AUBURN — It may be a long way from the ocean, but Auburn now is the home of a fish-farming company.
Emergent Holdings has opened its business office on South Grandstaff Drive in Auburn. It is the parent company of Whole Oceans, which is developing a land-based salmon farm in Maine.
Jacob Bartlett, CEO of Emergent Holdings and Whole Oceans, said he chose Auburn for the company’s headquarters because he lives on his family farm near Churubusco and finds the DeKalb County Airport convenient for private jet flights.
With a small office in Auburn now housing a staff of six people, Emergent Holdings expects to build a new headquarters and warehouse in Auburn next year, with the potential to employ 30-50 people, Bartlett said.
In the coming decade, Emergent Holdings could build a fish farm in northern Indiana, he added.
“Eventually, we’re planning on a big expansion in the Midwest,” Bartlett said this week. “This corridor is perfect for us, between Chicago, Detroit and Indianapolis.”
He added, “We’re planning to keep the headquarters here in Auburn or around Auburn.” He said the company needs around 50,000 square feet of storage space and a bigger office.
Bartlett foresees between 30-35 employees working in Auburn, but said it could reach 50 employees if the company engages in manufacturing locally. It could make components for land-based aquaculture such as drum filters, oxygen diffusers and chilling packages.
Bartlett said officials of his company and many of its clients travel on corporate jets.
“It’s easy for us to get in and out of the private airport there in Auburn,” he said.
A graduate of Churubusco High School, Bartlett said he worked after college for an aquaculture company in Indiana. He stayed 10 years before leaving to start his own business.
Whole Oceans also operates PR Aqua, an aquaculture design and technology provider based in British Columbia, Canada.
The company is investing $250 million in the first phase of its salmon farm at Bucksport, Maine, which would be able to produce 10,000 metric tons of salmon per year. Its eventual capacity would reach 25,000 metric tons, Bartlett said.
Emergent Holdings’ website says Whole Oceans aims to capture at least 10% of the North American market for Atlantic salmon by developing vertically integrated facilities close to consumers. It says the company’s goal is “sustainable production of very fresh, premium-quality Atlantic salmon.”
Whole Oceans will use “state-of-the-art, environmentally responsible, recirculating aquaculture systems,” the website says. It says water will be continuously recirculated through a purification system, conserving water and eliminating the need for antibiotics.