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Bell Aquaculture Announces Company Launch

by Ellen Hardy
29 May 2008, at 1:00am

US - Bell Aquaculture has begun operation of the nations largest yellow perch farm in Albany, Indiana.

The Albany facility currently has the production capacity of less than 100,000 pounds of fish per year and ultimately will exceed 9 million pounds per year.

In late December, the Associated Press reported the first certificate of occupancy was issued by Delaware County for Bell Aquaculture’s initial buildings in Albany.

Michael Miller, President & COO, said the company will employ 70 in Albany at full build-out of the new facilities. Bell Aquaculture’s Bell Perch™ product is expected to be available for restaurants by spring of 2009 and at retail level later.

Bell said that yellow perch is one of the most popular of all North American pan fish. It has a mild, sweet flavor with firm white flesh and low fat levels, making it a favorite in residential and commercial kitchens alike. In years past, yellow perch was the fish typically served at Friday night fish fries in the Great Lakes region.

Not to be confused with white perch or rock perch, yellow perch is usually only available a few months out of the year. Overfishing, loss of habitat, pollution, and competition from invasive non-native species have reduced the commercial catch to less than 20 percent of its historic highs—an 80 per cent reduction.

The vision for a yellow perch farm was born when Mr Miller became personally interested in aquaculture in 1994. After studying this science and becoming involved in the Indiana Aquaculture Association, Inc. (IAAI), he developed a dream to bring the local and personal favorite, yellow perch, back to the area. Miller has been involved with the IAAI for 12 years, including holding the position of secretary/treasurer until recently. He is on the Board of Directors. He currently serves on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's regional aquaculture extension team under NCRAC.

As Mr Miller said: “What started out as an idea on a Post-it note, ended up being 17 file cabinets of information.” So after more than 12 years of research, consulting fish experts and a lot of hard work, Bell Aquaculture was formed.

Bell Aquaculture has four guiding principles in producing its fish:

  1. Controlled environment: Bell’s proprietary water recirculation and filtration system keeps its fish in a temperature-controlled and clean environment, which means healthier and cleaner fish.
  2. No toxins: Wild-caught fish must forage for food and eat what is available within environments that could contain pollutants. Bell Aquaculture fish are raised in pure, earth-filtered deep-well water and fed with specially formulated diets that ensure a high-quality product.
  3. Healthy growth: Bell has partnered with a major university and uses licensed technology for the production of juvenile fish. This means Bell Aquaculture has control of its yellow perch genetics. Bell carefully monitors the health of its fish and has access to the latest information about efficient and disease-free production of the species.
  4. Gentle to the environment: Bell does everything it can to ensure a positive impact on the environment. Fish are raised in indoor water recirculation systems using minimal amounts of water. Bell Aquaculture even recycles waste from its tanks for use as organic plant food.
Kwamena Quagrainie, aquaculture marketing specialist in the department of agricultural economics at Purdue University, was recently quoted in the Muncie Star Press: “Michael Miller is quietly becoming one of Indiana's biggest producers of farm-raised fish. He’s going to be one of the major producers in the state."

 

Ellen Hardy