Bringing the Sea to Iowa

posted on Thursday, June 29, 2017

This time of the year the fields in Iowa begin to turn into seas of green corn and soybeans.  In the last few years some Iowans, in the familiar pioneer spirit have begun bringing the sea to consumers in Iowa and surrounding states.  Aquaculture appears to be a growing endeavor in Iowa and neighboring states.

When you think of Aquaculture you probably envision a cluster of ponds, maybe with an aerator or two.  This is a common site in those states where pond raised catfish is a significant contributor to the economy.  However, many of the varieties of seafood require more controlled growing conditions.  Cool moving water is a necessity for species like Trout, Salmon, Tilapia and Sea Bass.

So why the interest in growing seafood in the Midwest?  There are many reasons but they all boil down to cost.  Growing fish require food that is high in protein and other nutrients.  Most of the fish grown in production facilities are carnivores.  Since they survive on fish in the wild one of the preferred ingredients in fish food is fish meal.  However, fish meal has become very expensive and aquaculture is under pressure to reduce the need to kill fish to feed fish.

It turns out that soybean meal is widely accepted by fish nutritionist as a substitute for all or part of the fish meal.  In some cases, dried distiller’s grains, a by-product of the corn ethanol production process, is gaining acceptance in fish food rations.  Where do you find soybeans and corn?  In the Midwest of course.  So, a trend that is likely to continue is bringing the fish to the feed.

There are several well-established pond stocking operations in Iowa.  Producing fish and shrimp for food has been around for a few years.  Currently the varieties grown in Iowa are Tilapia, Pacific White Shrimp and Barramundi.  New sites are under development in Ellsworth, IA (Tilapia), Harlan, IA (Salmon) and Luverne, MN (Shrimp). 

Aquaculture map

New techniques for growing varieties of fish and shrimp in controlled conditions in indoor production facilities are more likely to succeed when power is less expensive and consistent and the food source is nearby.  Iowa has the dependable and lower cost energy as well as the feed.

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