Oneida Nation uses aquaponics to create fresh produce

Local News

It’s hard to believe tilapia that only weighed one and a half pounds 26 weeks ago ended up on a plate today due to aquaponics.

Aquaponics is a mix of aqua culture and hydroponics.

The waste that fish produce goes to fertilize the plants.

The water the plants filter goes back to the fish which then and up on the dinner table.

Kristy Krenke works as an intern at Oneida’s aquaponic system.

The lettuce she helps produce goes to the Oneida Nation school system.

“It’s a pretty rewarding experience when you get to plant something, watch it grow and know it’s going to the high school where we don’t have fresh vegetables or produce around here at this time of year,” says Krenke.

The system was paid for by a grant from the USDA.

Today’s lunch was just a reflection of what the Oneida nation has been striving to do.

“We have a strong philosophy we practice that goes back to the beginning of our time, which is food sovereignty,” says Oneida business committee chairman Ernie Stevens. “We’ve always wanted to grow, process, harvest our food our way, so this was a pilot program that strengthened and empower that process for us.”

As part of the aquaponics philosophy, the fish die in the most humane way possible.

They are not fed and the water temperature is lowered during the purging process.

But today’s lunch was just a start for the Oneida nation.

They plan to change the face of aquaponics one head of lettuce at a time.

“We have a saying that we’re not farmers, we’re not environmentalist, it’s just in our blood,” says Stevens. “It’s in our DNA, so this is the thing that we were put on this earth to do and we were good at it.”

The aquaponics system is expected to produce 5,000 heads of lettuce and 500 pounds of fish a year. 

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