SweetWater Organics: Entrepreneurs Find Silver Lining in Great Lakes’ Peril


With Asian Carp knocking on the door and following decades of ecosystemic collapse, the Great Lakes’ once thriving fishery business is a shadow of its former glory. The Friday Night Fish Fry, a Wisconsin tradition, is now more often imported cod rather than the lake perch or other local varieties that made it famous.

Though it may take a hundred years before some kind of stability returns to the lakes (who knows, maybe the carp will become a new local delicacy), local entrepreneurs can still see an opportunity to satisfy demand and tradition while practicing restorative techniques on both economy and ecology. SweetWater Organics operates out of a massive dis-used industrial facility on the south side of Milwaukee and produces both fish and vegetables in a “three-tiered, aquaponic, bio-intensive fish-vegetable garden.” The company is the first commercial extension of Growing Power founder Will Allen’s urban farming concepts.

Here’s a quick video that will tell you more than I can write….

(More videos here).

So far the company is still considered an “experiment” in the commercial sense with about $500,000 invested between 5 investors. Eventual plans to have 100,000 fish (a combination of Tilapia and the aforementioned Perch) by mid 2010 are expected to result in a steady growth in fish and vegetable sales to local markets and directly to the public.

While the Great Lakes slowly recover, the Perch fry may live on as local and fresh as ever with the help of some systems-thinking enterprises like this one. I’m getting hungry.

Nick Aster is a new media architect and the founder of TriplePundit.com

TriplePundit.com has since grown to become one of the web's leading sources of news and ideas on how business can be used to make the world a better place.

Prior to TriplePundit Nick worked for Mother Jones magazine, successfully re-launching the magazine's online presence. He worked for TreeHugger.com, managing the technical side of the publication for 3 years and has also been an active consultant for individuals and companies entering the world of micro-publishing. He earned his stripes working for Gawker Media and Moreover Technologies in the early days of blogging.

Nick holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio School of Management and graduated with a BA in History from Washington University in St. Louis.