Fish farming is becoming more common in the Great Lakes region, but a lot of people still associate farmed fish with places like Alaska or the southern coastal states. The 2021 Great Lakes Aquaculture Days aimed to change that.
Put on by the Great Lakes Aquaculture Collaborative, which includes Sea Grant programs in all of the Great Lakes states, the event offered video tours of successful fish farms in Minnesota, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, New York and Wisconsin, along with interviews with the owners and other aquaculture professionals. The full playlist is available at greatlakesseagrant.com/aquaculture/events/featured and gives new or potential fish farm owners the chance to hear about successful business models and approaches to aquaculture operations.
“We wanted to help potential new owners in the Great Lakes understand how to select systems and processes for a successful fish farm business,” said Nicole Wright, Ohio Sea Grant’s aquaculture Extension specialist. “The best way to do that was to show them successful farms with a range of business models and a variety of paths into commercial aquaculture.”
The featured Ohio fish farm on the playlist is Ripple Rock Fish Farms in Frazeysburg, Ohio. Owner-operators Craig and Traci Bell started the business in 2013, using an award from the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program to bring design plans from Cornell University researchers for a mixed-cell raceway system to life. The family operation raises tilapia in a 6,000 square foot building, selling live whole fish to food markets and for pond stocking, and gradually growing from 1,000 pounds of fish in its first year to over 40,000 pounds in 2021.
The farm’s online shop also offers manuals, written by the Bells, to help other people get started in aquaculture, covering details of business planning, system design, and daily operations in addition to information about how to order fish. Learn more about Ripple Rock Fish Farms at ripplerockfishfarms.com.
“All of the tours and interviews stressed a few common themes required for success,” Wright added. “Never stress your fish, diversify your business as much as possible, start small and take advantage of family members’ skills, and always have a backup plan. Of course, a little bit of luck never hurts either!”
Ohio Sea Grant and the Great Lakes Aquaculture Collaborative continue to provide programming for those interested in fish farming or supporting sustainable aquaculture businesses. Sign up for event notification emails and news at go.osu.edu/subscribe and register for the next webinar “Fishy Finances: Tips for Funding Your Fish Farm” on November 17 at ohioseagrant.osu.edu/p/4mlvo.