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Understanding and Addressing Needs for On-Farm Produce Safety Education in Hydroponics and Aquaponics


The overall goal of this project is to facilitate coordinated development of produce safety educational resources and experiences for aquaponic and hydroponic stakeholders across the nation to support increased understanding and reduced risk. We recognize that this group of stakeholders is diverse and includes growers, educators, regulators, and researchers, as well as others involved in the industry. While the motivations for the work are informed by specific audiences, a guiding principle of the work will be inclusion to support access and relevance for a wide range of audiences that we have yet to fully understand. For example, while produce safety educational resources are being motived by a need among growers, educators and regulators may likely find them useful also. Similarly, while we are motivated to develop materials that introduce hydroponic and aquaponic systems to help educators and regulators become better oriented to the systems, growers may find these resources to be helpful also. We will accomplish our goal by pursuing the following objectives.Form a nation-wide hydroponic and aquaponic produce safety advisory group that informs project outputs at multiple steps.This foundational objective will build a national collaborative WG of experts working in hydroponics, aquaponics, and food safety and create a communication framework that facilitates information sharing and relationship building. Early work will reduce the duplication of efforts and create new collaborative and trusting relationships across those working in these topic areas. This will include stakeholders who are growers, researchers, extension educators, regulators, and others working in the industry. NECAFS has demonstrated competency in utilizing a collaborative framework to build highly effective partnerships with diverse membership focused on food safety issues. Our past experience and developed infrastructure will be leveraged to promote trust, sharing, engaged participation, novel solutions, and widespread distribution of outputs. Letters of support from stakeholders included in the proposal application demonstrate the PI team's ability to engage with stakeholders across the HP/AP industry nationwide.Determine produce safety educational needs/gaps specific to hydroponics and aquaponics.We will leverage existing data from needs assessments and grower interviews to clarify educational needs. Combined with a survey of regulators' observational and perceptual data, outputs will expand our understanding of produce safety needs of growers and others with prioritization of issues seen through on-farms inspections.Develop educational curricula, programs, and resources for diverse audiencesWe will create an educational curricular framework, resources, and programming for diverse audiences addressing identified needs using a variety of educational modes based on discussion with the working group. This work will be multi-pronged, mixed-type, and inclusive of diverse audiences to provide cross-cutting improvement of knowledge and practice in the industry. These new educational resources will be tailored to the production practices most relevant to this underserved niche audience and will be leveraged to supplement the existing national produce safety curriculum managed by the Produce Safety Alliance.Deliver educational resources and programs to target audiences and evaluate outcomes and impact.We will leverage working group and regional center networks to disseminate educational resources and programming to target audiences. The impact of these outputs among educators, regulators, and growers will be measured and compared with previous needs assessment results. A combination of formative and summative evaluation methods will be used to understand the increased understanding of knowledge developed over time among our working group members and to understand the impact of individual educational events. Both the actively engaged working group member and our expanding network will be provided opportunities to share qualitative feedback and anecdotal examples of personal growth. Pre- and post-event evaluations will be used to measure quantitative development of knowledge and to gather qualitative, self-reported measures of confidence and knowledge in the subject matter. In addition to sharing resources developed by the project with regional centers (RCs) we also look forward to sharing outcomes and impact stories from the project in regional and national FSOP meetings. Coordinate research efforts to address knowledge gaps.This objective will leverage working group discussions to advance applied research proposals to fill identified knowledge gaps and inform best practices for produce safety in hydroponics and aquaponics.

Callahan, Christopher
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