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Doose Aquaponics offers fresh produce year-round

Many of the tomato plants are beginning to ripen at Doose Aquaponics, just in time for the holidays. (Herald photo by Matt Lambert)1 / 3
Doose Aquaponics is located at W9203 Highway 10 west of Ellsworth. People can buy organically grown vegetables there Wednesday, Dec. 21; then, the business will officially open after the new year. (Herald photo by Matt Lambert)2 / 3
Along with the rows of tomatoes at Doose Aquaponics near Ellsworth, cucumber plants begin to grow. (Herald photo by Matt Lambert)3 / 3

TOWN OF TRIMBELLE -- Two rural Ellsworth residents are reopening a produce business that started because of one thing: boredom.

After previously leasing a greenhouse in Prescott for a couple of years, Tim and Shawn Doose took their business, Doose Aquaponics, and moved to a farm west of Ellsworth (W9203 Highway 10) to expand their passion for gardening.

Tim, a heavy machine operator for County Line Aggregate, a gravel pit company in Rosemount, Minn., found himself looking for ways to fill his time in the winter. From November to April, Tim is laid off due to weather and decided to look into aquaponics.

“I get bored in the winter time when I don’t have nothing to do, so I like growing stuff,” Tim said. “So I built a greenhouse in my backyard just to grow stuff in dirt.”

That was 10 years ago. It was just regular gardening at first, but with harsh temperatures making that difficult in the winter, Tim had to improvise after getting bored again.

“I looked up hydroponics,” Tim said. “Then I stumbled upon aquaponics.”

According to Tim, aquaponics is combining hydroponics, a method of growing plants in water rather than soil, and aquaculture, the raising of fish or other aquatic animals.

Tim uses the fish’s waste to fertilize plants and the water in which the fish live is filtered by the plants he grows, ultimately cleaning it. The water then returns back to the fish tank, an organic way to grow his crops.

“For aquaponics you cannot use herbicides or pesticides at all,” Tim said. “It’ll kill the fish. It’s all naturally grown.”

Aside from his boredom, Tim thought it’d be a good way to combine his hobbies of gardening and collecting exotic fish. When Tim was starting out he found himself prepared, with 11 fish tanks already in his home.

In addition to organic growing of plants, Tim can grow anything he wants year round. He has two separate areas at his home: one is designated the lettuce room and the other is a normal greenhouse that’s a comfortable 68 degrees.

Tim began his aquaponics quest by watching various Youtube clips on homemade floating beds and fish tanks, and scouring the internet to read experts’ knowledge. Aquaponics isn’t necessarily a popular form of gardening, but Tim said that he and his wife recently attended a aquaponics class in Montville, Wis.

The class showed different experiments and “state-of-the-art” products that Tim wants to try; he hopes to remodel the quonset hut in his yard as well.

“They were doing different experiments for different companies that raise (certain plants),” Tim said. “When we were up there they were doing it with potatoes.”

While Tim hasn’t tried to raise potatoes yet, he has a wide variety of options to choose from.

“I have tomatoes, onions, carrots, I will have radishes here soon. I gotta get the bed built,” Tim said. “Green onions, regular onions, cilantro, I’ve got basil started.”

Doose Aquaponics also has various kinds of lettuce and cucumbers as well. The only vegetable that’s given Tim trouble thus far is fennel, but he says he’s learned from his mistakes.

All of his vegetables and tomatoes are grown in wooden, hand made boxes that allow the plants plenty of room to expand and grow. Tim has had very minimal issues thus far: just a couple plants not taking or carrots overgrowing their space.

One of the most important aspects of aquaponics is how the fish and filtration system used to send the water through the plants and their roots and back into the tank work together. Tim has three tanks that he built. These tanks are nothing more than a wood frame and rubber draped inside.

To make sure the water is filtered efficiently and enough fish waste is provided for fertilizer, Tim has two tanks filled with bluegill hybrids, almost 90 in each tank, and 40 to 50 tilapia in another.

While the process seems intense, the fact is it’s relatively easy, as long as you do your research, according to Tim.

He also recommends trying to build things yourself, rather than buying the equipment already put together.

“You can buy them outright but they are very expensive,” Tim said. “You can learn to build your own like I did or you can spend a lot of money and buy the made ones.”

Doose Aquaponics will be open for one special day Wednesday, Dec. 21. Tim said he wants to make sure that people can have organic, locally grown, pesticide-free vegetables and tomatoes for their holiday celebrations.

The business will officially open after Jan. 1, 2017 and be open every Saturday and Sunday.

For now, Tim is feeding his fish and making sure his plants are properly floating in their polyurethane styrofoam pots.

For more information and growing updates, visit “Doose Aquaponics” on Facebook.


Matthew Lambert

Matthew Lambert joined the Pierce County Herald and River Falls Journal in December 2016 covering government, school board, and writing features about the community. He is a graduate of Winona State University with a Bachelor's degree in Journalism.