Atlantic Salmon on the Horizon for Aquaculture in Wisconsin and North America

UWSP NADF technician Jared Neibauer holds up a Cascade strain Atlantic salmon. Some fish weigh in at 40 pounds.


November 2, 2016

By Marie Zhuikov

Greg Fischer, facility operations manager for the University of Stevens-Point Northern Aquaculture Demonstration Facility (UWSP NADF), has seen the future of aquaculture in Wisconsin and North America, and it contains platefuls of delicious Atlantic salmon.

Fischer and UWSP NADF are working with partners in Washington State and Wisconsin to get U.S.-grown and farmed salmon onto people’s dinner tables. Currently, only a few sources for all-female Atlantic salmon eggs exist. (Female eggs are preferred because female fish grow faster.) Most of the Atlantic salmon produced for food is imported from Chile, Norway, Scotland and Canada.

“For consumers, it means that instead of getting salmon that’s grown in a foreign country where we have no control over quality, now we could get an American product that’s potentially grown close to your location,” Fischer said. “The fish is going to be fresher. It’s probably going to have some better qualities. It might be a little less expensive than fish shipped from overseas, and it’s sustainably grown.”

The Washington State company that NADF has been working with – Riverance, LLC. —plans to develop a U.S. source for all-female Atlantic salmon eggs for the aquaculture industry. For several years in their facility in Red Cliff, Wis., NADF has been rearing a special strain

Greg Fischer said of the Atlantic salmon, "The fish is going to be fresher. It’s probably going to have some better qualities. It might be a little less expensive than fish shipped from overseas, and it’s sustainably grown."

Credit: Marie Zhuikov/UW Sea Grant
of salmon called Cascades for Riverance, working in partnership with The Freshwater Institute in West Virginia.

Emma Wiermaa, NADF and Wisconsin Sea Grant aquaculture outreach specialist, explained that the salmon were domesticated fish originally bred for net pen aquaculture in saltwater. “We raised them in a freshwater recirculation system, and they are doing really well in fresh water. Their growth just exploded,” she said.

At up to 40 pounds apiece, these spotted leviathans are so huge, they’ve broken the nets used to transfer them during spawning operations. The fish are four- to five-years-old and are currently spawning for the second time.

“This is the last remaining population of the Cascade strain in the world that we are aware of, and we believe it’s the future for food fish for Atlantic salmon,” Wiermaa said. “We take really good care of these fish; we give them top quality feed and check their water quality frequently.”

Fischer said that because of their work with Riverance, NADF has another partner in Wisconsin that is building up their business. The company is called Superior Fresh LLC. and they are constructing an aquaponics facility near Eau Claire, Wis. “They’re establishing one of the first on-land, sustainable, Atlantic

salmon and aquaponics facilities built in North America,” Fischer said. “It’s unlike any of the other ones we’ve seen so far. They will have very little water discharge. It will be a great showcase to demonstrate how other facilities could be built around the country and also here in Wisconsin.”

According to a story in the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram, when in full production, the business is expected to have 25 to 30 full-time employees.

“The investment that’s been put forward to get these fish into Wisconsin is probably the largest we’ve seen for food fish aquaculture in over 10 years,” Fischer said. “These projects really show the future and where aquaculture is headed. It’s kind of neat to see it coming.”