Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
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A school of char

Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Find a better way to raise fish, and he’ll discover the future of aquaculture.

And that’s just what Kirk Havercroft and his colleagues at Sustainable Fish Farming are realizing today.

Since 2006, the Nova Scotia-based company has successfully been growing European seabass in a land-based, recirculation fish farm — for sale to local restaurants and caterers.

Increasingly, establishments in hungry cities like Toronto and Ottawa, are gobbling them up, too.

While indoor recirculation aquaculture is not new, the proprietary water treatment system the company uses enables them to maintain commercial stock in tanks with pristine water.

“We believe this water treatment technology is really the future for aquaculture, because of its low impact on the environment and on natural resources,” explains Kirk, company CEO.

European seabass is a popular aquaculture fish in Europe, but until fairly recently, it was virtually unknown in North America.

Kirk and his partners — including the technology’s inventor, Dr. Jeremy Lee — wanted to bring their new system from the UK to break into this untapped market.

“It’s a delicious fish,” Kirk says.

“We felt because of its proven track record in Europe, European seabass would be a great way to demonstrate our technology and show we can grow a warm water fish in the middle of January in a colder climate.”

Because of the company’s unique process — which draws on and recycles local Bay of Fundy salt water with a constant eye on water quality — the European seabass, plus another species they now carry, gilthead sea bream, are much safer from diseases that require treatment with antibiotics.

“Since temperature or location is no longer a barrier, we can grow what the market wants as opposed to what the local weather conditions allow us to grow,” explains Kirk.

Because new technology projects within the aquaculture industry are considered high-risk, the company first faced difficulty securing funding from traditional sources. But assistance from ACOA soon helped see them on their way.

“ACOA’s support for our new technology start-up has been critical to our success.”

With their tanks fully stocked and sales increasing, Kirk and his team of six employees are looking at expansion in the coming year and growing even more breeds, such as black cod, black seabass and English turbot.

Thanks to Sustainable Fish Farming’s innovative use of technology, fish aficionados across the country may soon look forward to savoring some new — and eco-friendly — bounty.

Published November 13, 2012