The immediate mission of Blue Water Aquaculture is to develop a sustainable, intensive system for production of walleye for the food market that is flavorful, nutritious, and affordable.
The walleye will be produced in a sustainable, environmentally friendly, land-based Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS) that minimizes water use and avoids negative waste products.
In its development, the company will take a phased modular approach. It will start with a prototype grow-out facility at a Minnesota location and from there develop a vertically integrated system that will grow to fill the needs of a much larger market with a range of products. Blue Water Aquaculture is a MN Sustainable Development Group company.
The current priority of the MNSDG is the creation of a sustainable agriculture and food system. Food is the nexus of many of the challenges we are now facing globally and locally. There cannot be a sustainable society without a sustainable food system; and, as stated by Professor Johan Rockström, Director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre in Big World Small Planet, “If we can get it right on food, then we stand a very good chance of pursuing wellbeing within a safe operating space.”
Sustainability is at the core of our company values and inform inform our design, operations, and technology decisions. We are working LHB Architecture to have net zero energy buildings. Our company will run completely on renewable energy resources.
We understand that raising fish in a humane way also leads to heathy fish with great taste and nutrition. This is a scientific fact.
Our company has a patent pending in an insect-based feed that meets the nutritional needs of walleye and can be grown on organic “waste” products.
Raising fish in our Recirculating Aquaculture System conditions results in stress-free fish that do not need antibiotics and vaccines. Our technology insures high water quality that is essential to this goal.
Aquaponics: The nutrients from the fish will be used to grow organically certified plant products. Currently we are considering products for salads, tomatoes, peppers, lettuces, and fruits, particularly strawberries. This requires special adaptations; however, it can be done and will ensure fresh fruits and vegetables grown in Minnesota year-round in the urban area.
Bio-Diversity, Bio-Security, and Animal Welfare measures are carefully and comprehensively contained in our Business Plan.
CURRENT OPPORTUNITY AND MARKET
Blue Water Aquaculture will be the first commercial level Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS) facility for walleye in North America. The North Central Regional Aquaculture Center (NCRA) has provided documentation of the viability of a commercial walleye fishery industry identifying walleye as “… one of the most promising species for aquaculture in the North Central Region….”
The Great Lakes Region has 60 million people who presently consume nearly a billion pounds of seafood products (defined to include freshwater finfish). Eighty to 90% of these products are currently provided by foreign fisheries companies. Fisheries, both ocean and freshwater, are in a state of decline or collapse. There is concern about the quality of these products due to contamination through pollutants, such as, mercury.
Further, the NCRA states, “The palatability of walleye seems well established, which has contributed to their presence in food-fish markets for more than 150 years. Walleye were once a substantial part of the commercial fisheries of the Great Lakes, especially in Lake Erie, the Mississippi River, and from many of the numerous glacial lakes of the U.S. and Canada. Walleye harvest from Lake Erie was as much as 23.8 million lb. (10.8 million kg) in 1956 (NOAA 1984).”
Walleye is recognized by most everyone in the region as a premium product:
“Walleyes have white meat and a light delicate flavor and are described as one of the “best eating of all freshwater fishes” (Carmichael et al. 1991), and “one of the most delicious of fresh-water fishes” (Cameron and Jones 1983). Skinless fillets from tank-cultured walleye had protein contents of 20.4-20.6%, and a fat content of 0.1-0.4%, values which place them in the low fat and high protein category of food fishes (Yager and Summerfelt 1996). Surveys in 1990 and 1992 of retail, wholesale, and other firms that comprise the traditional marketing channel for fish and seafood products within the Midwest indicated that walleye had high marketing potential as a food fish (Hushak et al. 1992).” Hushak 1993). Riepe (1998) found that walleye is one of the top four best-selling species for both seafood wholesalers and retailers.
The name recognition is high throughout the region. The demand is there; however, supply is insufficient to meet demand.
There are a number of aquaculture technologies. Blue Water has chosen the RAS or Recirculating Aquaculture System as the appropriate technology for our region, climate, and our sustainability values and goals. The Blue Water Aquaculture Farmstead will include the grow-out facility to raise walleye to market size, a hatchery with a genetics lab, a feed mill to produce a fully sustainable feed, a processing plant with recovery of useful products from non-food waste, and a fertilizer plant to market a high-quality organic fertilizer. It will be a fully integrated system to ensure quality and sustainable practices in every step of the process from the hatching of the eggs to the delivery to the consumer.
The successful rearing of walleye using this system has been tested at the University of Wisconsin Northern Area Demonstration Facility in Bayfield, Wisconsin and the Freshwater Institute in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.
As Professor Robert Summerfelt has summarized:
“Intensive (tank) culture. Culture of first-feeding fry to fingerling walleyes in tanks or raceways with single-pass or recycle systems is referred to as intensive culture systems.
Twenty years ago, the prospects for intensive culture of walleye fry seemed remote, because of nonfeeding, noninflation of the gas bladder, clinging behavior (larvae cling to tank surfaces), and the interrelationships among these problem areas.
Overcoming these problems required a succession of successful problem solving of critical bottlenecks. Intensive fry culture is now a successful production technology to produce walleye fingerlings (Colesante 1996; Moodie and Mathias 1996; Moore 1996; Summerfelt 1996c).”
Dr. Summerfelt’s work and those of many other researchers are summarized in the North Central Region Aquaculture Center Publication, Walleye Culture Manual, with Dr.Summerfelt as Managing Editor. (He will be a BWA consultant along with other researchers who have contributed to the publication.)
