Aquaponics operation offers fresh food, job opportunities

ORC Industries introduces Good Greens Aquaponics

There’s a new way to find fresh produce and fish in the area.

ORC Industries introduced Good Greens Aquaponics, an entirely-indoor operation that harvests fish and grows produce without soil.

The system works as a cycle, recirculating water so the fish provides nutrients for the plants, and the plants provide cleaner water for the fish. The food is grown naturally without the use of fertilizers, herbicides or insecticides.

“They’re purely natural, and a lot of people today are very concerned about the fish they buy,” said Mary Rohrer, business development director for ORC industries.

Besides fresh food, Rohrer said Aquaponics offers meaningful job opportunities.

“We have a harvesting schedule in which the individuals who have developmental disabilities can work in this operation,” she said. “And besides that, who doesn’t want to work in this atmosphere 24/7 in Wisconsin?”

According to Rohrer, ORC’s mission is employ adults with disabilities.

“We’re serving a population, but for ORC, would not have meaningful jobs and employment in an organization which gives them a sense of well-being and self confidence,” she said. “That’s an important asset to the community.”

According to Rohrer, eventually Good Greens will bring in 25 to 30 of their clients. They’re beginning to train employees on the various jobs it takes to keep the operation going.

“There’s a lot of small tasks,” said Aquaponics Facilities director Erik Carlson. “We break it up into a lot of areas. We have transplanting; we have seeding; we have harvesting; we have actual packaging of plants, feeding fish, overall maintaining plant health, removing plants from the system and plant care.”

Rohrer said Good Greens is the biggest aquaponics operation from Milwaukee to Minneapolis. Right now, they have over 7,000 fish and can grow 168 heads of lettuce a day, and that number is expected to go up. While lettuce is the main crop, they are also growing mint, basil, cilantro, oregano and a variety of peppers.

Some local restaurants like The Waterfront in La Crosse, and Beedles Bar and Restaurant in Centerville are currently serving Good Greens Aquaponics lettuce.

Rohrer said that in about three to four months, a storefront at Good Greens will open for customers to purchase fresh produce and fish directly.