Oneida Nation harvests fish and produce from self-sustaining greenhouse
ONEIDA (WLUK) -- The small, plastic-sheet enclosed greenhouse next to the Oneida Nation Veterans building in Hobart looks humble enough-- from the outside.
But on the inside, it's a different story.
Part aquaculture, part hydroponics, this aquaponics operation is a small-scale, nearly self-sustaining method of growing fish and produce.
Training and outreach intern, Kristy Krenke, says, "We use about 90 percent less water than conventional systems because we're on a re-circulatory basis. We don't lose a lot of water. Our plants are cleaning our water for our fish, and our fish in turn will provide us the waste that we need to grow the plants, the correct nutrients."
The program got off the ground in 2016 thanks to a Farm to School grant from the USDA.
The Oneida Nation High School has already reaped some benefits.
"We've probably given to our school roughly, I'd say, approximately 200 heads of lettuce already. It's not organic, but the only reason it's not organic is because our fish food is not organic. Everything else is good. And it's all good healthy food and it's in the community," said veteran service officer, Kerry Metoxen.
But one thing that hadn't been harvested yet was the fish.
At least, not until Wednesday.
The first harvest of tilapia was pulled from the tanks and served up to Oneida veterans and community members who have helped tend to the operation.
Early reviews were positive.
"I'm surprised. I was expecting a more fishy taste, and it's not a fishy taste. I can taste the texture of it, but it's not a fishy taste," Metoxen said.
The aquaponics operation has four fish tanks. And with each harvest of fish coming every 26 weeks, they'll stagger the fish going into the tanks. So that means they'll have a fairly steady supply of fish becoming ready for harvest.
Future harvests will generally go to the high school, which they estimate will be about 500 pounds of fish per year.