Background on the Operations
The following sections compare the nancial feasibility of Ocean Fish Farming and RAS based on two companies:Hukilau Foods and Premier Organic Farms.Hukilau Foods began as the Hawaii Offshore AquacultureResearch Project (HOARP). In 1999, Randy Cates tookover the operation and it became the nation’s rst com-mercial open-ocean aquaculture farm in 2000.
In 2006,the HOARP project was found to have “grossly polluted”the seaoor, “severely depressed” certain types of sea lifeand “drastically changed” the ecosystem.
In 2006, Catesentered into an agreement with Visionary, LLC, to form thecompany Grove Farm Fish & Poi, LLC.
The ocean leasewas transferred to this company in 2007 and the farm wasrenamed Hukilau Foods.
Hukilau now plans to expand itsproduction and lease site, and the numbers here reect theupcoming expansion. The Environmental Assessment forthis expansion was approved in July 2009.
Since the 1980s, the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI)Agricultural Experiment Station in St. Croix has beenconducting research on RAS. Much of the UVI research isconducted using a commercial-size RAS that incorporatesaquaponics. Through years of research, the staff at UVIhas established an aquaponics RAS that is made of easilyprocured material and is simple and efcient to run. Usingan eighth of an acre for production, the staff raises shand produce that is sold at a store on campus. The systemincludes four sh tanks, six hydroponic tanks and ltrationtanks to support good water quality and growth for boththe sh and plants.Premier Organic Farms, which is based on the modelcreated at UVI, combines organic growing practices incontrolled ecological environments as the basis for theirstate-of-the-art, eco-friendly aquaponics farming opera-tion, which can run anywhere in the world.
The companyhas done extensive research and development over thepast three years on its design known as the “Pod Grow-ing Unit.” Premier raises tilapia in RAS facilities that arelinked to plant tanks producing lettuce, herbs, peppersand tomatoes as its core products. Premier tilapia is fedan all-natural, nutritionally balanced diet of organic grainand protein. Premier Organic Farms does not use antibiot-ics or chemicals, nor does it use hormones.
Premier plansto build commercial Pod Growing Units near strategicmarkets across the United States over the next ve years,with further expansion worldwide as demand dictates. Thecalculations used in the following comparison are from theMemphis operation, which is currently under construction.
What You Can Get for $13 Million
Because the existing ocean sh farms in Hawaii are privateventures, their nancial records are not accessible to thepublic. Therefore, the total amount required to fund onefarm is unknown. However, we do know that $13 millionis being invested in the expansion of Hukilau Foods.
Thisnumber does not account for the money invested in start-ing HOARP or Cates International.One RAS aquaponics operation modeled on the UVI sys-tem and producing 11,000 pounds of tilapia and 37,800heads of lettuce per year, can be started with $40,490 (notincluding labor costs).
Ocean Fish Farming vs. RAS: Overview
The following aspects of ocean sh farming and RAS should be considered:
Ocean Fish FarmingRecirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS)
Must be a large commercial operation.The costs and effort involved make small-scaleoperations unrealisticScalable.Can be a family-sized unit in a backyard or basement, orscaled up to a mid-large commercial-scale operation
Use of Space
Uses public ocean areas.and consequently conicts with other uses, such ascommercial and recreational shing, swimming, diving,boating and more (often without compensation to thepublic for exclusive use)Can be placed virtually anywhere,from a room or backyard to otherwise undesirable locationslike brownelds or unused buildings or warehouses
Open system.Free ow of pollutants, including parasites, diseases,chemicals, uneaten feed, waste and animal escapes,directly into the oceanClosed-loop.RAS are completely contained systems that reuse most of thewater from the sh tanks. Wastes are removed (and poten-tially used in fertilizer or energy production) and water istreated and then recycled back to tanks
In direct competition with shermen.Because of certain escapes, only native species shouldbe grown via ocean sh farmingCan grow other species.RAS can grow non-native species that would not competewith shermen, including popular choices like tilapia
Ocean Fish FarmingDerived fromHukilau FoodsRecirculating AquaponicsDerived from theUniversity of the VirginIslands Experiment Station
Number of operations
Total production per year
5 million pounds of sh3.53 million pounds of sh12.1 million heads of lettuce