Darien Illinois company, Wight & Company, began work on the new 27,000 square-foot project in Redkey last week.
The announcement was made by Michael Miller, Bell Aquaculture President & COO, who says construction is targeted for completion prior to yearend. The headquarters will house sales & marketing, human resources, accounting and management, while the processing center will handle all harvested fish from the farm to prepare it for sale.
The complex will house approximately 70 employees at full capacity.
"This is an exciting project for Wight & Company," says Robert J. Farkas, Director of Wight’s Indiana Regional Office in South Bend.
The building design is the result of a collaborative effort between Bell, Wight and a team of professional design consultants from around the Midwest.
"It’s a great looking building, form truly follows function," Mr Farkas said.
Besides the high-bay processing facility on the back of the building, the all masonry front area will serve as the operational headquarters for Bell Aquaculture.
Wight & Company’s focus on green space and site planning is evident in the layout of the five acre project site, storm water management and landscape.
"It’s a well-thought out design," said Mr Farkas, "It will serve Bell Aquaculture for years to come. We’re honored to lead the design-build team. This is a building and an operation that the community can be proud of."
In March, Bell Aquaculture announced operation of the nation’s largest yellow perch (Perca flavescens) farm and production facilities in Albany, Indiana, northeast of Indianapolis. Bell Aquaculture’s Bell Perch™ product is expected to be available for restaurant purchase in early 2009.
"The greatest difficulty for restaurants has been the availability of yellow perch out of Lake Michigan and Lake Erie – the two predominant lakes for the supply of wild-caught yellow perch," explains Mr Miller during an interview on WTRC NewsRadio 1340/Elkhart earlier in the year.
"Which means the restaurants that were typically serving customers who enjoy the taste of yellow perch, just cannot get the supply."
Mr Miller added: "The yellow perch that we’re raising, the Bell Perch™, is a higher quality product from the standpoint that there is no real possibility of contaminants entering into their food chain during their growth.
"We have absolute control over our water supply, since they are raised in-house there is no opportunity for bird predation, pesticides or herbicides to get into the flesh of the fish that you and I might sit down to eat."
Bell Aquaculture’s 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. According to Miller, the company will employ 70 in Albany at full build-out of the new facilities.
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.
The vision for a yellow perch farm was born when 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 Miller says, "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 says it is committed to four guiding principles in producing its fish:
- Controlled environment
- No toxins
- Healthy growth
- Gentle to the environment