Developing a Self Funded Aquaculture Program for High Schools

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2016: $20,315.00
Projected End Date: 01/30/2018
Grant Recipient: Blue Iris Fish Farm, LLC
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Project Coordinator:
William West
Blue Iris Fish Farm

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Animals: fish


  • Animal Production: general animal production
  • Education and Training: participatory research, youth education

    Proposal summary:


    Local school districts and in particular aquaculture (agriculture) are under- funded. Aquaculture and related sciences are relatively new curriculum choices. Only the newest of facilities have somewhat adequate resources while older schools’ ag resources have been converted to house aquaculture. Many of these have a wide assortment of tanks, plumbing and equipment that have been for the most part patched together to carry out instruction. These systems generally suffice to accommodate only the most stress tolerant fish. It is difficult to teach biology, chemistry, and water science in these situations but even more difficult to actually have a three to six month project that works. The problem we hope to solve here is to use the resources of the three farms to support the schools with fish, feed, technology, and guest lecturing. The SARE grant will get each school up to a level of operation which will be supported by the fish farms. Value provided by the schools will be re-invested to carry on the curriculum in subsequent years.

    The second problem we have which is common to most states of the North Central SARE Region is that fish farmers have a very short growing season. The farms need additional growing season which can be provided to some extent by the schools. The idea here is to develop and infuse into the schools goals for projects and production which then become the learning tools of the class. Professional support provided by the farmers is designed to result in successful aquaculture programs which mimic real world enterprises. Working in cooperation with school systems could allow fish farms to start the season a little earlier and end a little later i.e. extend the growing season by as much as one to two months or more.


    Blue Iris Fish Farm and Pepco Aquaculture have been conducting research on perch and bluegill for a number of years. Some funded research (SARE FNC08-731, SARE FNC14-955, Wisconsin ADD 21014 and ADD 24023, NCRAC least cost diet for bluegill) and unfunded research on fish meal and non-fish meal based diet studies with Milwaukee Fresh Water Institute suggests that there are numerous projects that can be conducted by small farms for the benefit of the industry. These small efforts are well suited to be conducted in a school setting where we have resources and a controlled environment. The issue is to ensure that the schools have the needed resources to conduct mini research projects in a controlled environment.

    What this project proposes is to have three long-term farm experts assist in setting up learning situations and provide continuous support to the partner schools. Second, we will identify each facility’s resources so that needed equipment/technology is provided to each school and, the curriculum matches the resources. Because we have three species of fish (trout, perch and bluegill) plus several other species to choose from (catfish, tilapia, walleye (saugeye)), we essentially have multiple opportunities.

    By incorporating on-farm projects into the school with farmer technology support we will encourage successful aquaculture projects. Successful school projects will result in more value-added outcomes e.g. more saleable fish, more aquaponics production, better results for facilities that use fish hydrolysate for plant sales. These are all opportunities to have a positive interface with the public and increase the possibility for developing a self funding program.

    These endeavors help the farmers with the execution of mini projects that need to be done in a controlled system that extends longer than three months, can extend the growing season in the fall or can actually initiate the growing season in the spring.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Encourage successful local aquaculture projects by facilitating three long-term fish farm experts in setting up learning situations and providing continuous support to partner schools.
    2. Create the opportunity for value-added outcomes (e.g. more saleable fish, more aquaponics production, better results for facilities that use fish hydrolysate for plant sales) for aquaculture projects by sharing results through conference presentations, field days, and school media.
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.