High Plains Coho

John Nickum
February 14, 2014
By John Nickum

The partnership of Teton Fisheries, LLC and SweetSpring Salmon, seemed to be the model for salmon production at inland locations. I visited the Hutterite Miller Colony near Choteau, Montana, and met with David Wipf and Steve Hofer, the manager of the aquaculture facility.

Walking through the facility I observed the state-of-the-art recirculation aquaculture facility located on the property at the Miller Colony. I talked with Per Heggelund, the principal owner and President of SweetSpring Salmon and CEO of Aquaseed, Inc. I also met with Dr. Michael Timmons, a partner in Holder-Timmons, the engineering group which designed the Teton Fisheries facility. I exchanged email messages with nearly everyone with any connection and knowledge of Teton Fisheries. I was highly impressed and concluded that this operation was “the wave of the future.” The article I wrote for Aquaculture North America reflected my judgment and my optimism.

Now… Teton Fisheries is gone, or in the words of David Wipf to Nancy Thornton, a reporter for the Choteau Acantha, “We pulled the plug.”

What happened? Why did the Miller Colony, “pull the plug” on what seemed to be a promising venture? Speculation has been all over the map since the announcement to suspend operations was made in late January. I will not add to the speculation and was unable to reach Teton’s manager for more details.

 The principals in the partnership only confirm that Teton Fisheries, and a similar operation at a Colony outside of Havre, MT, have ceased aquaculture operations. Some equipment is being offered for sale; therefore, it seems that we should not expect a resumption of fish farming by any of the Hutterite colonies.

I am saddened to learn of the cessation of production in Montana, but research, development, and limited production are ongoing at the SweetSpring facility near Rochester, Washington. And there are other facilities on both the east and west coasts which continue to experiment with land-based salmon production. Will they work and become viable when so many similar experiments have failed. Time will tell. 

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