Nelson & Pade Inc. Blog

  • Author Ali Berlow holds book talk and signing at Nelson and Pade, Inc.

    ali-and-becOn Saturday, July 18, 2015, Nelson and Pade was honored to host Madison, WI native and author Ali Berlow. Ali Berlow is the author of The Mobile Poultry Slaughterhouse and the co-owner of Edible Vineyard, and she has been writing professionally for more than 10 years. She got her start in 2002 with the NPR essay series A Cook’s Notebook. Nine years ago Ali founded Island Grown Initiative, a grassroots nonprofit on Martha’s Vineyard. Under her leadership and vision, Island Grown Initiative launched many of the types of project and ventures described in her newest book, The Food Activist Handbook: Big & Small Things You Can Do To Help Provide Fresh, Healthy Food For Your Community.

    During the book talk and signing Ali shared with the crowed the tools and knowledge on how to make a difference, even in a small rural area like ours in Montello, WI. Become engaged. Use your voice. Big change can start with just one. Ali’s book sparked action within our community to begin mapping out where in our county local food can be found.

    Find out more about the big and small things you can do within your community and beyond with the guidance of Ali’s book. You can purchase a copy through our online store.

    Here is an excerpt from Ali’s awesome book:

    10 Easy Things Anyone Can Do to Build a Better Food Community

    1. Host a farmer’s dinner

    2. Start a sustainable book club

    3. Preserve land for community gardens

    4. Grow a kitchen garden

    5. Contribute to a food pantry

    6. Hold a food-themed poetry workshop

    7. Harvest public fruit trees

    8. Host a food swap

    9. Teach kids to cook

    10. Serve on a board or commission

  • WI Lt. Gov. Kleefisch Visits Nelson and Pade, Inc. and UWSP-AIC

    kleefisch-01On Tuesday, July 15, 2015, we were honored to have a visit from the Wisconsin Lt. Governor, Rebecca Kleefisch, who was accompanied by UW System Regent, Regina Milner. John Pade, UWSP Professor Dr. Chris Hartleb and I gave the tour of our new greenhouse facilities and the UWSP-Aquaponics Innovation Center. We were thrilled and honored to host this tour and to spend time with these two dynamic women. They were genuinely interested in the achievements of our company and the paths we have created for people around the world to achieve food sovereignty. Lt. Governor Kleefisch especially appreciated the healthy nature of what we do and grow, noting that fresh fish and vegetables grown without chemicals, pesticides or herbicides, are an ideal diet.

    It is inspiring to see the Lt Governor’s willingness to learn about and understand the businesses of Wisconsin. In our case, we relocated from California in 2006 to grow our business in a state that was “Open for Business.” At that time, it was just John Pade and I (Rebecca Nelson). In late 2009 we purchased our current business property, which we occupied in early 2010. With just 2 employees then, we could see the potential for considerable growth for our company. Now have 22 employees and a global customer base.

    kleefisch-02The Lt. Governor thanked us for returning to Wisconsin to grow our business and for bringing people from around the world to attend our training classes in Montello, WI.  The economic impact of our efforts in Wisconsin were not overlooked.

    Another important factor recognized was the partnership that we have established with the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, which has launched new educational and research opportunities that will have far reaching, positive impacts on the aquaponics industry. Regent Milner is a proponent of aquaponics and this public/private partnership. This was her second visit to our facilities and the new UWSP-Aquaponics Innovation Center, located in our greenhouse. Regent Milner was very interested in the research aspect and opportunities that the UWSP-AIC is providing to students.

    kleefisch-03Our partnership with UWSP was launched several years ago when, together with UWSP Professor of Biology, Dr. Chris Hartleb, the first University-level aquaponics course in the world was developed and is now offered every year at UWSP.

    We do appreciate the Lt. Governor and UW System Regent Milner taking time out of their very busy schedules to visit us in Montello.

  • Mid 2015 Update

    new-aquaponic-greenhousesA full year has passed since we embarked on a major expansion of our facilities in Montello. It has been a whirlwind of activity over the past 12 months, from destruction to construction, assembly of new aquaponic systems and completion of 14,000 sq. ft of new greenhouses and a 6,000 sq. ft new manufacturing building at our Montello, WI business campus.  This all culminated with an extravagant Grand Opening in April. The Grand Opening celebrated the public/private partnership between UW-Stevens Point and Nelson and Pade, Inc., our new greenhouse facilities and the new UWSP-Aquaponics Innovation Center.

    The next event is our July Aquaponics Master Class, which takes place in our new greenhouse and 1200 sq. ft. classroom.  We welcome a diverse mix of International attendees in every one of our Master Classes.  In July, our class will be at full capacity with attendees from throughout the US and Canada and the islands of Bermuda and Puerto Rico.

    We have an abundance of new commercial projects in the works for the latter half of 2015, in locations ranging from California to Malaysia, Texas to Canada.  It looks like it will be a very busy fall at Nelson and Pade, Inc. as we continue our goal of helping people get started and become successful in aquaponics.

    Keep up to date on our daily activities on our Facebook and Twitter pages!

  • Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

    Below is an email we received from Batho Matubudi from Botswana, a past attendee of our Aquaponics Master Class. His comments ring so true. Thank you, Batho, for sharing your thoughts and suggestions. You say it better that we could have.

    “Hi Rebecca/John –

    I thought I should catch up with you. One of the fundamental learnings I have had since leaving your Master Class of April 2013 is that trying to set-up Aquaponics from scratch without utilising a proven system is nothing but a recipe for disaster.

    My business partner and I stand here today with essentially $270K down the drain. At the time we decided that obtaining a system from you would be expensive when we looked at the logistical implications and pricing parameters within our market. However, what we did not take into consideration was the opportunity cost of not starting on our best foot. In this instance, our best foot would have been starting with a system whose design was proven and all we had to do was grapple with management and following best practice. We built our own system utilising the little knowledge that we had gained from my attendance in class, the aquaponics book and other online sources. At best whilst our system was able to prove at a theoretical level that aquaponics as a farming practice works, our design was not efficient and did not meet any of the targets we had set for our-selves in this commercial venture.

    When I look back, we could have spent the year penetrating our market becoming experts in the daily operations of aquaponics and we would have achieved a whole lot. I say this because without doubt, with our sub-par system, we still managed to generate a lot of interest and support for our initiative we just had the wrong set of tools.

    All in all, hindsight does have 20/20 vision and we can only learn from our mistakes. I hope other individuals do not find themselves in the same boat as we did. We are now trying to salvage our losses and are looking for ways to correct our path to the one that we should have originally taken.

    Going forward we will be looking at one of the larger commercial systems.

    Looking forward to hearing from you.

    Batho B. Motubudi”

  • Video and Photo Contest Winners Announced!

    We had a fantastic response to the contest and we truly enjoyed viewing all of the videos and photos.  We were challenged to pick the winners because we received many great entries.  But, after much consideration, we have chosen.  Below are the results of our first annual video and photo contest.  Congratulations to all of the winners as well as all of the participants who are growing food using Clear Flow Aquaponic Systems®.

  • Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and Aquaponics

    The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the most sweeping reform of our food safety laws in more than 70 years, was signed into law by President Obama on January 4, 2011. The FSMA is still being defined and has not yet been implemented. FDA states that they are committed to developing a final rule on produce safety that prevents illnesses but is also practical and adaptable to a wide diversity of growing conditions and practices. Based on current discussion, it appears that the FSMA will be implemented in early 2014.

    The past decade in the fresh food industry has been marred by continued incidence of food contamination and food-borne illness. Causes range from impure water to unsanitary conditions in fields and packing facilities, to imports that are not inspected. Much of this food, including what is labeled as organic, is coming from countries without strict safety, nutritional or environmental regulations. Food that is handled in massive processing and packaging facilities has proven to be susceptible to contamination as well. It is this precedent of large-scale food contamination that has prompted the US government to create the FSMA.

    Combining Controlled Environment Agriculture with Clear Flow Aquaponic Systems® and our patented ZDEP system, gives a grower the ability to enforce a bio-security program that will keep the food free of contamination. We can demonstrate this through our history of food safety as well as through scientific microbial testing.

    There have been concerns expressed by many about the far reaching control the FSMA gives to the FDA and there have been concerns about how the FSMA will affect small farmers, including aquaponic growers. The FSMA has been evolving from the original proposed statues based on public input. Given that the FSMA is still being refined, it is difficult to project exactly what the ramifications will be. As of now, the FDA website has the newest information and fact sheets posted, many reflecting the most recent changes, based on public input. All quoted text in this blog comes directly from the Fact sheets at the FDA website.

    One area of discussion in the aquaponics community is SubPart F, Biological Soil Amendments, part of which states that: “Soil amendments” are any chemical, biological, or physical material intentionally added to the soil to improve the chemical or physical condition of the soil in relation to plant growth or to improve the capacity of the soil to hold water. “Biological soil amendments of animal origin” are biological soil amendments which consist, in whole or in part, of materials of animal origin, such as manure or non‐fecal animal byproducts, or table waste, alone or in combination.”

