Passion Project: Forest County man creates aquaponics farm in his own style
Nestled in the forest off Highway 8 east of Laona sits Wild River Harvests farm.
It’s got what you might expect on a farm, rows of vegetables, apple trees, and goats, ducks, and chickens wandering their pens.
A newly built pole building and green house catch your eye as you come up the driveway, but inside is not what you’d likely expect.
“I think it looked like I was a mad scientist in the backyard building a rocket ship. They weren’t sure what to make of the whole thing,” said owner Scott Goode.
Inside, has created a passion project of his that’s been 10 years in the making: an aquaponics farm.
Ever since he visited Growing Power in Milwaukee, an aquaponics farm owned by basketball star Will Allen, he’s been hooked on the idea.
“For 25, 30 years I’ve been tied in with minnows and fish, so that part fascinates me. My wife does more of the vegetables and the plants that I do, but just the whole idea that the two can go together in a symbiotic relationship and how well it works out,” said Goode.
An aquaponics farm uses water from fish tanks to feed plants.
When you walk into the green house two large water tanks filled with fish line either side of the floor with a pathway in between.
“Each of these tanks is 3,000 gallons,” Goode said.
Water flows out of PVC piping that comes from wood platform above.
Up the steps to the platform you find two layers of raised beds that hold a layer of rocks. Water from the tanks below is pumped up and flows over them.
Dozens of planters are overflowing with vegetables ranging from tomatoes and cucumbers to strawberries and spider plants sit with the bottom inch or so in the water.
“Here we’ve got everything growing. These are in here in the last three weeks, I put these in. The growth rate is about twice as fast as in the garden because we have ideal conditions all the time,” he said.
This was not Goode’s first attempt.
10 years ago, he built an aquaponic set up only to have it burn down just as he was getting the first plants growing.
“I just didn’t have the passion for it after that. It kind of sickened me, but after all these years I’m back on the kick. This has consumed me lately. Between building the building that we have and the greenhouse, the last year has been all inclusive with this.”
Now, back at the point he was his venture came to stop all those years ago, Goode is keeping his options open for the future.
What makes Goode’s aquaponics farm different from most others you’ll find is the minnows in the tank. While most farms use tilapia for their hardiness and ability to sell them to restaurants once they’re fully grown, Goode is trying out fathead minnows in his tanks.
“Nobody else is doing that in greenhouses because you have to have a certain market for it. It’s not table fair where everyone’s going to be eating them,” he said. “But I’ve had a 25-year relationship with the bait industry. I’ve trapped for some of the bait wholesalers, and they’re all interested to see if I can breed these and raise them. That would save them a trip to either Minnesota or Arkansas to get their bait, so this is kind of an experiment in that sense.”
Next spring, he’s going to try tilapia in the tanks.
This year has been about experimenting with what vegetables grow best.
“We haven’t had any failures yet,” said Goode.
Goode’s also been approached by some people asking if he’d build smaller set ups for their homes.
“I did make a small unit years ago for a science class. It’s about a 4-by 8-foot unit that could work inside of a home or a science class,” he said. “People were interested in possibly doing something with that, so that could be another direction we go in as well.”
No matter which route he chooses, Goode is happy his passion project is bearing fruit, or in this case vegetables, and can’t wait to see what comes next
“Eventually this will be nice retirement for us if we can get this going and make some money off of it. Hopefully people will take interest it and learn a different way to grow,” said Goode.
Goode is happy to show people around the farm. He just asks that you call first. You can also see the progress on the Wild River Harvests facebook page.