WIGGINS, MS (WLOX) - In recent years, Wiggins residents have seen a major influx of retail businesses and restaurants. However, Stone County has traditionally had a largely agricultural based economy, and that still holds true today. Now some companies have found a way to intertwine agriculture and cutting edge technology.
The freshwater fish at Aqua Green Marine Research Hatchery and Nursery Center is destined to one day end up on New England dinner table.
"We have a freshwater facility that we produce approximately 10,000 pounds of Tilapia per week," said Chuck Weirich, Marine Operations Director. "They all go to live market in New York City."
Aqua Green is on Old Highway 26 in Stone County and is more than a fish farm. It's also a pioneer in the aquaculture industry.
"Most businesses, they rely on research based from universities and other agencies," Weirich said. "We thought we would help out with those agencies and universities with their mission, as well as having a business."
Research is underway at the company into how best to raise saltwater fish like red fish, speckled trout, but simulating Gulf waters 40 miles inland isn't easy. A complex system monitors temperature, salinity and oxygen levels.
Weirich said, "We're just testing the waters, sort of speak, to produce these fish for consumption, for sale. One direction we've had recently is we're working with agencies such as GCRL in Ocean Springs and Mississippi Department of Marine Resources for stock enhancement to produce fish here to release back into the Gulf to restore natural populations."
Aqua Green officials said they plan to expand in the near future.
"We're putting in an aquatonic facility which entails putting up greenhouses where we'll take the wastewater from our freshwater facility, and we'll grow vegetables and evaluate that," said Weirich. "On the saltwater side, we're looking at production of marine macro-algae which can be used in food products, other uses, as well."
The company is also researching how to grow Cobia and Florida pompano.