    In aquaponics the “soil amendment” clause might not be an issue, since we have no soil to amend. And, in our Clear Flow Aquaponic Systems® with our patented ZDEP system, the fish waste is removed and just the nutrient-rich water is used to feed the plant roots. The system waster does not come in contact with the plant stem or leaves.

    If the fish waste in aquaponics is considered a “Soil Amendment,” there is a section titled “Alternatives” that allows variations in how “Biological Soil Amendments” can be applied, as long as the prevention of pathogens can be demonstrated. Specifically, it states that : “You may establish and use alternatives to the composting treatment processes established in §112.54(c) (1) and (c)(2), and for the minimum application intervals established in § 112.56(a)(1)(a) and in § 112.56(a) (4)(a), provided you have adequate scientific data or information to support a conclusion that the alternative would provide the same level of public health protection as the composting treatment processes and the minimum application intervals established in the proposed rule and would not increase the likelihood that your covered produce will be adulterated under sec?on 402 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.”

    And, it continues to state:“Farms would not need to ask permission or petition FDA in order to use alternative measures, provided they have adequate scientific data and documentation used to support those alternatives. That documentation could be as simple as a peer‐reviewed journal article or a State Extension bulletin; something developed and used successfully by the grower, a community of growers, or a process developed or made available to the grower by a third‐party. Farms would simply use the alternative measure and provide documentation if asked.”

    In aquaponics, we can demonstrate that the fish waste is from cold-blooded animals that do not harbor the same pathogens as warm-blooded animals and therefor, is not a threat to food safety. And, we can further demonstrate this through peer-reviewed journals and through microbial testing. The FDA has established acceptable levels of specific pathogens, with the intension being that if you can demonstrate that your produce is within the acceptable range, you will not be prohibited from selling it.

    After reading the fact sheets and information provided by the FDA on the FSMA, I am confident there will be an umbrella under which aquaponics will be allowed. The unfounded fears about the end of small farms that I have seen expressed in blogs and editorials are just that, unfounded. I do agree that the FSMA is far reaching and a big government path that is very invasive and costly for all of us. But, I do not anticipate that it will hamper the growth or incredible potential of aquaponic food production and controlled environment agriculture.

    Outdoor aquaponic farms and low-tech aquaponic farms that do not practice bio-security or food safety protocol could be at risk, however.

    The other area of discussion of the FSMA and aquaponic farms is the increased level of inspection and documentation that might be required. As it stands now, there are small-farm exemptions and partial exemptions, based on size. The basic premise is that any farm that grosses less than $25,000/year (for the past three years) is exempt and any farm that grosses less than $500,000/year will be partially exempt. Many aquaponic farms are relatively small compared to other food producers that these rules apply to, and will therefore be less affected by the FSMA. And, if you are a conscientious grower following a GAP plan, practicing food safety protocol and product tracing and documenting this, it is likely that you are already on your way to meeting some of the requirements of the FSMA.

    Keep in mind, though, that this bill and its definitions are still in flux. All information is available at:

    The fact sheet related to farming produce can be found here:

    Stay informed and if you want to know how the FSMA will affect you, read these documents rather than opinions, including mine.

  • A 1-Star Review

    Nov2014_Thank-You-Card1-1We recently completed our November Aquaponics Master Class with attendees from 4 continents and 9 individual countries. It was an exceptional group with a wide variety of planned uses for growing food in aquaponics. During and after the class, nearly all participants expressed their appreciation to us for the class and the comprehensive coverage of aquaponic technology, for the passion and experience that we demonstrate and for the outstanding work of the Team of people that work at Nelson and Pade, Inc.  During the class, the participants were actively posting about their experiences on facebook and twitter, totaling nearly 200 posts and tweets that included photos, comments about the class and what they were learning and enthusiastic praise for the instructors and class overall.  The group even presented us with a hand-made thank you card signed by nearly all participants.

    Nov2014_Thank-You-Card2Given that we have been teaching aquaponics classes since 1997 with consistently positive feedback and this group in particular was so appreciative, I was very surprised to find a negative review online of the November Master class from one attendee, Drew Dowling. Mr. Dowling’s 1 of 5 star review included a long diatribe full of criticisms, which were based on a combination of inaccuracies, quotes taken out of context and a lack of understanding of the information presented.

    I am sharing this with you because we take all comments and feedback seriously; good and bad, and we want each attendee of our class, each customer and everyone who interacts with our company in any way, to have a good experience. We want people to learn about and understand aquaponics so they can use this amazing technology to grow food and we share a great deal of information and research that our company has spent 20 years and hundreds of thousands of dollars developing and refining.

    In every Master Class, we always encourage attendees to talk with us, to provide input and comments so that we can best meet their needs and they can get the most out of the Master Class.  Mr. Dowling, during the three days of the class, never communicated his displeasure or concerns to John or I or any of our staff.  Online reviews provide a cowardly platform. Mr. Dowling was welcome to talk with us and express his concerns at any point during the three days. Instead, he chose not to and followed up with this negative review. In my opinion, if you don’t have to guts to share your concerns to us in person when you have the opportunity, you lose credibility and validity in your review.

    I believe this review does a disservice to anyone reading it, giving them a false sense of who our company is and what our goals are and providing misinformation to people who could benefit from our course in their quest of food security, food quality and sustainability.

    Ironically, in the last couple of sentences of his review, Mr. Dowling did share some positive comments about our staff and systems. But, given that it followed over ten paragraphs of negative statements, it is hard to understand what he was trying to achieve with this review, other than to possibly state pre-conceived ideas and to demonstrate that he made a decision not to learn, when he had a great opportunity to do so.

    Drew Dowling’s review is below. I am posting it here in its entirety, with my comments in in green, so that we have the opportunity to publically address his statements.

    “Short Story: The Aquaponic Master Class will not teach you to set up your own aquaponic system. The “Master Class” was only to supplement and convince you to buy one of their systems. If you knew that you had to travel out in the middle of no-where in Wisconsin, pay $1000, and learn nothing helpful in constructing your own aquaponic system, would you go? This was what happened.”

    If Mr. Dowling had listened, he would have gained a great deal of knowledge about the design and build of an aquaponic system. In addition to the extensive discussions in the classroom, we have two hobby systems and one commercial system in our greenhouses.  During the class, we walk through all components and even have a session on building techniques.  However, we do not advertise or promote the Aquaponics Master Class as a “design and build” course. There is no way we could comprehensively teach everything that goes into the design and build of a system, plus everything else we cover in the class related to the technology, science, business and controlled environment agriculture, in three days.

    “The Pentair course was much better and this class I had hoped was up to that level. Don’t get me wrong, the Pentair course was not perfect, but I did learned every detail of the systems and how to construct and do all calculations there at least. After day one at Nelson and Pade I learned nothing helpful. After Day 2, maybe one thing related to selling fish. Day three was nothing new either.”

    The only way you can learn nothing is if you chose not to learn. I just don’t believe this is a valid criticism. After teaching aquaponics to thousands of people from over 70 countries, no one has ever made a statement like this about our classes. It seems as though Mr. Dowling has an ulterior motive in this comparison.  Again, he made no effort to share these concerns with us while he had the opportunity.

     It is too bad Mr. Dowling did not take detailed notes during all of the presentations. Maybe he would have learned something. Read through the posts from fellow attendees on facebook and twitter during the November class, they posted a lot of things that they learned.

    “Dr. Rakocy is referred to as a “lonely professor” and “we came across his work” along with “the reason no one used his system is that it is not economically viable” For all intents and purposes, there system is practically the same system that Dr. Rakocy invented. Dr. Rakocy used to teach courses with them, why doesn’t he now? Ask yourself that!”

    These statements are taken out of context.  In John Pade’s opening, he used the words lonely when referring to Dr. Rakocy in the early days of aquaponics. Lonely was used in the context that there was very little knowledge available about aquaponics and very few people interested or practicing aquaponics at any level. Now, there is an exploding amount of interest in aquaponics.

    Dr. Rakocy has publically stated that the original UVI design was not economically viable and was not being adopted because of this. Our company’s focus for the last 15 years was to take this model and improve it so that we could demonstrate that it is commercially viable.  We have achieved this with many improvements and we are proud of that. I don’t believe that Mr. Dowling was paying attention when we discussed these improvements and how they have increased productivity from the UVI model by increasing plant production by 4-6 times.

    “Here are some more examples of what happens there:

    Started class by saying that “This class is not supposed to be an infomercial for Nelson and Pade.” Difficult to convince me otherwise!”  

    We are proud of our achievements and will always answer our attendee’s questions about our systems and services.  However, if you look at all that was presented during the three days; the majority was not about Nelson and Pade, Inc®. or our Clear Flow Aquaponic Systems®. It is about the science, technology and business of aquaponics.

    “Male presenter reminds you that you signed a “promise”(i.e. contract) to basically not compete with them for 2 years. “We want you to grow food” so they say, but is a “promise” necessary for that? Are they going to sue you if you start a consulting business?”

