On 120 acres of land outside of Hudson, steelhead salmon and shrimp are swimming against a current. The nearest body of water, the Hudson River, lies three miles to the west; 165 miles due east is Boston and the Atlantic. The salmon circle in 10-foot-deep tanks, finning against an artificial tide, the water a cool 59° Fahrenheit.
This is Hudson Valley Fish Farms (HVFF), the latest entrant into the aquaculture race, but one with a unique take: all tank, no pen. As counterintuitive as it may seem, raising seafood in enclosed environs may be best for both mankind and Mother Nature. With traditional fish farming, eggs are cultivated and hatched, the fish are raised through fry stage, and juveniles are transferred to coastal pens to be raised. In many places in the world, these fish are also fed antibiotics.
Instead of going coastal, the fish at HVFF are moved into tanks inside a temperature-controlled building. For 18 months the fish swim in the circulating waters, until they’re large enough to go to market. Because they don’t come in contact with wild species, these fish don’t require antibiotics.
Across the river, ECO Shrimp Garden has been raising shrimp in the basement of a retired mattress factory in Newburgh since 2015. Like HVFF, ECO farms crustaceans without antibiotics, hormones, or chemicals, and uses a natural BIOfilter, too. The shrimp are bred in Florida and overnighted at 11 days old to Newburgh where ECO’s founder, Jean Claude Frajmund, keeps them in the nursery before moving them into grow tanks. Currently, the company is sending 200 to 300 pounds of shrimp to market every week.
So, what’s causing this boom in aquaculture in the Valley? On the one hand, it’s part of a larger trend. As scientists and entrepreneurs eye the future, many are envisioning a time when the planet will struggle with access to healthy, inexpensive protein sources. For its part, our area is a great place to farm fish. The region offers access to fantastic water supply and quality, and relatively low cost of land, all within a few hours from some of the nation’s largest markets. “It’s an idyllic place where farming is happening against a backdrop out of a painting,” says Sam Chen, head of corporate and business development at HVFF. “But it’s also where innovation is quietly happening. There is an ecosystem of people, businesses, and institutes that support what we’re doing.”