Aquaponics provides fresh, local and sustainable produce and fish throughout the entire year.
Aquaponics, like hydroponics, is an innovative, soil-less farming technique. Aquaponics is a way to produce high quality naturally grown fruits, fish and vegetables while bypassing the limitations of growing seasons. Farming without soil and climate constraints allows us to localize our food supply, creating an abundance of sustainable food all year round. Produce is sold to local institutions and supports our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program.
Aquaponics joins Riverview Gardens’ other social enterprises which are the mission muscle of our non-profit, and where ServiceWorks participants receive transferable skills job training. With the addition of Aquaponics, Riverview Gardens is the largest indoor growing facility from De Pere to Fond du Lac.
So, how does it work?
To get a bit more technical, aquaponics is a combination of recirculating aquaculture and hydroponics. The main difference from traditional farming is aquaponics eliminates the need for mined or manufactured fertilizer by instead using fish waste. This creates an ecosystem that both fish and our delicious lineup of greens can thrive in. Additionally, our process uses only 10% of the amount of water used in normal ground soil growing of crops and other methods of gardening.
The lettuce is planted in a soil-less grow bed that rests atop a large tank. Separate from the grow bed lie a number of fish that eat and produce waste in that tank. As the water gets recirculated through the tank with a small pump, it’s passed through a filtration system. Here the waste is broken down into micro-nutrients, after which it then makes its way to the lettuce roots functioning as a natural fertilizer before returning the clean water to the fish tanks.
The end product is a perfect head of lettuce filled to the brim with nutrients that often are missing in traditionally grown vegetables. Plus, since we harvest the whole plant including the root, you’re guaranteed a product with both a long shelf life and the freshest leaves in town.
This full process takes place in a greenhouse, allowing us to produce large quantities of nutrient-rich vegetables no matter the weather.