    The “male presenter” is John Pade, who has contributed greatly to development and establishment of the aquaponics industry. Mr. Dowling apparently, wasn’t listening when John introduced himself and somehow missed that it was John Pade who was speaking.  Referring to John Pade as “male presenter” is quite disrespectful in my opinion and demonstrates Mr. Dowling’s lack of focus and attention during the class.  Yes, we ask that people use the information we present to grow food in aquaponics. It is a promise that we asks participants to make. It is clearly stated on our registration form.  It came about because early on, we had a number of people attend our class and within weeks set up a website and call themselves a consultant, system designer or manufacturer. These people were not qualified and were a hindrance to the evolution of our industry, providing information and equipment that they didn’t have the experience to back up. Therefore, we ask the attendees of our class to grow food and get experience in aquaponics for 2 years prior to selling systems or consulting.

    “If you ever ask where you can buy something, they tell you “from us!”(just to note that everything I remember seeing can be bought from anyone else online or even at Lowes or Home Depot)”

    Yes, we sell systems and supplies and if someone asks, we tell them.  But, with the exception of pvc pipe and connectors, you can’t buy this stuff at Lowes or Home Depot.

    “Presentation was interrupted by male presenter randomly to say they you can only take no specific or detailed photos and no recording. (“no pictures of motor plates”)”

    We always make this statement at the beginning of every class and it is stated on the registration form. We allow general photos, not detailed photos of components or plumbing and no video or audio recording.

    “Male presenter also was very into informing that they “charge for project planning” but they keep saying that staff in available to answer questions for “project planning.”

    Yes, we charge for project planning but there is a lot of information we provide prior to project planning.  John’s statement was that attendees should ask all the questions they want, during and after the class.  If, after the class, the questions lead to what we cover in project planning, we’ll let you know and quote you on the cost.

    “They are obsessed with their “patented technology” which is as effective as a coffee filter, yet far more expensive. It is actually based on a design called a mineralization tank designed by Dr. Wilson Lennard.”

    This is so inaccurate I laughed out loud when I read it. During the class, John covers, in detail how the ZDEP (zero discharge, extra production) system works.  It dramatically increases plant production over the UVI or any other raft system. Mr. Dowling could not have been listening and come to this conclusion.  The ZDEP is completely separate from mineralization tanks, which we use as well. Dr. Rakocy first used mineralization tanks (which he called “filter” tanks) long before Wilson Lennard got out of college. We coined the term “mineralization tanks” because mineralization is one of the primary functions of that tank. Since then, Wilson and many others used this term.

    As far as the ZDEP, if it was “as effective as a coffee filter,” I don’t think the US Patent and Trademark Office would have granted us a patent.  Learn more about the ZDEP.

    Why did we patent it? To allow our company and our customers to use it, free of royalty fees. Since we show and explain the ZDEP in our classes and tours, any engineer or savvy business person could have filed a patent on it if we didn’t.  This would have prevented us and our customers from using it. We patented it to protect it and allow it to be used to increase food production and enhance the aquaponics industry.

    “They pretty much act like you should just not waste you time trying to design a system and just trust them. If you did that then you would pay them for this class, buy a system and ship it to you, then they want you to pay $1200 a week for up to four weeks for up to two people to stay and learn to run your system. Aquaponics is just not that difficult.”

    The most successful growers out there are using our systems. We truly believe starting with a proven design and a science-based system, training and support will give you the best opportunity to get stated and become successful in aquaponics. But, we understand that not all aquaponic growers will buy our systems. We state this during the class and we talk about home building and the complexities of that. 

    “We were told that if we had any questions we could email them “WITHIN THE NEXT 30 DAYS!” So much for support of people that paid for the class.”

    We provide input and support to attendees of our Master Class as long as they request.  There is no “30 day limit” as Mr. Dowling is suggesting and I can’t imagine how he came up with this. During the class, we often reference ongoing projects and progress of previous master class attendees, and they are by no means limited to happening within 30 days.

    “Their focus is for you to put their system in a greenhouse. Beyond all that happened in the class: I did not deal with this myself but I was informed by a friend of a customer that if you modify the system that they will drop all support.”

    Yes, we believe a greenhouse is an excellent option because it takes advantage of natural sunlight and provides environmental control and biosecurity.  But, as we presented during the class, our systems are in warehouses and other alternative locations as well.  The information he refers to from “a friend” is not correct.

    “As far as positive things, Rebecca Nelson is very nice and inviting. She is a good speaker. The rest of the staff is nice and hard working. The guy that shows you how to fillet the fish was an excellent and friendly presenter. The guy managing the schedule Troy was on top of his game and good at his job.

    Will they set you up is a working system? Probably yes. Just be prepared to pay a lot and pay attention to realistic output numbers.””


    As I mentioned in the beginning of this blog, we normally receive very positive feedback from attendees.  I belevie the comments from Mr. Dowling’s fellow attendees can demonstrate this better than anything else that I have to say. Read on to learn what others had to say after attending the same class:

    “Thank you for a wonderful 3 day course at Nelson and Pade in Wisconsin. We had a fabulous time and are sad it is over. Very professional presentation of course material in a casual relaxed atmosphere. Thorough coverage of aquaponics , from seed to harvest and back again. Super excited to get something started. Coming back home with a wealth of information. If you don’t know what aquaponics is, look at their website. It is an exciting concept.” Susanne Kelly

    “I share Susanne’s sentiment. The entire workshop was informative and extremely well organized. The presenters were knowledgeable and able to “teach” their subject, not just “present” it. Their passion for what they do was evident and contagious. I feel more equipped to be able to teach aquaponics to my environmental science classes as well as get the student actively involved in it. We prepare students for the jobs of the future, those not yet in existence. I believe that aquaponics farming will be one of those jobs. Thank you again for sharing all of your knowledge about aquaponics with us.” Christy Franklin Dafur

    “By far the best 3 day course ever! :)” Hope Cahill

    On Facebook, one of over 100 comments during the class, “So Excited! Yesterday was amazing can’t wait to see what goes on today!”

    So, come to your own conclusions. If you have questions, comments or concerns, please do share!

  • Profitable, Dependable, Efficient, Sustainable


    Those four words describe what people considering commercial aquaponic food production need and want their systems to be in order to succeed. When you look at an existing successful aquaponic farm, their system will demonstrate these four things: profitability, dependability, efficiency and sustainability.

    As entrepreneurs, we understand this and have demonstrated it for over thirty years, first in commercial hydroponics and, for the last 20 years, in commercial aquaponics. In the development of our Clear Flow Aquaponic Systems®, we have always kept these four points in mind as we continually research and innovate to make our systems more profitable, dependable, efficient and sustainable.

    We recently upgraded our commercial system offerings, increasing the production of vegetables yet again, by utilizing the fish waste in a more efficient manner, through our patented ZDEP™ system, and integrating more plant growing area while eliminating waste and maintaining the same fish food input. Our latest offerings generate more food and more profit.

    As part of our efforts in ensuring food safety, making sustainable choices and encouraging success for our clients, 90% of our system components are sourced within the US and 60% are sourced within several surrounding states, reducing transportation costs, encouraging regional job creation and maintaining quality.

    In another recent development, we have created and now offer the “Success Package,” which is available to all of our customers purchasing one of our commercial Clear Flow Aquaponic Systems.®  The Success Package bundles the three most important services we offer to a new grower: our Extended Stay Learning Program, onsite Assembly Guidance and the Nelson and Pade Grower Program, into one package at a much lower price than buying each of these services separately.  Our Clear Flow Aquaponic Systems® give our growers a proven system design that maximizes crop production in an efficient and sustainable way.  The Success Package gives them the training, technical support and guidance they need to be successful long term.

    Nelson and Pade, Inc.®, the most respected name in aquaponics™, offers Clear Flow Aquaponic Systems® with the patented ZDEP™, the Aquaponics Master Class, supplies, training and technical support through the Nelson and Pade Grower Program. Our decades of experience in aquaponics are reflected in proven system designs, successful operations, comprehensive training and knowledgeable staff.

  • Aquaponics Certification Program In Development

    Certified Naturally Grown (CNG), a grassroots non-profit organization, announced it will develop a new certification program for aquaponics operations.

    The announcement follows three months of consideration by CNG and its Aquaponics Exploratory Committee, a group made up of six experts and practitioners from across the country with decades of experience between them. I was selected as one of the committee and enjoyed participating and providing input to CNG in this effort.  This committee met regularly to help CNG determine the feasibility of developing certification standards that would be accessible to a meaningful number of aquaponics producers and also align with CNG’s commitment to supporting community-based agriculture that works in harmony with nature to produce wholesome food without relying on synthetic chemicals.

    The Aquaponics Exploratory Committee’s investigation resulted in the conclusion that a CNG aquaponics program was indeed feasible, though it seemed likely that only the produce, and not the fish, would be covered by the new program – at least initially.

    The next step in the process is for CNG to establish an Aquaponics Advisory Council. The Aquaponics Advisory Council will work with CNG staff to develop complete standards for aquaponics certification.

