New York-based Hudson Valley Fisheries (HVF) not only markets its steelhead trout as a premium product that it says is more sustainable and better for you than farm-raised salmon, it is also working to commercially sell hemp as part of a larger aquaponics system.
The company produces nearly 7 metric tons of trout per week out of its facility, it is also growing hemp for commercial sale using fish waste from its recirculating aquaculture system (RAS).
"Looking at our mission to do agricultural products that are more sustainable, hemp has the potential to change a number of things because it has so many uses," he said.
"What's unique with our facility, we have multiple culture methods we have greenhouses to establish (hemp plant) clones and for year-round production. We have over 20 acres of tillable land to grow hemp terrestrially."
Ng said the company has been growing hemp commercially for about a year for CBD oils, which he commented saw above-average-yields from the unique aquaponics system.
Back to the fish farm
HVF is largely focused in the Northeast US, where it is only hours away from major markets in New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, and Boston.
The steelhead, which is sold as headed and gutted (H&G), and fillet portions, retails from $15 (€13.60) to $19 (€17.30) per pound at upscale grocers and white tablecloth restaurants across the region, according to the company.
The company sources its eggs from Troutlodge and Riverence, and is working with Skretting on a custom diet for the trout's GMO-free feed, he said.
Using a "humane harvest" method where the fish are gradually stunned using electricity, versus typical percussive stunning methods also helps reduce stress hormones in the fish, according to NG.
"We're not at 100 percent capacity yet," he added of the steelhead operation, noting the company has goal of producing up to 1,200 metric tons by the end of this year.
Starting from scratch
Nearly a decade ago, a land-based fish farmer known as Local Oceans created a "zero-waste farm" in the same facility Hudson Valley Fisheries (HVF) operates out of today. Ng purchased the site in 2014, following the former company collapsing after its Israeli-based owners disappeared and it fell behind on paying its mortgage and property taxes.
"We didn't buy the business or anything, since the land and the property was repossessed by the lender," Ng explained.
"We acquired the site from the property holder. We really have no connection to Local Oceans or any of its management or investors. This operation has been self-funded from our family."
The Ng family owns the mulitnational recycling company Fortune Group, which was started by John Ng's father in the Brooklyn in the 1980s.
From 2014 onward it was a year of cleaning and renovating the site, which included everything from replacing the roof to installing new infrastructure.
"We thought we would be able to re-use some of the systems from Local Oceans, but after further investigation, virtually nothing was salvaged from this operation other than four caterpillar generators," he said.
"We still have a boneyard of that equipment we can use for experimental purposes."
The company had its first harvest in the middle of 2017, and has been selling commercially since 2018.
Local Oceans' property was originally 31 acres, but HVF expanded that footprint and acquired 100 additional acres when it purchased the site from the property's landowner.