GROUNDBREAKING … A celebration was held to mark the ground breaking of a new salmon farm in Pioneer. Names given left to right. Jason Robertson, CRB; Tim Derickson, JobsOhio; Lu Cooke, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s office; Megan Hausch, Williams County Economic Development Corporation; David Kelly, Innovasea; Leonard Hubert, U.S. Senator Rob Portman’s office; Sylvia Wulf, AquaBounty President and CEO; Sam White, CRB; and Ed Kidston, Village of Pioneer Mayor. (PHOTO BY JACOB KESSLER, STAFF)
By: Jacob Kessler
AquaBounty has broken ground at the location for its new salmon farm in Pioneer. The ground breaking took place during the morning hours of Wednesday, April 20th.
Shuttles met attendees at 9:30 a.m. and took them to the location which is located to the North of town.
The new 479,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility will be home to approximately 10,000 metric tons of Atlantic Salmon.
The farm will use a Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS) to raise the salmon inside the freshwater tanks.
This will require 4.3 million gallons of water to be used each day which will then be run through a water treatment plant before being returned to the river.
Water being pulled from the aquifer and returned to the river will be continuously monitored with findings also having to be reported.
The water treatment plant onsite will be regulated by the EPA and will meet or exceed their standards according to AquaBounty.
This project started years ago when touring of potential sites began. 250 locations in total were toured with Pioneer being the first location looked at. According to AquaBounty, “Pioneer was identified as the preferred location given site requirements.
The Village of Pioneer, Williams County, the State of Ohio, JobsOhio and the Regional Growth Partnership are all supportive of this project and the economic benefits AquaBounty will bring to the community.”
Before the ground breaking took place, numerous individuals spoke including AquaBounty CEO Sylvia Wulf, WEDCO’s Megan Hausch, Senator Portman Representative Leonard Hubert and more.
Individuals spoke regarding numerous aspects of the coming facility including how it compares to others across the world.
“Currently the biggest facilities abroad for fish are in the 1,000 to 1,500 metric ton range. So, this facility is an order of magnitude larger. It’s one of the handful of projects that have been announced globally.”
“There is only one other facility that is built and is ramping up its production in Florida. There is another facility that is being constructed in Japan.
Every other planned project has not broken ground yet. So, this is truly a one-of-a-kind global facility,” said David Kelly from Innovasea.
AquaBounty does currently have other facilities with one in Albany, Indiana and another on Prince Edward Island in Canada.
This new facility will be eight times larger than the one in Albany which is currently the company’s largest, until this new facility is built. Because of the size of this project, AquaBounty is poised to be set ahead of the curve in the race for aquaculture.
“We believe that we will be leading from an aquaculture perspective, AquaBounty will, and the reason for that is this is a land based recirculating aquaculture system farm.”
“What that allows us to do is take the strain off the oceans and be able to have a domestic source and supply so it really will be the next wave in agriculture. (RAS) systems really are going to take strain off the wild caught populations.”
“We need both but it allows us to bring it to an agriculturally oriented community in a way we didn’t have to do before,” said AquaBounty CEO Sylvia Wulf.
The previous facility located in Albany will become the companies operational R&D site while also continuing to provide fish for a commercial basis.
Pioneers new farm will also have a part dedicated to the processing and packaging of the fish.
To start out with, the company plans on selling their fish to meet the needs of commercial buyers. Shortly after operations, the company will look into the option of providing their fish to serve customers in a more retail setting.
Pushback against the project has continued with protestors making their voices heard before the ground breaking.
Around 10 to 15 people stood on the side of the road holding signs stating their support for the aquifer.
Protesters have stated continuously that they do not believe that the aquifer can support the new facility and have voiced their concerns regarding the water going away.
The organization called Williams County Alliance has also stated on social media that AquaBounty will be having to deal with a legal fight with the Alliance.
The project is still going forward however with work already being started on the land for the new facility. “Water is an absolutely critical resource.”
“We recognize that, respect that. Its why we employ the latest technology to minimize our impact on water usage.”
“We want to make sure the community understands that we did extensive hydrology modeling. We will not have any kind of detrimental effect on the aquifer or Lake Pioneer.”
“That was part of the reason we were convinced that this area was going to be the right one for us,” said Sylvia Wulf.
AquaBounty will still be going through several more months of application processes for their waste water treatment facility.
The facility will be regulated by the EPA which will ultimately make the final decision on if it passes the application process and inspection once built.
Once the rest of the facility is built, the hope is to introduce eggs into the tanks towards the end of 2023.
The fish will first be in the hatchery, nursery and pre-grow-out areas. It will take the salmon 18 to 19 months to grow to a weight that is harvestable.
With that time frame, the rest of the facility, including bigger tanks that the fish will be moved into, will be completed in the first part of 2024.
Jacob can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org