    Once the Advisory council completes the details of the process, aquaponics farmers will be able to apply for the CNG Certification. This is a great opportunity for small and large aquaponic farms to have a nationally recognized label that demonstrates to their customers that they meet specific requirements related to sustainability and food safety. I appreciate the efforts and willingness of CNG to embrace the aquaponics industry and believe it will be a mutually beneficial partnership.

    Certified Naturally Grown offers peer-review certification to farmers and beekeepers who use natural practices free of synthetic chemicals and genetically modified crops. CNG was founded by farmers in the mid-Hudson Valley of New York in 2002. Today there are more than 700 CNG certified producers in 47 states nationwide. Find CNG farmers and beekeepers near you at To support their work, become a Friend of CNG at

  • Changing the Food System

    Recently someone asked me what our company does.  I briefly explained what aquaponics is and that we help people get started and be successful in aquaponics so they can supply fresh fish and vegetables to their family, community or in a profitable farming venture. We achieve this by supplying complete Clear Flow Aquaponic Systems®, project planning, training and long-term technical support  through the Nelson and Pade Grower Program.

    In a nutshell, that’s it.  But when I think about the overall effort that John, our Team and I make every day, a simpler and maybe better answer is:

    We are changing the food system.

    There are many issues with the food system that include everything from a lack of clean water, the cost and damage related to long distance transportation of food to an abundance of food contamination issues and the over-growing presence of food deserts.  There is a great deal written about these problems, but not a lot of solutions presented.  We have one, and I am happy to say that it has the potential to change the food system.

    What do I mean by: Changing the food system?
    It is about changing how, when and where we grow food.

    It is about changing how we grow food.

    Historically, food has been grown in the soil. Terrestrial plants evolved with their roots in the soil and the stalks and leaves exposed to surrounding climatic conditions.

    Plants need the nutrients and beneficial organisms that are in the soil. The soil itself is just a holder of those nutrients and organisms. In aquaponics, the nutrients and beneficial microbes live in water rather than the soil. Essentially, an aquaponic system is just like an organic garden, but without the dirt.  This allows the plants and beneficial microbes to thrive while eliminating the habitat of harmful pests and diseases.

    As our population has grown, traditional farming moved from small farms, supporting a family and a community to large industrialized farms that ship food around the world.

    The method of growing food crops that we use combines aquaponics and controlled environment agriculture.  Aquaponics is a soilless, recirculating method of farming that produces both fish and vegetables, all from one very efficient infrastructure, using less water and space than traditional farming.

    Controlled Environment Agriculture eliminates issues with weather, such as rain, snow, ice, wind and temperatures that are either too cold or too hot.  When using our methods, you continuously produce food 365 days per year.

    The output from our aquaponic systems is both fresh vegetables and fish which are grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers, antibiotics or growth hormones.  The fertilizer for the plants is naturally generated as beneficial microbes convert fish waste into the elements the plants need.  There is a long list of benefits that accompany this method of growing food.  Our Clear Flow Aquaponic Systems® are highly efficient and produce a great deal of high quality, nutritious vegetables and fish in a relatively small space.

    Aquaponics is more efficient than farming in the soil.  It uses less water and less land, it can be done anywhere and it can produce food all year long.

    It is about changing when we grow food.

    The controlled environment culture eliminates issues with weather, such as rain, snow, ice, wind and temperatures that are either too cold or too hot.  When using our systems, you continuously produce food.  This means you can grow food all year long, anywhere.

    Just think about this advantage over outdoor soil farming.  The result is fresh food, 365 days a year. Our controlled environment structures provide the ideal climate every day. Our plants are never stressed so growth is faster and more consistent than outdoors.  Plus, we employ energy efficient practices and renewable fuels, reducing our dependence on natural gas and electricity, making our efforts even more sustainable.

    In our aquaponic systems, we can harvest vegetables every day.  Each time we harvest, we then seed and transplant the same number of plants, keeping the system in full and continuous production and never having to worry about the changing of the seasons or weather disruptions.

    It is about changing where we grow food.

    In aquaponics, we don’t need a lot of land or water to grow a great deal of food.  And, we don’t need traditional farm fields, soil, tractors or irrigations systems. An aquaponic farm of just ½ acre can produce 300,000 heads of lettuce and 30,000 lbs.of fresh fish every year.  That is roughly 10 times more than a traditional farm.

    Using this technology, we can grow food in cities, in the suburbs, in rural areas, in developing nations, in neighborhoods, in schools, in greenhouses, in warehouses, in basements…literally anywhere. Most commercial aquaponic farms are located in or near an urban or suburban area, providing fresh local food to grocery stores, restaurants, schools, hospitals and direct to the consumer at farm markets and through CSA (community supported agriculture) programs.

    We can, we are.

    The great thing is, we can do this.  We can change the food system.

    The even better part is, we already are.  We have developed the systems, methods and technology to a level that aquaponics is both economically and financially sustainable.

    For the past 20 years, we have worked very hard to take the science of aquaponics and build it into a functional and profitable industry, all while maintaining a social entrepreneurship mentality and working to maintain the integrity and science behind aquaponics.  But, when you look at the benefits and the applications of aquaponics, it sometimes seems like the growth is just not fast enough.  There are more people to feed, bigger commercial ventures to build and more demand for information on aquaponics.

    How do we keep the pendulum of our growing industry continuing to swing toward more and more aquaponic food production systems?  We need to change the paradigm, the mindset about what agriculture is and how, when and where we grow food.

    We work diligently to teach regulators that aquaponics is a safe and beneficial method of food production.  We work with schools, teachers and students to create enhanced, hands-on learning activities centered on aquaponics and we work with the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in offering aquaponics courses from an accredited University.

    We teach and educate the general public about this method of growing food and encourage them to seek out aquaponic farms to buy fresh, local, quality foods.

    And we work with entrepreneurs to help them establish their commercial aquaponics ventures.

    We are seeing a change as more and more people are discovering aquaponic food production, as more and more consumers are becoming aware of the challenges in our food system, as more people are demanding local food.

    But, the global food system is a behemoth and one that is not easily altered. If you believe aquaponics and controlled environment agriculture can help to feed people while growing food in a sustainable manner, tell someone, tell everyone.  If you are still unsure, learn more, read more, go see an aquaponic farm, take a class or set up an aquaponic system, and you will see the potential impact that this technology has to offer.

    Yes, we are changing the food system, one mind at a time.

  • 2 Acres of Aquaponics Being Installed Right Now!

    There is an enormous amount of talk about aquaponics and a lot of news stories and press releases about people planning projects and planning to scale up small projects into multi-acre facilities.

    Earlier this year, Farmed Here in Chicago busted out a lot of press about their massive indoor farm which, in reality is a fraction of the size represented in the media hype.  A couple of months ago, a new aquaponic farm in California made the headlines with 8 acres of aquaponics that was really only a few thousand square feet of operating aquaponic systems at that time.  Just last week there was a media campaign that came out of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee that said they were poised to become the leaders in aquaponics, yet they have not produced or presented a working model to date.   All of these examples use big claims to garner big headlines for what they have planned, not what they have done.

    I prefer to showcase what we achieve.  

    You can look at the history of our company on our website and learn a lot about what we have been doing over the past 20 year to establish, develop and lead this industry.  From the advent of the Aquaponics Journal in 1997 to teaching the first classes on aquaponics to developing the first complete, commercially viable, science-based aquaponics systems, our record speaks for itself.  When you fast forward to today and see the impact Nelson and Pade, Inc. is having around the world in aquaponics, it is evident that we have continued our path of excellence in comprehensive training, system design and grower support.

    In 2006 we standardized our Clear Flow Aquaponic Systems® and have been providing them to our clients for all applications of aquaponics ever since.  Recently we designed and now offer the first controlled environment greenhouse designed specifically for aquaponics, with features that optimize environmental conditions for both fish and plants and enhance bio-security and food safety.

    Our experience and reputation has allowed us to work with many individuals in establishing aquaponic ventures around the world.  We take each and every customer’s investment in aquaponics seriously and, over the years as aquaponics has gained popularity, the investments have grown.  Our customers demonstrate their confidence in our company by choosing to work with us.

    A great example of this is the number and size of commercial projects being installed right now.  The commercial projects that we are currently building total nearly 2 acres and will annually produce approximately ¾ million heads of lettuce and 50,000 lbs. of fish.  These projects are fully funded on the private side and are not dependent on grants or taxpayer money. This is only what is being built right now. It doesn’t include the nearly 5 acres we already have in place and it doesn’t include what is in the planning stage.

    We truly believe that aquaponics can provide food security, food safety and better nutrition.  And, it can be done in an economically and environmentally viable manner with our systems, techniques and support.

    The entire Nelson and Pade Team demonstrates this every day… we talk the talk and walk the walk.  We aren’t planning to do this, we do it.  We grow, sell and eat aquaponically-grown produce and fish; we build, ship and install aquaponic systems for our clients; we teach the science and business of aquaponics in our classes and seminars.

    Nelson and Pade…we live, breath, eat and share aquaponics.

