Milwaukee Fish Raceways
Steve Lindner and Josh Fraundorf thought the only natural thought when they saw massive, abandoned industrial buildings in Milwaukee.
“Hey,” they (probably) thought, “We could use these buildings to grow a whole ton of fish.”
And that’s exactly what they set out to do. They founded sweet water organics, a company dedicated to sustainable aquaculture. Under the oversight of Macarthur grant recipient Will Allen they are constructing seven fish “raceways that will hold a total of 110,000 fallons of water and produce around a 100,000 tilapia, lake perch and maybe blue gill in a year.
The sustainability of seafood is one of those things that when you start to think about it, you could really lose your mind. Tilapia and lake perch aside, large predatory fishes like Tuna, Salmon, Marlin and other sushi staples are some of the most precarious sources of food in the human diet. Scientists suspect that large predatory fish populations have declined by about 90% percent in the past fifty years, and yet the world at large seems to continue munching spicy tuna rolls with apocalyptic abandon. Farmed salmon is considered by some to be an appropriate solution to the problem, but the amounts of soy required to grow farmed salmon rival that of cow. Throw in the alarming mercury levels discovered in essentially all long-living ocean fish, and the situation gets pretty bleak.
Or does it?It would seem that freshwater, vegetarian fish of the kind that will be raised at sweet water organics are actually a very simple way to produce animal protein off little more than algae. They’re delicious too – in fact, a recent investigation showed that the majority of “red snapper” served in restaurants in actually tilapia. While some might be angry about this, I think they’re missing an essential point: tilapia is just as good as red snapper, and much better for the environment.
The founders of sweet water organics are providing the world with a brilliant example not only of how abandoned industrial spaces can be converted into food production, but how seafood consumption can transition from being one of the most ecologically destructive ways of consuming protein to one of the most sustainable.