Many people garden in the warmer months, growing anything from berries to beans. But beyond plants, how many of those people would also be interested in a year-round endeavor of producing their own fish?
The UW-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences, a leading center for research into the Great Lakes ecosystem, along with one of the country’s leading organizations in the field of urban agriculture, Milwaukee's own Growing Power, have united forces to find out, and to lead the way in educating people on how to do so.
The organizations are working together to create a series of intensive multi-day workshops on aquaponics -the field of cultivating both plants and fish in a controlled environment. Their events draw people from around the country and the world.
Founder and CEO of Growing Power and MacArthur Fellow, Will Allen, says that eating fish is something that many people can get behind, even people who never eat red meat, poultry or are otherwise vegetarians. He says, though, that all good things take work.
"This is much different than just growing some plants," he explains. "[When cultivating] fish, you really have to know what you're doing because if something goes south, you have to know how to get your fish back in line and save as many as you can."
Allen explains one of the draws of producing fish with recirculating systems. "These indoor facilities are important because you have less mercury in the fish," he says. "You have a cleaner product, and you're able to test the product and keep it under control. That's important to me that we know what we're giving our customers."
Fred Binkowski, senior scientist at the UWM School of Freshwater Sciences adds that there are additional ecological benefits. "Doing urban aqaculture and urban aquaponics, you're putting the product at the center of consumer demand," he says. "You're reducing the carbon footprint significantly because of that. You don't have to be trucking stuff, [in contrast to] our tomato that we eat in the wintertime [that] travels about 2,000 miles before it gets to our kitchen counter."