The Ohio Aquaculture Cooperative is a coalition of individuals, farms, companies, organizations, etc dedicated to the advancement of the aquaculture (in addition to aquaponic and hydroponic) industry here in the state of Ohio. With so much interest in such a cooperative during a December 2017 meeting organized by the Ohio Aquaculture Association, a steering committee was formed to put pen to paper in making this dream a reality. Ashtyn, representing both TOFA and the industry, is part of the steering committee tasked to move this forward.
How It Works
We, as a group, are working on the business plan to move this forward. We've taken insight from everyone including everyone's grandmas! We've talked to current seafood producers, potential seafood producers, customers, consultants, government officials, manufacturers, and the like. In the end, we decided to start with the lowest-hanging fruit of starting bulk feed ordering which will have the following benefits:
- producers benefit from lower feed costs by ordering as a group, - producers benefit from better payment terms as a group compared to individually, especially for smaller/start-up farms - producers can afford to get better feed for their fish - feed producers benefit from more large sales - feed producers benefit from more consistent sales and knowing more of where their sales are - customers benefit from better quality fish products
The 2nd, more bold goal, of the cooperative is to start a processing facility matched with a dedicated wholesale restaurant delivery operation. This is much tougher because of the coordination required, but it is something we are striving for. Here is the streamline process of how this would work:
1) Mid-High End and Locally-Grown-Focused restaurants put in an order on Thursday/Friday for what seafood they would like to have for the following week. Let's say a restaurant in German Village, Columbus put in an order for 30 lbs of shrimp, 20 lbs of perch, 20 lbs of striped bass, and 15 lbs of sunfish.
2) The COOP would consolidate all the restaurant orders in Ohio (mainly Columbus, Cincy, and Cleveland) on Saturday of the total amount of seafood needed to fill all the orders. Let's say the total needed for the following week is 600 lbs of shrimp, 500 lbs of perch, 300 lbs of striped bass, and 200 lbs of sunfish.
3) Knowing what is needed, the COOP would spend the weekend figuring out how to collect the total order from all the various farms within the COOP to fill all the orders and have it delivered to the processing facility.
4) The processing facility (preferably COOP-owned or member-owned) would process all the fish Monday and have it delivered by Tuesday.
There are many benefits to this system for everyone involved:
- Producers can be sure of selling as much of their products as possible - Producers get exposure to customers that weren't possible before because of location/logistics - Producers get more money in their pockets for all their hard work instead of giving it away to wholesalers that usually own the system. - Producers benefit as a group since they can offer more products than what they raise - Restaurants get the freshest ingredients imaginable - Restaurants don't have to process the smaller fish (sunfish, rockfish, etc) which is a tedious task - Customers get the freshest seafood imaginable
Is This the Right Time?
The data shows that a cooperative has the right situation to start here in Ohio. From a survey conducted in the last few months for NCRAC, I've gathered the following information.
73% of producers use Zeigler Bros Feed and 20% use Purina 56% of producers would like to buy feed through a trusted cooperative entity 85% of producers would drive to pick up their feed if dropped off within a 30-minute drive 95% of producers are interested in an equipment/supplies online store
My Vision for the COOP
After I get the my operation in Pataskala fully running Fall 2018, I plan to offer my site as a base for the cooperative, whether it be for bulk feed ordering or processing/distribution for the cooperative. I'm working towards Seafood HACCP Certification that is requried for a processing facility. This has the immense potential to benefit my fellow producers, future producers (many of which want this to be an option before starting their farms), restaurants, and ,ultimately, consumers. I expect this COOP to get off its legs in early 2019 if all goes well. This is what myself and the committee are cautiously optimistic of.