The back-story behind aquaculture’s forward-thinking company
Prairie AquaTech began when two research scientists from South Dakota State University—William Gibbons, PhD and Mike Brown, PhD— decided to tackle the challenges of producing efficiently produced, sustainable food for the world. Seeing aquaculture’s growth and promise, the two focused their work on the issue of depleting world bait fish supply. Bait fish provide aquafeed manufacturers with the crucial ingredient of protein.
Throughout the early 2000s, the two men worked on a process of extracting high quality protein from soy beans. Their work was successful enough to warrant commercialization and with that, a name was needed. Since the protein was coaxed from the soybean using Microbial Enhancement, “ME-PRO®” was minted.
Though the university system provided an important starting point for concept validation, it could not support other aspects involved with large scale aqua feed production. It’s one thing to produce 5 gallons of ME-PRO in a small “fermenter” but another for scaled production of many, many tons. Standards, testing, quality-control, marketing, distribution— each of these aspects needed to be successfully addressed if ME-PRO’s promise to aquaculture was to be realized.
In 2009, Prairie AquaTech (PAT) was formalized as a company and sights were set on the future of aquaculture protein production. The team grew to include production staff, experts in aquaculture and the leadership of proven entrepreneur, Mark Luecke.
Mark provided key guidance in obtaining funding, staffing and collaborative partnerships to take Prairie AquaTech to the next level—one that would be capable of supplying aquafeed manufacturers around the globe with high quality protein. To this end, aquaculture experts Bill Harris, PhD and Steven Craig, PhD were enlisted.
“Bill and Craig’s” expertise in nutrition, aquaculture operations and feed production was immediately put to work. ME-PRO’s already-high protein content actually increased. An RAS (Recirculating Aquaculture System) was designed and put into operation. An extruder-equipped feed-mill was installed to test ME-PRO’s suitability for feed production. Trials on fish began…
…and ME-PRO became ready for market as a protein ingredient.
Today, ME-PRO offers powerful features for aquafeed producers and farmers:
• 70% (as fed) protein• 100% digestibility
• Sustainably and traceably sourced
• Very low phytate levels
• Lowers phosphorus (P) discharge
• Easily extrudable
• Contaminent free
• No carotenoids or xanthophyll
• No “fishy taste”
• Economical, high value
Though the PAT AgTech Center is a world-class facility and capable of bringing aquaculture technologies to the world, its work has just begun. Prairie AquaTech is currently working on new products for the aquaculture market. Yet, the entrepreneurial spirit of ideation, cooperation and forging strong strategic partnerships will continue to drive success as the current challenges are met and new ones arise.
Prairie AquaTech – Together!