A New Eco-Friendly Venture Hopes to Make Big Impact on Florida’s Economy
As the population grows, so also grows the need for food. In 2010, research showed that 1.5 billion pounds of shrimp was consumed, and the demand this deep sea delight continues to grow. Bringing ocean farming to land is one way to help meet that increasing demand. “We aim to fill that demand,” declares John Billian, the vice president of business development for Florida Organic Aquaculture (FOA).[emember_protected custom_msg=”Click here and register now to read the rest of the article!”]
“You don’t have to be a scientist to realize the oceans can’t sustain the ongoing intensive fishing, which is currently the norm. Sustainable land-based aquaculture is one of the only long term solutions able to offset rising consumer demand versus lower yields of wild caught seafood,” states Clifford Morris, president and founder of FOA, who set out to establish an aquaculture farming company with a bio-secure, eco-friendly system.
As a lifelong entrepreneur with a number of ventures in his native land of South Africa as well as Europe and America, Morris was instantly intrigued by this unique industry that gave life to sustainable food production. “Sustainable aquaculture is the sleeping giant of the investment world,” says Morris. “Tremendous profits lie in a well-planned project that is able to maximize efficiencies of scale.”
Fellsmere, Florida—a small farming and ranching town—was chosen for the main site location because of its farming opportunities and expansive agriculture base, as well as its “open arms” for this type of venture. “We felt our project would fit well in that environment,” explains Billian. “In addition, Fellsmere is situated almost directly in the middle of Orlando and Miami, two of our primary markets, which works well from a logistical standpoint.”
Billian continues, “The primary product for Florida Organic Aquaculture will be sushi-grade, all natural Pacific white shrimp grown to colossal size.” They will be grown under strict water quality controls, delivered fresh “sushi grade” quality, and never frozen. The company will use its own “specialized closed-loop, zero-exchange recirculating water aquaculture system” to grow their products.
In addition to the Pacific white shrimp, oysters and the vegetable salicornia will also be grown and harvested year-round. Salicornia, also known as samphire in England, grows very well in the saline water utilized by FOA to grow its shrimp. In addition, this vegetable helps maintain a fine nutrient balance in the aquatic eco-system. FOA believes that this vegetable will become a popular side dish for distinctive consumers (it can already be found at most Whole Foods stores in the U.S.).
The central building where the shrimp will be grown and harvested will be 150 feet wide by 1200 feet long and will cover 180,000 square feet upon completion. Billian clarifies that the size of the building is equal to approximately three and a half football fields. The building will have twenty individual “raceways” and hold 4.55 million gallons of water. Two production buildings are in the first phase of construction as well. Each building is expected to produce 1.1 million pounds of shrimp each year.
Bliss Enterprises, Inc. of Plant City is building the exterior of the production buildings. Blake Bliss, co-owner with his father and brother, says, “We are very excited and optimistic about this project. This is the largest building we have built and things are coming along better than we could have ever expected.” The raceways are being constructed by the internal FOA crew.
Hiring locally was Morris’s intention from the start. Helping the employment rate for the people and the economy of Florida is something that is important to FOA. “We are absolutely hiring locally. We have already held a job fair in Fellsmere with the help of Workforce Solutions to create awareness in the community for our project and gather applications,” says Billian.
The community and its residents, restaurants owners, and the local government of Fellsmere have given a warm and inviting welcome to this large new venture. “Everyone has been very supportive of our project for the economic impact it will have on the region,” continues Billian, “and I am sure many of them look forward to enjoying our products as well.”
story by DALE BLISS