2017-10-05 / Front Page

Aquaculture center progresses; DA receives U.S. trade patent

Big strides in completing “Phase 1” of the expected aquaculture cen­ter have been made between Fresh­water Farms, LLC, the Lincoln County Development Authority, and the Aquaplanet Coalition, as the three entities recently entered into a partnership agreement at the last called meeting of the Development Authority.

The University of Georgia Exten­sion and Marine Extension Services is expected to serve as a technical advisor, however legal counsel is currently underway with the col­legiate organization before it signs on the dotted line.

“An aquaculture center has been a priority of the Lincoln County Development Authority ‘5-Point Plan’ for economic development since April 2015,” director John Stone said.

The aquaculture center would not only create a unique industry within Lincoln County as it would initially produce crops of striped bass and micro-greens with the intent to sell to neighboring restaurants and vendors but also the potential for employment opportunities, and increases in tourism are also on the horizon as well.

An informational seminar held in May at the Development Authority outlined the benefits of investing in the rising movement of aqua­culture.

“In terms more of what aquapon­ics is – if you’ve seen hydroponics systems floating water based pro­duction of crops – the difference with aquaponics is you’re using fish waste to nourish the plants instead of chemicals, minerals, and whatnot,” Aquaplanet Industrial Designer Bevin Suits said. “It’s a natural, organic system.”

“It’s the industry of the future. You have got to have local pro­duction on this because it’s fresh – there’s no processing right of the bat in order to keep it that way,” Stone added. “And this is something that can’t be taken away from us by global trade.”

Typically taking place in a green­house, aquaponics very often allows farmers to raise a variety of fish, such as crawfish, striped bass, red fish, flounder, fresh water prawn, oysters, trout, fresh water bass, or bream, etc. The fish waste is then utilized to fertilize vegetables, usu­ally of the grower’s choice, like the fish, but is likely dependent on prices, seasons, and area demands.

Suits, along with representatives from UGA, attests that aquaponics is a growing industry that pushes sustainability, environmental care and effectiveness, and efficiency to the forefront.

Along with providing updated information on aquaculture, those with Aquaplanet will also provide equipment, initial plant and fish stocks, and training of all personnel to Freshwater Farms.

As far as the Development Au­thority’s role is concerned, it will provide a site within the Industrial Park on Commerce Drive with a value of $56,000 for the project, and provide $180,000 of lease-purchase financing on 15-year terms towards construction costs of a 3-4,000- square-foot greenhouse.

This service would also be offered to future investors.

Freshwater Farms will provide $20,000 cash towards the project as the investor, and operate, main­tain, and promote the aquaculture center for seafood and vegetable production, as well as for expected educational purposes for University of Georgia System institutions.

“We’re moving right along,” Stone said. “Freshwater Farms owner Brian Henderson has also put in the first grant applications for the project.”

While the Development Author­ity holds clear title to the land, and has cash-on-hand to provide the $180,000 initial construction funds, as its credit committee has approved Freshwater Farms, LLC for the loan, additional grants are being sought for the remaining $50,000 project costs from USDA and NOAA, ac­cording to Stone.

Once approved, groundbreaking on the project is estimated for six months from securing the grant.

As soon as Phase 1 of the aqua­culture center is deemed “complete and profitable,” the Development Authority and Freshwater, LLC will look for expansion into Phase 2, to include freshwater prawn produc­tion with Malaysian investment in a prawn hatchery to service grow­ers throughout Georgia and the southeast.

According to the Georgia Exten­sion Service, there are roughly 700 former catfish ponds available for this venture if the aquaculture center is successful.

“The goal being that before we even break ground is to have every­thing pre-sold before moving into Phase 2 with the freshwater prawns. We want to be sure we’re successful in Phase 1 before moving forward,” Stone said, adding, “Phase 2 could also include solar and hydroelec­tric zero-carbon emissions power generation, making this facility the only known zero-effluent discharge, zero-carbon emissions sustainable seafood and agriculture facility in the U.S.”

Not only is the aquaculture cen­ter on the precipice of fruition, but Stone readily reported that Lincoln County has officially received its registered United States trademark patent, which reads “Product of Georgia’.s .Fresh .Water..Coast .– .Lin­coln County, Georgia.”

The patent will not only make household name for Lincoln County within the region, but may also lead to recognition across the nation, as all future products will have the op­portunity to carry this emblem.

Potential seafood and produce production from the expected aqua­ponic operation, according to Stone, would serve to strengthen county operations by making them all the more impactful by utilizing the trademark patent.

“The Development Authority views this industry as a growth in­dustry specifically tailored for our county’s economic personality as ‘Georgia’s Freshwater Coast,’ with development efforts targeted for lake resort living, recreation, and lake-related agricultural and marine production,” Stone said. “‘Geor­gia’s Freshwater Coast’ has now been awarded registered trademark status by the U.S. Trade and Patent Office, allowing the Development Authority to authorize ‘A Product of Georgia’.s .Freshwater .Coast’..label­ing for all farm products originating in our county, which is the same as thing as the ‘Vidalia Onion,’ or the ‘Idaho Potato.’”

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