WI State Farmer: Students Spend 3-day Final Cooking

by Jan Shepel

When a group of students descended on one Montello business last week it was something like “Top Chef” meets “The Apprentice.” There were business plans and presentations; there were meals and snacks prepared with locally produced fresh ingredients. There was even a ukulele-accompanied business jingle.

It was all part of a class that teaches college students (and interested older non-traditional students) about the business of aquaponics – growing fish and using their nutrient-rich water to grow vegetables, herbs and other marketable plants. The course is the brainchild of Rebecca Nelson and John Pade of Nelson and Pade, Inc., a world-leader in aquaponics and University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point biology teacher Chris Hartleb.

The Marquette-county based business teamed with the university to organize the wildly successful course that culminates with three days of working with the actual systems and the food that is produced there in Montello. It has been a good connection, says Nelson. They have had students from 52 countries take their company-sponsored master classes but they wanted to do more, so they paired up with Hartleb to develop Intro to Aquaponics.

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Portage Daily Register Coverage of UWSP Aquaponics Class at UWSP

MONTELLO — Aquaponics is no fish story. Sure, there are 500-gallon water tanks, full of swimming tilapia in the greenhouse at Nelson and Pade in Montello. And sure, many of those fish eventually end up batter-fried, blackened or broiled.

But in aquaponics, fish aren’t the primary crop. They’re the source of fertilizer for plants grown for human consumption, including numerous varieties of lettuce, tomatoes, herbs and the occasional banana. And you never have to wash the dirt or chemicals off the plants, because they’re grown without soil, herbicides or pesticides. Read the full article by Lyn Jerde