RASTECH Magazine

OAA 2024: Northern Sustainable Farms to grow jade perch in RAS

March 22, 2024  By  Seyitan Moritiwon

Will Haney presenting about Northern Sustainable Farms at the 2024 OAA conference. (Photo: Jean Ko Din, Aquaculture North America)

Two aquaculture students are looking to grow jade perch in a recirculating aquaculture system in Ontario, Canada.

The 21-year-olds, William Haney and Thomas Kessler, presented about their newly founded Northern Sustainable Farms on March 20, during the Ontario Aquaculture Association conference in Orillia, Ont., Canada. The duo was welcomed by an audience of about 155 Ontario fish farmers and industry professionals. 

“Our aquaculture journey started with me at 10 years old, with one aquarium in my bedroom, which quickly turned into 30 aquariums in my parents’ basement and I bred African Singlet,” said Haney at his presentation.

In high school, he saw aquaculture as a way to kind of not only monetize his passion and effect positive change in the world. “I decided to try my hand at this whole growing fish for food thing, and I was very intrigued by the potential of recirculating aquaculture systems,” Haney said.

With some savings and a loan from his father, he built a rudimentary recirculating aquaculture system in his family’s garage. “It leaked quite a but it kept fish alive,” he said.

Kessler approached Haney in their school library, wondering about the thick textbook Haney was reading that had nothing to do with any of their classes. Haney explained his vision for Northern Sustainable Farms and he came on board. 

Now they are a team of four, three of whom are finishing their degrees at the University of Waterloo. They recently acquired a property in Tiverton where they are looking to construct a small recirculating system. 

“We actually spent all last summer doing construction, sweating away in the sun just to prepare the building to put in a rest system, let alone all the work we’ve been doing now to actually get that system implemented. And we hope to be operational by the end of this summer,” Haney said.

“We knew we didn’t want to grow tilapia in the long term, we decided we liked how robust and hardy Tilapia was, but we wanted to do something that had a little more market value. So our tiny farm could actually be profitable,” Kessler said, so they chose to grow jade perch being grown in RAS.

The first and biggest step is getting it approved for the Safe Culture list in Ontario. Although the fish is popular in Australia, China, and other countries it’s not quite popular in North America yet. 

“We’re hoping that if we’re the first to grow jade perch, and we do it well and successfully, other farms will kind of follow our lead,” Kessler said.

Kessler is interested in jade perch’s ability to synthesize polyunsaturated fatty acids and hopes they can make their feed in the future.

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