Milwaukee could become a world leader in aquaponics

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Milwaukee could be on a path to become a world leader in one developing industry, aquaponics.

Aquaponics is the raising of fish and plants in the same system -- and it could be the next big thing in urban agriculture.

"You're getting two products in the system you're getting plants first and then you're getting fish maybe ten months later so you start harvesting your plants and you're making some income on your plants and then you're going to get some income on the fish at the end," said Will Allen of Growing Power.

They also see aquaponics as a way to target two societal scourges -- vacant buildings can be converted into aquaponics space -- and the output helps fight food deserts.

"The vegetables and the plants they could go into community markets and the fish is the same thing you could set up a route to distribute your food to restaurants or grocery stores," said Fred Binkowski, a UW-Milwaukee scientist.

Growing Power and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee are teaming up to study different aquaponics systems -- and plan to provide an economic blueprint for what it would cost to start your own aquaponics outfit. They're using yellow perch, a favorite of Wisconsin fish fries -- and a fish with a high retail value.

"Value is probably sixteen to eighteen dollars a pound on a retail level," said Binkowski.

They hope that helps inspire possible investors -- and that eventually, aquaponics could be a big source of income and job creation in Milwaukee and other cities.

"We produce about 100,000 fish here now on this small three acre farm," said Allen.