The ARL’s main focus is research as the name implies. If the fish, part of research projects, grow and reach food fish size, they may be sold to the public following certain stipulations. First, the fish must meet all FDA requirements, i.e. no chemicals, etc. We only sell whole live fish as we are not set up for processing. Second, our pricing policy is set by the private sector. We do not compete with private producers so we always sell fish above prevailing market price to give them a competitive advantage. Third, funds from fish sales are put back into the program to continue producing fish and to facilitate research.
So where do our fish come from? Of course it depends. Many times researchers order extra fish for an experiment and once the study is started; the “extra” fish can be grown out for market. Depending on the study, the fish may be grown to market size post-study. Sometimes the lab has unused facilities such as tanks which may be used for general production of fish. SometimesIn other cases, a study may be designed to grow fish to market size, looking at a particular aspect of production. We do also have demonstration projects which produce food size fish. All these activities result in the occasional avaiability of marketable-size food fish at the lab.
So where do we sell our fish? If there is a large quantity (1000+ lbs.) produced in a replicated pond study, we are more than likely going to sell those fish through a wholesaler/live-hauler. If there is a limited quantity, fish is sold at the lab. Over the past 4+ years, a small but important retail sale has developed at the lab. In 2007-2008, we began selling direct from the lab limited quantities of hybrid striped bass and tilapia left over from various projects. Supplies were limited, so advertising to emails to Purdue Departments of Forestry and Natural Resources and Animal Sciences and any Purdue student groups specifically tied to ethnic populations. Once customers found their way to a sale, they could sign up for a list-serve created to notify them in advance of the next sale. This list-serve has become the core means of advertising sales with word of mouth bringing in new customers. In 2012, there have been seven retail sales, with tilapia, largemouth bass, hybrid striped bass and yellow perch being sold.
So who are our customers? Most of the customers are Asian with the exception of yellow perch sales which are almost exclusively purchased by Caucasians. No matter their ethnicity, all customers have a few things in common. Above all else, they are looking for a fresh/live product. In most cases they are purchasing just enough fish to get from one fish sale to the next and not stocking their freezers. And they all care about quality. Some care about the size of fish or what species is available while other ask questions about what research we do on the fish to ascertain that they are chemical free.
So what can be learned from the ARL fish sales?
- Population dynamics do matter. Indiana MarketMaker (http://in.marketmaker.uiuc.edu/) is a useful tool to find target audiences for your product. Searching the greater Lafayette, IN area by race shows a relatively high population of Asians and other ethnicities who will buy fresh/live fish. For a broader market, the Indiana MarketMaker (http://in.marketmaker.uiuc.edu/) is a useful tool to find target audiences for your product.
- It is difficult to balance production to market demand and expectations. When we started, production was low and hence advertising was minimal. Word of mouth and some additional advertising has increased the customer base. Sometimes there is a glut of fish and sometimes there is not enough.
- Lastly, there can be a multiplication effect when referrals are made for other businesses. When just starting out, RDM Farms displayed some marine shrimp and had flyers at some of our fish sales. This led customers to their door to the point where we do not hand out flyers as they have too much demand.
If you would like to learn more or come to a fish sale please contact Bob Rode at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out the FNR calendar for future fish sale dates and times.