Monday, September 1, 2014

Iowa Fish Farmers Raising Barramundi in Hog Barns

Des Moines Register:
The Nelsons are cousins whose fathers began farming with the assortment of critters and crops common to mid-20th century farms — hogs, chickens, cattle, corn, dairy. That's what the cousins knew and that's what they did, too. You wouldn't think that working a booth at the annual Pork Congress would change that, but it did.
"I was set up next to a company called Cablevey," Mark, 57, said. "They had a photo of a fish-feeding system and when they showed it to me, it just sort of clicked.
"We already had a hog barn that was sitting empty; it's really too small for today's standard hog operation, but the size and dimensions were just right for fish. I told Jeff I had an idea." Jeff, 54, said he was game.
That was in 2009. The duo spent nearly three years doing research on the industry, traveling to fish farms all over the country and looking at different systems; learning about fish species; and going to aquaculture shows. They settled on a fish — hybrid striped bass — and a low-maintenance recirculating system.
"We really liked the simplicity of it," Jeff said. "And it's sturdy; we saw some tanks that were still in use after 20 years." They sold their first fish in March of 2012.....
Over the course of the last year or so, the Nelsons have decided, again, to head in a new direction. Within a few months, the last of their hybrid striped bass will be sold and eaten. All the facility's tanks will be full of barramundi, a favorite eating fish in Australia and Southeast Asia, but fairly uncommon in the United States. Most of the fish species that are farmed for consumer consumption here (as opposed to pond stocking and sport fishing) are catfish and tilapia.
But after raising the hybrid striped bass, and doing more research, Brent Nelson said they are making the change (and expanding the facility) for several reasons — that all go back to one.
"Barramundi is just a better fish," he said. "It's better to eat, it's better genetically. Bass are very stress intolerant, too."
Another advantage of the Nelson's barramundi system, said Clarken (the future son-in-law) is that the "bio-security risks are zero."
While the bass came from pond hatcheries, the barramundi are hatched by an Australian company in tanks.
There you go, Pete.  Another aquaculture strategy for you to investigate.  I wonder how well barramundi fry up, as that is the only way I care to eat fish.


  1. I wonder what the market for barramundi looks like. At some points I have wondered about working with local restaurants to create a market for "local" fish that would be year round (farmed)

  2. I'd never heard of barramundi before reading this article, so I'm definitely clueless about the barramundi market.