indicate a product, also specify how often it's used.) *
Aphids and cucumber beetles are the main pest challenges in addition to native wildlife such as birds, ground squirrels, pigs and rabbits. We use physical barriers as well as traps such as yellow sticky cards. We also utilize predatory insects such as praying mantis and lady bugs to mitigate pests and for specific spot treatments of pest we use diatomaceous earth.
Describe your primary plant disease challenges AND methods of prevention and control. (Do not answer "none". You MUST indicate actual disease challenges or LIKELY challenges, and you must ALSO indicate how you manage or how you would manage them. If you indicate a product, also specify how often it's used.) *
Downy Mildew and Fusarium Wilt are our main plant disease challenges as well as Bacterial Wilt. We monitor humidity levels and do visual inspections daily as well as purchasing only Organic seeds from reputable sources such the Fusarium resistant organic Basil seeds from Johnny’s Seeds. Signs of diseased plants are dealt with promptly, usually through pruning or eradication of infected plants. In order to prevent some diseases such as Bacterial Wilt, we use pest prevention methods described above to limit exposure to disease carrying pests such as cucumber beetles.
CNG certification requires the use of certified organic or Certified Naturally Grown seeds whenever available. Please indicate the suppliers from which you source - or will source - your seeds if your application is accepted and you continue the certification process. *
Johnnys Seeds in Maine as well as The Native Seed Search located in Tucson AZ.
Please indicate, by entering your initials, that you understand that CNG strictly prohibits the use of chemically treated or GMO seeds. *
BB
Please indicate, by entering your initials, that you will as a general rule purchase organically grown seeds, AND that you will only purchase conventional seed when the variety you wish to grow is not available in certified organic or CNG form. For each variety purchased in conventional form, you will identify (and keep records of) at least three commercial organic seed suppliers who do not carry that variety. *
BB

Fish Management

We do not offer certification for fish, but do set some limited standards for fish management where they might affect the produce and or quality of life for the fish.
Does hormonal sex reversal treatment ever occur on-line / within the recirculating system? *
no
Please describe the practices you use to prevent and treat fish disease.
Prevention is maintained primarily through proper water management including high oxygenation rates and the prevention of unsanitary conditions caused by the excessive accumulation of waste. Regular visual inspections of fish as well as monitoring the tank conditions, water temperatures, feeding only high quality all natural food and a lower than average fish stocking density help to prevent fish disease typical of densely stocked systems. Fish stress is also an important factor to prevent disease so buffering of water pH is done in small increments to prevent shock as well as providing adequate shade and objects within the tanks for fish to find cover in order to reduce stress levels. Diseased fish are quarantined in an isolated tank and monitored closely.
Have you ever found it necessary to use antibiotics? *
no
Please describe what kind of fish feed you use. Is it organically grown? (For aquaponic produce certification CNG standards do not require that the feed be organically grown, but we are interested to know what producers are using and to give credit to any producers who may be using organic feed) *
We use fish food called AquaOrganic which is certified organic by the USDA
Do you use black soldier fly larvae or duckweed as supplemental feed? *
no
Do you use any supplemental feed besides BSF larvae or duckweed? If so, describe it here, and indicate how you protect against contamination of your system. *
No

Protecting Against Contamination

Is your operation partially or entirely INdoors? *
no
Do you share space (including fish tank, seedling starting, or plant production space) with other producers? *
no
Is your operation partially or entirely OUTdoors? *
yes
Please describe neighboring land uses to the north, south, east and west. Do they pose a risk of drift or contamination? *
Neighboring land to the south and west are both residential lots with no agricultural production located approximately 250 ft or more from the crop production area. Land to the north and east is unoccupied or undeveloped land. None of the neighboring land poses a risk of drift or contamination.
What is the distance between your production area and nearby sources of possible contamination? *
250 feet west to the nearby source of possible contamination which is a residential household. The neighboring house located south is unoccupied and has been vacant for over 8 years.
What factors besides distance mediate the risk of contamination? (Prevailing wind patterns, windbreaks, method of spray, etc.) *
Physical barrier of greenhouse film.

Waste & Energy

These questions will not determine certification status, but are intended to encourage producers to review our recommendations in these areas and to give credit to producers who have made investments in the sustainability of their operation.
How do you dispose of fish solid wastes? *
Fish solid wastes are composted in a dedicated composting area that will then be used to fertilize landscape and potted plants outside of our aquaponics systems.
When necessary during system change over, how do you dispose of nutrient-rich water? *
Nutrient rich water, if necessary, will be used to fertilize and water native landscape plants such as trees, shrubs and cacti on the property which is not located near any water bodies.
What measures have you taken to conserve energy, improve energy efficiency, and/or use energy from renewable sources? (This could include system design, siting, insulation, crop and fish species selection, and more.)
We utilize photo voltaic systems to provide power to the pumps in our aquaponics systems as well as the majority of our other farm operations. Cooling systems for the greenhouses include the use of Aluminet shade cloth to reduce heat from the sun, ventilation from sidewalls and high windows as well as custom made solar powered wet walls that utilize evaporative cooling. Insulation materials also help to regulate ideal temperatures for growing system such as the Reflectix material used to insulate the media beds or the adobe bricks used to insulate the wicking beds and fish tanks. The water systems were designed to maximize the use of gravity for water flow as well as using an “air lift” system to pump water back to the fish tanks whilst simultaneously aerating water which help to reduce the need for additional pumps therefore additional energy. When possible we utilize sustainable materials such as strawbale or adobe bricks that are made onsite for insulation as well as the use of recycled materials for construction of farm structures such as our tool shed, processing building, office and equipment workshop which were all built with a majority of recycled materials.

Inspections & Networks

A core requirement of CNG certification is the on-site peer-review. Getting this completed is facilitated if you're a part of a network of aquaponics producers who might serve as your inspector. Are you a part of a network (informal or formal) of aquaponic producers in your geographic area? *
no

Agreements

I understand that only the produce, NOT the fish, can be labeled and sold as Certified Naturally Grown. *
I will not label, or in any way lead consumers to believe that produce not raised in accord with CNG standards is Certified Naturally Grown. *
I understand that I have to complete at least one Inspection(s) of another CNG aquaponic producer in my area each year, if there is one within a one hour drive. *
I understand that the inspection I conduct will NOT be of the same producer that inspected me. *
I have reviewed the Certified Naturally Grown aquaponic certification standards, I understand them, and I will abide by them. I understand that if I have any questions I may contact CNG for clarification. *
You may use this space to tell us anything else you think we should know about your operation.