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Business/Economy

How a Westfield beverage maker's by-products will help raise fish

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Michael Mroziak, WBFO
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One industry's waste water is another's ideal resource to grow its supply. A new partnership pairs a Chautauqua County beverage maker with a fish growing operation that will use by-products from the former to help feed the stock that will, one day, be served to a hungry customer.

Five & 20 Spirits and Brewing, based in Westfield, has a new guest on its grounds. On Friday, invited guests including local and state elected officials gathered to celebrate that new guest, Timberfish Technologies, which in turn hosted a ceremonial fish stocking.

Timberfish will take the residue and waste water from Five & 20's liquor and beer production processes and mix it with wood chips to grow grow microbes and invertebrates that will eventually become fish food. Jere Northrup, CEO of Timberfish, said the process can be used to grow any kind of seafood.

"Right now we are starting with channel catfish, largemouth bass and yellow perch. We're going to move on to rainbow trout and ultimately to Atlantic salmon, brook trout and arctic char," Northrup said.

The distillery, meanwhile, will enjoy a cost saving. Mario Mazza, vice president and general manager of Mazza Wines and Five & 20 Spirits and Brewing, says the partnership is both environmentally and economically beneficial.

"By taking our by-products that otherwise we might have to pay to haul away and dispose of, now we have the opportunity to create a value-added product by growing high-quality fish on site at the farm here," Mazza said. 

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Credit Michael Mroziak, WBFO
State Senator Catharine Young (right) and Lieuteant Governor Kathy Hochul took turns stocking fish in a new facility that will use by-products from a wine and spirit producer to feed and raise its supply.

Numerous elected officials took turns hailing the business partnership, while admitting it's an unusual one. Assemblyman Andy Goodell joked that "it takes wine pairing to a while new level."

But Goodell and other leaders recognize the arrangement as one that creates a new opportunity in a region that relies so heavily on its agriculture.

"Agriculture continues to be one of our main economic drivers here," said State Senator Catharine Young. "We have to continue to reinvent what we're doing in argibusiness and I think today is a great example of that, of coming up with new technologies."

The new business venture has invested more than half a million dollars, while New York State is adding more than $100,000. Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who recalled the region's history beginning in 1897, when Charles Welch first produced grape jellies, jams and juices there.

"We cannot rely on the old industries of the past," she said. "We're counting on individual entrepreneurs, creative individuals who start small, like this facility here, but we know it's going to grow big."

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