Green Bay Southwest High School students aim to tackle perch problem with aquaponics program

Local News

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) — Over the past school year, students at Green Bay Southwest High School have watched fish grow.

“The trout back there, they were like this big,” Student Lab Assistant Ben Haines described, indicating a small fish with his fingers. “Now they’re probably like 14 inches or so.”

The room used to be house to a welding shop, but now hosts hundreds of fish.

“This all started about 20 years ago,” Tom Sebranek, an Agriscience Teacher at Southwest said. “We all started with two fish that we got from Navarino, two tilapia.”

From those two tilapia, a program grew.

“We have an aquaculture, aquaponic class that is dual credit with NWTC,” Sebranek said, “and now I have my two lab assistants, so they take care of everything.”

Christian Degroot, one of those Student Lab Assistants, described the job: “We feed them [the fish] we clean their tanks, we make sure everything’s pretty much healthy and all the fish are good to go.”

The Student Assistants also help out with the aquaponics system set up in the school’s greenhouse.

The system involves a series of pumps that trade water between fish tanks and plants, “these plants are nourished by fish waste,” Haines explained.

The symbiotic relationship they’ve helped establish could one day help feed the school.

“I can get from seed to market-sized lettuce and greens in six weeks,” Sebranek said. “So we can cycle that throughout and actually feed our own schools fresh stuff that we wouldn’t have to worry about.”

That’s not the only thing the program is working to bring to the table.

“There’s a huge market for yellow perch,” Sebranek said, referencing the area’s perch shortage, “so that’s kind of where I’m starting.”

300 yellow perch came to the school as fingerlings, and are currently being grown.

Sebranek said they should be ready to sell by December.

That’s a goal the students are enjoying working toward.

“When you’re working back here every single day and having this final product that you can look at, just the fish length or that they’re healthy, it’s rewarding,” Haines said.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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