Farm fresh and good for the planet
A ‘healthy’ financial outlook through innovation and sustainable food choices
As a family-owned and operated sustainable agribusiness, Superior Fresh (Supplier TruGenuity a subsidiary of FreshLoop LLC) embraces the idea of a harmonious ecosystem, where every organism has a vital part to play in the balance of life.
By raising Atlantic salmon away from the ocean and combining it with organic vegetable cultivation, Superior Fresh has become a leading example of environmentally conscious and efficient farming practices.
Bringing Healthy Atlantic Salmon and Greens to Your Plate
Farmer and President Brandon Gottsacker explains, “It’s an aquaponics facility, we utilize the nutrients from our aquaculture facility to grow organic leafy green vegetables in hydroponic systems, giving us the ability to conserve and reuse water over and over again, limiting our water footprint. This technology gives us the ability to locate these farms close to the market, away from the ocean, in particular for the Atlantic salmon, and away from other environmentally concerning areas. We are growing Atlantic salmon in a controlled environment right here in the Midwest.”
With thoughtfully designed facilities, Superior Fresh can manipulate the environment, creating ideal conditions for both the fish and the greens. “For example, we control all our water inputs, using perfect quality Wisconsin groundwater,” Brandon elaborates.
“Our natural, certified organic diet is specifically formulated for our fish. We know what’s best for the salmon to live a long healthy life without the need for pesticides or antibiotics. Our salmon are what they eat and so are we.”
He points out that sustainable, fresh Atlantic salmon from Superior Fresh is free of contaminants such as heavy metals, PCBs, and pesticides, which are commonly found in other salmon. Feeding the fish an ideal diet also ensures a healthy product for the consumer, with omega three fatty acids that are double those of any other farmed salmon on the market.
He boasts, “To us, food is medicine and Atlantic Salmon is a superfood. There’s a lot of negative chatter, about farm-raised fish and the health benefits. In some circumstances there are issues, but not all farms are created equal by any means. We want to help change that narrative by producing what should be considered pharmaceutical-grade salmon.”
The same thought process is applied on the greenhouse side, with ideal conditions created through a fully controlled and automated environment. The farm carries organic certification, which Brandon admits is not an easy feat in a controlled setting, and the greenhouse offers a high standard of food safety. “We have an SQF food safety audit every year. We just wrapped that up, and we again received an excellent rating for our food safety standards. With all that being said, it’s really about having good, healthy food at the end of the day, and we pride ourselves on that.”
Innovative Products and Distribution
As far as sales and distribution, Superior Fresh sells fish to processors in the Midwest and the East Coast of the United States. Their products are also available in the fresh seafood section of several retail locations. Single-serving portions have recently been introduced as well, with seasoned options including Blackened, Cajun, Smoky Barbecue, Sweet Pepper, and Jamaican Jerk.
Sold as a frozen product in 10k packages split into 6-oz portions, retailers can sell it as a fresh option. “When it comes to fresh seafood people assume that because it’s frozen, it’s not fresh, but all of our other proteins get frozen and shipped,” says Brandon. If seafood is handled properly, the frozen products can be just as good if not better than what is sold as never-frozen on the fresh shelf.”
Furthermore, Superior Fresh has introduced salad kits on the leafy greens side. Utilizing an in-house chopping program, they transform their head lettuces into conveniently packaged chopped salads with added ingredients
Brandon recounts, “We just launched kits and there have been raving reviews. Today we are producing 4 separate skus such as Sesame Asian, Sweet Poppy Sunflower, Mediterranean, and Caesar. It is a certified organic product and the grab-and-go convenience category is growing rapidly, along with controlled environment agriculture. I believe we’re one of the first companies to implement all offerings from a single farm.”
Growing Bigger and Better
Discussing the company’s expansion plans, Brandon shares that Superior Fresh has plans for the East Coast, along with several on the Western side of the country. “We’re currently going through internal design for future expansions at these various locations,” he acknowledges.
Although there are no plans to expand the current location in Hixton, Wisconsin, the company is committed to finding solutions to automate where possible, making jobs easier and more enjoyable, while also improving production.
“This is very much a farm, and farming is hard work. But we are always looking ahead and looking at opportunities to make those jobs easier on our team members,” Brandon conveys.
“Everybody believes in what we’re trying to accomplish. There’s a lot of passion that comes along with pushing this model forward.” He notes that Superior Fresh has increased fish house production approximately tenfold, now producing around 1.5 million pounds of Atlantic salmon annually.
The company also has 13 acres of greenhouse space, after undergoing a considerable expansion. “Our team has a continuous improvement mindset and everything that we learn at our Wisconsin pilot farm is going to play a role in design at future farms.” he maintains.
During the initial weeks of the COVID pandemic, Superior Fresh faced a temporary challenge as retailers shut down fresh seafood shelves, and restaurants were closed. “That was the only week since we started selling fish in 2018, that we didn’t have anywhere to sell fish,” Brandon remarks.
Fortunately, the company’s focus on retail sales allowed them to find alternative markets, leaving the business relatively unscathed during that period. As consumers began prioritizing healthier lifestyles post-COVID, there was a rise in seafood consumption, creating a favorable environment for Superior Fresh and its nutritious offerings. This increased demand further motivated the company to progress with its expansion plans to meet the growing interest in its products.
Moving forward, Brandon asserts that Superior Fresh will maintain its focus on enhancing production and internal efficiencies while continuously exploring new and innovative approaches for future projects. Ensuring the quality of their products remains paramount, and there is a deep-rooted commitment to providing healthy food options.
He emphasizes, “There is a real passion around healthy food. If we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it right. The food-is-medicine philosophy is extremely important to our ownership and down through the rest of the company. We can’t sacrifice the health of our fish and greens and we’re committed to producing healthier products. That is our commitment to our customers.”
AT A GLANCE
What: A sustainable agribusiness producing Atlantic salmon and leafy green vegetables.
Where: Hixton, Wisconsin