VICTORIA - Early success in supplying up-scale restaurants with farmed halibut has prompted a P.E.I. company to look at the feasibility of growing its fish even bigger.
Halibut P.E.I. Inc. has been raising halibut at the former Morning Star lobster pound in Victoria since the fall of 2008. They take in thumb-sized juvenile fish, weighing between five and 10 grams from a hatchery in Nova Scotia, and grow them to around two kilograms.
The company leased the plant for two years before purchasing it from Ocean Choice International last year. One of the advantages of the plant, explained company co-owner Bob Johnston, is its three deep saltwater wells that provide a steady supply of salt water at a constant temperature year-round.
Considering the commercial halibut fishery stayed open just a day and a half last year, Johnston suggested farmed fish has an important place in the marketplace.
Halibut P.E.I. Inc. was one of eight companies recently awarded funding through Innovation P.E.I.'s Development and Commercialization Fund.
The company will use the government funding to investigate growing even larger fish, explained fellow owner, Dr. Gerry Johnson.
"At two kilograms, high-end restaurants like the fish because it comes in fresh 365 days of the year if they want it, and they filet them and they use that as the entrance plate," Johnson said.
Some markets, Johnson added, require a larger run of halibut and Halibut P.E.I. wants to be able to satisfy that demand, too.
"The (three kilogram) fish you can 'steak' or filet," he noted. "It gives us the versatility. We can send it anywhere."
The plant is raising about 50,000 haibut from 10 grams up to two kilograms. Larger fish will require more living space.
The funding will help the company to plan an expansion at the Morning Star facility and also help the company fully understands its market so that it is positioned to supply what the customer wants.
Johnson said the company is also interested in utilizing other lobster pounds during the off-season to grow halibut.
"We have to interest the people there in doing that sort of thing," he said.
Halibut P.E.I. employs five people at the plant full time and three workers part-time. There is also a full-time and a part-time worker at the company's retail outlet.
Other companies awarded Development and Commercialization funding:
- PEI Juice Works Ltd. - A Bloomfield fruit juice processing facility.
- Zengo Inc. - commercialization of RS-2 sealing technology
- P.E.I. Berries Ltd. - Innovative and natural food products
- Caepro (PEI) Inc. - Therapeutic bioactive molecules from indigenous rose varieties for cosmeceutical and personal healthcare
- Engineering Technologies Canada Ltd. - Electronic monitoring equipment for on-site wastewater management systems
- Baseline Business Geographics Inc. - Security
and compliance modules
- Charlottetown Metal Products Ltd. - Continuous flow high pressure steam processor