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Genetically modified salmon to be grown in Indiana

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Genetically modified salmon to be grown in Indiana

Peter Bowyer, farm manager, and U.S. Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., feed fish at the AquaBounty salmon facility. There are 24 70,000-gallon tanks in the “grow-out” room of the farm.

ALBANY, Ind. — Corn and soybeans aren’t the only genetically modified crops being grown in Indiana this year.

A facility owned by AquaBounty Technologies will house genetically modified Atlantic salmon in Albany.

The salmon can be harvested by 18 months, compared to a three-year maturity date for conventional salmon.

U.S. Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., visited the salmon farm on March 21.

“So many of the world’s oceans are being overfished,” Young said. “There’s room for more protein in the world.”

Genetically modified salmon to be grown in Indiana

U.S. Sen. Todd Young (left) tours a salmon farm owned by AquaBounty Technologies with Peter Bowyer, the farm’s manager. The room shown is where salmon eggs first arrive to the facility. They are hatched and then moved next door to a feeding system.

In early March, the Food and Drug Administration lifted a ban that prevented the genetically modified eggs from being imported from Canada to the Indiana farm.

Young was vocal about the importance of lifting that ban.

The farm will receive its first batch of eggs in April.

“This has been around a 20-year journey,” said Brad Shurdut, vice president of global regulatory and government affairs at Intrexon Corporation.

“Indiana has shown leadership in terms of attracting AquaBounty to the state.

“You’ll see there’s a lot of head space. Aquaculture is just one segment of agriculture. There’s a lot of room to grow.

“If we can demonstrate that we can do it in Indiana at this plant, who knows where it will take Indiana.”

Right now more than 90 percent of Atlantic salmon is imported, Shurdut said.

Peter Bowyer, farm manager at AquaBounty, explained the biotechnology used to create the fish.

“The AquAdvantage salmon is a fast-growing Atlantic salmon,” he said. “It’s now been approved by the FDA and the Canadian regulatory authorities for production, sale and consumption.

“This salmon allows the economic viability of land-based facilities, which provide a sustainable alternative to conventional salmon farming techniques.”

Genetically modified salmon to be grown in Indiana

U.S. Sen. Todd Young goes on a group tour of AquaBounty.

The company’s proprietary breed of fish is modified to contain genes from Chinook salmon and an eel-like creature called an ocean pout, which allows it to grow twice as fast, on less food, than a normal Atlantic salmon.

Features of AquAdvantage salmon:

  • Harvest growth — reaches market size in 18 to 20 months versus three years.
  • Better feed conversion — utilizes 25 percent less feed.
  • Land-based farms — better control over conditions provided to fish.
  • Opportunity to produce salmon close to the consumer and cut down on transportation costs.
Genetically modified salmon to be grown in Indiana

AquaBounty invested $14 million in a defunct fish facility in order to produce genetically modified salmon in Indiana. It’s currently being renovated and upgraded with the goal of increasing production capacity to 1,200 metric tons annually.

“The two major sources of Atlantic salmon coming into the U.S. now are Chile and Norway,” Bowyer said. “Both of those producers are over 3,000 miles away.

“The U.S. imported about 280,000 tons of Atlantic salmon in 2016. Only 3 percent of that was produced here. There’s a total U.S. market opportunity of $2.7 billion.”

The first salmon harvest at the Indiana facility is expected to take place in 2020.

Genetically modified salmon to be grown in Indiana

U.S. Sen. Todd Young (second from left) tours the salmon hatchery. The facility has the ability to produce more than 250,000 fish annually.

Erica Quinlan can be reached at 800-426-9438, ext. 193, or equinlan@agrinews-pubs.com. Follow her on Twitter at: @AgNews_Quinlan.

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