Brad La Fave and Chris Thiry are co-owners of Black Dog Fish Farm LLC. The business is located on Brad's 35 acre farm which contains seven culture ponds and five pond-side fish tanks. The goal is to be able to supply perch year around to growers. To do this, the facility needs to hatch and feed train perch and develop a cold banking system for over wintering fish designated for grow out and the food market.
Bill West runs Blue Iris Fish Farm, a 40-acre facility containing nine culture ponds and 12 culture pond-side tanks. Blue Iris is located approximately 12 miles north of Appleton, WI. Blue Iris specializes in the culture of perch and bluegill mostly for the fish food market. Blue Iris conducts research to enhance culture production and grow out. A SARE grant (FNC08-731) and Wisconsin ADD grants 21014 and 24023 completed work on elimination of digenetic tremetode infestations of perch and bluegill and completed an in-depth assessment of creating a fish cooperative. Blue Iris participated in a federal feed study (least cost diet studies conducted by North Central Regional Aquaculture Center [NCRAC] in 2012). Blue Iris also participated in a study with Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences in comparing grow out of perch using a fish vs non-fish meal diet. Blue Iris currently works with local high schools in providing fish, feeds, and research ideas for local agriculture programs (SARE Grant FNC16-1064) and is also working on a SARE grant to re-purpose abandoned manure pits by converting them into fish production facilities (SARE Grant FNC17-1105).
Dick and Tami Hallam have been farming for 24 years. Their 47-acre farm was downsized in 2011 to a 7.2-acre hobby farm and they still retain all the farm buildings and the manure pit. The manure pit was abandoned about 1989, i.e. drained for safety concerns with raising a family. The Hallams have constructed an indoor aquaponics system. A previous SARE grant is for re-purposing the manure pit and focusing on raising their own feed trained perch fingerlings for their use and sale.
Over the past 15 years, members of our team have been conducting research on perch culture and grow-out systems. The actual time to grow a perch from an egg to market has been reduced from two years to under one year given the right circumstances. Our work has gotten us into high schools and aquaponic facilities, both indoor facilities that rely on a supply of fish to stock tanks over winter. Because perch grow at the rate of an inch per month, fish that are stocked in September will be on the table by December or January. Because replacement stocks are overwintered under the ice in Wisconsin, they are not available to re-supply these indoor facilities.
Therefore, we propose to cold bank premium perch in a cool setting similar to overwintering outside but do it indoors where we have access to them all winter. When fish are needed, we can raise the temperature and increase day length to match the facility they are to be delivered to.
1.The first objective is to spawn, feed train and size grade a minimum of 10,000 fingerlings
2.10,000 fingerlings will be divided into three overwinter settings where we will establish cold banking criteria (light, water quality, feed regimes, density- year 1 will purposely be low density to accommodate parameters)
3.Third objective is to double densities with the intent to increase per facility holding capabilities to 40-50,000 in five years
4. Fourth objective is to supply all local indoor facilities within a five year window
5. Share findings through field days, Wisconsin Aquaculture Association conference presentation, and workshops
Perch being checked for size from the indoor cold banking
Our first year started out on a bad note with a 30-inch snow fall 4-15-18 just when all the perch were spawning. 90% of our perch eggs froze out. With the purchase of eggs from another source and collecting eggs from some late spawners we were able to get back on track.
We started seeing fry that hatched May 18th. We stared feeding commercial fry food along with a special homemade blend. We put solar lights next to the feeder to attract the fry at night.
Once the fry reached 1.5 to 2 inches, we moved them to several different sites to spread them out.
We ended up growing out approximately 10,000 fry. When they reached approximately 2 inches, we divided them up into 3 different environments (1) easy access natural pond, (2) tank environment with well water and (3) tank environment with cycled pond water. These fish reached 5-6 inches and half have been moved to our new indoor pool set up and the other half to deep water pond for winter. The perch in the new indoor tank were approximately 7.5 inches by February. These will be available to the local school programs and aquaculture programs this winter and spring.
Our best results on the grow out of the fish based on numbers would have been the natural pond environment from the egg to 5 inch fish. We did learn several things on the tanks. Next year we well be covering them with a material to shade them from the sun. Dark tanks produced on average better then the clear or white ones that allowed the fish to be more spooked by any movement or shadows. This would ultimately cause more stress and end up with more loss.
Perch in the cold banking tank have survived very well with only about a 5% loss.
Educational & Outreach Activities
We had a seminar at the Town of Black Creek town hall. With Bill West from Blue iris Fish farm as speaker, handouts were supplied. A walk thru of Blue iris Fish Farm and Black Dog Fish farm followed the seminar. We will plan another event next August to share combined information from the last 2 years.
The biggest thing we learned this year was not to overload the ponds, starting with the amount of eggs to be hatched to the grow out ponds. More is not always better!!! This was reviewed with UWSP Northern Aquaculture Manager, Greg Fisher, and a revised plan has been set up on pond population.
Our Cold Banking project started out with a record 30-inch snow fall on April 15 right in the peak of our perch spawning process and froze out most of our eggs. We did get back on track with the purchase of some ribbons of perch eggs and collection of perch eggs from some late spawners. This allowed us to hatch out about 10,000 fry and get started.