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Fish farming swims to surface of Iowa Ag

Eagle's Catch CEO Joe Sweeney at the 2017 Iowa Aquaculture Conference in Ames. Photo by Ben Nuelle.

AUDIO: Joe Sweeney, fish farmer

A new livestock industry continues to emerge in Iowa and the animal doesn’t walk across the ground.

Joe Sweeney is CEO of Eagle’s Catch. The company provides fish raising, preserving, and processing services in north central Iowa. He says economic benefits sparked his interest.

“Right now, U.S. is importing 90 plus percent of our seafood. Most of it is coming from Southeast Asia where their medium income level continues to rise and there are buying more and more protein,” Sweeney says.

Seafood is a big component of that.

“The ten to 20-year outlook is where people are seeing constraints in seafood. We’re trying to build to a level so middle America can help provide seafood (to fix the) deficit we’re experiencing in the country.”

Sweeney says with this emerging industry there are barriers just like any industry.

“The largest barrier is the human capital and knowledge out there available,” Sweeney adds. “It is a really small industry. (The industry) has some growing pains we are going through and it comes down to developing people that have the knowledge and experience (to succeed).”

The Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers hosted the 2017 Aquaculture Conference in Ames Tuesday to help farmers like Sweeney find helpful resources.

“We have around 60 operations in the state that are producing fish and shrimp. There are 250 plus people here so I think the industry is going to grow,” Executive Director Brian Waddingham says.

The event was co-sponsored by Iowa State University and the North Central Regional Aquaculture Center.