Kingfish Zeeland, one of the most successful companies to master recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) to date, is planning to build a new farm to raise yellowtail kingfish in the United States.
The Dutch company is selling into the US market through Miami-based partner Candor Seafood and is ultimately gearing up to building a production facility on the East Coast of the United States, CEO Ohad Maiman told Undercurrent News.
“We have had fantastic feedback on our product so far,” Ohad Maiman told Undercurrent News. “We have entered the US market but really it’s to establish proof of concept.”
The concept of building RAS farms in the United States to serve the so-called northeast megalopolis between Boston and Washington is taking off, after Nordic Aquafarms and Whole Oceans announced plans to build Atlantic salmon farms in Maine.
Despite high start-up costs, RAS farms could potentially slash transportation costs of supplying to the US market, by eliminating the necessity to pay air freight. RAS also offers the potential to manage the entry of pathogens into a farm, and allows companies to sell under a ‘produced locally’ label.
Maine is an excellent site for starting the company’s first US farm, although the consortium will consider coastal sites in other sites with high quality water resources and relative proximity to cold chain storage, Maiman said.
Yellowtail kingfish is a highly regarded fish in Japanese sushi. Upscale restaurant chain offers yellowtail sashimi with jalapeno peppers as a signature dish. Japanese companies ranch and wild capture yellowtail in Pacific waters. The fish is also popular in Italy and South Africa. Maiman said he has focused on chefs to market yellowtail as a premium seafood product and is promoting its use as a grilled fish as well as use in sushi and sashimi form.
“When I studied the seafood industry in detail, I realized that the chefs are the gatekeepers,” Maiman said. “Chefs not only decide what to sell in their own restaurants, but they also influence advanced cooks and before you know, that’s why you end up buying in 7-Eleven stores.”
Maiman initially became interested in RAS projects after studying a potential project in Georgia through a private equity firm he worked for in his native Israel. Even though the firm didn’t go ahead with that project, Maiman saw parallels between RAS and greenhouse technology in Israel and was convinced that the technology could work.
He formed Kingfish Zeeland in 2012 and started producing late last year, scaling up to serve customers in Belgium, the Netherlands and the UK this month. Sales in the US has so far been at a sample level.
The company raised over €20 million from private investors including Rabobank to build its coastal facility in the Dutch province of Zeeland. The fish was recommended as a “Green Choice” by the Good Fish Foundation.