Bascom- For some, fences make the best neighbors. But after Thursday night's town hall meeting in Sneads, Sturgeon AquaFarms President, Mark Zaslavsky said he knew that rule didn't hold true in Jackson County.
Despite the fence around his property due to federal regulations, Zaslavsky said he looked forward to hosting the community at his farm and clearing up concerns.
"We're here as good neighbors” he said. “We're working to provide fertilized eggs to the Caspian Sea- to introduce Beluga to the Caspian Sea, to be good to the environment and conscience farmers."
Sturgeon AquaFarms requested to draw up to 7.2 million gallons of water a day from the Floridian Aquifer. Locals have worried, if the permission was granted, that withdrawing so much water could negatively impact the environment. But, Zaslavsky told us, protecting Mother Nature was a top priority for his sustainable business.
"Our tanks are made of steel and vinyl. We do not use concrete. We do not want leave a negative impact on the environment. As you can see, water in the tank is very clean. These fish require very clean and cool water."
Water from the tanks came from sedimentation ponds on the farm.
"All nutrients from the water are absorbed by greenery” he explained.” Then, as it becomes clearer, we bring water back to the farm. We're doing that at least 12 times a day. Our consumption of water is mostly recirculation. Only less than 20% of the water we take is water from the wells."
Water went from the pond to the sand-filter and from the filter to the ground. “Whatever comes out of the filter we use for our crops. Corn, tomatoes, roses- there is no left overs."
Representatives from the Northwest Florida Water Management District said they would have to run tests for six to eight months before making a decision on their request. It was something Zaslavsky told us he fully supported.
Another thing Zaslavsky said he was in support of was the local economy. There were more sturgeon at the AquaFarms than in the entire Caspian Sea.
"From a small egg that weighs very little to a 20 pound fish it takes about two years. No other fish grows this fast. With these fish we can feed America” Zaslavsky said.
He told us he was not forgetting about Bascom in his big plan. “We are in the process of presenting to the community. The slaughter house- when we start slaughtering fish, we'll hire more people. Then, we'll process caviar in the area- we'll need more people. When we smoke fish, pack fish- we're not going to bring people from New York or Miami, it will be people chosen from the local community."
Zaslavsky said he hoped to host a job fair by the end of the year. The company has 15 local employees and had already brought business to Bascom from all over the world.
Last year, AquaFarms hosted a workshop on how to use ultrasound technology on sturgeon to determine the sex of the fish
"We had aqua farmers from around the United States and internationally, like Uruguay welcomed here in Bascom” Sturgeon AquaFarms Marketing Manager, Roberto Castro said. They saw the farms, saw how things worked and we were able to train them on how to use this process in order for them to have a better experience growing their aqua species."