Four principles guide the CHiPS standard.
The Standard rests on four principles: Clean inputs, transparent labeling, nutrient density and resource use.
CHiPS certified operations must only use inputs that are OMRI-listed or NOP-compliant. The Standard sets forth protocols for sanitation and pest control that allow operators to manage their facilities without contaminating their crops.
CHiPS certified operations must label their wholesale cases and retail packages “hydroponic”.. The CHiPS seal serves this purpose on tags, labels, bands and packaging. If the seal is not used, an appropriate statement must appear to convey to shoppers that a hydroponic system was used. “Container Grown” and similar terms designed to obfuscate the use of hydroponics are not allowed. CHiPS certified operations may also be certified organic by the USDA, but the USDA Organic Seal may not appear on or with CHiPS produce. Only the certification text “Certified Organic by XXX” may be used on wholesale or retail goods.
Hydroponic production has the potential, as yet unproven, to improve the overall nutrient density of produce or, at least, increase certain vitamin, mineral and phytonutrient levels. The Alliance for Sustainable Hydroponics endeavors to identify best practices to broadly improve nutrition, and will undertake advanced laboratory analysis to confirm them. CHiPS certified operations agree to participate in this research.
Water, Energy and other Resources
No agricultural system is entirely independent of outside resources. Proponents of hydroponic systems sometimes make expansive claims about the reduction in water and land use compared to soil-based farming. The Alliance for Sustainable Hydroponics requires that its certified operations provide data on the amount and source of energy and water used, among other inputs. This information will be aggregated and anonymized to build a baseline for sustainable practices.