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Bittersweet first harvest for RAS pompano farm


May 26, 2020
By Liza Mayer
In the tradition of many start-up companies, Joe Cardenas found himself serving both as CEO and delivery truck driver to transport pompano to quarantined consumers Photo: Aquaco Farms

Aquaco Farms’ first harvest in late April was a bittersweet milestone for CEO and founder Joe Cardenas.

While it was the culmination of years of hard work for the banker-turned-fish farmer, the harvest came when most restaurants have shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aquaco Farms is a recirculating aquaculture facility in St Lucie, Florida. The farm has been harvesting fish weighing 1-lb on average every Friday since late April.

Wholesalers that sell to restaurants were its intended market, but as the pandemic broke, Cardenas found himself behind the wheel delivering the fish to retail consumers. A few of Aquaco’s investors have also pitched in to help deliver orders and three drivers have been hired.

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“Fortunately our production numbers of approximately 2,000 lbs a week (50 mt annually) are absorbable as the hospitality sector creeps back open in Florida,” he says.

Facebook and word of mouth have been the source of most of the demand. “We started with a home delivery service based on people in quarantine wanting our fish, yet not yet dining out. We sell 5-lb boxes of pompano and deliver with 90-mile radius. The feedback has been amazing.”

Ever the optimist, Cardenas forecasts more sales. In fact, he is hiring his first sales staff.


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