Strategic Plan


“A Strategic Plan for Thriving & Sustainable Michigan Aquaculture” was produced in 2014 through a Michigan Sea Grant Integrated Assessment Project.

This Assessment provides an overview of the potential of a Michigan aquaculture industry and contains recommendations for further development.  It also provides a stark overview of several scenarios of success or failure that will result from the balance of capital investment and social acceptance:

  • “Seafood An Essential Animal Protein”
  • “Stuck In Second Gear”
  • “Blue Bayou”
  • “Hamburger Nation”

These four scenarios aptly describe the choice we face in developing a large scale industry, and the necessity of achieving  high social acceptance and high capital investment, if we choose the path to grasp the “Seafood An Essential Animal Protein” opportunity.

ARC believes that a systematic plan to actuate the Michigan Seafood Supply Chain is essential to reaching the goal.  In any market producers interested in aquaculture need to adapt to local specializations related to:

  • Supply Chain
  • Species
  • Production System
  • Social Acceptance

When choosing to enter aquaculture production we emphasize the need to ADAPT to LOCAL specializations, as the “Supply Chain” or local fish community is the most critical item for success.  The supply chain can lower barriers to entry, lesson capital costs, lower risk on many operating decisions, and provide a more robust and predictable market.  The Supply Chain will affect the most reasonable species to attempt to cultivate (cutting edge or tried and true) and it will affect the decision for the most applicable production system for that species.  Social Acceptance will further impact the species and production system decisions, as regional attitudes have an impact on regulations and marketing.  An established Supply Chain will already have a solid boundary on Social Acceptance, thus furthering the significance of understanding the local Supply Chain before considering any investment.

Without an established Supply Chain, Michigan has limited opportunities to develop its capabilities.  With mostly regional artisanal farms and a very limited commercial fishery, there is little experience in any aspect necessary for large scale aquaculture.  A persistent and potentially expanding net culture on the Canadian side of Lake Huron is the best short term Supply Chain.  Production of 3lb trout sets the bar for market demand and state/federal experience stocking salmon and trout leads towards a focus on Salmonid production.  Matching the Canadian expansion of net sites provides the best answer for developing a competitive Michigan supply chain.  Flow-thru farm systems can be expanded, however, at a production limit of around 50MT-200MT/yr, with cold well or spring water (slower growth) systems, they cannot be competitive with costs and growth rates from an average sized 500MT-1,000MT/yr net site, in warmer/deeper lake water.  RAS will not be competitive until the established regions learn to operate the large systems and they are less likely to locate in regions without an established Supply Chain.  Thus, the best course for Michigan is to expand Flow-Thru and Net sites now and be in a position to aggressively expand, off an established Supply Chain, into RAS in about 10years when Salmonid RAS production will be commercially viable.  R&D into other related species, like Lake Whitefish, can provide the extra margin and differentiation for the region, but the core production in a known species, such as Salmonids, must be established first.

Warm water species are a novelty for the area and may be viable in small scale operations.  However, there are too many variables and unknowns for the region to become competitive at large scale aquaculture, without first actuating its cold water species potential.

Aquaponics, especially with warm water species is feasible for small and medium scale operations, however, it is important to note that typically the profitability of these operations is in the plant production.  Typically, 80% of net income is in the plants, while 80% of the capital costs are in the fish.  Michigan does not have a large scale hydroponics industry and we believe that type of well established development is the first step to consider, before complicating the operations with the addition of the fish.  We believe a similar supply chain assessment should be done to discover the barriers to hydroponics development, before significant investment occurs in a more complicated aquaponics venture.