  • Failures in Aquaponics

    In recent years the aquaponics industry has experienced meteoric growth in both general interest and the creation of working systems of every size and style imaginable, and for good reason. If this technology along with Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) isn’t going to be the primary solution of feeding nine billion people in 35 years, it will certainly be number two or three. And with all this attention and potential, there is certainly going to be a great deal of experimentation, misinformation and exploitation along with the successes, much like what happened in the two industries that preceded, yet were the foundation of, aquaponics – aquaculture and hydroponics.

    Both of these industries experienced a tremendous amount of hype during their early years, which fortunately paralleled some good science that made those systems actually produce food in the long run, however, both industries suffered greatly from unscrupulous promoters and hucksters (thus the term coined in the aquaculture industry for these practitioners – Aquashysters). Promises of easy money were being made by people who had no experience or background in either industry, and many investors lost untold millions of dollars. In fact, it got so bad that for over a decade it was nearly impossible to get any bank funding for projects in either of these two industries. Now days, both aquaculture and hydroponics are established and well-funded industries producing 66.5 million tons of fish and growing produce inside 400,000 acres of greenhouses worldwide. The future of aquaponics looks just as promising, if not more so, but unfortunately it appears the growing pains experienced by its two predecessors will not be avoided.

    Some old timers in the aquaponics industry have said this trend is even worse with the advent of the Internet. In the pre-Internet days, the dissemination of misinformation was literally at a snail’s pace – through the mail, at conventions and through articles and advertisements in related periodicals. But in today’s world, anyone can post or publish anything they think relevant to the industry on and in numerous media platforms regardless of the information’s accuracy, viability or proven effectiveness. Millions more people have instant access to that information. There have now been cases where novice aquaponics enthusiasts thought they could take the information they learned on websites, Blogs, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and the like to create large-scale aquaponics systems, and the results have been devastating.

    Most of the people we talk to on a daily basis are interested in starting up a commercial aquaponics facility, and as a result, we have been hearing about the recent large-scale aquaponics failures that have occurred within the industry in recent months. Unfortunately, these needless events continue to elicit industry-wide skepticism, however, when looking at these projects in hindsight, they were destine to fail from their outset. The four large-scale failures that most people have asked us about (though we anticipate there will be many more on the horizon) are: Sweetwater Organics, Aqua Vita, Santa Cruz Aquaponics, and Greater Growth. As a note, none of these used Nelson and Pade Clear Flow Aquaponic Systems®, which use a science-based, proven design.  There are other commonalities as well, which I explain below.

    Given that there is discussion of these failures, I want to share with you what we currently know of each of their circumstances:

    Sweetwater Organics – Milwaukee, WI

    A couple of roofing contractors interned at Will Allen’s Growing Power and decided to scale up the Growing Power aquaponics model that Will Allen uses for the work he does in his youth urban Permaculture education program even though, as Jesse Hull, an ex-employee of Sweetwater Organics said in a Bay View Compass article written by Michael Timm on July 1, 2012, “With utmost honesty, Will (Allen) has stated at his own workshops that a person couldn’t make a profitable business using his aquaponic designs and methods.” Regardless, they got some Milwaukee city officials excited about their project and leveraging off of Will Allen’s nearby Growing Power and their affiliation with it, they received tax-payer and private investment dollars to fund their urban aquaponics farm. Though they might have been great roofing contractors, they apparently had very little knowledge and experience in aquaponics, aquaculture, hydroponics, horticulture or Controlled Environment Agriculture. Their attempts to scale up the Growing Power model and make it commercially viable failed repeatedly, and they kept throwing good money after bad re-inventing a failed system until those failures ultimately caught up with them.

    Aqua Vita – Sherrill, NY

    This most recent failure is well documented. Here are some quotes to the press by the company’s founder that pretty much tells the story:

    “We’re only one of four or five commercial-scale indoor aquaponic farms in the entire country, and so there was a steep learning curve.”

    “Our initial design of that (their aquaponics system) was not perfect. It didn’t work as well as it should have. We went through, redesigned the whole system.”

    “Doherty’s original business plan projected profit within the first two years. But unexpected expenses and setbacks threw the business off-track.”

    “Doherty said then that after two years in business, he had ‘figured out’ how to make the venture profitable, but needed money to continue to the next phase.”

    Santa Cruz Aquaponics – Santa Cruz, CA.

    There is not much information available on this project, but if you watch their YouTube Kickstarter campaign to save the company, you will get a good indication of why they failed.

    In it the founder says, “In the 16 months since the day we first broke ground here we made 1,000 mistakes,” even though he admits he had “been studying aquaponics for 5 years.”

    He also talks about learning from Growing Power, which is evident in his system design, again, he attempted to scale up a system not intended to be commercially viable.

    Greater Growth – Lenoir City, TN

    The founder of Greater Growth, Joel Townsend, a stock broker by trade, went to a Nelson and Pade, Inc. workshop and later purchased a Project Plan from them. Like many new to the industry, he designed and built his own commercial aquaponics facility despite having no experience in aquaponics, aquaculture, hydroponics, horticulture and Controlled Environment Agriculture. To make up for this lack of knowledge and experience, he hired an aquaponics consultant from a university (from my understanding, someone who had never run a business), and from my estimates, Mr. Townsend spent way more reinventing a commercial aquaponics facility than he would have spent had he’d just bought a turn-key aquaponics system that was covered in his Project Plan. Other than believing he could out design and build a better aquaponics system than Nelson and Pade, Inc.’s for less money, he also did not purchase a system from them because he was actively marketing his completed package as a franchise, which would have violated their User Agreement. I believe, however, the key to his failure is a quote from him in a September 7, 2012 Seedstock article. Despite the fact that he at one time had a university aquaponics consultant on staff, he stated, “Technical assistance is limited…” In his case, this was absolutely correct, because he chose not to work with a company that provides technical assistance. If you read the article, you can tell he is preparing to close the doors as he gets very negative about his prospects toward the end.

    As you can see, there is a common thread here: They all thought they could invent a better aquaponics system than the industry experts without having any background in aquaculture, hydroponics, horticulture and Controlled Environment Agriculture or having any experience designing or running a large aquaponics facility. None of them fully appreciated or applied Global GAP, BAP, food safety and bio-security. Three out of four of these operators used a system that was never intended to be commercially scaled up, and none of them had the ability to discern fact from fiction when it came to researching commercial, science-based aquaponic system design verses all of the misinformation on the Internet. Having no experience in aquaponics, they had no way to create an accurate business plan or model and a relevant time-line, thus resulting in over-runs during their start-up phase and unexpected expenses during their operations.  And, ultimately, they had no one to turn to when things started going terribly wrong.

    It is very frustrating for us to witness these failures because they are all so unnecessary. With a commercially viable, science-based aquaponic design, in a properly designed controlled and bio-secure environment, proper education and training, accurate and reliable tech support, a realistic business plan with an accurate schedule, start-up costs and operational expenses, one can be a successful commercial aquaponics grower.

  • Lights, Camera, Action!

    videoAlthough our company had one of the early websites on the Internet with video, it has been missing from our site for the past decade.  We’ve been so busy developing, building and shipping Clear Flow Aquaponic Systems®, creating comprehensive course content, teaching courses, speaking at conferences and writing books, manuals and curriculums, we really hadn’t slowed down to tell our story. Now we are changing that. We’ve hired videographer, Chad Adams, to launch a new era of aquaponics video on the web.

    With all of the poorly shot, shaky, videos of backyard aquaponics on the web, you will see a completely different approach in our videos, which show our fully developed aquaponics systems and methods and an industry that is already developed.  We have a clear path to success for aquaponic growers, which includes offering training, science-based systems and tech support using our 20+ years in aquaponics and 30+ years’ experience in controlled environment agriculture.

    I am very happy to announce the introduction of Nelson and Pade, Inc.’s videos to and YouTube. Our new YouTube channel is:

    Over the next month, videos will be appearing throughout our website and on our You Tube channel.  Here is a sampling of a few:

    Clear Flow Aquaponic Systems®

    Nelson and Pade, Inc. Workshops 

    History of Nelson and Pade, Inc.

    In watching these videos, you’ll have an opportunity to get to know who Nelson and Pade, Inc. is, as a company, as a leader in the industry and as individuals who make up our highly skilled team.

    Enjoy and stay tuned for more!

  • March 2012 in Wisconsin

    We have been having phenomenally warm weather this March in Wisconsin, with daytime temperatures in the 80s all last week.  One day recently, we harvested perfectly rip sweet corn grown in our aquaponic systems and, that evening, grilled it with our dinner.  As I lit the grill, anxiously awaiting that first bite of corn, I was thinking of all of the amazing foods we have grown in our commercial aquaponic greenhouses over the years.

    Way back in the mid 1990’s when we were still living in Mariposa, California, I recall harvesting largemouth bass, perfect tomatoes and fragrant basil, beautiful lettuce and crunchy green beans grown in our aquaponics greenhouse in February.  The fresh fish and flavorful vegetables were one of our first complete aquaponically-grown meals and I will never forget the impact it had on us as we reveled in the idea that aquaponics could become a dominant part of agriculture, one which would provide fresh, safe food to people around the world.

