April 13, 2021

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Aquaculture proves big catch for region


March 30, 2021


Jake Musick, owner of Riverbound Trout Farms, shows off a rainbow trout raised on his Russell County farm.  Photo by Earl Neikirk

Jake Musick, owner of Riverbound Trout Farms, shows off a rainbow trout raised on his Russell County farm. Photo by Earl Neikirk

A A native of Russell County and a Singapore-based asset management firm are in the process of converting a corner of Virginia’s coal fields into an aquaculture center.

Jake Musicks Riverbound Trout Farms is building a processing facility in Russell County. Musick expects to start shipping fish in the fall. About a quarter of a mile away, on the Russell and Tazewell border, Pure Salmon, supported by 8F Asset Management, plans to send the first fish out of its facility in 2023.

“This site is becoming something of a hub for aquaculture,” said Jonathan Belcher, executive director of the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority. “We believe this has great growth potential for the region.”

However, the spokes on this hub are very different. Riverbound wants other local business owners to develop the trout producing equivalent of batches of feed and supply most of the 750,000 pounds of processed fish that Riverbound aims to produce each year. “Hopefully it will help a lot of people get into the business,” says Musick. “The big push is getting more farmers involved and creating a green agribusiness in southwest Virginia.”

Riverbound, which will ultimately employ 20 people, has received a $ 500,000 soft loan from the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority. The company will pay the Tazewell County Industrial Development Authority for Musick’s processing facility over a period of 10 years.

Pure Salmon received a much larger incentive package – $ 14.5 million, mostly in loans. The plan is to employ ten times as many people and invest $ 228 million. The code-named project Jonah, after the biblical prophet who was swallowed by a large fish, took several years to get pure salmon on the hook, with some extended deadlines. The representative of Pure Salmon, Lala Korall, praises Del. Will Morefield, R-Tazewell, and the state and local authorities involved in the deal. “Very often the atmosphere in which you work to prepare a project is crucial”. She says, “And they were really pleasant and forthcoming and supportive. “

Buchanan, Russell, and Tazewell counties also agreed to share in the potential profits.

During construction, says Korall, the project will employ more than 400 people. Thereafter, Pure Salmon plans to process 20,000 tons of fish per year and employ 203 people at an average annual wage of $ 59,500 – more than $ 27,000 more than the median household income in Buchanan County.

“That is a very good average wage for our region,” says Belcher.