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Superior Fresh has put the first US commercially-raised RAS Atlantic salmon on sale. Photo: Steve Summerfelt
Superior Fresh has put the first US commercially-raised RAS Atlantic salmon on sale. Photo: Steve Summerfelt

Wisconsin land-based fish farmer and hydroponic vegetable grower Superior Fresh has begun selling its first Atlantic salmon in Festival Foods stores in the northern US state.

Brandon Gottsacker: Will harvest every week of the year.
Brandon Gottsacker: Will harvest every week of the year.

The fish appeared in the shops on July 4 – Independence Day – although with an annual output of around 72 tonnes of Atlantic salmon and steelhead trout combined, three-quarters of which is salmon, Superior Fresh is unlikely to make the state independent of imported salmon any time soon. 

Superior Fresh harvested 900kg HOG (head-on-gutted) Atlantic salmon during the last week of June. The salmon weigh around 4-4.5kg as HOG fish, and sell at a premium price.

The company’s president, Brandon Gottsacker, told Aquaculture North America that concept to harvest took approximately three and a half years: “Facility design began in early 2015 and construction commenced in early 2016. There were a lot of lessons learned along the way. The largest lesson is truly understanding the relationship between the Fish House and the Greenhouse and optimising both simultaneously.”

He added: “There are no other facilities that are currently growing Atlantic salmon in the United States let alone in conjunction with a commercial greenhouse.

“We plan to harvest Atlantic salmon and steelhead every week of the year in order to make sure that the freshest product is available to the consumer.”

The Superior Fresh facility at Northfield, Wisconsin.
The Superior Fresh facility at Northfield, Wisconsin.
Lettuce grown with RAS by-product nutrients is harvested.
Lettuce grown with RAS by-product nutrients is harvested.

Superior Fresh uses a recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) which re-uses 99.9% of its water because leafy greens grown in a three-acre hydroponic greenhouse take up excess nutrients. The water is fed from the RAS to a hydroponic system where by-products are broken down by nitrifying bacteria into nitrites then nitrates. After the nitrates are utilised by the plants the clean water is recirculated back to the aquaculture system with virtually zero waste.

Waste production water is used to irrigate alfalfa for hay production.

‘Priming the pump’

RAS expert Steve Summerfelt, a long-time advocate of on-land salmon farming, recently joined Superior Fresh to manage the company’s scientific research and technological, promoting efficiency and profitability at the company’s current and future facilities.

Greener greens

  • The Superior Fresh RAS and greenhouse make up the largest aquaponics facility in the world
  • The facility grows 18,000 heads of lettuce every day, which adds up to 816 tonnes annually
  • During the winter the natural light in the greenhouse is supplemented by more than 1,100 energy efficient LEDs
  • The glass greenhouse covers 123,000 square feet
  • Water is drawn from two deep wells
  • The RAS requires 500,000 US gallons of water
  • The greenhouse requires 850,000 US gallons
  • 99.95% of the water is re-used
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In a social media post, he said: “The first commercially land-raised Atlantic salmon in the United States are now available at Festival Food stores across Wisconsin!

“Salmon production is ramping up as we now harvest weekly to offer local, fresh, healthy, and tasty fillets to Midwest seafood consumers. These fish are also considered “BEST CHOICE” by the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch Program!

“They never see pesticides, herbicides, or antibiotics. These fish are literally priming the pump for the expected growth in US land-raised Atlantic salmon production in the next several years.”

In a second post, he said: “We have zero discharge from the production and processing systems. In addition, every ton of fish feed produces almost one ton of Atlantic salmon plus close to 10 tons of certified USDA organic salad greens.”

In a speech at the official opening of the facility last year, Summerfelt, who was previously director of aquaculture systems research at the Conservation Fund’s Freshwater Institute, said: “This is the future of environmental-controlled agriculture. With their new RAS and the connected aquaponics greenhouse, Superior Fresh is producing greens and local seafood year-round in a place where this wouldn’t be possible otherwise.”

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