Mother Nature has a lot to teach us and Jere Northrop is an adept student. Northrop and business partner Aaron Resnick have developed a technology platform and business model for the sustainable production of contaminant-free fish using a forest-based feed production system that generates plant material residues that can be processed into renewable energy.
In practice it’s a complex process, years in the making. But its genius lies in its fundamental simplicity. Northrop says he looked to the life cycle of a beaver pond and the beneficial impact beavers have on the stream life cycle for inspiration. He coupled those observations with a pragmatic application of Lindeman’s Law of gross ecological efficiency. “It’s actually like taking a beaver pond one step further,” says Northrop. “The process is something like a superbeaver.”
The closed, re-circulating aquaculture system not only produces contaminant-free fish and seafood, its self-sustained wastewater/waste treatment system results in clean water. The process fosters carbon sequestration and habitat restoration and the resulting plant material residues can be processed into renewable energy sources. It’s a self-sustaining win-win-win-win environmental scenario.
Resnick and Northrop are positioning themselves to take the technology global with their Westfield-based company, TimberFish Technologies. The business started about a year and a half ago and is now in the initial funding stage of operations, according to Resnick. They have ten patent applications pending and are comfortable with their proprietary position. They have built a small-scale working demonstration system in Westfield and both Resnick and Northrop are encouraged by what they see. “The demonstration facility has convinced us of the viability and scalability of production,” notes Resnick.
Both Resnick and Northrop are Westfield natives and see the area as an ideal location to launch TimberFish. “There are a number of reasons why we’re focusing on Westfield,” says Resnick. “Westfield’s location is great, of course – with easy access to Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, etc. and there are forest resources in the area. There is also no significant aquaculture industry in New York State.”
Beyond the demographics and geography, both Resnick and Northrop say the local support for their start-up company has played a major role in their commitment to the area. “The local support has really helped,” says Resnick, who has met with the Westfield Development Corporation (WDC) on several occasions and has traveled to Albany with WDC Executive Director John Rawlinson and State Senator Cathy Young to meet with the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets.
Down the line, Northrop and Resnick hope to locate their corporate headquarters and a research and development facility in Westfield. “It’s a global industry,” says Northrop, “but we really like it here in Westfield.”
And in the reciprocal nature of the business world, what’s good for TimberFish is also good for Westfield. The headquarters and R&D facility would bring ten to fifteen jobs to the area and global interest in TimberFish’s sustainable aquaculture technology would bring positive exposure to Westfield and the Chautauqua region. “If this goes the way we think it will and the money comes, it will be a really great thing for Westfield,” says Northrop.
The global impact of the TimberFish technology is powerful and Northrop and Resnick say they hope to use the success of the for-profit side of the business to drive a non-profit initiative to introduce TimberFish’s technology platform to the developing world.
“It’s a pretty exciting prospect,” say Resnick. “And the support and commitment we’ve received locally has meant a great deal. We’d like to be able to return something to Westfield down the road.”
Sara F. Herrmann is a freelance writer and editor of www.westfieldny.com. She lives in Westfield with her husband Alan.