The new branding for Houdek. The blue, yellow, and green blocks indicate the company's progression from providing ingredients for aquafeed to pet food and in future to human health products, respectively.

Loam is where the heart is for aquafeed ingredient maker

South Dakota company names itself after state’s soil to emphasise sustainable roots


A US company that uses fermentation to convert agricultural processing by-products into fishmeal replacements for aquafeeds has changed its name to literally reflect its roots as it expands into new areas such as pet food and human health.

Prairie AquaTech, based in South Dakota, is now called Houdek, which is the name of the deep, well drained, loamy soil prevalent in the state and in which the crops the company uses are grown. Houdek is the official state soil.

Prairie AquaTech has been producing its aquatic and terrestrial feed ingredient brand, ME-PRO, at its Volga manufacturing facility in the state.

Soybean meal

The company was co-founded in 2011 by South Dakota Innovation Partners and South Dakota State University professors. Its proprietary fermentation process upcycles abundant agricultural processing by-products, such as soybean meal and dried distillers’ grain to produce an easily-digestible ingredient that reduces the need for less functional and less sustainable ingredients. Houdek says that ME-PRO has more than 70% protein, reduced anti-nutritive compounds, and increased bioavailability of phosphorus. There are two ME-PRO options, produced from either genetically modified or non-GMO by-products.

The company’s factory has a capacity to produce 30,000 tonnes of ME-PRO annually, with the majority of production going into feed for salmonids. Shrimp, sea bass, and weaned pigs make up the rest of the mix.

ME-PRO’s typical inclusion is 5-15%, although technically the product can replace 100% of fishmeal, the company said.

Most of current ME-PRO volume is used for salmonid feeds.

Solving global challenges

Co-founder and chief executive Mark Luecke said: “Because of our team members’ innovation and relentless focus on market needs over the past decade, it is important for our name to reflect the impact we are having in aquaculture and beyond.

“In order to better communicate this impact and our vision to the broader market, we created Houdek as a way to articulate our unique value proposition in each important, but very different, market segment.”

He added: “Houdek reflects our deep roots, while supporting our vision for the future which is solving global challenges, such as food and environmental security. Our fermentation technology has opened doors to new opportunities for a better life, everywhere.”

More raw material

The company said demand was exceeding current capacity, and it is looking to expand production. Its facility is pre-engineered to expand to 60,000 tonnes with minimal investment.

“The soybean crush market in the US is planning a significant expansion to produce more soybean oil for renewable diesel fuel; this is going to create a significant supply of soybean meal,” Luecke told Fish Farming Expert.

“This expansion has generated significant interest by large soybean processing partners wanting to work with us to upcycle their soybean meal to higher value and differentiated ingredients that are better for animal health and our environment.”