Fish farms a great catch for the Treasure Coast

Farm-raised tilapia

Farm-raised tilapia are being produced in Vero Beach by Atlantic Pacific Jade, which plans to ship some of its stock to the live-fish market. The farm has donated fresh fish to a local nonprofit, United Against Poverty. ANTHONY INSWASTY

As demand for Florida seafood continues to exceed what the commercial fishing industry can produce, aquaculture — captively raising fish, shellfish and aquatic plants — offers a viable solution to expanding and sustaining Florida’s fishery and decreasing reliance on imported products and our nearby lagoon and ocean fishery.

One case of an aquaculture farm making scientific inroads is taking place west of Vero Beach at Atlantic Pacific Jade, soon to be called Simmons Fish Farm.

As Mary Ann Koenig writes in Hooked on a System beginning on Page 4, farm produced tilapia are being raised and sold for distribution to the U.S. market with enough available for donations to United Against Poverty. The operation is the brain child of retired Cornell University professor Michael B. Timmons, who developed a genetically healthy breed of the fish over three decades. The farm is managed by marine specialist Andrew Dixon, who is in line to take over the business.

One of the environmental friendly features of the farm is that it uses technology developed by Timmons to recirculate water instead of discharging it into another body of water. All the while, the farm remains intensely focused on both the quality of the water in which the fish are raised and the nutritional quality of the fish themselves.

It’s just one of a handful of aquaculture businesses on the Treasure Coast, which includes the Ithuba Shrimp Farm in Fellsmere and Aquaco Farms north of Fort Pierce, that have become part of a global solution to sustaining the world’s food supply.

Jade, Aquaco and Ithuba are also examples of entrepreneurs diving wholeheartedly into aquaculture. And with nearby research institutions such as FAU-Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, the Smithsonian Research Station, the Ocean Research & Conservation Association and the Florida Oceanographic Society, coupled with what some entrepreneurs perceive as Florida’s farming-friendly regulations, there’s no reason the Treasure Coast shouldn’t be home to more of these enterprises.

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