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Kenneth Tours an Aquaponics Farm in Stuart

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Today, I got to tag along on the Ardmore HFV Wilson Community Center Summer Agriculture Education Tour to Stuart, Oklahoma. That’s where Daniel Wilson and his family operate a large-scale aquaponics farm on property that was deeded to his family by Creek and Choctaw chiefs more than 100 years ago.

I knew that aquaculture was growing plants in water, but I did not know there were fish involved. Here’s what I learned:

  • Daniel has koi fish in large tanks, where the water gets circulated through a series of filters.
  • The filters collect the waste in the water from the fish and encourage microbes and nutrients to gather in the second part of the system.
  • From there, the water is circulated through the plant beds in the greenhouse, so the plants are watered, as well as fertilized, with this water mixture from the fish tanks.
  • Once the initial plant seed sprouts, it is cared for as any ordinary outside or greenhouse plants would be. However, Daniel’s operation is organic, so he has to abide by certain rules and regulations set forth by the USDA.

Koi fish tanksThere are four fish tanks at the farm with Koi fish.

Aquaponics gardenDaniel Wilson currently grows tomatoes, basil, thyme and other vegetables inside the aquaponics greenhouse.

The farm also has greenhouses and outside spaces to grow vegetables in a traditional fashion once they have been started in the aquaponics system. I was fascinated with the whole system and impressed by the dedication to detail and hard work that Daniel and his family put into this operation. Some of the tomato varieties they are growing now have to be pollinated by hand with an electric toothbrush, since there are no bees or other insects inside the closed system of the greenhouse. Daniel’s niece, Adarra Wilson, is a member of the Puterbaugh Middle School 4-H Club, and she has made it a project of hers to help with the family aquaponics business. She helped explain and show us the science behind their operation. It was a great experience, and I learned about a fairly new type of agriculture.

Testing Sugar Content of TomatoAdarra Wilson shows visitors how to test the sugar content of a tomato with a refractometer.

Kenneth Watkins is a 2019 Lloyd Noble Scholar in Agriculture in Agriculture from Linden, California.