blue Aquaculture tubs in a unfinished building

MISG-led Aquaculture Challenge engages students in STEM learning, innovation, and career development by developing aquaponics systems and business plans.

The Aquaculture Challenge is a collaboration between MISG and Lake Superior State University (LSSU). The program was first started by Dr. Barbara Evans and LSSU students and is now supported by MISG. This science competition engages students in grades 8-12 from around the Midwest in a four-month venture to build and monitor aquaponics systems, create business plans, and cook seafood dishes. The competition aims to engage students in STEM content, push teams to develop innovative aquaculture designs and business models, and demonstrate the potential of future aquaculture-related career paths. 

The 2023 Aquaculture Challenge wrapped up in May. The year’s nine teams came from Michigan and Wisconsin, representing about 100 student participants and 11 adult coaches from rural, urban, and suburban schools. Each team worked from January through April to design and engineer a table-top aquaponics system. They monitored and automated the systems, crafted business plans, and created seafood outreach projects. Staff from MISG and faculty and students from LSSU provided guidance and mentorship to teams and coaches throughout the process.

The teams celebrated their hard work through a virtual awards ceremony. View the awards ceremony on YouTube and meet the winning teams:

  • Judges’ Choice Award: Alcona Community Schools, Harrisville, MI  
  • The Taste Maker Award (best seafood project): School of Options and Applied Research (SOAR) High School, Eagle River, WI
  • The Entrepreneurial Spirit Award (best business plan): School of Options and Applied Research (SOAR) High School, Eagle River, WI
  • The Tech Savvy Award (best monitoring): Green Lake High School, Green Lake, WI  
  • Most Innovative Design Award (best system design): Les Cheneaux Community Schools, Cedarville, MI
  • Grand Prize (highest overall score): School of Options and Applied Research (SOAR) High School, Eagle River, WI  

Aquaculture Challenge program organizers hope that teams are excited to continue learning more about aquaculture and aquaponics as sustainable ways to generate food security and economic growth for the Great Lakes region.

To learn more about the Aquaculture Challenge or to explore participating in 2024, contact MISG Extension Educator Elliot Nelson at