Fresh fish and homegrown tomatoes

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					    NCR SARE Farmer Rancher Grant Recipients in Illinois from 1992-2008

    Aquaponics Combine Fish, Tomatoes, and Ingenuity
    Lori Bahre, Oakdale, Illinois

                                                                                                      early makes people come back every week.”
    Growing Fish and Plants in                                                                        Bahre plans to increase sales by introducing
    an Aquaponic System
                                                                                                      other types of produce into the system.
    Coordinator: Lori Bahre                                                                                Although an aquaponic system requires
    Location: Oakdale, Illinois                                                                       a good deal of work, Bahre believes the
    SARE Grant: $4,848                                                                                results are worth it.
                                                                                                           “Everything tastes as good or better
    Grant Year: 2004
                                                                                                      than the traditional garden vegetables, and
    Project Number: FNC04-533                                                                         they’re healthier,” she says. “People like the
    Lori Bahre developed an aquaponics                                                                idea that there aren’t pesticides on their
    system, which is housed in a 30- by                    “...having produce                         produce. Besides, the plants produce more
    50- foot greenhouse. The system proved                                                            and they produce longer.”
    successful, producing significantly more
                                                           early makes people                              Bahre hopes to be able to share the
    vegetables than her traditional garden.                come back every                            lessons she’s learned with the community
                                                                                                      at large.
                                                           week.”                                          “One of the professors at Southern

    F        resh fish and homegrown tomatoes
             sound like the beginnings of a
             perfect summer meal. They’re also
    the ingredients of a productive aquaponic
    system, and many growers are finding that
                                                      The nutrient-packed fish waste, rich in
                                                      nitrogen and other byproducts, fertilizes the
                                                      planted grow beds. The grow beds, in turn,
                                                                                                      Illinois University is excited about the
                                                                                                      greenhouse because he can teach his
                                                                                                      students about aquaponics and it’s close
                                                                                                      by,” she says. “We also plan on having FFA
    the challenge of developing such a system         digest the waste, reducing or eliminating       groups come out, and whoever is interested
    is well worth the effort.                         the toxicity before the water is returned to    in bringing their class can do so.
         Lori Bahre of Oakdale, Illinois, is one of   the fish tanks clean and recycled.                    “We’d be excited to show anyone
    them.                                                  However, Bahre’s system is not             how an aquaponic greenhouse works,”
         “We had as many tomatoes from the            hydroponic in the strict sense of the word      Bahre says.
    12 plants in our aquaponic system as we           because she plants her grow beds with an                                       By Leanne Lucas
    had from 50 plants in our garden,” said           inert material.
    Bahre. She received a SARE grant in 2004 to            “I tried rock wool at first and it kept
    develop her system, which she houses in a         the roots too wet,” she says. “They didn’t
    30- by 58-foot greenhouse on her property.        survive. So I planted them in perlite only
    She is amazed with her results                    and they grew wonderfully.”
         “The tomatoes in the greenhouse                   Bahre also grew green peppers. “The
    were ready by the end of April, while the         peppers grew well in the rock wool and
    garden tomatoes weren’t ready until the           directly in perlite as well.”
    first of June,” Bahre says. “The greenhouse              Bahre’s grow beds are 14 by 16 feet
    tomatoes also grew faster and taller than         and she has tried different combinations
    the ones in the garden and no one could           each planting season.
    tell the difference in taste.”                         “At first I just had everything in
         Aquaponics integrates aquaculture (the       separate beds,” she remembers. “Last year
    cultivation of fresh fish) and hydroponics         I tried planting the tomatoes in the center
    (supplying nutrients and water directly           and the peppers on the outside. It definitely
    to the roots of plants, without soil) in a        worked better having them intermixed. You
                                                                                                                                                       Photo courtesy of ARS USDA

    recirculating “closed water loop” cycle. Fish     utilize the whole space.”
    waste that accumulates in the water as                 Bahre sold her produce at the local
    a byproduct of an aquaculture system is           farmer’s market from early May to late
    collected and channeled to the grow beds.         August and found that “having produce