Customer Highlight: Superior Fresh

23 May 2019

Land-based aquaculture technology has evolved drastically since its humble beginnings. The sector has developed new innovative systems which could be the way of the future as some keen innovators are proving with aquaponics. With the synergistic combination of aquaculture and hydroponics, finfish species can be produced on-land along with nutritious crops. Superior Fresh is one of the industry leaders in aquaponics in the United States and offered us a glimpse into the inner working of their unique operation. 

A Unique Business 

Superior Fresh is an industry leader in aquaponics, specializing in leafy greens, Atlantic salmon, and Steelhead trout. Utilizing state of the art aquaculture and hydroponics technology at their headquarters in Northfield, Wisconsin, Superior Fresh has developed a unique system to solve the problem of feeding the future and are leading the way to an even more sustainable future for the food production industry. “We have spent years focusing on the integration of proven, commercial aquaculture and hydroponics business models and today we are proving that we can produce the healthiest food available to the market,” states Brandon Gottsacker, President of Superior Fresh. During his time working for the Freshwater Institute, Gottsacker became confident that Atlantic salmon could be raised in a land-based recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) alongside nutritious plants. In North America, Superior Fresh is the first commercial farm to have raised Atlantic salmon in RAS to market size (4kg) in a land-based facility.  

“Our fish contain some of the highest amounts of omega-3 fatty acids and have never been in contact with pesticides, herbicides or antibiotics. Our salmon production also has a much lower carbon footprint than most other types of production because we are located so close to the market,” Gottsacker explained. These favorable characteristics ease the minds of many sustainability-concerned North Americans.  


Efficient and Sustainable Food Production 

Aquaponics is an extension of traditional aquaculture and offers a sustainable way to produce multiple food sources simultaneously; it’s the ultimate integrated multitrophic production model because the nutrients can’t disperse into the watershed. According to Gottsacker, the Superior Fresh system converts only one ton of fish food into more than ten tons of premium food for human consumption – that’s ten to twenty times more efficient than traditional farming solutions. Skretting North America has worked closely with Superior Fresh to develop a high-quality, organic feed that positively contributes to the environment’s stability and efficient production of food. 

Although there are countless benefits to aquaponics systems, their operation can come with many challenges as well. The nutritional requirements of fish – particularly salmon – and plants are significantly different. However, accommodating both simultaneously is a requirement of aquaponics. Steve Summerfelt, newly appointed Chief Science Office at Superior Fresh, explains that plants have different nutrient, pH, and temperature requirements from fish. “Because we’re trying to synthesize a symbiotic relationship between two very different ecosystems, maintaining a careful balance of ecological conditions is of the uttmost importance,” says Summerfelt. Hence, effective production technologies must be installed and operated to optimize conditions for both fish and plants. In addition, choosing a suitable fish feed is crucial because nutrients in fish waste are used to help the plants in the hydroponic system thrive.  

Superior Fresh’s aquaponics facility has successfully integrated the salmon RAS and hydroponics technologies to enable operation with zero-discharge from the production and processing systems, reusing as many nutrients as possible to maximize lettuce production and reduce pressure on the surface waters. 


The Future is Bright! 

The achievements of Superior Fresh are unlikely to stop anytime soon as the team is as ambitious as they are bright. They already have plans to expand their operations with the goal of leading production in aquaponics and improving controlled environment farming systems. The amazing work that Superior Fresh is doing will undoubtedly inspire others to follow suit.