Rural Missouri - March 2017 - 11
Left: Some of the staff of Quixotic Farming pose for a photo at
the Chillicothe facility. Left to right: Eric Ely, national sales director;
Craig Gordon, vice president of risk management; John Sampson,
supervisor of the Trenton facility; Steve Whiteside, operations
manager for all facilities; Lane Constant, chief operating ofﬁcer;
Claire Constant, chief marketing director; and Randy Constant,
founder and chief executive ofﬁcer. Above: While the landbased tilapia farmers usually only raise darker or pearl tilapia,
they also have a few rare reds like this one in the mix.
Chicago where we pick them up. At that point, they're less than 24 hours old,"
says Craig Gordon, vice president of risk management for the company. "They're
driven from Chicago right to our other facility in Trenton, Missouri to what is the
equivalent of a baby nursery, where we quarantine them for awhile, then start
sorting them out by grade (size). After about three months, they're moved over
to the grow-out facility in Chillicothe."
The Chillicothe facility currently houses approximately 250,000 tilapia that
live in 10,000-gallon tanks. Each of the 40 tanks is equipped with its own special ﬁltration and recirculation system, which allows the ﬁsh growers to sustainably reuse the water that ﬁlls each tank.
"Don't think we use this water forever," says Steve Whiteside, Quixotic Farming's operations manager for their Colorado and Missouri facilities. "Even with
great ﬁltration and recirculation systems you need to change the water out for
Tilapia is a white ﬁsh that takes on the ﬂavors of its environment. "Because
our ﬁsh aren't raised outdoors in polluted or muddy waters, our ﬁsh tastes
cleaner," says Steve.
Claire echoes that comment. "The tilapia we raise live happy lives and we
believe that is reﬂected in the taste of our products."
Steve says over time, any uneaten organic feed and ﬁsh excretions do murk
up the water enough that it needs to be entirely changed. But he and his team
are constantly testing the water throughout the day, making sure it's a good
environment for the tilapia.
"Water quality is very important," says Steve, who used to raise pigs before
joining the business. "If the water gets too dark, we know we need to make some
changes in the feed or maybe even cut back on it a little. We don't use automatic
feeders here. We're all walking around, hand feeding throughout the day, checking to see if the ﬁsh are eating, reacting correctly to everything."
Because the young tilapia are sorted into tanks, if one tank has a problem -
say, the ﬁsh aren't eating well - Steve and the team can cordon off that tank
from the others, then run a gamut of tests to ﬁnd out the problem.
"They're like people. Sometimes they don't want to eat," Steve says. "Other
times, they don't feel
well, and because we don't treat them with antibiotics, we will vary the saline
levels for a day and they'll perk back up."
After about ﬁve months at the Chillicothe facility, it's time for the ﬁsh to
head to the Colorado plant where they'll be hand-ﬁlleted, frozen and shipped
to wholesalers and stores such as Plated, Terra's Kitchen and Door To Door
Organics, online food services and grocery delivery companies. They've also
expanded to Kansas City and St. Louis, selling to live markets in the area.
"Another thing that differentiates us from others selling seafood is the fact
our ﬁsh is traceable from fry to plate," says Claire. "So if someone wants to know
when their ﬁsh was born and what it ate, we can tell them."
Swimming into the future
According to the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization, aquaculture is the fastest-growing segment of the animal farming industry.
"Rarely do you get to be part of a brand-new industry," says Claire of the success Quixotic Farming has seen since swimming into the tilapia business six
Claire adds that Quixotic Farming can't produce enough tilapia for the
demand. With the recent expansion at the Chillicothe facility, they will have
approximately 1 million gallons of water in the facility, which will produce
around 1 million ﬁsh each year.
"We're looking to partner with contract growers, because we can't expand
fast enough," she adds. "Maybe there's a farmer out there and they've got abandoned buildings and have concerns about the environment, too. We'd love to
work with them and literally offer them a turnkey business and mentor them on
how to grow tilapia for us. Then we'll contract to buy the ﬁsh back from them if
they meet our standards. It's a win-win for everyone."
For more information, go to www.quixoticfarming.com or follow them on Facebook at Quixotic Farming. To ﬁnd out about becoming a contracted grower, email
Steve Whiteside at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Below left: John Sampson, supervisor of the Trenton facility, and Steve Whiteside, the operations manager for the grow out facility in Chillicothe, check the pH levels of the water in one of
the tanks. Water quality is key when growing tilapia. If the ﬁsh don't seem to be doing well, Steve and the team can adjust the saline levels and nurse them back to health without any antibiotics.
Below right: A tilapia takes about nine months to raise. Randy notes there are faster ways to raise the ﬁsh by using hormones, but that's not the way Quixotic Farming does business.
photo courtesy Quixotic Farming