Jul 15, 2019
Sourcing a variety of sustainable, humanly harvested, local fish, twelve months a year can be a bit challenging in the Hudson Valley, unless you stocked your freezer straight from the lake or stream the prior season.
Sourcing a variety of sustainable, humanly harvested, local fish, twelve months a year can be a bit challenging in the Hudson Valley, unless you stocked your freezer straight from the lake or stream the prior season. But now, with North America’s largest land-based recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) for steelhead trout, right in Hudson, New York, steelhead trout can be on menus throughout the region all year round. Operated by HVADC client Hudson Valley Fisheries (HVF), the 1200 metric ton, 160,000 square foot indoor aquaculture facility produces over ten thousand pounds of nutrient-rich New York Steelhead weekly, with room to grow.
Native to the Pacific cold-water tributaries in Alaska and on the West Coast, steelhead trout is a species of salmonid also known as rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), and is fast becoming a popular alternative to salmon as people discover its outstanding taste, color, texture and versatility. Plus, it’s loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, making it as nutritious as it is delicious. The New York Times has referred to it as “rich in both texture and flavor.”
HVF owner John Ng worked with HVADC’s Incubator Without Walls program, receiving technical assistance as he was establishing the fish farm. HVF is the first aquaculture facility to carry the New York Grown & Certified label—since they are accountable from egg to harvest-- as well as the first seafood branded as Grown & Certified (G&C) in the Hudson Valley. In May, the state's Department of Agriculture and Markets announced that aquaculture farms and also wild caught fisheries could qualify for G&C classification. Previously only shellfish growers were included in the program. Other than HVF, all of the other 21 seafood producers participating in the program are based in Suffolk County, Long Island.
Recently, Poughkeepsie City School District sampled HVF’s steelhead trout. School Lunch Director David Dunn explained they did a “taste test” with their after school ‘Food Power’ program, in partnership with Poughkeepsie Farm Project, HVADC and the Farm to School program. “Only a few students were there, but we made it a demo and did trout in three different recipes; Cajun with a blackened crust, Baked Stuffed with a Savory crumb topping and Trout ‘en papillote,’ wrapped in parchment paper with baby spinach and dill,” said Dunn. “All were received fairly well, but the Cajun was the most popular with our 14 to 15 year-old student group.” Dunn said he was impressed with the product.” Personally, I found the product to be very fresh and super clean, I was particularly pleased with the color and firmness of the flesh andI was very impressed that the pin bones were removed.” Revamping school lunch programs to incorporate locally sourced foods will most directly and positively impact the lower-income students who are also the largest consumers of the school lunch program.
With complete egg to plate transparency, the HVF facility serves customers from New York City to Boston and Philadelphia, offering delivery of head-on, gutted 6.5-pound steelhead within 48 hours of humane harvesting; filleted steelhead is also offered. At full capacity, HVF could produce more than 2 million pounds of steelhead annually.
It is also an aquaculture teaching facility, educating future fish farmers in best practices, collaborating with the Culinary Institute of America, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Culinary Institute of America, SUNY Cobleskill, and Columbia County Community College.
The company boasts that its fish is full of lean protein, high in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids; and grown without toxic heavy metals or mercury, no antibiotics, no vaccines, no hormones, no artificial coloring, no soy, corn or feather meal, nor GMO ingredients. New York Steelhead are fed a responsibly-sourced, GMO-free and balanced diet of natural anti-oxidants, proteins and lipids. HVF’s state of the art facility employs low head biofilters, automated feed systems and ambient and in-tank temperature controls. The facility plans to soon upcycle their fishery's solid waste for use in vegetation growth. HVF is recognized by Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch and Ocean Wise Sustainability certified.
HVF gets their eggs from a Certified Disease-Free egg supplier in Washington with a long history of exceptional genetics tracing back to wild ancestors. More is involved with indoor fish farming than one might expect. HVF hatches their eggs in state-of-the-art incubators which ensures optimum conditions for the eggs, giving them the best chance to thrive. Once hatched, the fry move into tanks, where they are fed for the first time. In the nursery, the fish grow from tiny egg to 1.23 ounces quickly due to highly nutritious feed. Once the fish get big enough, they move into the Smolt system. In the Smolt system the fish lose the ‘parr marks’ characteristic of younger fish and feed voraciously. Water quality, fish growth, and fish behavior are monitored carefully by Aquaculture Technicians. Fish in this system grow to around 0.66 pounds. Fish in the Juvenile system grow from 0.66 pounds to 1 2.2 pounds. At this stage, the beautiful color of NY Steelhead fillets starts to become apparent. HVF’s all-natural source of pigment (Panaferd™ astaxanthin) is also an antioxidant, making it healthy for the fish and the consumer. The Juvenile system at Hudson Valley Fisheries currently possesses North America’s largest floating bed biofilter. From the Juvenile system, the fish are transferred into our Growout system. The fish will remain in the Growout system until they are deemed ready to harvest at a target weight of 6.6 pounds. HVF’s fish finish their growth in this system and are tested regularly for product quality assurance, such as color, taste, texture and more.
"Hudson Valley Fisheries established roots in Hudson, because of the area's association with artisanal food, purity and quality," explained Ng. "This was a choice we are very satisfied with for a variety of reasons beyond the cache of the Hudson Valley. It enables us to maintain a small carbon footprint in terms of Northeastern delivery, to leverage sophisticated restaurant relationships where chefs care deeply about sustainably and responsibly sourced ingredients and to be a part of the New York State Grown and Certified program which supports and celebrates the best of the Empire State's agri bounty. We are very proud to be NYSGC's first seal recipient for aquaculture farming and have already seen the impact of an association with NYSGC's stamp of approval at the International Seafood Expo in Boston."
“HVF was the first aquaculture company to receive the Grown and Certified certificate, which opened the doors for others to follow—the rest of which are in Long Island,” said Todd Erling, Executive Director of HVADC. “Establishing a Hudson Valley first was important because it expanded the reach and even the optimized the intention of the certification. It enables buyers and consumers to trust the product, and having as many G&C products here in the Hudson Valley can help foster the local economies development—exactly as the program is intended.”
For more information, please visit www.newyorksteelhead.com and for more information about the Grown & Certified program, please visit https://www.hvadc.org/nys-grown-and-certified.
Photos: Hudson Valley Fisheries