When you think of Milwaukee, Wisconsin you may think of beer, brats, cheese, and the Brewers, but there’s a movement that’s growing in popularity that encourages both saving money and eating healthier. That movement is organic fish farming. There are several non-profits in the area experimenting with aquaculture, but you don’t have to have a huge warehouse to follow their systems and reap the benefits.
These indoor farming methods allow fish farming at home to be both affordable and great for your health. With the growing popularity of eating organic, growing local, and creating sustainable food systems a new trend that’s extended beyond just plants has hit local communities. Raising fish for food is a relatively new idea (at least on a small scale), but some are beginning to create sustainable food systems through aquaponics that can feed a family and be kept within their home.
I recently toured two such indoor farms exploring aquaponic systems that create a loop system that allows you to raise both plants and fish in a self sustaining system. Both farms focused on producing fish on a larger scale, but also taught people how fish farming at home can save them money and create a healthier diet.
Growing power was founded by Will Allen and is a not for profit indoor / outdoor farm that helps feed the local community. They’re pioneers in indoor aquaponic systems that are affordable to build, and are practical.
Learn more about Growing power’s fish farming aquaponics system by watching the video below or by following the link at the bottom of this post.
Sweetwater organics has taken the systems created at Growing Power and created them on a much bigger scale. They’ve also experimented more with different types of plants and fish.
You can learn more about Sweetwater Organics by visiting their website at the link towards the bottom of this post.
What does it cost to set up?
When touring both Growing Power and Sweetwater Organics they were experimenting with small scale aquaponic systems that could be set up in backyards, basements, or even garages. If you create a basic system from scratch you’ll be paying mostly for timber, plastic piping, a pump system, a thick pond lining membrane, fish, and plant seeds. When I asked the tour guide how much it would cost to create your own set-up they estimated you could easily do it for under $1,000, more likely about $700 if it’s all built from scratch.
However, there are aquaponic systems for sale that you can buy directly online for around $1,000 – $1,500.
How much money would it save me?
In an extreme case let’s say that you would eat your tilapia everyday for dinner. That means if there are two people you’d eat two fillets, or 365 fish a year. After doing a quick search you can find frozen skinless tilapia filets for sale in packs of 4 (9 oz.) for around $24, or $6 each per fillet. A fish would cost $12 then, which means that 365 fish would cost approximately $4380.
Of course it’s a bit extreme to eat tilapia everyday, but creating an aquaponics system to grow your own plants and fish could save you thousands of dollars on food every year.
What kinds of fish can I raise?
From what I’ve learned the hardiest fish to raise is tilapia. Currently growing power and sweetwater organics (both in Milwaukee and links below) are focusing on raising perch, which is a cold, fresh water fish based in the Great Lakes and midwest. These fish both make for dinner sized fillets and are easy to clean. They recommended starting with Tilapia then working your way into perch since tilapia is the easiest fish to raise.
Below is a dinner made from Tilapia, looks tasty!
If you want more inspiration you can check out some tilapia recipes that you can use when fish farming tilapia at home.
Where can I learn more?
Growing Power – Located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s north side Growing power is an urban farm that has a wide variety of crops and wildlife including aquaponic systems. They offer tours and a local non-profit that feeds the community.
Sweetwater Organics – An offshoot of growing power, sweetwater created large scale systems based on Growing Power’s design. Sweetwater organics also offers tours.
Backyard Aquaponics Magazine – An additional source of information for learning about how to create your own backyard aquaponics system to raise your own fish.
Read More About Fish Farming at Home
If you want more specific information about fish farming at home by creating your own aquaponics system I recommend some of the books below which you can order directly through Amazon.com.