Pilot Project Turns Poultry Or Pigs Into Trout

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
19 May 2010, at 1:00am

CANADA - A sustainable aquaculture programme is giving new life to barns previously housing poultry, pigs and horses.

A pilot project headed up by the Interprovincial Partnership for Sustainable Freshwater Aquaculture Development (IPSFAD) aims to prove that derelict and unused buildings once used for chickens, hogs or horses can be renovated into thriving fish farms.

Although the first project is located in Warren, Manitoba, it is designed to provide a blueprint for similar projects in Ontario and Quebec, reports Daily Commercial News.

Grant Vandenberg, President of IPSFAD, said: "Typically, the type of barn that lends itself to conversion is long and narrow. That describes a hog barn or some of the barns used in recent year to collect mare's urine as a source of hormone therapy for post-menopausal women."

With some hog farmers leaving the industry in the wake of unstable prices or bans on pig farming in certain regions, derelict barns are plentiful. They are also often outfitted with concrete walls, a water supply, electricity and a waste retention system.

Canadian representatives looked at Danish aquaculture systems and adapted them to a Canadian plan.

Mr Vandenberg continued: "Essentially the fish raceway looks like an oval horse track. On one end, there's a water treatment system and the water re-circulates through that system. Smaller fish are located closest to the filtration system where the water quality is best, and as the fish get bigger and more resistant to the water, they get chased down the system."

Filters remove carbon dioxide and also ammonia, which is converted to nitrate. The water is sterilised using ozone, which is generated on-site.

The first conversion project is currently underway at a chicken farm, Riddell's Roasters Inc., owned and operated by Rudy and Leslie Reimer. The cost of the C$1.2 million conversion is being shared by the owners, IPSFAD, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Mr Reimer is acting as the project's general contractor, converting a 60- by 200-foot building that once housed chickens and farm equipment. "We hadn't used it much for a few years," said Mr Reimer, who has prior construction experience. "The fact that the barn has a compacted dirt surface worked to our advantage because it made it easier to excavate without having to break out any concrete."

He first excavated the floor to a maximum depth of 10 feet to accommodate the various structures required to raise fish. He then insulated the building with an encapsulated polystyrene insulation with reflective backing. The insulation is water- and vapour-proof so it will stand up to the moist air that will be generated by the fish farm.

And then he contracted Athens Construction of La Broquerie to assist with concrete work, tank assembly and additional plumbing.

Mr Reimer told Daily Commercial News: "The design for the concrete structures indicates a lot of rebar. To us, it looks like overkill but as a pilot project we need to go with the test deign parameters."

He says that the team has already discovered a few considerations that will be noted for future conversion projects.

"Our barn ceiling is 16 feet high. After we constructed the concrete retaining walls, we had to hoist the filtration system into place. We cleared the roof by about two inches. In the future, we might suggest building up some of the walls on the filtration end and leaving one side open until the filtration system has been placed."

When construction is completed, Mr Reimer hopes to raise and sell about 130 tonnes of rainbow trout each year. Fish farms need to supply about 100 tonnes of fish annually to be commercially viable.

Jeff Eastman, Business Development Specialist, Aquaculture with Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives, said: "This construction crew has been absolutely amazing, having never tackled a project like this before. Because the project is novel, documenting the whole construction process is important, so that we can replicate the project. The more we can document the better."

When the project is complete, IPSFAD intends to sell its expertise in aquaculture conversions through a for-profit corporation, reports Daily Commercial News. "We want to offer both an aquaculture business plan and a construction plan," said Mr Vandenberg.