Midwestern farms struggle to sell fish, despite the potential


Indianapolis (AP) — Due to the significant increase in food costs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Andrew Capringer struggled to find fresh catfish in restaurants.

Within the next few months, Indianapolis restaurant chain Caplinger’s Fresh Catch Seafood will begin sourcing the second most popular menu item from a fish pond on a 28-acre farm in southern Indiana. The goal is to produce up to half of the 800-1,000 pound catfish fillets served in the restaurant each week.

“I’ve never done this — I sold a dead fish for the rest of my life,” he said. “It can be hard and dangerous, but assuming things go well and these fish grow as expected, you don’t have to consider raising the price of the store again for a while.”

According to Capringer, this is a move that could increase the desire for local fish.But even if you consume fish and seafood On an upward trend In the United States, the number of Midwestern farms is declining, and many fish growers say they are facing the challenge of delivering their produce to consumers in the region.

The Midwestern state occupies one-fifth of the country, but contains about one-third of all farms in the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture..

nevertheless Experts keep The region has the potential to become a strong aquaculture producer, with the number of Midwestern farms declining from 336 10 years ago to about 271.

This may be due to the area Illinois-Indian Sea Grant’s Aquaculture Marketing Outreach Associate, Amy Schambach, says he has historically relied on wild fish and shellfish. Seafood produced in the Midwest must also compete with cheaper imported seafood.

“Our input costs are a bit higher than elsewhere, and (it) contributes to some of the slowdown in growth,” Schanbach said.

Stagnation aquaculture in the Midwestern aquaculture industry has national implications, Schambach said. Global fish consumption is expected to increase by £ 100-170 billion by 2030, and widening fish trade deficits mean more fish need to be cultivated, demand from Midwestern farmers Open the door to meet.

Joseph Morris, a former director of the North Central Regional Aquaculture Center at Iowa State University, pointed out issues of marketing, fish processing and high labor costs, and said industry growth was a challenge.

“A big hurdle to tackle-how can we economically produce products to meet consumer needs and keep our business running?” He said. “How do you reach the growing market for people who want to eat fish?”

Mike Sircy, who owns a trout farm in Seymour, Indiana, said that Husher (one of the only two Midwestern states that reported an increase in farms over the last decade) has harvested fish guts. He said there was no central processing facility to put the fillets. He sends most of the fish to Kentucky for processing and distribution.

“There is demand from local customers, but the biggest obstacle is the lack of processing, bridging the gap between farmers and restaurant owners, which is blocking us,” says his farm. Sircy, who is seeking to have a processing facility in, said. .. “When we are competing with foreign markets and a much cheaper workforce, they can supply fillets to grocery stores that are much cheaper than I can.”

Schambach said only a handful of Indiana farms could be produced for the food business due to the lack of processing available in Indiana. Instead, most state-raised fish are sold raw to the Asian food markets of Indianapolis, Chicago, New York City, and Toronto.

Still, according to Morris, aquaculture companies aim to grow their businesses and increase their profits. This can be successful if producers can sell their fish better.

“The new generation is eating more fish and they are more often asking,’Where does my food come from?’ That’s where the Midwest comes in, “says Morris.

One solution for farmers could be a recirculation aquaculture system that allows fish and shrimp to be grown in aquarium-based systems. This method allows producers to control water quality, often prevent fish diseases and the need for antibiotics, and allow landlocked countries to raise a variety of species year-round.

However, this method is costly and eliminates many small and medium-sized farmers. Sircy, whose farm is entirely technical, warned that its operations are also entirely dependent on electricity. Environmental activists have expressed concern about waste disposal, arguing that the recirculation aquaculture system requires abundant water resources.

Tyler Isaac, seafood watch farming program manager at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, said the recirculation system could increase the number of storks in the Midwest with sustainable fish feeds and appropriate precautions. ..

“This is always a trade-off game, but after all, I think the recirculation system is a really good step forward,” said Isaac, and renewable energy sources also make such operations more environmentally friendly. I added that it would be. “The development of the aquaculture industry in places like the Midwest is good. Appropriate safety measures need to be taken.”

Morris said other emerging technologies, etc. Aqua Bounty genetically modified Atlantic salmon cultivated in Indiana Fast-growing, disease-resistant — similar genetically modified fish can take “years” to become mainstream, but can also be “very attractive to growers” I have.

“From the perspective of Midwestern aquaculture as a whole, growth must be due to the operation of edible fish. That is your market and consumer base,” Morris said. “There are many out-of-stock ponds and many anglers in the Midwest, but there are consumers in the Midwest who want to eat more and more fish. We need to focus on that.”


Casey Smith is a corps member of the Associated Press / American Capitol News Initiative Report Report. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in the local newsroom to report on unreported issues.Follow Smith twitter..