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.