    Thinking about that meal led John and I to a discussion of the amazing collection of photos from the past 25 years that we have of the crops we’ve grown and the grocery stores and farm markets where our crops were sold, the many greenhouses we’ve built and systems we’ve designed and installed, the many people who have participated in our training programs and that we’ve directly introduced aquaponics to at conferences around the world.

    And, we realized that we have a perfect platform to share that, our website. So, in the coming month, I will be adding a pictorial history of our experience and company to our website.  It will be a fun and fascinating project to put together that will inspire many fond memories.  The funny thing is, we have been growing aquaponically as commercial farmers and educators for so long that the first half of our career is before digital photography.  So, my plan for assembling a pictorial history will involve looking through actual photographs and scanning them to show the time period from the mid 1980’s – 2000.  And, after that, it is all digital.

    Another realization from this discussion is that the experience of our competitors dates back to the last decade (some less).  Our experience dates back to the last century.  We look forward to continuing to share this experience to help growers get started and be successful in aquaponics.  It is this network of success that we are building that is bringing aquaponics to the forefront, and to become the vision that we had in the 1990’s sitting on our deck in Mariposa, eating our first aquaponically-grown meal.

  • Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

    To make learning about aquaponics and planning for your aquaponics venture easier, we’ve scheduled our 2012 workshops as well as launched the first hybrid University aquaponics course in partnership with UW-Stevens Point. This partnership brings together the experience and technology of Nelson and Pade, Inc. with a University platform for education.

    Nearly every week I see new aquaponics workshops offered by people who have within the last couple of years, or even in some cases, months, jumped into aquaponics. I love their enthusiasm, but enthusiasm is not the same as knowledge. When you read their workshop agenda, it appears as though their courses are similar to ours. So, I guess I am flattered that people are trying to imitate what we do and how we do it. But, the reality is that we are good at what we do because of the experience that we have. I believe there is no better aquaponics workshop than ours because of the in-depth and diverse knowledge that we have to offer.

    Here is a link to our company’s history

    And a link to our current projects

    Nelson and Pade, Inc. workshops are dynamic, fun and have two things that I believe are 100% unique:

    1. The wealth of knowledge shared is based on long-term experience in both aquaponics and successful entrepreneurship. It isn’t theory and it isn’t a just-discovered interest.
    2. Attendees of Nelson and Pade, Inc. workshops are eligible to earn continuing education units and credits through our partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

    When you attend our workshop, you will be presented information based on 20+ years of experience in the three critical areas: aquaponics, controlled environment agriculture and business. No matter what your application, understanding these three areas is critical to your success.

    If you attend a workshop taught by backyard gardeners, you will learn about backyard methods that may not scale-up well.

    If you attend a workshop taught by research scientists who have never run a business, you will learn about a lot of theory, but not the real life version of running an aquaponic system over the long-term. One in which you have to maximize production, pay your energy bills, make payroll and earn a profit.

    If you attend a workshop taught by people who have recently jumped into aquaponics, it will lack in-depth information that can only be acquired through years of actually doing aquaponics, day-in and day-out.

    If you attend an urban aquaponics workshop about growing in a warehouse, you will be presented a lot of neat concepts, but will not have one example of a successful warehouse aquaponics project, because as of now, there is not one that stands on its own based on profit instead of grants and donations.

    I think a lot of these new aquaponics startups offering training and consulting think they see an easy path to money…jumping on the aquaponics band wagon. But the bottom line is it takes an enormous amount of energy, integrity and know-how to offer quality, comprehensive workshops. People will continue to copy Nelson and Pade, Inc. but we will always have what the others don’t…long term experience in running and developing aquaponics systems and offering training, consulting and tech support. If you want experience, honesty and quality, then give us a call.

  • A University Aquaponics Course!

    UWSP-course-instructorsIf you’ve been looking for a University course in aquaponics but could not find one, your search is over!  Nelson and Pade, Inc., is happy to announce that the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point (UWSP), is now offering a 3-credit, full semester course in Aquaponics – Introduction to Aquaponics.  This course is a partnership with Nelson & Pade, Inc. and the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Continuing Education, Department of Biology, and the Northern Aquaculture Demonstration Facility. And, the most exciting part is that the course is open to anyone interested.  You do not need to be a student at UWSP.

    The course has been jointly developed by Dr. Chris Hartleb, Professor of Biology, UWSP, Sarah Kaatz, Education Director, Nelson and Pade, Inc. and Rebecca L. Nelson and john Pade, Nelson and Pade, Inc.   This private/public partnership and the resulting UWSP aquaponics course is a whole new level in the development of the aquaponics industry and in providing comprehensive training in aquaponics at the University level.

    The lectures run from March 1 – May 11, 2012 and take place online, each with a self-study lecture followed by a live chat with one of the three instructors.  The hands-on lab sessions are held at our demonstration greenhouse in Montello, WI, May 21-23, 2012.  We will have fun teaching the students and sharing our passion for aquaponics.

    I am extremely excited about this partnership and the potential it represents.  As the aquaponics industry grows, one of the big issues we face is a lack of trained and educated individuals to fill jobs as aquaponic greenhouse managers and workers.  The launch of this course, which I believe is the first of its kind, has the potential to grow into an aquaponics minor and eventually an aquaponics major at UWSP.

    I am grateful to Dr. Chris Hartleb, Professor of Biology, Dr. Chris Yahnke, UWSP Chair of the Biology Department, Dr. Chris Cirmo, Dean of the College of Letters and Science and Dr. Greg Summers, UWSP Provost for their interest, support and eagerness to embrace this partnership and to help bring aquaponics to the forefront of University education.   And, I so appreciate our Education Director, Sarah Kaatz’s  efforts in collaborating with UWSP and helping to move this concept forward to reality.

    If you’d like information on the course, details or registration, you can email Sarah Kaatz at

  • Nelson and Pade., Inc Workshops Have Global Impact!

    Wow!  Kathleen Paynter, our Operations Manager, just shared our latest workshop statistics with me. Over the past two years, we have had attendees of our workshops from 46 US states and 20 countries!  In addition to being very comprehensive and packed with information, every one of our workshops are exciting and fun.  The diverse backgrounds of the individual attendees and their plans for using aquaponics for everything from home food production to commercial projects to feeding the hungry, contributes toward the warm and collaborative dynamic.

    I knew the numbers were growing and we have more and more people travelling from distant lands (i.e. Nigeria, Austria, Costa Rica, Marshall Islands, and more) to attend our workshops, but having people travel from 46 states and 20 countries is really impressive.  And, the feedback we get from these travelers from near and far is that the workshops are awesome and worth the effort.

    We will soon be posting the 2012 monthly workshop schedule on our website, so be sure to check it out.  Our workshops take place in Montello, WI, USA and participants get to experience aquaponics first-hand in our 5,000 sq. ft. demonstration greenhouse.

    In other exciting workshop news, we have partnered with the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and now offer University Continuing Education Units and Credits for people attending our workshops.  This is big news and the first private/University partnership of its kind in the aquaponics industry. We are very proud of and excited about this partnership and will have more related announcements about UW-SP and aquaponics in the near future.

    Stay tuned!

  • Time Flies When You are Having Fun

    I can’t believe May is already here…the two months of training for our interns going to Haiti is wrapping up; we have a new participant in our Extended Stay Learning Program coming next week and our new Aquaponics 101 workshop is happening May 14.

    In other news, there was an excellent article written about us, titled: Nelson and Pade, Inc. – Literally Synonomous with Aquaponics, written by Robert Puro for Seedstock, a blog for sustainable agriulture. Thanks Robert!

    If you haven’t heard, the Aquaponics Q and A book by Dr. James Rakocy was released in April and the response has been fantastic! This is a great resourse for anyone interested in learning more about aquaponics.

    Our greenhouse tours have become very popular.  Tours are offered every Saturday, or by appointment.

    It truly is fun when so many great things are happening, but time marches so quickly.  Stay tuned to keep up!

  • Training Begins for Haiti Aquaponics Project

    With the Northwest Haiti Christian Mission aquaponics greenhouse nearly built, we have begun training three enthusiastic people who will be travelling to Haiti to run the new aquaponic system at NWHCM in Saint Louis Du Nord. Ed and Lora Ginter, from Kentucky, and Chris Clarke, from Montana, all arrived at Nelson and Pade, Inc.’s facility in Montello, WI March 8 to kick off their 2 month hands-on training program.
    It has been a fun and fascinating first 2 weeks for all three, learning the daily operation of the systems, water quality testing and monitoring, fish feeding and feed calculations, filter maintenance, seeding, transplanting and harvesting and system assembly.

    During the next 6 weeks, advanced principles will be covered, including fish biology, plant culturing and health, pest scouting and biological control, nutrient dynamics, system and greenhouse maintenance and more. Plus, the complete solar energy system will be tested, crated and shipped. John Pade and Education Director, Sarah Kaatz, have been providing direction and education to Ed, Lora and Chris. The whole Nelson and Pade, Inc. team is enjoying Ed, Lora and Chris’ enthusiasm, energy, motivation and company.

