Green Bay, Wis. — In unique partnership with biologists from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay’s College of Science, Engineering and Technology, The Farmory plans to open Wisconsin’s first research-based, full-scale year-round commercial fish hatchery this winter.
The first of its kind in the state, the partnership combines UW-Green Bay’s faculty and student expertise, along with the The Farmory’s innovative indoor vertical aquaponics system and large hatchery space. Fresh, locally-grown perch will once again be available to area restaurants and provide opportunities for local commercial fish entrepreneurs.
Exceptional community support and a grant from the WiSys Technology Foundation have jump-started the project, most notably the hiring of fish biologist Ken Webb, an associate researcher at UW-Green Bay, and often referred to as The Farmory’s “Fish Guy.” Webb’s leadership and expertise in the aquaculture industry allows for potential development of new intellectual property from the hatchery project, and will position The Farmory as a regional center of excellence in the aquaculture and indoor AgTech industries.
Fish are a mainstay in the area, especially the famed Friday night fish fry. Yet the majority of fish in local restaurants are imported. “For a variety of reasons, the Lake Michigan yellow perch population has plummeted and commercial fishing of this and other species have deteriorated,” says Claire Thompson, Executive Director of The Farmory in downtown Green Bay. “We believe this partnership with UW-Green Bay will spur the aquaculture industry, provide a collaborative venue for entrepreneurs looking to test new technologies in indoor agriculture, and bolster the local food supply chain.”
The partnership between a public institution and non-profit organization is remarkable. The Farmory staff and volunteers will literally work side-by-side with UW-Green Bay’s biological science experts, creating a real living laboratory for applied research and the ability to commercialize innovative technology. Webb is tasked with using modern aquaculture techniques to create a perch hatchery that is efficient and environmentally stable. “(Perch) fingerlings that are bio-secure and sustainable year-round give us the ability to teach and allow farmers to produce fish commercially,” says Webb, whose background includes introducing new species with the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Association (NOAA) in Seattle. “It’s very uncommon to see this type of hand-in-hand operation, especially in the same building, where the direct link between hatchery and research allows us to see what’s working and not working in real-time,” says Webb. “Through this unique partnership, we can empower anyone with the tools needed to successfully raise their own food and know exactly how and where their food comes from.”
Students in UW-Green Bay’s Biology program are already immersed in local aquaculture education and it continues to grow. Majors related to fisheries, aquaculture, environmental engineering technology and nutrition are expanding on campus and more and more students are interested. “Our biology majors have increased substantially over the past years related to fisheries,” says UW-Green Bay’s Dean of Science, Engineering and Technology, John Katers. “The Farmory partnership will give students another opportunity to have direct involvement with cutting edge research and the development of innovative intellectual property within the aquaculture industry.”
Webb believes that aquaculture is the future of agriculture, “…but the United States is lagging far, far, far behind the rest of the world in developing the industry.” He believes the collaboration with The Farmory is an opportunity to help advance the culture of a species (perch) and an industry, in a region that is ripe for it. Despite all of the water in Wisconsin and the demand for fish products, “…there is still a pitifully small aquaculture industry here,” states Webb. “I hope to be a part of changing that.”
The 500,000 fingerlings expected to be produced and sold within the hatchery to fish farmers throughout the region will also have a positive impact on the quality of the more than 100,000 pounds of greens produced each year. “Wisconsin is known for its expertise in the dairy tech industry,” says Thompson. “this partnership showcases the latest technology in the agricultural sector, specifically aquaculture and indoor vertical aquaponics, generating new ideas, testing these ideas, teaching and working with entrepreneurs to further local knowledge and business.”
Story by freelance writer Kristin Bouchard ’93
About The Farmory
The Farmory is a campaign to create a model of agricultural innovation that reimagines the use of indoor urban spaces and provides our community with opportunities to cultivate healthy, sustainable livelihoods. By converting an empty former armory building into a 20,000 square foot indoor vertical aquaponics farm, this non-profit will inspire a new generation of local students, volunteers and area residents to further their education and seek careers in STEM and sustainable agriculture, as well as upskill individuals with challenging life circumstances to support their entry or re-entry to the workforce through apprenticeships and defined work experiences. The Farmory’s goal is to build a dynamic and diverse food system, where indoor farming plays an integral role in bolstering the physical, environmental and economic health of our communities.
WiSys was established in 2000 and is an independent, nonprofit supporting organization for the UW System whose mission is to support the creation and transfer of innovations from the University of Wisconsin System to the marketplace.
About the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay
The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay is a comprehensive public institution offering undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs to nearly 8,000 students with campus locations in Green Bay, Marinette, Manitowoc and Sheboygan. Established in 1965 on the border of Green Bay, the University and its campuses are centers of cultural enrichment, innovation and learning. The Green Bay campus is home to one of the Midwest’s most prolific performing arts centers, a nationally recognized 4,000-seat student recreation center, an award-winning nine-hole golf course and a five-mile recreational trail and arboretum, which is free and open to the public. This four-campus University transforms lives and communities through student-focused teaching and research, innovative learning opportunities, powerful connections and a problem-solving approach to education. UW-Green Bay’s main campus is centrally located, close to both the Door County resort area and the dynamic economies of Northeast Wisconsin, the Fox Valley region and the I-43 corridor. UW-Green Bay offers in-demand programs in science, engineering and technology; business; health, education and social welfare; and arts, humanities and social sciences. For more information, visit www.uwgb.edu.