UM Dining Provides Learning Opportunities with Aquaponics System

January 23, 2015

UM Dining’s new aquaponics systemMISSOULA – UM Dining recently partnered with Galactic Farms to build a new aquaponics system. Galactic Farms, a Missoula-based, sustainable urban farming company was founded by UM alumnus Jeff Pernell. 

The new system, which is maintained by UM Dining Garden staff, replaces a smaller aquaponics system that also was designed by Pernell as an independent study project when he was a student in UM’s Environmental Studies program. 

The 200-gallon system is set up in the UM Corner Store and will allow year-round indoor growing. It has high-efficiency LED grow lights and uses 10 percent of the amount of water required for traditional farming. 

Aquaponics is a soil-less growing process, using plants, fish and beneficial bacteria in a closed, self-contained environment. UM Dining will be growing a wide variety of nutrient-rich leafy greens as well as fresh herbs and edible flowers in the new system.

Pernell said his past experience with UM Dining showed him UM is “way ahead of the curve” with sustainability. 

“UM Dining provides students with opportunities that can translate to professional work,” UM Dining Sustainability Director Rebecca Wade said. “Jeff developed some of the skills and knowledge needed to start a business in aquaponics as a student working with us, and that model could apply to other UM students.”

Created as a learning laboratory, the UM Dining Garden and aquaponics system serve as a sustainable-food production model. They produce food for UM Dining guests while generating academic collaboration and educational opportunities for students and the community at large.

“It shows students that UM Dining values locally sourced and fresh ingredients, and that we are committed to innovative sustainability programming,” Wade said. 

For more information on the new system call UM Dining Marketing Director Sam Belanger at 406-243-5089 or email

Contact: Sam Belanger, UM Dining director of marketing, 406-243-5089,