Biotech company to build $60M production facility

April 23, 2018

Prairie AquaTech, which makes a protein-rich ingredient used in fish feed, is going to build a state-of-the-art production facility in Volga.

Prairie AquaTech’s new plant will be built along U.S. Highway 14 on land immediately south of the South Dakota Soybean Processors plant in Volga. The site is about five miles west of Brookings.

A groundbreaking ceremony will be held at the plant site at 2 p.m. May 1.

The $60 million raised for the project includes $45 million for construction of facilities, $10 million for operating capital and $5 million for the continued development of products.

Construction of the 30,000-square-foot plant will add about 35 employees to Prairie AquaTech’s current staff of 30. The facility will be capable of annually producing 30,000 tons of a primary ingredient in fish food. The new plant is expected to be operational within approximately 12 months, CEO Mark Luecke said.

“This groundbreaking represents a significant milestone for our company and for the development of new value-added agriculture businesses in South Dakota. We’re helping farmers by adding value to soybeans produced in the region,” Luecke said. “The new plant also is evidence of the successful commercialization of research coming out of SDSU.”

Prairie AquaTech’s products have been spun out of research at SDSU’s College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences.

The company’s high-quality products are for fish raised commercially for human consumption. The company uses a microbial process to efficiently convert soybean meal into highly concentrated protein.

Prairie AquaTech’s primary product is ME-PRO, which is short for microbially enhanced protein. Fish that eat the product help feed the world’s rising human population. Aquaculture, or fish farming, is one of the fastest-growing segments of agriculture in the United States and the world.

Prairie AquaTech’s main office will remain in Brookings at the Agriculture Technology Center for Rural Enterprise. Operations at the Ag Tech Center will focus on developing other products for aquaculture, Luecke said.

Prairie AquaTech was founded in 2012 in Brookings and has been moving steadily in recent years toward the need for a larger plant.

South DakotaSoybean Processors has been a good partner of the company, Luecke said. Prairie AquaTech buys high-quality soybean meal from the business and enhances the protein content for consumption by freshwater and marine fish.

South Dakota Soybean Processors is among several agricultural groups in the region that have invested in Prairie AquaTech. The company also worked with CoBank, which is part of the Farm Credit System, to help raise debt financing.

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Biotech company to build $60M production facility

Prairie AquaTech, which makes a protein-rich ingredient used in fish feed, is going to build a state-of-the-art production facility in Volga.

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