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Serving: IN

Indiana Aquaculture Gets Shot in the Arm

TAGS: USDA
Large yellow perch farm begins operation near Muncie.

Purdue University Extension specialists have predicted for years that aquaculture could be a profitable business in Indiana. Some people are making their living growing and selling fish in the Hoosier state. But despite Purdue's continued studies and promotions, most people's awareness of aquaculture in Indiana has come through programs to raise fish in high school vo-ag programs and in few farm ponds, often stocked with catfish, or perhaps the colorful Japanese Koi fish.

That's apparently about to change. Bell Aquaculture has announced that it's started raising yellow perch at production facilities in Albany in Delaware County. Right now, their capacity will be 100,000 pounds of fish per year. However, Michael Miller, president and COO of the firm, claims they hope to ultimately exceed 9 million pounds of fish produced per year. That would be a 90-fold increase over their starting point.

The company could eventually employ 70 people, Miller says. They hope to sell Bell Aquaculture's 'Bell Perch' to restaurants by '09, with sales to consumers occurring sometime in the future after that date.

One selling point, the company claims, is that yellow perch is very popular due to its sweet taste and is low-fat, but is currently available only a few months out of the year. Overfishing and loss of natural habitat have contributed to a huge decline in yellow perch populations compared to historic high numbers.

Miller is heavily involved in aquaculture organizations both at the state and federal level. He currently serves on USDA's regional aquaculture extension team, according to the press release issued by the company recently.

Goals for Bell Aquaculture is to control the environment for the fish through water recirculation and filtration, avoiding toxins that could be a problem in fish caught in the wild, promoting healthy growth of the fish and being gentle to the environment. The company partners with a major university to use licensed technology for production of juvenile fish. That gives the company control of its yellow perch genetics.

Yellow perch is classified as a North American pan fish. Those who promote it claim it's popular due to its mild, sweet flavor. Yet it features firm, white flesh with low-fat levels. Both consumers and restaurants have been enticed to try the fish.

Learn more about this new endeavor at: www.bellperch.com.

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