Permits for aquaponics

Some one asked me the other day if they needed a permit or anything like that for aquaponics. Also just the other day I was trying to figure out if I needed any special extra license, permit or something in order to sell fresh produce. I spent hours searching for answers. And way back when I was having issues with code enforcement, I called the county and asked a huge list of questions about what was allowed on residential property in Orange County Florida and what would require building/zoning permits.

Now here is the disclaimer, I’m not a lawyer and while this information I believe to be correct to the best of my knowledge at this time for Orange County Florida, I can’t guarantee any of it. Do your own double checking for your situation and location.

So, lets go back to when I was trying to make sure I wouldn’t get in trouble for having an aquaponics system (FYI there is no Home Owners Association with any power over my property nor any deed restrictions so I am only dealing with the county code.)
Q) Do I need a permit for an ornamental pond?
A) You would need an electrician to pull a permit to run electrical out to the pond for the pump.
Q) What if the pond was already close enough to an outdoor outlet to plug in the pump.
A) Then it’s fine.
Q) Do I need a permit for container gardens or raised garden beds?
A) Only if the raised garden beds require retaining walls over a certain height that would require foundations be poured. We don’t want anyone being crushed by a block wall collapsing on them.
Q) Do I need a permit for a greenhouse.
A) Yes (Building permits in Orange County require stamped engineering drawings.)
Q) Do I need a permit for a shade House
A) Yes
Q) Do I need a permit for a fence?
A) Yes
Q) What if it is just temporary garden fencing that I move all the time.
A) NO, that’s fine
Q) What if I tie shade cloth between two trees for privacy.
A) Can’t do that, Shade cloth makes it a structure and you need a permit for any structure, (can’t get engineering stamps for trees.)
Q) What about a trellis?
A) HUH?
Q) Like a wire piece you push into the ground to support your tomatoes
A) Oh that’s fine.
Q) Are Posts ok
A) Yes
Q) Can I tie strings or wires between the posts to support plants
A) Yes (But apparently I can’t tie any shade cloth to it, however, frost blanket is ok.)
Q) Can I have furniture in my yard.
A) Yes as long as none of it is attached to a post.
Q) Can I put up a canopy
A) You would have to get a tent permit for that and they are only good for two weeks at a time twice a year, require drawings showing parking, exits and fire extinguishers. (ya gotta be kidding me, I’m talking some shade for a outdoor dining table not a wedding, but apparently they are not allowed.)

Ok, so what this says to me is I have fish ponds and raised garden beds. The county doesn’t want to hear about aquaponics, they have no idea what it is nor how it would fit into a residential back yard. They can understand gardens and ornamental ponds and both of those are allowed. If you go trying to explain aquaponics to them, they will be sending you to get an aquacutlure permit and you will be over in zoning trying to explain that no you are not running a commercial fish farm, you just want a garden while they are busy telling you that you can’t have a fish farm on residential property. Anyway, best not to confuse the issue unless you really do want to run a full scale fish farm.

Ok fast forward a bit. I’m running my aquaponics and I’ve moved on to start my business, it’s really a web based business. Anyone visiting the house is really visiting me personally to see my gardens. I have a business license but now I have some one wanting me to sell produce as well and there was something in the paperwork saying I needed all appropriate permits and licenses etc.
?What sort of permits do I need to sell fresh produce? Is there a basil license?
I spent hours searching the internet to see if there was something more I needed in order to say take my excess veggies to a farmers market or somewhere else to sell and I didn’t really find anything solid to answer my question. I was feeling worried since lack of proof is not proof of lack so to speak.

And here is what I got when I asked the Orange County extension agent if I needed any sort of permit or license for selling fresh produce.

Good question. The answer depends on where you are located, where you intend to sell your produce, and how much produce you sell. There are few restrictions in rural areas for what you want to do. If you are zoned “agricultural” and you want to sell produce that you grow at your home, then no licenses are required. Most areas where your zoning is “residential” don’t allow a business to be conducted out of your home especially if it involves traffic (lots of deliveries/pickups). In your case, you are most likely selling small amounts of produce to neighbors so this may not be a problem but in an urban area if you put up a sign in your yard advertising produce sales at your home you will get a visit from code enforcement. Since you already have a business license you should be able to go to a farmer’s market and sell your produce under that license. For anyone without a license most city and county’s have a mobile peddlers license that can be purchased to sell at flea and farmer’s markets in their jurisdiction. If this is an occasional occurrence and you are going to the market a few times a year (not considered a business) then you should not need a business license unless the flea or farmer’s market requires it before they will allow you to setup there. If you are selling a lot of produce and intend for this to be a business then you may as well get a license…either the peddlers license, business license, or both.

Ok, that answers that.

But what if one wants to really go commercial with aquaponics?
Florida has an aquaculture permit program that one should look into.
Also, if doing more than simply selling the produce and fish live or whole on ice, one would need to contact the health department for info on food handing facility requirements and certifications.
Finally, I believe at some point, liability insurance should be added to the business plan.

5 comments to Permits for aquaponics

  • Wow it is crazy how many regulations there are. Ive been thinking of trying to sell some of my Bhut Jolokia peppers at the farmers market when they get bigger. Everyone loves to see if they can handle the heat im hoping they will sell.

  • TCLynx

    Luckily I don’t think there is yet a regulation when it comes to picking a peck of peppers and selling them.

    If you do anything other than selling fresh peppers though you may have to look into the food handling to do any processing and then you will probably also need to charge sales tax to sell any value added stuff.

  • TCLynx

    Sorry, a little more info in the comment might have kept the spam blocker from sticking your comments in the Spam folder. I don’t get notices when new spam comments come in so I didn’t see this comment right away.

    WOW, THAT is NEW. (Take Note, my blog post is from before the Aquaponics Association Conference, this new web page in the link below appears to be new since the conference.)

    Anyway, Just had a quick look at the link. Florida Aquaponics Licenses and permits

    Looks like for personal consumption residential systems, provided you are not selling any animals and not buying species from out of state. Still NO PERMIT REQUIRED.

    If you sell fish, then you need the Aquaculture license and permits. If you are selling fish for human consumption you need the licenses and permits. If you are processing any fish for human consumption you need the the proper facilities and food handling licenses.

    If you are just selling some produce, as noted I looked into it. Through the Extension service. There are only limited types of commodity produce at the moment that have extra regulation.

    Food permit (if selling products for human consumption) issued by DACS

    (Go to the link in the link above and you will see they are talking about processing of meat and other animal products like eggs and milk.) This one applies if you are processing the fish. Won’t affect veggie produce at this point in time.

    Herb, leafy greens, and vegetable production may be regulated by DACS Division of Fruit and Vegetables

    (Note, this one says May be regulated. When I went to the site, here are the commodity produce that has extra regulation you might want to look into.

    The Division of Fruit and Vegetables administers rules that regulate standards, grades, and marketing orders for various fruit and vegetable commodities to include citrus, limes, avocados, peanuts and tomatoes.

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