    The aquaponic system at the Saint Louis Du Nord campus of NWHCM will be the first “Living Food Bank” in Haiti. In a collaboration between NWHCM and Nelson and Pade, Inc., large scale “Living Food Bank” aquaponic sytems will be installed, and will have a serious impact on the availability of fresh food in northwest Haiti and beyond.

    This project is destined for success due to the combination of using a science-based aquaponic system design and a comprehensive training program from Nelson and Pade, Inc., along with the well-established and very capable Northwest Haiti Christian Mission.

  • Big News, Exciting Developments

    Wow, we are not even two weeks into 2011 and it is already a great year for us! We’ve got exciting news. The Nelson and Pade, Inc. team of aquaponics professionals is growing and we have new books, systems, workshops and announcements coming!

    After officially retiring from the University of the Virgin Islands, Dr. James Rakocy is now on our consulting staff in addition to being on our Board of Advisors.

    And, we have hired aquaculture specialist, Sarah Kaatz, as our Education Director. Sarah has a Master of Science in Fisheries Biology and Aquaculture from Iowa State and a BS in Biology from University of Wisconsin. Sarah spent the past four years working as an Aquaculture Outreach Specialist with the University of Wisconsin Extension. Sarah’s broad range of experience in aquaculture, biology and education will enhance our education program and allow us to diversify our education offerings. As Education Director, Sarah will be involved in our workshops, extended stay training program and working with schools to integrate aquaponics into existing curriculums for students of all ages. With Sarah onboard, we’ll be announcing a much more diverse and frequent workshop schedule for 2011. Plus, we are taking the show on the road. Watch for details on our website!

    In late 2010, Kathleen Paynter was promoted to Operations Manager. Kathleen oversees all day-to-day operations of Nelson and Pade, Inc. and is the go-to person for information on workshops, systems, consulting and more!

    Keep an eye on our website over the next two months, because there will be new products, systems, services, workshops and equipment offered.

    We have a couple of new books on aquaponics in the works and an aquaponics business planning kit. We have a number of new Clear Flow Aquaponics SystemsTM and accessories that we’ll be announcing in the coming weeks for growers of all sizes. Nelson and Pade, Inc.’s Clear Flow Aquaponics SystemsTM are the only commercial aquaponic systems that Dr. Rakocy endorses. We believe in maximizing production in aquaponics and our systems do just that. Plus, you get the advantage of working with a company that has more experience in aquaponics and more systems and acreage covered in aquaponics than any other! Cumulatively our staff has over 60 years experience in aquaponics and nearly 3 acres in aquaponic production!

    And it gets better…Beginning February 1, 2011 we will be offering regular tours of our new 5,000 square foot demonstration greenhouse. Tour guests will see the latest in aquaponic and controlled environment agriculture technology…all in a clean, beautiful, lush greenhouse. Tours are given by our professional and knowledgeable staff.

    So, as you can see, good things are happening and we are as passionate about aquaponics as we were 20 years ago.

    Stay Tuned!

  • December Workshop Wraps up a Successful Year of Training

    Our last workshop of 2010 took place December 9-11, 2010 and wrapped up a very successful year of training.  Overall for the year, we’ve had over 200 participants in our training programs from 30 states and 15 countries.

    The December workshop attendees came from 15 different states, plus Africa, Sweden and Canada to brave the Wisconsin winter and learn about aquaponics.  Interests ranged from home food production to social and commercial projects.  This was a very fun and well rounded group and we really enjoyed getting to know them all. I am always happy to see friendships blossom among the workshop participants as like-minded individuals share their ideas and plans for aquaponics.  John, Kathleen and I made new friends as well and we look forward to long and fruitful relationships with all of the participants in this workshop.

    I’d like to introduce you to these workshop attendees so you can see for yourself what a fascinating group of people we had the pleasure of spending these 3 days with, talking about aquaponics and controlled environment agriculture:

    Wayne, who travelled from Benin, Africa to join us, plans to implement a large-scale aquaponics project in Benin.  Father and daughter team, Steve A and Jennifer are second-timers in our workshop and are ready to begin their commercial aquaponics endeavor in North Carolina.  Ann, an organic farmer from northern Wisconsin is looking to incorporate an aquaponic greenhouse into her farm and CSA.  Alex travelled from Canada to study aquaponics in hopes of incorporating it into housing projects and communities.   Steve B from Michigan, and his business partner, Steve S (who attended an earlier workshop) will be kicking off their aquaponics projects this winter.  Marc and Link are working toward the implementation of a large commercial aquaponics project in Vermont that will also feature a research greenhouse and agritourism.

    Steve C. is part of an ethanol energy co-op and is exploring using the waste heat from their ethanol plant to heat an aquaponics greenhouse.  Jeff and Shannon, from Iowa, will use aquaponics to grow fresh fish and veggies in addition to the hogs and cows on their farm.  Stuart drove from Missouri to learn how to add aquaponics to his existing greenhouse (and now he is thinking about helping us with the Haiti project!).   Melker and Urban, from Sweden, are on a whirlwind tour of sustainable aquaculture and aquaponics in North America and the Nelson and Pade, Inc. workshop was a must-do on their agenda.  Jay, a pediatrician from Montana is investigating aquaponics to supply fresh, nutritious food.  Ann is exploring the viability to setting up an aquaponics greenhouse in Rhode Island.

    Steve F (yes, another Steve), is hoping to add aquaponics to the community garden programs in the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center.  George travelled from Washington State to learn how aquaponics can fit into his large organic farm.  Kent is planning an aquaponic enterprise in Hollywood and other LA-area communities that will incorporate retail and agritourism.  Billy is a restaurateur form Tennessee who plans to use aquaponics to supply fresh fish and vegetables for his restaurant.  And, Eric is involved in the aquaponics program at Morrisville State College in New York.

    Yes, this is a diverse and motivated group who will help grow aquaponics as an industry.  We will keep you posted in the Aquaponics Journal as these projects move forward.

  • Green Acres, Kansas City, Aquaponics Project

    Green-Acres, Nelson and Pade, partners – Kansas City Aquaponics Project

    This week John and I travelled to Kansas City to meet with Ms. Carol Coe and the Green Acres Community Garden group. We began talking with Ms. Coe over a year ago about expanding their community garden program into aquaponics and education. A group from Green Acres toured our greenhouse in November of 2009 and, now after a great deal of planning, working and collaborating, they are funded and ready to start the project.

    Green Acres has partnered with the City, the school district and other organizations to put this plan into action. The project will utilize abandoned (but very nice) greenhouses at East High School to launch an aquaponics program and initiative that will provide fresh food to the community, education and hands-on learning for students and jobs and job training for local youth.

    Through common goals, partnerships and innovative thinking, Ms. Coe and all involved in this effort are chipping away at the problems of urban food desserts, compromised educational systems, crime and a lack of jobs. This project will feed people while nurturing the soul through a new connection to food, agriculture and aquaponics. I applaud this group for their foresight and motivation and I truly look forward to working with them.

    Stay tuned for developments.

  • A Little Perspective on the Growth of Aquaponics

    The awareness of and enthusiasm for aquaponics is beginning to snowball.  Every day I see new references to aquaponics, new blog posts, articles and media attention.  I am glad to see this and find it encouraging that so many people are recognizing the potential of aquaponics.  But, unfortunately, there is also a great deal of misinformation being written, blogged and printed about aquaponics.

    Our company, Nelson and Pade, Inc., which has been in aquaponics and controlled environment agriculture for 20+ years, has gotten and continues to get a lot of press for the things we have achieved.   There are also many new organizations, typically with only a couple of years of experience (and sometimes even less) that are in the headlines as well.  And, often, these people new to aquaponics neglect to acknowledge the history and research that has preceded them.  It might be new technology to them, but it is not new technology.  Dr. Rakocy and his associates at the University of the Virgin Islands, as well as other research scientist around the world, have been researching and helping to develop this technology for over 30 years.

    A number of these aquaponics start-ups appear to be in the business of using the buzz around aquaponics to entice investors rather than growing food or to convince you that their “new” invention of aquaponics is the solution to all of the world’s problems.  I have seen these schemes emerge in a big way in the past year.

    So, my advice is: buyer beware.    Before you move forward with an aquaponic company, foundation or non-profit who wants to recruit you as an investor, provide you information, or sell you something; be sure to check them out, look for actual achievements and make sure they have hands-on, real-life success in aquaponics.

    As new aquaponics organizations sprout up, some with websites showing nothing more than drawings and concepts and others grabbing headlines, we are busy building, shipping and installing systems that are operating and providing food for people of all walks of life.  In the past year Nelson and Pade, Inc. has built and shipped 20 complete aquaponic systems to commercial growers, hobbyists, mission groups, Universities and schools and we have taught over 200 people from 28 states and 12 countries about aquaponics in our comprehensive workshops.  We are out there making it happen on both a large and small scale, in developed and developing countries.

    In case you are wondering about the history and experience of Nelson and Pade, Inc., visit our history page for rundown of some of our achievements over the last 25 years.

