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Fish farming in Wisconsin growing after decade of stagnation

MADISON, Wis. — After a 10-year lull, Wisconsin’s aquaculture industry is seeing growth with new farms raising fish destined for the dinner plate.

Chris Hartleb is a University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point biology professor who’s tracked the state’s aquaculture industry. He told Wisconsin Public Radio (http://bit.ly/2sXiK7i) that there’s been a resurgence in the past three years with new businesses, often run by a younger generation, opening up.

Fish farming in the state has traditionally centered on raising bait and sport fish for anglers, but new aquaculture businesses are moving the focus back to fish meant to be eaten.

Superior Fresh, a fish farm and aquaponics greenhouse, utilizes computers to control things like water temperature and lighting. The indoor facility and technology is expected to allow the farm to grow fish faster.

“Inside our building we can grow these fish a little bit quicker than outdoor farms because we give the fish an optimum environment to live in their entire life,” said COO Brandon Gottsacker. “So, we avoid winters and super cold water that would slow fishes’ metabolism down and ultimately their growth.”

The facility then recirculates the water in the fish house to a 123,000-square-foot greenhouse next door.

“I definitely believe that this is the future. The amount of space we utilize here is so much less than traditional agriculture, and we can keep this production going year-round, which is definitely something that’s going to be needed, especially in northern hemispheres,” said head grower Adam Shinners.

Republican Sen. Tom Tiffany of Hazelhurst sponsored a bill in 2016 easing regulations for the state’s aquaculture industry in an effort to spur the growth of more fish farming and aquaponics facilities.

“What we did was we wanted to streamline some of the regulatory functions, not change any environmental standards, but just streamline the process and really give greater opportunity for people in the aquaculture industry because there’s no reason we don’t have a more robust, growing aquaculture industry,” Tiffany said.