BRYAN – More details on a proposed Pioneer salmon farm emerged Thursday evening in a virtual public hearing hosted by the Williams County Economic Development Corporation (WEDCO) here.
Based in Maynard, Mass. AquaBounty Technologies plans to build a facility in Pioneer North Industrial Park to raise Atlantic salmon for the food market. The facility would measure 479,000 square feet and employ 112 people within five years, according to Megan Hausch, executive director of WEDCO, who introduced officials at Thursday’s meeting.
Several AquaBounty executives were on site, including Sylvia Wulf, the company’s CEO, who said the facility could be 2 and a half years away before introducing any fish.
She explained the plan to bring salmon roe from Prince Edward Island, Canada – a small province east of Nova Scotia and Maine – to raise them to maturity in Pioneer. in several dozen circular tanks, then process them at the factory for the market.
According to Wulf, the fish will come from a strain of Atlantic salmon that was genetically modified 30 years ago for efficient growth.
This was done using chinook salmon, native to the Pacific, but the product has long been approved and is safe, she assured listeners. Fish reproduce naturally, she added.
“Our salmon are safe, secure and sustainable,” said Wulf.
AquaBounty’s Alejandro Rojas said the company does not use antibiotics, pesticides or chemicals.
“We have been raising our fish for 30 years and we have never, ever used a single gram of antibiotics in our fish,” he said.
The facility is expected to use a lot of water – some 4.3 million gallons for a peak of five million gallons, Wulf explained. This water will be recovered, 95% being cleaned and reused because the plant will have its own water treatment system.
Chris Bucich of AquaBounty said the company will work “hand in hand” with the EPA to ensure related environmental standards are met and exceeded when water is discharged from the plant.
Water for the farm will be drawn from wells about 4,000 feet south of the plant, he explained. An outside firm, Bucich added, investigated a “well field” and others within a three mile radius.
“When they (do) these test wells in the respective well field, they take the information from the test wells (and) put it into the model and make sure that they represent not just what the data is. ‘test show, but also what the community sinks are doing, “he said.” It has been tested and there are no effects. “
The need for large amounts of water raised questions, some of which were echoed during Thursday’s meeting. As noted above, one of the concerns is the impact of water withdrawal on the Michindoh Aquifer which provides well water in Northwestern Ohio, Southern Michigan and the northeast Indiana.
“We understand that this aquifer is the drinking water for the community and that is why we are taking steps to ensure that we do not affect it,” Bucich said.
AquaBounty already has a functioning salmon farm in east-central Indiana, not far from Muncie, according to Wulf. She said the plant started producing salmon in June.
“We think this is the next wave in agriculture,” Wulf said.
She added that “we are truly committed as an organization to make a difference and to do what is right – just by our people, just by our communities where we operate, just by our customers and just by our natural resources. And so we do a lot of research on how to maximize the use of all the waste streams and all the parts of the salmon. We do a lot of research to make sure that we are operating in the best possible way so that we don’t have So that’s our commitment to you as we move to Pioneer with our next full-scale farm … we really want you to know who we are and how we operate.
According to Wulf, AquaBounty reviewed 230 sites before narrowing the list down to five before selecting Pioneer.