Farmory’s second soil-based system in high school greenhouse
BY KEVIN BONESKE
WEST DE PERE – The West De Pere High School greenhouse featured the fanfare of a ribbon-cutting ceremony from the Greater Green Bay Chamber on Thursday, March 8, when the Farmory formally presented the second soil-based aquaponics system it has built.
The Farmory’s program director, Alex Smith, who handled the oversized scissors along with West De Pere Superintendent John Zegers, said the Farmory will be working with staff at West De Pere to train students in how to operate the system and care for its yellow perch and plants as part of their science and agriculture curriculum.
Smith noted the system uses perch fingerlings 3-4 inches long that are raised for food upon reaching 7-10 inches in length.
“We’re going to have yellow perch and then mixed salad greens coming out of this system,” she said. “The West De Pere High School students are going to be the ones to care for it, so they’re going to be in here feeding the fish, doing water chemistry, harvesting the greens, planting the greens, so it will be all the students and staff taking care of the system.”
Smith said the soil-based aquaponics system at West De Pere will make to possible in the years ahead for students to learn how to grow their own food for use by the school district and be exposed to a new kind of career in agriculture.
“We feed (the perch), they digest their food, they produce fish waste and then we pump up that fish wastewater… so the fish wastewater actually provides the nutrients for the plants and then the plants filter out that water, so it’s clean water for the fish,” she said.
The Farmory is converting the former armory building at 815 Chicago St. in Green Bay into an indoor farm with aquaponics systems where fish and plants share water.
Smith said the Farmory been operational for slightly more than a year with a mission of operating a non-profit urban farm in downtown Green Bay by using soil-based aquaponics systems with yellow perch.
She noted the system was transplanted at West De Pere as the first high school to have that in the greenhouse and incorporated into the curriculum.
Zegers said having the aquaponics system in the West De Pere High School greenhouse is a “wonderful opportunity for our students and staff to partner with the Farmory and other business partners in the area.”
“This concept we really hope is successful, so the Farmory can be successful,” he said. “That’s what being partners is all about.”
Zegers said Smith and West De Pere High School Principal Russ Gerke had talked about possibly joining in a project with the Farmory.
“It’s really a miniature of what they do at the Farmory, so we’re excited,” he said. “Our students are going to be the beneficiaries of it, and we’ll see how it grows and goes.”
Though the project is capable of producing food at the high school, Zegers said that won’t be as important the learning itself that takes place.