  • Imagine this…

    As the wheels of the plane lifted from the gravel runway/roadway in Port a Paix, Haiti last week, I gazed out the window. I saw donkeys, goats and people scurrying out of the way; homes, buildings and banana trees whizzing by. I saw the streets of Port a Paix littered with debris, the buildings ramshackled and the blue Caribbean Sea gleaming in the sun. I have been to most Caribbean islands and numerous developing nations. I expected the worst in Haiti, but really saw nothing more extreme than other developing countries I’ve been to. And I saw promise.

    I felt both saddened and inspired at the current state of affairs in Haiti. The poverty and misfortunate I’d heard so much about was prevalent but, in contrast, was the unstoppable human spirit, hard work and gentle nature of the Haitian people. Overall, I felt incredibly confident that Haiti will emerge in the coming years as a force to be reckoned with. As elections take place there this month, there is great hope that a government will be voted in that will empower the people rather than suppress them. Bill Clinton is a proponent of development in Haiti and I believe Capitalism will win out in this tropical country that has been home to natural disasters, corruption and poverty in recent years.

    Imagine the year 2030, just 20 quick years from now. The Haiti I see has infrastructure. The burgeoning economy can fund roads, clean water and sewer systems. Reforestation will reduce erosion and those who are unable to work will be fed. The growing job sector includes labor and management in aquaponic greenhouses. Haiti is exporting fresh food – tilapia and fresh vegetables – throughout the Caribbean and to North America. The tourism industry embraces this beautiful island and Haiti becomes a scuba diving and vacation destination.

    Haitians are very hard working people and a job means food and security for an individual and their family. I see agriculture, industry and tourism as the primary growing economic sectors. The potential is there, the people are eager for work and there are, surprisingly, still vast natural resources and a nearly untouched reef system skirting the island.

    I see aquaponics as a key component to the new Haiti. Just as Haitians went from no phones to cell phones, I believe they will go from minimal agricultural infrastructure to massive aquaponic greenhouses that will provide jobs, food and profit to help the country feed itself and grow.

    I believe this first step, an aquaponic system of our design, funded by and installed at the Northwest Haiti Christian Mission in St. Louis De Nord, will be the impetus, the training ground and the launch of aquaponics in Haiti. It might even be the new beginning of agriculture in Haiti, and part of a new, prosperous Haiti. This is my vision and one that I think is truly possible.

    This vision might sound foolish and naïve as you watch the news. Haiti still has 1.3 million people homeless as a result of the earthquake less than a year ago. While we were there in late October, a cholera outbreak began that will likely continue for years to come. Just days ago, Haiti was hit by Hurricane Thomas, adding to the misery of so many Haitian people. But the pendulum does swing both ways. Although not the case now, thirty years ago Haiti had hotels, tourism and agriculture. Forty years ago, the Vietnam War was at its peak. The country was ravaged, the people devastated and the landscape was littered with mines. Today you can visit Vietnam as a tourist and be welcomed while enjoying the culture, food and hospitality of this renewed country. Today you can buy goods at Wal-Mart that were made in Vietnam. Today, the sharpest edges of the Vietnam War have been softened by time.

    Can a similar transformation happen in Haiti? Time will tell. I believe it can.

    Check out photos from this trip at:

  • News from Haiti – Aquaponics Installation

    John and I arrived in Haiti a week ago to begin the installation of an aquaponic system at Northwest Haiti Christian Mission  It has been a busy and inspiring week, as we met the many people who keep this operation moving forward and feeding, caring for and nurturing people every day. Executive Director or the mission, Janeil Owen, discovered aquaponics and attended one of our workshops about a year ago. Since then, we planned, designed, built and shipped an aquaponic system and tropical greenhouse to Haiti.
    Once we arrived here in St. Louis Du Nord, where the main mission campus is, we began sorting out the 1000′s of individual components, organizing the parts and construction. With help from Haitians and American mission volunteers, we’ve made good progress all week. The site has been leveled, trenches dug, two corner main building posts concreted in place, and some of the greenhouse trusses assembled. By the end of the week, we hope to have many more posts in and a detailed construction plan laid out for the following weeks.

    Haiti’s latest crisis, a cholera outbreak that to date has sickened over 3000 people and killed over 250, has not moved into this northwest corner of Haiti. The Haitian people, despite the poverty they live in and are surrounded by are incredibly resilient and friendly.

    We are very excited about the launch of this project and the collaboration with NWHCM. I believe that this system is just the start of a new and innovative direction for all of Haiti. Fresh, nutritious food, produced locally and on a large scale has the potential to change the nutritional and economic future of a country that has suffered corruption, poverty, natural disasters.

    We look forward to the further development of this project.  We will be returning to Haiti again to assist with the aquaponics system installation, to train staff and workers about aquaponic technology and operation of the system and to install the energy system, which consists of solar panels, a battery bank and a generator.  I’ll keep you posted on this blog and on our website at

  • Successful Workshop!

    A great aquaponics workshop took place Sept 29 – October 2, 2010.  Dr. James Rakocy, John Pade and myself taught aquaponics concepts, technology, methods and design to 47 workshop attendees.  The response to this workshop was very positive.   The camaraderie among the attendees, hosts and our entire staff bloomed into friendships and business collaborations.
    Attendees came from as far away as the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific to as close as Madison, Wisconsin.  Several attendees were “second-timers,” having travelled to Montello, WI for previous Nelson and Pade, Inc. workshops.  Countries represented by attendees included Spain, England, Trinidad and Tobago, Marshall Islands and the United States.

    Photos from this workshop are on the Nelson and Pade, Inc. facebook page at

    If you attended this workshop, feel free to share your comments!

    Our next aquaponics workshop will take place December 9, 10 and 11.   Dr. Rakocy will again be joining Nelson and Pade for a workshop in April, 2011.  Dates to be announced.  Aquaponics workshop schedule and details can be found at:

  • Aquaponics in the Running for Pepsi Refresh Grant

    Pepsi’s Refresh Grant helps to fund innovative ideas and projects.  Pepsi is giving away millions of dollars ($1,300,000 each month) to fund great ideas.  Each month, up to 1000 applications are accepted and then voting is open for 30 days.  Projects typically funded advance sustainable, community-oriented ideas.  This month, there are two aquaponics projects in the finals.  Anyone can vote, and participation is free.
    Of the two aquaponics projects in the running, one is proposed to start an aquaponics program at a school to teach biology and to provide fresh lettuce to the school cafeteria.  The second proposes to start an aquaponic farm using green technology and providing jobs for veterans.

    Visit the Pepsi Refresh Grant page to learn more about the program.

    To read about the finalists, which include the two aquaponics projects mentioned above, visit the listing of finalists.

    Voting for this month is open until the end of September, which means that as of today there are 9 days left to vote.  Vote now to help these two aquaponics projects become reality!

  • All New Aquaponics Journal Website!

    I am happy to announce the new, improved website for the Aquaponics Journal.  The new design and site is user friendly and pleasing to the eye.  The home page features the current issue with a photo of the cover and description of the content.

    The new “Articles” page offers a wide range of articles for users to read.  The articles cover a great variety of topics related to aquaponics from a diverse mix of authors.  The chosen articles are representative of the almost 60 issues of the Aquaponics Journal, which has been published continuously since 1997.   Typically, the Aquaponics Journal includes articles on methods of aquaponics, how-to, commercial aquaponics, home food production, backyard aquaponics, village aquaponics, educational aquaponic systems, industry events and conferences.  Every issue of the Aquaponics Journal includes the Question and Answer column by Dr. James Rakocy.

    The “Back Issues” page shows the content of every back issue, so you can find specific articles,  peruse the entire list to see what has been covered in previous issues and order any back issue in print or electronically via download.  There are links to books, videos and other products you’ll need and want for aquaponics.  The “Blog” link takes you to the new Nelson and Pade blog so you can follow what’s new and happening.

    I want to thank the team at Giantseed Creative for creating another great website for our company.

    Check out the new Aquaponics Journal website at, enjoy the content, read the articles.  You can subscribe to the Aquaponics Journal at the new site, so you will receive each new issue as soon as it is available.

  • Welcome to the Nelson and Pade Aquaponics Blog!

    Thanks for checking out our new Blog!  We will be posting news, information, event updates, comments and opinions on all things aquaponic.  As long-time leaders in aquaponics, we look forward to sharing thoughts and ideas on this blog.  We are excited and amazed at the growth of the aquaponics industry over the past few years and look forward to what develops in the future.

    Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture and hydroponics. In aquaponics, you grow fish and plants together in one integrated, soilless system. The fish waste provides a food source for the plants and the plants provide a natural filter for the water the fish live in. Aquaponics produces safe, fresh, organic fish and vegetables. When aquaponics is combined with a controlled environment greenhouse, premium quality crops can be grown on a year-round basis, anywhere in the world. Aquaponics can be used to sustainably raise fresh fish and vegetables for a family, to feed a village or to generate a profit in a commercial farming venture.

    If you are looking for general information about aquaponics, visit our website at or the new Aquaponics Journal website at:

    Best wishes

    Rebecca Nelson

    Nelson and Pade, Inc.