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Annalisa Hultberg, Michele Schermann and Cindy Tong

To learn what areas should be emphasized in future educational good agricultural practices (GAPs) training efforts, a survey on usage of GAPs was mailed to 855 vegetable growers in Minnesota. We received a 32% response rate and a 43% cooperation rate. Over 65% of respondents reported compliance to proper worker hygiene practices, harvest container and tool sanitization and cleaning, water treatment to reduce the potential for microbial contamination, and protection of growing and stored vegetables from contamination. Small acreages and a diverse array of vegetables are typical characteristics of the majority of Minnesota vegetable farms. Seventy-seven percent of respondents farmed 15 acres or less. Most farms grew 10 or more different vegetable crops, and farmers markets, u-pick operations, and roadside stands were the most common marketing outlets. Overall responses to this study indicated that farmers currently believe they adhere to many recommended food safety best practices, but are lagging in key areas such as treating wash and processing water, taking measures to keep animals out of production fields, and cleaning and disinfecting harvesting tools and containers on a scheduled basis.

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Marie Abbey, Neil O. Anderson, Chengyan Yue, Michele Schermann, Nicholas Phelps, Paul Venturelli and Zata Vickers

Aquaponics, the combination of hydroponics and aquaculture into one growing system, is a controlled environment production system that potentially has increased environmental and consumer benefits over traditional production methods. There are many different ways to configure aquaponics systems that include different fish species, water circulation, lighting, plant species/density, and more. We tested three cultivars of lettuce, a common aquaponically produced crop, for yield in multiple aquaponic systems and conditions over a 13-month period in Minnesota. Four different aquaponic configurations and four types of fish were tested over the course of the experiment. There was no addition of supplemental nutrients to the systems to evaluate the differences between treatments and set a baseline. There was no difference in yield between lettuce produced aquaponically and those grown in soilless medium. However, there was a difference in yield between lettuce grown with different fish treatments. The tilapia treatment produced higher average yield than yellow perch. There was a difference between cultivars, with higher average yield from loose-leaf bunch cultivars (Salanova, Skyphos) than the bibb type (Rex). Average yield for all but one treatment was above that of reported commercial field production, making lettuce a competitive aquaponic crop in most systems.

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Chengyan Yue, Zata Vickers, Jingjing Wang, Neil O. Anderson, Lauren Wisdorf, Jenna Brady, Michele Schermann, Nicholas Phelps and Paul Venturelli

The present study systematically investigated the effects of warehouse and greenhouse aquaponic growing conditions on consumer acceptability of different basil cultivars. A total of 105 consumers rated their liking of three basil cultivars (Nufar, Genovese, and Eleonora), each grown in three conditions (aquaponically in a greenhouse, aquaponically in a warehouse, both with Cyprinus carpio, Koi fish, and grown in soilless medium). We used linear random effect models to investigate consumer preferences for attributes of basil plants grown in different environments by controlling for individual-specific random effects. Participants generally liked the soilless medium–grown and greenhouse aquaponically grown basil plants more than the warehouse aquaponically grown plants. The soilless medium–grown basil had the highest appearance liking and flavor intensity, followed by the greenhouse aquaponic grown and then by the warehouse aquaponic grown. Aquaponically grown cultivars were rated less bitter than soilless medium–grown cultivars.