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NCR SARE Farmer Rancher Grant Recipients in Illinois from 1992-2008

Aquaponics Combine Fish, Tomatoes, and Ingenuity


Lori Bahre, Oakdale, Illinois

early makes people come back every week.”


Growing Fish and Plants in Bahre plans to increase sales by introducing
an Aquaponic System
other types of produce into the system.
Coordinator: Lori Bahre Although an aquaponic system requires
Location: Oakdale, Illinois a good deal of work, Bahre believes the
SARE Grant: $4,848 results are worth it.
“Everything tastes as good or better
Grant Year: 2004
than the traditional garden vegetables, and
Project Number: FNC04-533 they’re healthier,” she says. “People like the
Lori Bahre developed an aquaponics idea that there aren’t pesticides on their
system, which is housed in a 30- by “...having produce produce. Besides, the plants produce more
50- foot greenhouse. The system proved and they produce longer.”
successful, producing significantly more
early makes people Bahre hopes to be able to share the
vegetables than her traditional garden. come back every lessons she’s learned with the community
at large.
week.” “One of the professors at Southern

F resh fish and homegrown tomatoes


sound like the beginnings of a
perfect summer meal. They’re also
the ingredients of a productive aquaponic
system, and many growers are finding that
The nutrient-packed fish waste, rich in
nitrogen and other byproducts, fertilizes the
planted grow beds. The grow beds, in turn,
Illinois University is excited about the
greenhouse because he can teach his
students about aquaponics and it’s close
by,” she says. “We also plan on having FFA
the challenge of developing such a system digest the waste, reducing or eliminating groups come out, and whoever is interested
is well worth the effort. the toxicity before the water is returned to in bringing their class can do so.
Lori Bahre of Oakdale, Illinois, is one of the fish tanks clean and recycled. “We’d be excited to show anyone
them. However, Bahre’s system is not how an aquaponic greenhouse works,”
“We had as many tomatoes from the hydroponic in the strict sense of the word Bahre says.
12 plants in our aquaponic system as we because she plants her grow beds with an By Leanne Lucas
had from 50 plants in our garden,” said inert material.
Bahre. She received a SARE grant in 2004 to “I tried rock wool at first and it kept
develop her system, which she houses in a the roots too wet,” she says. “They didn’t
30- by 58-foot greenhouse on her property. survive. So I planted them in perlite only
She is amazed with her results and they grew wonderfully.”
“The tomatoes in the greenhouse Bahre also grew green peppers. “The
were ready by the end of April, while the peppers grew well in the rock wool and
garden tomatoes weren’t ready until the directly in perlite as well.”
first of June,” Bahre says. “The greenhouse Bahre’s grow beds are 14 by 16 feet
tomatoes also grew faster and taller than and she has tried different combinations
the ones in the garden and no one could each planting season.
tell the difference in taste.” “At first I just had everything in
Aquaponics integrates aquaculture (the separate beds,” she remembers. “Last year
cultivation of fresh fish) and hydroponics I tried planting the tomatoes in the center
(supplying nutrients and water directly and the peppers on the outside. It definitely
to the roots of plants, without soil) in a worked better having them intermixed. You
Photo courtesy of ARS USDA

recirculating “closed water loop” cycle. Fish utilize the whole space.”
waste that accumulates in the water as Bahre sold her produce at the local
a byproduct of an aquaculture system is farmer’s market from early May to late
collected and channeled to the grow beds. August and found that “having produce