And, as mentioned above, subsequent research at UW-NADF and the Freshwater Institute has also proven successful.
The eggs will be sourced from several vendors for genetic diversity. The in-house hatchery working with the growing facility will include a genetics program to improve growth performance over time. This is expected to reduce the time from hatch to market size by about 25%.
The integrated hatchery will ensure a year-round supply of fingerlings that would not otherwise be available.
The processing plant will also do the packaging and shipping to various outlets including direct online sales of frozen fillets of different sizes. There is the possibility of recovery of non-food items for pharmaceutical and other uses.
These functions will be treated as different divisions of the same company.
Advantages of Reuse Systems
“Intensive culture has many factors in its favor. Intensive culture is not subjected to variable environmental conditions, temperature can be controlled to enhance growth and growing season lengthened, nuisance aquatic organisms are eliminated, and the quality and quantity of the feed is controlled. In spite of high stocking density, cannibalism may be less of a problem in intensive culture than pond culture because in intensive culture cannibalism is easier to monitor, and should it occur, the environment (temperature, light, turbidity) or feeding rates can be adjusted, and variability in fish size, which is a major cause of cannibalism, can be reduced by grading. In intensive culture, growth rates can be stepped up or slowed by temperature manipulation to meet production schedules for fish of different size.”vi
In addition, problems related to predation and environmental degradation are eliminated.
Blue Water Aquaculture will produce 2,000,000 pounds of walleye with gross sales of $8,000,000 and a gross profit of $5,000,000. The goal ROI is 20%.
Aquaculture has potential to create many jobs, and no longer needs to be done offshore or in coastal regions. The facility may be located near markets with substantial savings in transportation and logistics.
The new RAS technology will allow the expansion to other species. The U.S. is a large consumer of fish/seafood products; however, currently most is imported.2 The dollar value of fish/seafood products consumed is approximately 80 billion with only 1 billion coming from U.S. sources, contributing over 11 billion dollars to the U.S. trade deficit.
Aquaculture is one of the most resource-efficient ways to produce protein. Fish come out well because, in general, they convert more of the food they eat into body mass than land animals. “Feed Conversion Ratios” indicate how many pounds of feed it takes to produce a pound of protein. As can be seen in the table below, salmon – the most feed-intensive farmed fish – is still far more efficient than other forms of protein production.3
Walleye is similar to salmon in this chart:
Intensive farmed fish is far more efficient than other forms of protein production.
Feed Conversion Ratio
It takes 1.2 pounds of feed to produce 1 pound of salmon
It takes 8.7 pounds of feed to produce 1 pound of beef
It takes 5.9 pounds of feed to produce 1 pound of pork
It takes 1.9 pounds of feed to produce 1 pound of chicken
With the RAS system, water is filtered and reused without discharge into streams. The recharge needs are minimal and can be supplied with a “… a garden hose” even with a large facility producing 2 million pounds of fish a year. This is accomplished with carefully designed filtration systems which provide valuable “waste products” used in organic agriculture. The concern of breed stock being released to the wild is eliminated. See video below.
The United States is the leading global importer of fish and fishery products, with 91% of the seafood we eat (by value) originating abroad – half of which is from aquaculture. Driven by imports, the U.S. seafood trade deficit has grown to over $11.2 billion annually. NOAA
FAQs by the NOAA Office of Aquaculture
The steps in RAS include solids removal, ammonia removal, Co2 removal, and oxygenation. The wastes are valuable secondary products.
Blue Water Aquaculture will meet the proposed organic standards for aquaculture as recommended by the Aquaculture Working Group to the National Organic Standards Board.
According to Bloomberg News, fish consumption is growing at a faster pace than beef, pork and poultry, driven by an expanding, increasingly prosperous global population that recognizes the health benefits of eating seafood. Demand is forecast by the United Nations to outstrip supply in coming years. Wild fish aren’t going to fill the gap, and that leaves farming–also known as aquaculture — to make up the shortfall.
Vegetables and Greens
We provide quality produce to our customers year-round. We have partnered with and continue to partner with commercial and research institutions to gather nutritional information and to grow produce that has much more nutritional value. It is local and does not the adverse ecological impact of fossil-fuel base systems and avoids the long-distance transport and long-delays from field to plate.
We will provide cherry tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, romaine lettuce, kale and other products to meet customer needs.
Fresh tasty strawberries will be available 365 days a year. Controlled environment agriculture (CEA) can provide opportunities to produce strawberry fruit in a sustainable manner. Both aerial and root zone environments can be controlled in CEA and maintained in the optimum range to maximize the productivity of strawberry plants. Nutrient solution can be recycled to save water and reduce fertilizer use, making resource use even more efficient.
Use of substrate/hydroponics eliminates the necessity of soil fumigation. Greenhouse structures exclude insect pests, reducing or eliminating the necessity of pesticide application.
Walleye is recognized by most everyone in the region as a premium product: “Walleyes have white meat and a light delicate flavor and are described as one of the “best eating of all freshwater fishes” (Carmichael et al. 1991), and “one of the most delicious of fresh-water fishes” (Cameron and Jones 1983). Skinless fillets from tank-cultured walleye had protein contents of 20.4-20.6%, and a fat content of 0.1-0.4%, values which place them in the low fat and high protein category of food fishes (Yager and Summerfelt 1996).