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Spring Hill Salmon Frequently Asked Questions

Where did my fish come from?

Our Atlantic salmon is raised at The Conservation Fund’s Freshwater Institute research facility in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

How do you grow Atlantic salmon in West Virginia?

The Freshwater Institute raises Atlantic salmon using a sustainable aquaculture production technology known as land-based, closed-containment recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS).

How does RAS technology work?whiteboard video RAS system still

The land-based RAS operations at the Freshwater Institute make it possible to grow fish such as Atlantic salmon and trout from egg to smolt to market-size adult fish anywhere. RAS requires little water input and captures most of the waste biosolids and phosphorus, reducing water pollution and meeting stringent point-source discharge permits. A small flow of spring water is supplies the recirculating systems at the Freshwater Institute. Fish are reared in water that is continuously recirculated through circular tanks and water treatment processes. Water current rotating through circular tanks is controlled to create an optimal environment for the fish that maximizes their exercise and efficiency. Nearly all (typically over 99 percent) of the water flowing through RAS is recycled, and waste biosolids (fish manure) is captured, dewatered, and reused for things like fertilizer and soil amendment.  Our RAS-raised salmon grow to harvest size about 6 months sooner than salmon in other aquaculture systems, reaching 10 lbs. in approximately 24-26 months from hatch. Watch this video for a rundown on how the process works.

Why don’t you sell your salmon year round?

The Freshwater Institute is not a commercial production facility. We are focused on creating and advancing innovative technology to meet our country’s future seafood demands in an environmentally friendly way. Our yearly harvests are the result of individual studies that help further the development of RAS technology and production. Our research provides vital information to the North American salmon farming industry, government officials, funders, and conservation advocates to inform decision-making regarding land-based, freshwater, closed-containment systems for Atlantic salmon.

We are focused on finding solutions and sharing our knowledge with consumers and the seafood industry.

What are the environmental benefits of raising fish with RAS technology?

RAS has several benefits for people, fish and the environment. Our systems are biosecure (fish cannot escape and fish pathogens are excluded), have an easily controlled rearing environment, produce healthy and optimally performing fish, recycle water and reuse waste. RAS technology also allows for the flexibility to produce fish locally. This not only reduces transportation costs of getting fish to market, but also leaves a significantly smaller carbon footprint. And, because 99 percent of the water in RAS technology is recycled, it makes efficient use of one of our most precious resources. Salmon raised in this manner has earned the Best-Choice (Green) sustainability ranking by Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program.

Is it safe?

Yes, fish raised in RAS grow in a controlled environment that minimizes risks of contamination and disease. Because of this, we have not fed any pesticides, antibiotics, vaccines, or hormones. Our fish are fed a custom natural, sustainable and practical diet that was formulated by USDA nutritionists and EWOS Canada.  The feed was milled by EWOS and included no animal byproducts or GMO ingredient. In addition, no wild fish were harvested to supply the fishmeal and oil included in the feed, because these were sourced as a byproduct of fish processing plant trimmings. Thus, our fish have zero wild fish in: fish out ratio. The feed also incorporates a natural source of carotenoid pigment.

Is your salmon organic?

There is currently no USDA organic designation or label for farmed seafood produced in the U.S.  We are carefully monitoring the development of this standard.

Why should I consider fish raised with RAS?

Our oceans are reaching a limit on what they can offer. Ninety-three percent of our edible seafood supply is imported, and half of that supply is already coming from fish farms in other countries. Our research in RAS technology is driven by a passion to find the most sustainable, environmentally friendly ways to produce healthy local seafood. The controlled environment provided by RAS means that we create the best conditions for our fish and the safest possible seafood for consumers. The flexibility of RAS also opens the door for buyers to have access to fresh, traceable, and local seafood no matter where they are.

How are you funded?

The 2017 Spring Hill Salmon project is supported by The Research Council of Norway through the SFI Centre for Research-based Innovation CtrlAQUA project, SalmoBreed AS, EWOS AS and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.  This grow-out trial evaluated a range of early rearing photo-period conditions and a cost-effective, environmentally friendly fish feed option.



Have you tried our salmon? Tell us what you think!


We’re also looking for investors that want to take this disruptive new seafood concept and run with it. You can contact Joe Hankins directly by phone at 304-876-2815 ext.212 or email at jhankins@conservationfund.org.