Portland's already got what may be the world's first vegan strip mall. So why not vegetarian fish?
San Francisco sustainable fish farmers and purveyors Two X Sea (pronounced "two by sea") have created the "world's first and only vegetarian feed for aquafarmed fish," says the company's Portland representative, Lauren Avis Vannatter.
Two X Sea, founded by Kenny Belov and Bill Foss in 2009, hopes to expand into Portland by next spring.
The notion of veggie-diet fish is not nearly as goofy as it might sound—Vice magazine has called it maybe "the most important idea in sustainable seafood."
But it's also not cheap, at $12.95 a pound for a filet.
Currently, most farmed fish are fed other small "forage fish" like mackerel or herring as food, along with corn and other proteins such as soy, bonemeal and chicken byproducts.
Not only does this mean that farm fish is subject to the same toxic mercury build-up concerns that affect predatory fish like marlin and shark, according to Vannatter, but it means that aquafarmed fish still depletes ocean stocks.
Click here for a long, nuanced examination of sustainability and fish farming (including Belov's company).
Two X Sea's feed is based primarily on red algae, along with nut and seed oils. In addition to their MacFarland Springs farm in California, Two X Sea has already formed a relationship with a Southern Oregon fish farm called Desert Springs to produce algae-fed trout and tilapia. For reference, much of the trout served in Portland restaurants currently comes from Idaho.
The company's been in talks with Duane Sorenson's Ava Genes and Woodsman Tavern since as early as July about supplying those restaurants with fish. "They've been very patient in waiting for it," says Vannatter of Ava Genes.
Two X Sea had intially hoped they could open their Portland warehouse space in August at a hundred-year-old warehouse at 2550 NW Vaughn St., with a public-facing retail space to follow.
That location has been held up because of potential need for seismic upgrades, however, and other suitable spaces have been difficult to find.
"The issue is finding the right space," says Vannatter. "Portland's really blowing up."