I’ve written in jest previously about my dream as a Gardnerville Ranchos kid – growing up in the 1980s – to run off to Mud Lake, surely brimming with ready-to-eat fish, and survive off the fat of the land while my parents reconsidered their demand for homework completed in a timely manner.
It’s a sentiment friends and fellow classmates echoed in some form or another over the years – visiting the mythical Lake Of Milk And Honey and making a Jackson’s Island experience of the entire thing.
That being said, the irony of what is currently taking shape just a ways north of said lake, is not lost on me.
Nevada Sea Dream. Perhaps you have heard the rumors already. A fully-enclosed, environmentally-sustainable land-based indoor aquaculture occupying 270,000 square feet on Bently Ranch land off of Dressler Lane. Once completed, it’ll be able to produce 2,000 tons of Atlantic Salmon and 1,500 tons of Sea Bass per year.
We’ll get to the particulars in a minute.
This story, though, finds a foundation in another story that seems to be at the heart of most of the economic development stories we’ve attempted to address over the past several years.
In February 2012, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and the Nevada Board of Economic Development outlined a long-term vision toward creating high-quality jobs for Nevadans through a “vibrant, innovative and sustainable economy.”
What followed was a detailed plan on how to tackle the mission, including a focus on innovation in core and emerging industries.
Bonnie Lind moved from the Bay area several months later to work for the Office of Economic Development while the state’s assets were mapped and opportunities identified.
She started working with a clients such as Tesla in helping sell them on the state.
“I can take credit for getting us in the ballpark with Tesla,” she said with a laugh. “I worked on that deal until it got to the Governor’s level. As you might imagine, it ended up being pretty political.”
Through her work in the economic development office, she was also put in contact with a technology enterprise company called Microdel, which owned SeaDream as a subsidiary. They, too, were looking at moving into the state.
Last August, Lind wound up taking a position in business development with Microdel and set about placing a SeaDream plant in Carson Valley.
SeaDream’s flagship endeavor, Aquatech Fisheries in Israel’s Negev Desert is hoping to begin sales this fall.
“The desert is the ideal location for technologically-advanced fish farming,” Lind said. “You have low-cost, highly-available land, warm temperatures, intense sunlight.
“You look at the targeted output for our plants, just to give you context, normal fisheries produce 100,000 tons a year. This (1,500 to 2,000 tons) is how you get started. You have to create a niche product and build on it.
“We did a really extensive market study on what is in highest demand and what the market would bear. Everyone eats Chilean Seabass, it’s not doing well in the wild, it’s not very sustainable. This is an option that can grow year-round and is sustainable and traceable.
The facility itself will be quite a mechanical marvel once completed.
Lind said more than eight miles of pipe will be utilized to transport the fish from pool to pool as they grow. The facility will run on a closed-circulation water system that reuses water through an included wastewater treatment component. Food will be grown on site and power will be provided through solar energy.
“All of the feeding is automated,” she said. “There are cameras built into the tanks to assess the amount of feed. The fish are only touched twice, and never by human hands in order to control contamination.”
Any perceived stigma attached to a fish farm, Lind is quick to refute.
“We’re not growing Frankenfish,” she said with a laugh.
SeaDream is working with the Monterey Bay Aquarium in an effort to obtain the aquarium’s highest-rating on its Sea Food Watch List.
“We will be the first facility to receive their ‘Best Choice,’ for sea bass, and the second to receive their ‘Best Choice’ for salmon.” Lind said. “Predominantly what they look at is the environmental footprint for people and animals, the effluent, discharging water, how much waste is being discharged and how it’s managed. They take a look at if you are setting up in an ecologically sensitive area.
“We’ll have a full waste water treatment facility attached to the system and the water discharge will be taken to the Bently compost facility.”
Lind said the goal will be to source as many jobs and supplies locally as possible. The salt for the salt water, for example, will come from Fallon.
“Our fish will be maintained in a salt water environment specifically so if someone broke in and stole the fish, there would be a natural process to keep them from becoming an invasive species. They examine the source of the stock, so that we aren’t going out and catching wild salmon to use. We have to be able to prove at least 10 generations of genealogy with our fish. It’s very highly-bred.”
The facility obtained its special use permit from the county in December, but is still working through the next level of permitting – like the Department of Environmental Protection discharge permit. They’re working on getting power to the site and setting up the remaining infrastructure before construction begins.
Once completed, the facility will produce 20-25 jobs.
“We want to hire locally as much as possible,” Lind said. “We’re working with JOIN, Inc., to help develop the talent base in the area so we can recruit the right people.”
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