Across Abbotsford, agriculture land is used to grow a myriad of crops and animals, but fish remained largely confined to the Fraser River and Mill Lake.
That could soon change, though.
Gold River Seafood has sparked an ambitious plan to bring fish caught in the wild to Abbotsford, where they would live and grow in tanks, before being sold at market. The nutrient-saturated waste water, meanwhile, would be used to grow vegetables in a greenhouse facility on the same plot of land in Bradner.
The company hopes to build the facility on a 10-acre parcel of land on Marsh McCormick Road owned by owner Walter Simpson.
Gold River has already submitted applications to the Agricultural Land Commission and the City of Abbotsford for the first stage in their plans: the building of a 3,200-square-foot cool storage distribution facility. The company needs the approval of the ALC to operate such a building while plans for the fish farm are still being developed.
Robert Winton, the company’s project manager, said the company is targeting the end of 2018 for the aquaculture operation. He said details on the size of the tanks that would be installed, and the number of fish growing, will be determined after consultation with scientists. The initial stages will be focused on research and seeing which techniques work best, he said.
“This is a pretty new concept,” he told The News. The broad idea, though, would see Gold River focus on raising sablefish that are caught in the wild. Quotas limit how many of those fish can be caught, so by growing them larger after catching, Winton said the company can increase the poundage of fish being sold.
Winton says it’s also hoped that some of the controversial aspects of aquaculture can be avoided by focusing on growing wild fish larger, rather than breeding fish on-site.
Details of the vegetable operation are also up in the air, but Winton said “we know it can be done.”
The aim – according to a letter sent to council – is to grow the vegetables hydroponically for selling and use the crop-growing aspect to remove the nutrients from the water, thereby allowing it to be used again in for the fish operation.
Winton told The News the operation would look to drill a well on the site, but may also bring in salt water from the ocean.
“It’s state of the art, and yet this is the way fishing is going to go.”
In its letter, the company says the distribution building would be a necessary part of the operation, but is needed now to store fish it already sells. The company says building the facility off-site, then rebuilding it in 2018, would be “prohibitively expensive.”
Chris Acheson, the executive director of the Canadian Sablefish Association, said land-based aquaculture is the way of the future for fishing, although that usually revolves around raising fish from the egg-stage. He said growing fish caught in the wild has been tried before without success, but he wished the company luck in its endeavour. He said, though, that it’s important the fish be caught through a quota, rather than acquiring them for free for scientific research.
Acheson also backed the use of water to grow crops.
“They’re putting thousands of dollars of feed into that water,” he said. “In the open water, it’s a pollutant, but really [on land] it’s a fertilizer,” he said.