Q: Where are you from? Tell us a bit about yourself.
A: I am from Racine, Wisconsin. I have a long relationship with gardening, and I was an avid tropical fish raising/breeding fanatic.
Q: How did you get interested in aquaponics?
A: It actually started with making compost for my garden. I was interested in vermiculture, and had seen on a local news channel what Will Allen of Milwaukee was doing with worms. I decided to attend a weekend course to learn more about it, and aquaponics were one of the days courses that I chose. I was intrigued at how he was rearing perch with the assistance of the Great Lakes Sea Grant Institute. He did perch, tilapia, catfish, and even Pacu. Soon afterwards I discovered Sylvia’s book, and it was all I needed to get started.
Q: How are you currently working with aquaponics? Home setup, community greenhouse, etc.
A: My system first started as a CHOP I layout which I later converted to CHOP II. I have been raising hybrid bluegill since November of 2012 where most are presently near harvest size. The info that Sylvia’s book had taught me, along with her on-line course, had set me on a positive path were I only lost 2 fish, and they were runts that refused to eat anyway. I enjoy growing mostly lettuce, chard, broccoli, basil, and even grape tomatoes in my one plus year old system. I recently purchased an 20 foot, by 86 foot high tunnel, and a 13′ x 20′ glass green house, that I will convert to twin wall polycarbonate, to accommodate these extreme Wisconsin winters. My current system is in my basement.
Q: Tell us about your system. Geek out a bit and tell us all the specs.
A: My system is CHOP II, and consists of an IBC tote fish tank of 150 gallons. An IBC top grow bed , with a true twelve inch expanded clay bed, and two floating raft beds, along with a 30 gallon sump/swirl filter. It has two pumps to move the water, and an 1157 GPH piston air pump to oxygenate the two raft tanks, and the FT.
Q: What plants and fish have you had the best luck with? And the worst?
A: I currently grow mostly lettuces, greens, and grape tomatoes. Those indeterminate tomatoes go absolutely nuts! I just raise hybrid bluegill for now, but after suffering a heart attack exactly one year ago, I am thinking of doing tilapia. They are an excellent source of omega 3, and are such good little poopers to fertilize the grow beds. The sky is the limit from here on in!
Q: What do you like most about aquaponics? Least?
A: The water. Its sounds, the way it supports life, and the way it makes its way through the system. I guess I should have been a plumber.
Q: What do you think the biggest misconception about aquaponics is?
A: The thought most folks have of it being hard, and failure being the out come. This system is so easy, and flawless! Nearly a year and a half has gone by and; I only lost two fish. I have never had to dismantle to clean any pvc pipe. Never lost a pump due to failure. Alan’s bell syphon is so darn reliable it has fired religiously ever since it was set up. All I do is feed the fish, monitor the water, and eat freash salads in the middle of winter when its minus 20° outside…..
Q: What are your future aquaponics goals?
A: Setting up the two greenhouse/high tunnels this spring. This is going to be my early retirement job. Too many people lining up to push carts at Walmart! I want to do this on a big scale. Either CSA, or supply fine dining establishments/road stand. It is time for me to get out of the factory after 38 years already!!
Q: What do your friends say when you show them your system for the first time?
A: They say: Can you grow weed? Most are just amazed that I can go fishing in my basement.
Q: What is your next big gear purchase going to be? What about your next small one?
A: My greenhouses will keep me busy for some time. I did but a used backhoe to install the tanks in the ground, and will use the water heat to heat the GH’es. I found out that in ground tanks aren’t really necessary, but the tractor is a neat toy, so there for justifiable 🙂
Q: What’s the best recipe you’ve ever had/made, based around something you grew in your system?
A: Oh. Salads of every shape, style, and taste. Need I say more?