Wisconsin News

Assignment: Education - Aquaponics

A grant provides new opportunities for students

Assignment: Education - Aquaponics

ONALASKA, Wis. (WKBT) - "I've never done anything like this," said Aaron Johnson, Onalaska High School senior.

Neither have any of the other students currently at Onalaska High School.

"We had to saw big barrels in half," said Johnson.

But Senior Aaron Johnson is not doing this for shop class.

"We started them all from seed," said Johnson.

He's not taking a class in horticulture either.

"This is an Independent study," said Johnson.

And his focus is Aquaponics.

"It's growing plants in a soilless medium with the nutrients provided by fish," said Johnson.

"So the fish waste cycles through the plants," said Rhett Hanson, Onalaska High School science teacher. "The plants filter out the waste and use if for nutrients to grow. Then the water is cleaned and circulated back to the fish."

And the whole system was researched and built by one Onalaska High School science teacher and two of his students who were inspired by this space just off of the science labs.

"Seeing a greenhouse that needs more life in it and needs to get utilized a little bit more," said Hanson.

"Half the people here don't really know there is a greenhouse," said Johnson. "They see it, but they forget about it just ‘cause it's never used."

But that's all changed. These grow beds of different lettuces and tomatoes are being filled with water siphoned from this giant fish tank with five Koi.

"Then the plants will take up the nutrients right away from the fish waste that were in the water," said Johnson.

The water will be siphoned back out of the grow beds and into this blue tank.

"Then there's a swirl filter in there that will take out any heavy particles that are in the water," said Johnson. "The water is then sent back into the fish tank."

"The only think we'll have to do is, because of evaporation, we'll have to replace the water that evaporates off," said Hanson.

Making this Aquaponics science lab almost completely self-sustaining.

"For the Earth, it's a better system," said Hanson. "We're not having to use fertilizer, rely on fossil fuels and so on. Just understand the dynamics of living organisms a little bit better."

"I would definitely do it again if we could," said Johnson.


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