Aquaculture in Minnesota? You Betcha

With a pair of up-and-coming companies spanning western Minnesota into Eastern South Dakota, the Soy Aquaculture Alliance (SAA) held a board meeting and tour to better understand the strides being made in the Midwest in aquaculture feed and research.

Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council (MSR&PC) District 7 Director Jim Willers, who chairs the Council’s New Uses action team, joined Minnesota Soybean Growers directors and staff on the two-day event, which started with a board meeting in Brookings, S.D. The day also included a tour of Prairie AquaTech, which produces aquaculture feed by converting plant-derived carbohydrates, such as soybeans and dried distiller’s grain, into high-quality and highly-concentrated protein using the company’s proprietary microbial-based processes.

“What they are doing out there is pretty impressive,” said Mike Youngerberg, senior director of field services for Minnesota Soybean. “There is a lot of potential for soybeans in aquaculture.”

The Prairie AquaTech facility houses a feed mill, analytics lab, production floor and roughly 100 tanks filled with various species of fish where it tests different formulas of its feed.

On Friday, the delegation heard presentations from Willers on behalf of MSR&PC, the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI), Midwest Ag Enterprises and Christina Connelly, trade commissioner for agriculture and processed foods for the Canadian Consulate in Minneapolis.

Midwest Ag Enterprises produces NutriVance, a high-protein meal that is easier for baby animals to digest, and also has a place as an aquaculture feed.

“We’ve been working with Midwest Ag Enterprises and AURI for a while now when it comes to NutriVance,” Youngerberg said. “We’re seeing some reasons for optimism, and we like the product’s flexibility. At the end of the day, if companies like this succeed, than Minnesota soybean farmers win because it’s another market to add value to their products.”

Friday also included a tour of trū Shrimp Systems, based out of Balaton, Minn. trū Shrimp uses a Tidal Basin system to grow shrimp indoors. The company’s ultimate goal is to become the premiere supplier of fresh shrimp to the Midwest. MSR&PC has also invested in a NutriVance feeding trial with trū Shrimp.

MSGA directors George Goblish, Ron Obermoller and Joel Schreurs also took part in the event. Obermoller is also chair of AURI.

SAA is affiliated with the United Soybean Board, several state soybean checkoff organizations and aquaculture feed and soy industry members.

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