With the growing popularity of locally-grown food there is growing interest in aquaponics. Rebecca Nelson and John Pade are pioneers in the business, raising tilapia in tanks, taking the waste water from the tanks, running it through a bacteria tank then into tanks with floating plants. The plants pull the nutrients out of the water which is then returned to the fish tanks.
While one could grow just about any kind of plant you want in the greenhouse, Nelson and Pade mainly grow fancy lettuce, herbs, Swiss chard and other leafy plants because they grow fast and turn quickly. The produce is marketed to Montello area schools, restaurants, grocery stores and consumers. They sell everything they grow within a 15-mile radius of the town of 1,500 residents. The facility also produces about 2,000 pounds of fish per year which Nelson says they have no trouble marketing, “People stop in every day to see if we have fish to sell.” Most is processed locally and sold as filets.
Rebecca and John are passionate about their food production system and aggressively promote it around the world. Three-day workshops are conducted several times a year for interested parties. Upon completion of the workshops, the attendees may choose to stay on at the facility for a longer time to learn more before returning home to build their own system. Recently they have expanded the educational aspect by working with the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point to create a one-semester, three-credit college aquaponics course. The lectures are conducted on-line with the final three days in the greenhouse. The first group had 27 students from as far away as California and Canada.
“The interest is global,” Nelson says, “we have had people from 48 states and 23 countries in this greenhouse in just the last two years. People see aquaponics as a sustainable way to grow fresh food for localized markets and it is unique because one system grows a protein crop and a vegetable crop.” More information is available on their website found here: