Great American Aquaculture Nears First Harvest
April 4, 2018
Bureau of Aquaculture
Great American Aquaculture LLC (dba Ideal Fish) has launched an aquaculture business in Connecticut that will produce fresh, sustainable, and safe seafood in land-based, recirculating aquaculture systems. The company is nearing its first commercial harvest of European seabass, or Branzino, which is expected to occur sometime in early May 2018.
Ideal Fish’s facility is located in a 63,000 square-foot former manufacturing building in Waterbury, CT that was originally built in the 1960s by the Waterbury Button Company. The facility has access to high-quality water, power, natural gas, and wastewater treatment.
The building has been repurposed to raise fish using a state-of-the-art Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS) that recycles more than 95% of the water required in the cultivation process.
Construction of the new facility commenced in late 2016 under the management of PAC Group, a local construction management company located in Torrington, CT, and will be fully complete by the end of April 2018.
As the first commercial-scale RAS in Connecticut that raises finfish, and one of only a few in the country that raises an ocean-going food fish in salt water, Ideal Fish hopes to significantly advance the use of RAS technology in the domestic aquaculture industry and enhance the growth of land-based aquaculture industry in Connecticut.
“We believe that recirculating aquaculture systems offer the ideal solution to some of the serious challenges facing seafood consumers in this country as they attempt to source fresh, high quality, traceable and safe seafood products”, said Eric Pedersen, Ideal Fish’s founder and CEO.
As a high-value species, Branzino’s popularity has been rapidly increasing in the United States since its introduction in 2012. Since then, imports have grown nearly 50% per year and are expected to grow by approximately 15% per year into the foreseeable future.
The vast majority of the nearly 8,000 metric tons of fresh seabass making its way to the North American market is farmed in sea cage operations throughout the Mediterranean—Greece and Turkey being the largest producing nations in the region.
Once the fish arrives at the retailer or restaurant, it has made its way through numerous distribution legs, including an overnight flight across the Atlantic, and is often nearly a week old.
Ideal Fish intends to sell most of its production directly into the grocery channel and to large restaurant groups. This will allow Ideal Fish to bring its fish to the customer within 24 hours of harvest.
“By locating RAS facilities directly into the markets they serve, fish can be supplied directly to retail outlets and consumers virtually on the same day they are harvested,” said Pedersen.
The Waterbury facility does not discharge any of its culture water or waste products directly into the environment, which eliminates the risk of escapism of this fish.
Ideal Fish plans to develop its business in three phases, the first of which is to successfully launch its seabass operations in Waterbury.
In the second phase, the company intends to demonstrate the viability of aquaponics at the Waterbury facility through the addition of a pilot-scale aquaponics operation using nutrients supplied by the RAS.
RAS systems are uniquely able to recover the waste products of fish production (feces, uneaten food, and carbon dioxide) and use them to supply nutrients for vegetable, herb, or leafy green production in an aquaponics system.
In particular, the RAS system in Waterbury employs an innovative technology that removes most of the salt water from the fish waste. This allows for the aquaponics production of plants and produce that grow in fresh water. All of the plants grown in an aquaponics system will be grown without the use of any pesticides or chemicals.
“RAS also addresses the critical responsibility of raising enough fish and other seafood products, in a long term, sustainable way, both to feed the growing population and to protect our environment—not just for today but well into the future,” said Pedersen.
Ideal Fish intends to commission the pilot scale aquaponics system the end of the summer of 2018 in an 8,000 square foot isolated area of the building before building out a full-scale system at the Waterbury site in 2019.
In the third phase of the build-out strategy, Ideal Fish will expand company-owned and -operated production facilities within Connecticut to serve the seafood market between Boston and New York City.
Over a ten-year period, Ideal Fish expects to expand beyond Connecticut, developing 10,000 to 20,000 metric tons of annual production capacity that will produce in excess of $100 million in annual sales, and create over 350 new jobs. The majority of these new jobs will be in Connecticut.