Northern Nevada: Hub for seafood?
An Israeli company plans a $58 million aquaculture facility near Minden that would produce 3,200 tons of salmon and sea bass annually.
Microdel, the company planning the project dubbed “Nevada Sea Dream,” already is building a similar fish-production facility in its home country.
It estimates that the Nevada facility would generate revenues of $32 million and profits of $13 million annually within two years after it starts operation.
Microdel estimates initial employment at about 30 — managers, technicians and other workers.
The company is raising $16 million in equity capital from private investors and hopes to begin construction at a site on Bently Ranch in 2015, says its chief executive officer, Gabi Wolkinson.
“We are talking to a few people,” Wolkinson told potential investors a few days ago during a session at C4Cube, a business-incubator in Reno.
The company expects to use debt financing for the remainder of the project’s requirements.
The initial development would see construction of closed buildings with large water tanks that would allow close control of growing conditions.
Each of the buildings — one for salmon, one for sea bass — would be about 6,500 square feet.
Initial production is estimated at 1,200 tons of sea bass and 2,000 tons of salmon annually.
Once the investment in the initial facility is recouped, Wolkinson said Microdel plans to double its production capacity and add processing facilities.
Ultimately, the company hopes to create a vertically integrated facility that manufactures its own fish food, grows fish for fresh and processed used and converts fish manure into biogas.
The plant’s initial production would be sold as fresh fish, and northern Nevada’s location near major West Coast markets played a major role in Microdel’s decision to locate the plant at Minden.
(Another important factor is the proximity of Minden to the northern California home of the daughter and granddaughter of Microdel’s founder and chairman, Yossi De-Levie.)
Sierra Gold Seafood Inc. of Sparks is working on a distribution agreement with Microdel.
The company’s business plan estimates that consumers’ consumption of fish worldwide has increased by nearly 34 percent in the past four decade, and many fish stocks are in danger of over-fishing.
The United States imports about 90 percent of its fish consumption, and Wolkinson said the savings in freight costs from use of a Nevada production facility would give Microdel a competitive advantage.
The company has begun talks with federal, state and local officials whose approval would be needed.
Some potential environmental concerns may be mitigated because the facility would grow salt-water fish. If they escaped the confined facility, they wouldn’t be able to survive to pose a threat to native fish.
A spokeswoman for Douglas County said county planning officials have met with representatives of Nevada Sea Dream, but the company hasn’t filed any applications for county approval.
Representatives of the company met with Nevada officials during a trade mission to Israel led by Gov. Brian Sandoval last year.
The rate effective Jan. 1, 2020, is 1.65 percent of wages paid to employees. That is two-tenths of a percent lower than the current rate, giving a significant break to businesses that pay the tax.