Port Orchard couple grows trout with aquaponics

One might be tempted to say that a Port Orchard couple, Rene and Linda LaMarche, are breaking new ground by growing trout instead of tilapia in their backyard aquaponic system. But the truth is they’re not using the ground or any type of soil at all.

Rene LaMarche shows off the root system of plants growing in his aquaponic garden at his Port Orchard home.
Kitsap Sun photo by Meegan M. Reid

Aquaponics is a combination of aquaculture (in this case growing fish) and hydroponics (growing crops in water). The system is set up so that leafy green vegetables thrive from the waste excreted by fish, which are cultured for optimal growth. So you end up with a full-meal deal.

Reporter Chris Henry wrote about the LaMarche enterprise in a story in Friday’s Kitsap Sun. The whole thing sounds impressive, and I think the buying public will be more interested in trout than tilapia — not to mention the fact that trout are native to the Northwest and fit in better with our climate. As with any enterprise, the key will be to balance the costs, so that you can sell your produce for a profit.

Chris Henry likens Rene LaMarche to the “Johnny Appleseed” of aquaponic gardening. LaMarche envisions lots and lots of people getting involved in growing their own.

“We have aspirations of getting Kitsap County back on the map as an agricultural center,” Rene told Chris. “We’ve got a lot of expectations, not only for growing vegetables for a living, but also teaching people so they can eat healthier and live healthier.”

Rene is a pioneer in Northwest aquaponics — in the sense that he’s learning techniques to make this kind of system work for our region. Aquaponics is fairly well established in Hawaii and other places, though intense research continues at various universities to improve production.

Here are some sources for further reading:

University of Hawaii

Small-Scale Lettuce Production with Hydroponics or Aquaponics (PDF 380 kb) by Harry Ako and Adam Baker, Department of Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering

Research News: (PDF 6.1 mb)
College of Tropical Agricullture and Human Resources CTAHR
University of the Virgin Islands

Recirculating Aquaculture Tank Production Systems: Aquaponics — Integrating Fish and Plant Culture (PDF 316 kb)
by James E. Rakocy, Michael P. Masser and Thomas M. Losordo

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