Committees and Advisory Board

Sarah_TaberSarah Taber, DPM, Director
Food Safety Committee

The Food Safety Committee is responsible for exploring how food safety concerns associated with raising plants and fish are different from traditional agriculture and aquaculture and identifying good agricultural practices for aquaponic growers.


Dr. Sarah Taber graduated with a Doctorate in Plant Medicine from the University of Florida in 2011. Since that time she has been involved in post-doctorate research identifying cytoplasmically-inherited traits in southern highbush blueberry and quantifying yield loss resulting from inbreeding depression when flowers are self-pollinated.

While performing market research in preparation for her own aquaponics system, Sarah determined the lack of information about food safety as the single factor preventing widespread adoption of aquaponics. As Food Safety Director, Sarah states her primary missions are to:

  • Identify primary food safety risks in aquaponic systems;
  • Spearhead the research process to obtain information about pathogen levels in AP systems and develop in-situ pathogen control methods;
  • Develop partnerships with universities, retailers, food safety auditing bodies, and other stakeholders;
  • Assist AA leadership in developing food safety training materials for growers.


jeffJeff Pernell, Director
Education Committee

The Education Committee is charged with developing a variety of curricular materials for K-12 classrooms and colleges, as well as education and information for the backyard hobbyist.

Jeff Pernell has 17 years of experience at many levels in public and private education, including conceptualization, design, implementation and executive oversight of projects for community partnerships, startups, and not-for-profit organizations.

His research in byproduct optimization led him to help companies and municipalities turn waste streams into revenue streams specifically through the implementation of aquaponics food production systems. He recently installed an Aquaponics prototype system at the University of Montana’s Dining Services garden.

Prior to becoming Education Direcotr, Jeff werved as Chair for the Northwest Region of the United States.


MichelleDr. Michelle Thomas, Director
Aquaponics Health Committee

The Health Committee is charged with identifying and promoting health benefits related to aquaponics. The Health Committee also supports the Food Safety Committee in explaining the health impacts of unsafe agricultural practices.

Dr. Thomas is a native of New York City who now makes Washington DC her home. She is a physician and entrepreneur married to writer of fiction, Milton Parirsh. Dr. Thomas received from medical education at Rutgers Medical School, Surgery Internship and Residency was completed at The  Brooklyn Hospital and Trauma-Critical Care fellowship at the University of Maryland R. Adams  Cowley Shock Trauma Center.

Dr. Thomas finds gardening has been away for keeping mind-body and spirit in focus. Dr. Thomas was first introduced to intensive multidimensional agriculture and aquaponics by Growing Power Inc. in Milwaukee WI, where she completed Commercial Agriculture Training. Dr. Thomas trained in construction deepwater culture and media-based aquaponics in Hawaii. She has received continued education in aquaponics and aquaculture from The School of Freshwater Sciences University of WI, Great Lakes Institute, University of Hawaii and Brunswick Community College N.C. She leads G Food 4U LLC a development company with the goal to integrate urban agriculture and aquaponics with urban renewal. G Food 4U LLC has a intensive grow and aquaponics hoop house under  construction in partnership with The Urban Farm of Stapleton, Denver CO. In 2012 Dr Thomas was recruited as the Director of the Aquaponics Association Health Committee with efforts to contribute to dissemination of health and science information related to aquaponics, aquaculture, “food as medicine” foodborne illness, food safety, zoonosis, herbal and medicinal horticulture, nutrition and the microbiome.  More health committee members are needed for active participation.


Casey Townsend, Director
2013 Conference Committee

The Conference Committee plans and presents the annual Aquaponincs Association conference, workshops, tours and membership meeting. The Conference Committee director from 2013 will serve as mentor to the director for the 2014 conference.

Casey Townsend is the Founder of the Tucson AquaPonics Project and is the co-owner of a start-up business called Arnavon with Kathryn Townsend, his wife and partner of 27 years. Together they are living, advocating and teaching Integrated Urban Agriculture, Food Security, Food Safety, and Food Freedom.

