Land-Based Aquaculture Gaining Momentum in Midwest, Attracting Iowa Farmers

11-17-2017 in Aquaculture

The forecast for global seafood demand suggests Iowa’s fish and shrimp farmers can expect substantial growth and market development in the aquaculture industry, according to experts at the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers (CSIF) 2017 Aquaculture Conference held this week in Ames.

By 2030, global seafood consumption will increase by 100-170 billion pounds, and nearly two-thirds will be farm raised experts noted. Over 250 farmers and entrepreneurs interested in tapping into this market attended the CSIF event co-sponsored by Iowa State University and the North Central Regional Aquaculture Center.

“For many, the idea of Iowa based fish farming is a relatively new concept, but there are second and third generation producers who have already been blazing that trail here in Iowa,” says Iowa Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, Mike Naig. “We’re very excited about the opportunities aquaculture presents to diversify Iowa agriculture and what can happen as we scale up in the state.”

Today, Iowa is home to over 60 fish and shrimp farms. Although species selection, production rates and type of aquatic system all play a role in the longevity of these farms, Dr. Carole Engle, co-owner of Engle-Stone Aquatic$ LLC, an aquaculture consulting business, says viability in the aquaculture industry hinges on economics.

“Successful businesses, including aquaculture, are complex and require good decision making when considering marketing, financing, management and scale of production. The sum of these decisions is the business model, and to be profitable in this industry you have to constantly monitor and adjust your plan,” she noted.

Like other forms of livestock agriculture, aquaculture requires significant capital including access to land, buildings and equipment.

“Any industry that has high capital investment is going to have these kinds of economies of scale and an incentive to increase production to reduce fixed costs,” said Engle. “If you’re going to get higher yields and produce more fish, than you’re going to need more feed and provide more aeration, increasing your total operating capital requirement.”

Engle also reminds fish and shrimp farmers to be realistic about their marketing plan. She advises those who are unable to compete on price to learn how to differentiate their name, product and services from the competition.

That’s the approach that lured Jeff and Julie Tegland of Forest City into the aquaculture industry. Their reputation for growing a fresh and local product has sustained their growing indoor saltwater shrimp farm, J&J Drydock.

“Word of mouth is an important part of our marketing strategy,” says Julie. “We sell our product right off our shrimp farm. When we are ready to harvest, we notify our customers, net the shrimp in front them, weigh them by the pound and sell them on ice.”

When J&J Drydock opened for business in 2015, the Telgands quickly discovered the 70 pounds of shrimp per tank they were producing in three 12-foot pools was not enough to meet the demand for their fresh Pacific White shrimp. In May 2017, they announced they would be upgrading to a tiered tank system that would more than double their stock.

“Our vision is to supply a healthy, local product and being able to meet the demand,” said Julie. “The expansion will hopefully help us continue to provide a service to the community. That’s our biggest goal.”

Because aquaculture is still an emerging livestock industry in Iowa, producers like the Teglands face many start-up challenges including access to feed, processing capacity and regulatory hurdles. CSIF provides services that can help farmers understand the rules that apply to their fish or shrimp farm.

“The Coalition came to our farm and went over some basic information about where our farm is located in coordination to neighbors, waterways and other businesses in the area,” said Julie. “We learned a lot of important information that we needed to get started and to continue growing our farm.”

About the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers

 CSIF is a non-profit organization that assists livestock farmers who want help interpreting rules and regulations, guidance on good site locations for barns, counsel on enhancing neighbor relations and tips on how to protect the environment at no cost. For more information, call 1-800-932-2436 or visit

The Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers was created by farmers to help farmers raise livestock responsibly and successfully. It’s a joint partnership involving the Iowa Beef Industry Council, Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Iowa Pork Producers Association, Iowa Poultry Association, Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa Turkey Federation and Midwest Dairy Association.


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