RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) – Western Dakota Tech is saving the agriculture industry with controlled environment agriculture indoors. The school receives thousands of dollars in grant money to expand their project.
Western Dakota Tech Program Director of Electrical Trades Bryan Mitchell explains how the aquaponics project works. (KOTA TV)
USDA grants $50,000 to Western Dakota Tech to expand their aquaponics project from a small closet to a bigger facility.
With agriculture being one of the leading industries in the state and frequent weather changes, Bryan Mitchell said indoor methods can help preserve the agriculture industry.
“I think this year we’ve only had 140 days without snow. Well that leaves quite a few other days where we can be controlling the environment and still producing at least something,” Bryan Mitchell, program director of electrical trades at Western Dakota Tech, said.
The school produces specialty crops like tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce. The goal is to produce 36 heads of romaine lettuce a week.
About 200 fish, 150 tilapia and the rest being fish for aesthetics, are in a tank ready to start the process.
The students and staff built a pipe system that circulates 800 gallons of water and filters out the nitrogen from the fish’s waste. The nitrogen passes through the pipes and nourishes the seeds that lay on the floating rafts.
With pink and blue lights, underwater cameras and a intricate technical system, it’s a hands-off method way to produce food.
“It is really impressive and it really shows how capable Western Dakota Tech’s faculty and students are in helping to having a big impact in the future of the state,” Western Dakota Tech President Ann Bolman said.
The future of putting a fresh salad on every person’s plate.
“Ultimately, we want people to be eating healthy. We want to be apart of providing a solution to food insecurity in our community,” Mitchell said.
The food will be donated to the Fork Real Cafe and the student food bank on campus.