By day an I.T. Project Manager, most of Casey’s nights and weekends are spent growing things, or teaching other people how to grow things. Casey earned his Master Gardener certification in 1996 and has experience in Drylands Permaculture, 4-H Small Stock Animal Husbandry, Seed Saving and now 4 years of hands-on experience with Aquaponics. Casey and Kathryn have 8 children, and now are enjoying their first grandchild. They live on a 1/5 acre city lot filled with both aquaponic and soil based ‘beyond organic’ gardens and 3 dogs, two cats, dozens of chickens, scores of rabbits and innumerable fish.

Open Director Position

Information Technology

The IT Committee is tasked with directing and managing the Association’s mission and forward momentum.

If interested in this role, contact us at


Open Director Position

Membership Committee

The Membership Committee will help further develop the Region and Branch structure while also focusing on member services, recruitment and retention.

If interested in this compensated role, contact us at


Open Director Position

Programs & Policies

The Programs and Policy Committee is tasked with directing and managing the Association’s mission and forward momentum.

If interested in this role, contact us at


Open Director Position
Finance and Fundraising Committee

The Finance and Fundraising Committee provides financial oversight of the Association and provides financial advice and counsel to the Executive Team and the Board of Directors.

If interested in this role, contact us at



Advisory Board

Gina Cavaliero, Managing Director
Green Acre Aquaponics

As inaugural Chariman of the Board and co-founder of the Aquaponics Association, Gina Cavaliero is dedicated to the mission of advancing the aquaponics industry for fellow members and farmers. Her initial vision was to create an organization to promote aquaponics and educate the general public on the benefits of aquaponically grown food, all while providing protection for the burgeoning industry. Gina is the managing director of Green Acre Aquaponics, one of Florida’s first commercial aquaponic farms, where she directs daily farm operations, marketing and sales, as well as the aquaponic training program and consultation division of the business. Before becoming an aquaponic farmer, Gina was co-owner and managing director of a multi-million dollar, semi-national construction contracting firm. She received her Bachelor of Science from the University of Florida in Anthropology, with a minor in Education. Gina practices Natural Horsemanship in Brooksville, FL, home to the farm, three horses, two dogs, two cats, chickens and more tilapia and koi then can be counted.

Myles HarstonMyles Harston, Founder
AquaRanch, Inc.

Myles is the founder of AquaRanch, the first commercial aquaponics farm to grow tilapia from spawn to fillet and organic produce from seed to retail. Myles has been involved in aquaculture since 1985, and involved in growing aquaponically before it was even called aquaponics.


JD Sawyer, President
Colorado Aquaponics

JD began Colorado Aquaponics in 2009 with his wife Tawnya to promote aquaponics through educational programming and consulting services. They have since taught over 2,000 students from all over the U.S and have implemented several educational and community aquaponics systems in schools and non profits throughout Colorado.
JD grew up in Acton, Massachusetts surrounded by water and fish in a unique house reclaimed from an early 1800s saw mill. Moving to Colorado in 1996, he began his career as a software systems engineer  and director of operations. He led multiple campus operating departments including all physical plant operations, information technology, dining and catering services. He authored and implemented strategic and master plans that led to the management of over forty million dollars of capital improvement projects on a historic 26 acre campus. Several sustainability and efficiency initiatives were implemented during his time as director of operations that resulted in reduced campus operating costs and environmental impact.


Chris Schup

Chris Schup, Art Director and Creative Strategist
Schup Design

As the former Marketing and Public Relations Committee Director, Chris Schup guided the design, brand identity and marketing component of The Aquaponics Association from 2011 to 2013.

Leveraging her creative career with a passion for organic agriculture and sustainable living, her devotion to aquaponics and the promotion of its benefits are palpable. Chris is a mainstay on the live music scene, and performs drums and percussion with local bands in Richmond, VA.