Meals on Wheels and Western Dakota Technical College use fish to bring produce to the community

The Early evening news on KOTA Territory TV
Published: Mar. 3, 2023 at 3:53 PM CST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - What do you get when you combine fish with plants? At Western Dakota Technical College the answer is aquaponics.

Aquaponics is a combination of aquaculture or the growing of fish and other aquatic animals, while hydroponics is the process of growing plants without soil. By using the same process that streams, ponds, and lakes naturally go through you can capture that cycle and bring it indoors. Controlling the environmental factors that provide the perfect place to grow fish and plants.

Brysn Mitchell the Co-program director for the Controlled Agriculture Program at Western Dakota Technical College stated “All of the nutrients, I should say most of the nutrients that the uh plants need are provided by the fish so we’re not actually growing so we’re actually not needing to mix any sort of hydroponics solution or supplement any nutrition for the plants. It’s all done simply through the natural process of the nitrogen cycle.”

Aquaponics can be done with a wide variety of crops and fish meaning healthy options for the community are nearly endless.

“There is a variety of crops that can be grown, leafy greens on one side of the spectrum in a certain type of growing method, and then we can go on into all of the different sorts of fruiting plants, we’ve grown successfully on campus around sixty different species of plants for human consumption,” Mitchell added.

The aquaponics systems will be built with the help of Western Dakota Tech students at the new Meals on Wheels facility on East Saint Patrick Street. The end goal of the program is to help alleviate some of the food insecurity issues in the area.

Mitchell was glad for the opportunity to work with Meals on Wheels stating “Meals on Wheels is a really great partner. They’re really in a bad spot for local foods, it’s one of the things they are really working on, they are needing to eliminate some of the supply chain issues that we had through covid and, really it’s the goal of the controlled environment agriculture program is to help our community with food security issues and train students.”