Aspen Aquaponics is successful farm operation

Submitted Photo Tomotoes are grown year around in Keith Knudson’s aquaponics operation in Bottineau.

Keith Knudson of Bottineau is involved in aquaponics in both of his careers.

At Dakota College at Bottineau, he teaches horticulture. The two-year college offers an aquaponics program that draws students from all over.

In the program, students learn about aquaculture, which combines aquaculture – raising marine and freshwater aquatic plants and animals – and hydroponics, or how to grow plants in water or things other than soil, according to the college website.

When he isn’t teaching students, Knudson runs the farm operation Aspen Aquaponics.

Knudson said he started raising fish in his shop in 2001. That year, he raised 1,000 perch and 2,000 walleye. Those fish were released into a local lake the following year in 2002.

He has raised fish every year since 2001. He raises approximately 400 fish annually, specializing in perch, rainbow trout and bluegills. The fish are used to stock ponds across the state. Back in 2012, he also started raising tilapia.

In 2009, he added vegetables to the operation. He uses water from the fish tanks to feed the vegetables that he grows. He says it is extremely efficient and operates like a closed circle.

He has a heated greenhouse at the farm. He grows all sorts of vegetables year round, including herbs, greens, strawberries and winter vegetables in the winter and in the summer he grows tomatoes, peppers, herbs and warm weather plants.

The tilapia are also grown for human consumption and he sometimes travels to farmers markets with his wares.

He will also have an intern working with Aspen Aquaponics this year.

There are many career opportunities for people studying there. Students can earn either an associate degree or a certificate in one of the related fields.