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Labor of Love!

Updated: Apr 28

Carol Ross, Ozaukee Master Gardener with input and photos from trip participant.

On March 16, eIeven Ozaukee Master Gardeners were treated to an exceptional tour of PortFish Aquaponics in Port Washington. PortFish is a year-round food production system. The tour was expertly lead by Pat Wilborn, Founder and Executive Director.


 Aquaponics is a combination of aquaculture and hydroponics. It cultivates plants and fish in a recirculating system.


PortFish has two halves:

  • Greenhouse where the food plants are growing in water tanks on "rafts" with holes for roots

  • Building where the fish tanks and filtration tank is kept.


The greenhouse grows colorful lettuce, kale, Swiss chard, Brussel sprouts, watercress, radish and sunflower sprouts, and nasturtium flowers (which are edible). The salad mixes are sold CSA-syle in their tiny store. PortFish uses natural pest control buying lady bugs and tiny wasps to control the aphids. Plants are harvested year long, but the least amount of lettuce is harvested in the summer when the greenhouse gets too hot.



The other building houses yellow perch leftover from the UWM School of Freshwater Sciences. They are separated into three tanks by size. Interestingly, the smallest fish produce the best nutrients in their waste. The water filtration system is ingenious. It is a closed loop system that continuously pumps the nutrient rich waste water from the fish tanks to the adjoining greenhouse where the plants take up the nutrients and send cleaner water back to the fish tanks. While alive, the fish belong to UWM. After they are a year old, they’ve outlived their usefulness and are processed in Sheboygan and sold at the PortFish store.



The precursor of PortFish started in the home of Pat Wilborn and his wife, Amy. In 2012, PortFish opened its current 4,400 square foot facility.


It takes many volunteers to keep PortFish running around the clock, year round as the system needs constant attention. It is a true labor of love for the Wilborns.

For more information on PortFish visit:



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