Amanda Atkinson, of Little Cedar Falls - Taste of B.C. Aquafarms, displays a bottle of liquid fertilizer the company derives from fish manure, a waste byproduct of the company’s land-based aquafarm in Nanaimo. The company, with help from Vancouver Island University business and media students, has pitched a business proposal to Telus Pitch in hopes of winning $100,000 to help the company develop the product commercially. CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin

Nanaimo fish farm fertilizer pitched for $100,000 Telus contest prize

VIU students team with Nanaimo land-based fish farm to try to bring new product to market

Two Vancouver Island University students and a Nanaimo land-based fish farm have teamed up in hopes of bagging a $100,000 prize that could help bring a new product to market.

Business student Alvin Meledath and media student Ally Barabonow took on the task of helping Little Cedar Falls – Taste of B.C. Aquafarms, a Nanaimo land-based steelhead salmon aquafarm, create a business proposal for the Telus Pitch contest.

Telus Pitch is essentially an online version of Dragons’ Den to which one-minute long video pitches are submitted. People then view and votes for their favourite business proposals. Taste of B.C. Aquafarms’ pitch has made it to the top 100 proposals list in the Telus contest. Meledath and Taste of B.C. Aquafarms president Steve Atkinson hope the company can now break into the top 20 contest finalists.

Taste of B.C. Aquafarms has been running a research program to develop a liquid fertilizer derived from fish manure. The $100,000 contest prize would help Taste of B.C. Aquafarms bring its fish manure fertilizer to the commercial production stage.

“Usually businesses, on a small scale, don’t have the resources or the time to invest in creating a pitch and designing a pitch,” Meledath said.

The business student asked Atkinson to narrow down the concept and commercial potential of the product into a one-minute presentation to be made into a video, created by Barabonow, that was sent to Telus.

“A lot of good small businesses aren’t able to fit into the criteria and they get disqualified. That was something we were able to help them do,” Meledath said.

RELATED: Nanaimo fish farm gets federal cash to cut carbon footprint

Other fish fertilizers currently available are literally made from fish or the waste products of commercial fish processing, which produces a thick, smelly paste. Atkinson’s fish manure fertilizer is a nutrient-rich liquid thatlooks like tea or cloudy beer. It is derived from what is currently a waste byproduct of fish farming that must be trucked away at a cost to the aquafarm and disposed of, usually by being spread on farm fields.

“Instead of discharging our manure, we’ve been capturing it for a number of years,” Atkinson said. “Now we’ve developed a process to convert it into a usable fertilizer. Good fertilizer.”

Because the fish manure-based fertilizer is a liquid and has no offensive scent, it can be used indoors or outdoors, mixed with soil or used in an aquaponics growing system as the prime nutrient source.

“For us it’s part of making the industry that much more sustainable and taking a cost item and making it into a profit item,” Atkinson said. “That’s pretty important to us.”

Taste of B.C., operating since 2012, rears steelhead salmon and delivers them to market, but profitability is an issue. Being able to generate revenue from a waste product, Atkinson said, could be a game-changer for the industry.

Taste of B.C. has been testing fish manure fertilizer on crops in its greenhouse, raising lettuce, tomatoes and other plants. There are plans to test it on golf courses as well.

“What we’ve got is a really well-balanced fertilizer now … most fertilizers are chemicals and, although they have nutritional content, what’s available to plants is only a small percentage of what the fertilizer is,” Atkinson said. “Where what we do is, because it’s a biologically active fertilizer, the nutrients are fully available to the plant. What we’ve got is a good bio-available fertilizer. It produces really well and the flavour profile is increased. It’s quite amazing, our lettuce, we’re getting feedback about how different it tastes … it’s really got much more flavour to it.”

The aquafarm produces about 250,000 to 450,000 litres of the fertilizer annually, which eliminates the need to dispose of about 10,000 kg of fish waste.

“We were able to get him that support that he needs, because now he’s in the top 100 and we want him to be in the top 20 and have a chance at those funds,” Meledath said.

To learn more about the Telus Pitch contest and view Taste of B.C. Aquafarms’ business pitch video or vote, visit https://telus.wishpondpages.com/vote/.

To learn more about Taste of B.C. Aquafarms, visit www.littlecedarfalls.com/.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Fish farming done responsibly



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