Developing a Self Funded Aquaculture Program for High Schools

2016 Annual Report for FNC16-1064

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

Developing a Self Funded Aquaculture Program for High Schools



Project was initiated upon award of grant in March 2016.  The representative fish farms (Blue Iris Fish Farm, Wilderness Springs, and Pepco Aquaculture) began preparing fish stocks which would be used in three local high schools (Green Bay South West, Shawano, and Pulaski).  None of the high schools have the same capabilities; facilities ranged from small aquaria to full sized recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS),  aquaponics systems and greenhouse applications.  In addition, we also encountered systems suitable for wide ranges in temperature tolerance including cold (rainbow trout), cool water (perch, bluegill), and warm water (tilapia and fathead minnows).

By September, all of these fish were moved from the fish farms to schools.  Fish stocking capacities at each school were based on available resources and the ability of the in-school growing systems to accommodate stocking densities.  Stocking densities were kept low as the first year was intended to be a year of testing out system capabilities.

In each of the schools we experienced some losses.  Some of the losses were due to too many hands on board (one hand opens a valve the other shuts it off – opportunities for operator error).  Some of the losses were due to equipment failure while for the most part, we have insufficient backup for situations where power failure occurred and either backup equipment was not available, or backup equipment was not working as intended.  However, even with the losses, all three schools have good grow-out being achieved through the first semester.

Toward the end of the first semester Dr. Robert Smith, a fish veterinarian, visited with each school and presented a lecture on fish health followed by a necropsy of some of the fish that each school was raising.  Fish health assessment can identify problems in fish disease, water quality, feeds, and overall system conditions.


The highlight is that one school is close to harvesting its first crop of perch by the end of December 2016.  These fish were stocked in the school in September at an average of four inches. About 25 percent are between 8 and 9 inches.  Another 50% will be on the table by the end of January just in time for lent.

We believe that there is some overfeeding occurring in each school.  This results in deterioration in water quality which is easily correctable.  It is also believed that there may be, for the most part, too much aeration.  This is due to the tendency to provide lots of air to make sure there is enough.  The result is wasted air (difficult to throttle the blower) but more importantly, over aeration tends to beat up the fish waste and it is more difficult to removed dissolved waste versus solid waste in the filtration system.

In addition to too much air, we have witnessed occasional power outages and have lost some fish because of power outages at each school.  A simple backup system which is independent of power is being evaluated.


The next step beginning in January 2017 is to start harvesting fish, process and sell the fillets and calculate the value of the product.  Depending on how successful each school is in accomplishing the grow-out phase of aquaculture will determine how much money can be reinvested into the program.

Over the holidays (January 2017) Bill West will work with Green Bay South West to install the oxygen back-up system.  Since each school has their own dissolved oxygen meters, these hand held devices can be used to monitor the oxygen back-up system(s).  This should be a much needed addition to the program and we should see immediate results.

We anticipate all species to continue the grow-out process through the spring semester and hope to harvest all species by spring.  One school (Pulaski) has finished the preliminary installation of the outdoor tank system.  This will be available for operation from May through September of 2017 and result in a second crop of perch.  Fish which have not made it to market size in the summer will be transferred to the indoor system in the fall.

As before, the participating fish farms will spend the summer preparing to satisfy the fish needs for the fall semester.


An open house event occurred at Blue Iris Fish Farm.  Over 60 visitors came to observe the fish operations.  Blue Iris provided a tour of the facilities and pointed out the methods of culture and actual species that would be used in the school program.

When the vet provided the presentation, there were six different classes that were available for instruction within the three schools.  It is estimated that approximately 120 students attended these presentations.

We intend to also showcase our project with open houses at each school in 2017.



Jerry Peplinski

[email protected]
Pepco Aquaculture
N6311 Rods Lane
Cecil, WI 54111
Mike Foster

Wilderness Springs Inc.
N4728 Madden Rd
New London, WI 54961
Dr. Bob Smith

Clayton Veterinary Clinic
123 Hwy 63
Clayton, WI 54804
Steve Stomberg

High School Instructor
Shawano High School
220 Cty B
Shawano, WI 54166
Kaleb Santy

High School Instructor
Pulaski High School
1040 S. St. Augustine
Pulaski, WI 54162
Tom Sebranek

High School Instructor
Green Bay Southwest High School
1331 Packerland Dr
Green Bay, WI 54304