Tell us about your background. How did you personally become involved in the world of sustainable (sea) food?
As a kid I was crazy about fish. I had 2 aquariums by age 6. My father took me fishing for rainbow trout up in the mountains as soon as I could hold a rod. He would sit me on the bank with a grasshopper on a hook while he waded out into the lake to fly fish. That was the beginning of a fascination for all things aquatic that eventually led me to study Biology and then Aquaculture. The other big thing in my life growing up was sports and particularly soccer. I played competitive soccer for a long time growing up and then college varsity 4 years at Harvard. Eating healthy food was very important at home. Then I married my wife Claudia, a triathlete in College and a devoted organic eater, and from that point on every home meal has become an event and preplanned. We eat meals at home with Okeechobee Shrimp every week- my kids’ favorite is shrimp pasta- and so feel that we genuinely can say we are not offering a product that is not first vetted right at home. And trust me that if my wife feeds it to my kids than there is truly no healthier alternative out there. We hope to get Okeechobee Shrimp certified organic when the National Organic Program standards for seafood are finally released.
Why did you found EarthCare Aquaculture?
EarthCare Aquaculture has been a dream come true for my wife, also a Marine Biologist, and I. We have found a way to channel our passions for the environment and for healthy food in a business that has real meaning for us and for our kids.
What does sustainable seafood mean to you?
Sustainable to me means really two things. One, you are producing in such a way that the environment around you is not harmed; that means that the land, air and water around you have not deteriorated because of your operations. We produce the shrimp using water recirculation technology so there is no water discharge and the entire operation is all under greenhouses, so the footprint is very small relative to the production. We are also in a part of south Florida that has been dedicated to vegetable farming for over 50 years so we have not repurposed the land use (typical shrimp farms around the world have taken coastal estuaries with their unique fauna and flora and set shrimp ponds on top of them with devastating environmental effects). Two, there is a net gain in animal protein from the operations. By that I mean that because shrimp are omnivores, that means they eat both vegetable protein and animal protein, they thrive on feeds that are primarily grain based (wheat and soy make up the majority of their feed ingredients). So we are making animal protein (shrimp) from land based agriculture where the sun and soil provide most of the nutrition. Roughly only 10% of our feed ingredients come from fishmeal and fish oil. Conversely, in the aquaculture of strict carnivores such as salmon, that % is 3 to 4 times that amount.
What is your involvement with the restaurant industry – and from your perspective, how important is it to the chefs you know to source products responsibly?
We realize that the highest level of standards and scrutiny will always come from the dedicated chef. They will ask everything about the culture process, the harvesting, the quality control, the details about packaging and all about how to preserve the quality during transport to his restaurant. That is the conversation we have with every chef we service and that one-to-one relationship to me is key. Quite simply, without the chefs our unique shrimp would never make it to the consumer and EarthCare’s mission could not be completed. Patrons of these restaurants rely on the chefs to vet all the ingredients in the food they serve; we love working with those chefs that take this mission to heart.
Why are you a member of Chefs Collaborative?
Chefs Collaborative has been a straight vehicle for us to reach the chefs that share our values, our long term vision and that share our obsession with doing things right. Finding those chefs nationwide without the help of the Collaborative would be unthinkable.
If our members have any more questions for you, how can they contact you?
You can contact me (Michael) at: firstname.lastname@example.org or just call 863-599-0603.
Find complete company information at www.earthcareaquaculture.com.