GRAFTON — An investment group based about 40 miles northeast of St. Louis recently agreed to export 35 million pounds of Asian carp to China over the next three years.
American Heartland Fish Products LLC, will ship 10 million pounds of Asian carp fish to China State Farms in each of the first and second years of its 3-year contract and 15 million pounds in the third year.
They will process the Asian carp in an existing 13,000 square-foot facility located along Route 3 in Grafton, a town with the population of 700 that is located near the Illinois and Mississippi rivers.
“We believe it’s going to be extremely successful,” said Grafton Mayor Tom Thompson. “It’s going to have 35 people employed plus fishermen. It’s going to be a real economic boost for the City of Grafton and the 4-5 county area around us.”
A three-way partnership consisting of a group of Grafton businessmen that includes Ben Allen, Gray Magee, Oliver Ready and Bryon LeBeau, Chinese investment firm Wuhan Huichange Real Estate CD Ltd., and Falcon Protein Products, Inc. that is based in Birmingham, Ala., American Heartland Fish Products LLC, has collect $4.5 million in private donations for the $5.4 million business venture. They hope to receive state and federal funding for the business venture.
“There is quite a bit of private investment, approximately $4.5 million,” said Allen. “Then we’re asking for some more help from the government. It will be less than a third of that (private investment).”
In addition to shipping Asian carp to China State Farms, American Heartland Fish Products LLC, will create fish meal batter and fish oil at the processing plant, using patented equipment created by Falcon Protein Products, Inc.
“The machinery actually takes the remains of the fish in a totally green process and turns it into fish oil and breaks the fish oil into fish meal,” said Allen. “It gets rid of the odor. It gets rid of the remains. It doesn’t have to go to a landfill. It doesn’t have to get into a sewer system. It’s just all gone.”
American Heartland Fish Products LLC, will catch and process around 40,000 pounds of Asian carp a day, said Allen.
“The initial plant would probably be able to handle 40,000 pounds of fish per day,” said Allen. “We have the capability of making it much larger.”
Using the patented processing equipment, American Heartland Fish Products LLC, hopes to open other fish processing plants in the future.
“These kinds of plants can be placed virtually all over the Illinois River, Mississippi River, Missouri River, Ohio River and fish these things down,” said Allen. “We’ll reinvigorate a dead industry right now, which is commercial fishermen on our rivers.
“The national emergency is to get these fish out of the rivers to protect the Great Lakes and this is an opportunity to do that and also reestablish a market for fishermen, give an incentive for fishermen to go out and catch these things and bring them to this plant and other plants like it.”
American Heartland Fish Products LLC, won’t start operating the fish processing plant until it receives funds from the government.
“We’ve got to hear from the state and that could take who knows how long,” said Allen. “Once that occurs then we can start getting fish meal batter within four months. We know the first thing we’ll do is start producing meal and that is easy and the machinery is available.”