Aquaculture Magazine

Bangor doubles down on aquaculture with big new tanks

The tanks replaced the school’s small 50-gallon fish tank, which produced only enough nutrients for two or three heads of lettuce.

The Bangor High School’s fledgling aquaponics program took a big step forward after two 300-gallon fish tanks were added onto the district’s experimental system last week.
The tanks, which will be used to teach aquaculture and eventually aquaponics, were donated last year by the Genoa Fish Hatchery.
The tanks replaced the school’s small 50-gallon fish tank, which produced only enough nutrients for two or three heads of lettuce.
The new tanks will boost the fish capacity 12-fold.
Aquaponics is similar to hydroponics in that nutrient-rich water is used to grow produce in a soil-free environment. However, in an aquaponic system, nutrients are produced by fish in tanks.
The fish and plants form a symbiotic relationship. The fish produce nitrogen-rich waste, which the plants use as fertilizer to grow. In return, the plants function as a filter that keeps the water livable for the fish.
Aquaponic systems have the advantage of producing both vegetable produce and fish.
“Right now, it is going to start with aquaculture,” Bierbrauer said, adding that the hydroponics part of the aquaponics system will be added later.
He said there isn’t room to add a hydroponics table to the system, but smaller trays might be possible at a later date.
Aquaculture focuses on the process of raising fish in an artificial environment.
Bierbrauer said they would later add the system to an expanded greenhouse to complete the aquaponics system when the funds become available.
In the meantime, students in his large animal science classes will learn to manage and raise the fish.
“They take a lot of pride in the lettuce. I think they will take pride in this,” Bierbrauer said.
He said the primary purpose of the system is to give students an opportunity to learn about aquaculture and aquaponics.
“It’s fun,” Bierbrauer said. “I enjoy it. The kids enjoy it.”
Bierbrauer said the challenge now is figuring out what to do with the fish once they reach maturity.
Bierbrauer said tilapia reach maturity rapidly, maturing in between six and nine months.
In order to serve the fish to students, the district would be required to obtain special licenses.
Instead, Bierbrauer is considering partnering with a company to process the fish for the school district.
Bierbrauer will meet with Bangor and West Salem Nutrition Director Kerri Feyen later this week to discuss putting homegrown fish on students’ plates.
In order to complete the aquaponics system, Bierbrauer will have to raise between $60,000 and $80,000 for a new greenhouse.
Despite the lofty goal, Bierbrauer said he was confident in the school district’s ability to fund the program through grants and donations.
He said he’s already collected nearly $10,000 in grants for the purchase of a new greenhouse last year.
Bierbrauer said another $1,500 grant might be awarded to Bangor in the near future.
If everything goes to plan, students will help raise both the fish and vegetables that ends up on their lunch trays.
“It’s cool that I have a school board and administration that is so supportive of this,” he said.

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