Q: Where are you from? Tell us a bit about yourself.

Leo White Bear basilA: I live in Central Wisconsin, outside a small town on 10-acres. I have been into aquaponics for about 5-years and have two hobby systems up and producing. With 10 bullheads I am growing okra, squash, tomatoes, lettuce, rosemary, beets, parsley, chives and mustard. Everyone that samples my veggies remarks that this is the way they remember veggies tasting.

I am helping people set up their own systems and supplying our disabled veterans and their families with a system built to their own special needs. I feel that we need to support them any way we can because of their sacrifice for us and our country.

Q: How did you get interested in aquaponics?

A: A friend knows how much I enjoy research and development and ask me if I ever thought about aquaponics. I was aware of hydroponics but didn’t like all the nutrients involved so with a bit of research and joining groups and blogs, I decided to build my own small system. When I bit into my first ripe tomato warm off the vine and got my shirt wet with the tomato juice, I was hooked. I now have a hybrid system in my yard growing all kinds of fresh veggies and some great tasting fish.

Q: How are you currently working with aquaponics? Home setup, community greenhouse, etc.

A: I have two hobby systems, one permanently in my dining room and one in my front yard. I also help others set up their own system. I am currently raising funds to build a 26-foot geodesic dome so I can grow all year long and hold tours for those interested in this hobby.

Q: Tell us about your system. Geek out a bit and tell us all the specs.

Leo White Bear systemA: My main system is a hybrid of media and NFT and consists of two 30-gallon half barrels filled with 3/4″ purple quartzite. Plumbed into these grow beds are 4, 10-foot horizontal downspouts with 11 holes in each for herbs. My fish tank is a donated 150-gallon milk bulk tank that is insulated so the fish don’t experience much temperature change. I built the framework out of pallets and 10′ x 6″ x 2″ boards. Cross pieces of cut-down pallets make up the cross members. The whole system cost me about $130.00 and runs a pump on a timer which triggers 1/2-hour on – 1-hour off and is rated at 400-gallon head. I turn all the water over every 1/2-hour. As you can see, I am an advocate of “Scrounge Technology”. Next year I want to change this system over to solar with a battery back-up.

Q: What plants and fish have you had the best luck with? And the worst?

A: I have had great success with raising catfish, bullheads, bass, bluegill and yellow perch. Although all these fish have a long maturation time they still grow to just about a pound each.

I have had best success with tomatoes, squash, lettuce, basil, parsley, chives, rosemary, beets and mustard. My least successful would be dill, patchouli, okra (not hot enough this summer), peppers (same reason) and cabbage.

Q: What do you like most about aquaponics? Least?

A: I like most is taking care of the fish, I want to get into breeding my own stock. I also like watching the plant grow day-by-day and the first taste of the produce. I also love talking to others about my systems and showing off with how great the produce tastes.

I think the least thing I like is maintenance, cleaning the pumps, pipes. Although I know it is a vital aspect of aquaponics and must be done monthly, I get concerned with the health of the fish so it gets done, every month.

Q: What do you think the biggest misconception about aquaponics is?

A: I think that people believe that aquaponics will be just putting fish and a grow bed together and you.ll be growing all the veggies you will need for the year. Without research on how much square footage is needed to feed a family of four many are disillusioned with the room needed and that it takes about a year for the system to fully mature. The learning curve is also not realized along with the maintenance. Patience is another big obstacle people have. We live in an instant gratification world and aquaponics doesn’t fit into this life style.

Q: What are your future aquaponics goals?

A: I want to build my geodesic dome greenhouse for my system, heat it with a rocket mass heater and be able to share fresh produce with friends all year long. The most satisfying thing I can think of is eating a ripe juicy tomato while looking outside during a snow storm.

Q: What do your friends say when you show them your system for the first time?

A: How did you build this set up, I would like to try it myself. Tell me about your fish, how long did it take for your plants to get this big?

Q: What’s the best recipe you’ve ever had/made, based around something you grew in your system?

A: My wife is not too keen on bell peppers, I love them. So today I harvested 4 billiard ball squash, hollowed them out and filled each with a pat of butter and a homemade meatloaf. I wrapped each in aluminum foil with a bit of water inside for making steam and put them on the BBQ grill for an hour. WOW! those were nice. Tender and flavorful. My wife really took to eating them. Next I want to harvest the squash, hollow them out, fill with chicken and Cheddar cheese, roll them in an egg wash, bread them and deep fry them. Chicken and cheese squash rellenos.What’s the best recipe you’ve ever had/made, based around something you grew in your system?

To find Leo and learn more about what he is doing go here