EVANSVILLE—The aqua pod that has been constructed at Lake Obejewung and put in the water at Meeker’s Aquaculture in Evansville recently has certainly received a lot of interest from local residents.
“We are more than excited about the cage being put in the water and it is performing great,” said Mike Meeker of Meeker’s Aquaculture. “We can raise and spin the aqua pod in and out of the water and we are getting familiar with how to use it.” The aqua pod was purchased from Ocean Farms Technology, based out of Merrill, Maine.
Mr. Meeker explained, “about 12 years ago Mike Willinsky came up with the idea of the geoderge sphere (aqua pod) to be used in the ocean. Obviously this would have to be really strong to take the punishment of the currents and high winds of an ocean. I worked with him a couple of years and basically at that point it was an idea before its time. But by 2005-2006 we had heard about a company that had taken over the concept and began building the cages. Instead of being made out of aluminum tubes the cages were made of fibreglass and recycled plastic. They are very light and extremely strong and they are constructed with a rubber coated steel mesh to withstand sharks and sea lions tying to rip the nets apart on the ocean. We decided to bring that strength and security here and it will be a big benefit to us and other fish farms on the Great Lakes.”
“Besides being huge in size it is very easy to sink and raise and, for instance, if we know of a big storm coming to the area we can sink the cage and when there is ice on the lake, like my submersible cages, we can lower this cage down in the water,” explained Mr. Meeker.
“The cage we have is the baby type, 30 feet in diameter. The bigger cages the company makes are 76 feet in diameter or about the same as an eight story building,” continued Mr. Meeker. “We are going to be putting fish in it on August 12. Up until now we have been working on assembling it, getting everything installed and ready to go, and since then we have been practicing our cleaning, spinning and swimming in it.” He pointed out between 12,000-15,000 pounds of fish can be raised in one of these cages, which is “far less than our conventional fish cages of 50,000-60,000 pounds of fish being raised.
The aqua pod cage, “Is fully enclosed, with two trap doors in it,” said Mr. Meeker. “When it is completely submerged, we can clean it and feed the fish. No, the fish can’t get out, once you open the door, they see someone coming who is blowing bubbles all around them and they move away.”
“Right now we will be raising rainbow trout in the cage,” said Mr. Meeker. “But I can picture in the future going to pickerel and maybe even perch. This is a significant development, allowing the expansion of our operations in big water. We will be going offshore, up to three miles with the cages, where there are no boaters or cottages in deeper water. We have already proven many times that our industry, aquaculture, has no negative impacts on the waters around the cages. Most people who have done their homework know there are no negative impacts with the nets and growing of fish. And this new aqua pod will make it a lot easier to raise fish off-shore.”
“And the aqua pod will provide even better conditions for the fish to grow in the big waters,” said Mr. Meeker. “It’s the missing piece I’ve been working toward for a while in our business. I have been watching the company since about 2005-2006 in developing this concept and I even went to Mexico to dive and take a look at the system.” He added that the aqua pods are already being used in other countries such as Korea, Mexico and Panama.
“This system has proven itself in high current and high wave conditions,” stated Mr. Meeker. “An aqua pod in Mexico went through two hurricanes and there was no problem, no damage done at all to it. In tougher conditions, such as storms and ice, we see this new technology as being extremely beneficial.”
“The aqua pod cage will be used in combination with the cages we currently have at our site,” said Mr. Meeker, who pointed out, “this type of cage aqua pod has never been installed in fresh water or has had to deal with ice. It will be a big advantage for our business.”
“We definitely had quite an audience when we were putting together the aqua pod at Obejewung Park,” said Mr. Meeker. “I’m very excited about this system, it will be a big part of our growth in aquaculture.”