Who We Are
Highest Level Organics’ Mentor and Consultants
Mike Burdette, President
Brian Burdette, Vice President/Marketing
Doug Burdette, Consultant
We are helping fish farmers and Aquaponics since 1976.
From hobby size endeavors to large scale projects.
Tell us about your project and how we can support you!
The primary investigator for this study was Douglas C. Burdette, Jr. President of Maryland Pride Farms, of Aberdeen, Maryland. Mr. Burdette has worked as a water quality engineer since 1964, as an applied aquaculture researcher since 1976 and has been affiliated with the University of Delaware since 1987. Mr. Burdette has co-authored 30 published research papers, including works concerning marketing of aquaculture products, system construction techniques, computer monitoring, fish growth analysis, feed analysis, water quality and aquaponic studies and recently was the primary contributor to a world wide published document on the feasibility of vertical integration for aquaculture.
Maryland Pride Farms was founded in 1976 as an aquaculture production facility and applied aquaculture research facility. It was at this facility that the S-92 Sequential intensive fish culture system was developed.
Mr. Burdette entered the science of aquaculture in the late 1960’s when modern intensive aquaculture was in its infancy. As an early pioneer in the science, Mr. Burdette, through the research and development facility in Aberdeen Maryland, was the inventor of many of the devices now used in the industry world wide. Among them was the up-whelling bio-filter, low head pressure oxygen injector and self cleaning tank designs. Other achievements included one of the earliest aquaculture systems to include computerized monitoring and the development of the first truly commercialized aquaponics systems.
In addition to the many mechanical components developed during this research, methodologies for management of fish crops as well as financial guidelines for the business of aquaculture were developed that are considered industry standards today.
In the earlier years of aquaculture development and expansion, the United States proved to not
be as prepared to move in this direction as were other countries in the world. This was for many reasons, among them was a strong US currency as compared to others around the world as well a still adequate seafood supply that would ship to the US to reap the higher prices. In the 1990’s many mid size fish farms were started and most failed.
In 1992, after over 20 years of development Mr. Burdette, through his privately owned research company, Aquatic Technologies, Inc. introduced a mid sized aquaculture/aquaponics system known as the S-92. This system would produce 200,000 pounds per years and was hailed by many, including University researchers, and the United State Department of Agriculture as a major step forward to make indoor aquaculture a viable industry. But there was a problem. Although the S-92 aquaculture system located at the research center had been performing flawlessly for over 4 years, moving from research to profitable production by independent fish farmers proved problematic.
From 1995 until 1999 several agricultural banks and the State of Maryland lent money to 4 different farmers to install the S-92 and jump start Maryland=s position as a leader in aquaculture production. This was of high interest since prior to the 1980’s Maryland was a leader in seafood harvest from the Chesapeake Bay. Due to over harvest and other factors this nature supply has dwindled to almost nothing. Of harvest the fish for market brought this system down. The second failure was a much publicized event. The system failed within 6 months of operation because 3 of the 4 owners who were suppose to operate it did nothing and left it all to one person. They also had lied about having enough working capital. Before the first crop was even scheduled to leave the building it was shut down. What made this such a big deal event, to cover their losses the owners found a lawyer who filed a 10 million dollar lawsuit against not only Mr. Burdette, but the State of Maryland as well as a bank.
After 5 years of litigation back and forth the case finally came to trial in August of 2002. Just prior to beginning the claimants approached the bench and told the judge they did not wish to continue because they did not feel like they had a case. In other words, it was a shakedown.
All across the nation in the 1990’s the results were the same. Projects would begin and for one reason or another fail. In almost all cases it was a failure in the markets. Seafood was a just too cheap and these four mid sized facilities, two failed within the first year. A second one failed after three years when the owner died. The fourth may still be operating, but in a different manner as the owners are suppliers of seafood for the Oriental population in Washington D.C. and he uses it as a holding area. The reasons for these failures were many fold but in no case was it from failed technology. In the case of the first one, it was just a matter of someone getting into something they were not prepared to work at. Extremely poor management, including the failure to even aquaculture was ahead of it time for the US.
There were projects that Mr. Burdette worked on for the original set of owners that failed or ceased operations during this period that have been resurrected and are doing very well now. One of these is the current facility owned and operated as the largest tilapia facility in the country. Today it is known as Blue Ridge Aquaculture, but it was started by a Japanese Company known as Fuji foods. This system was designed by Mr. Burdette using many of the essential components like bio-filters, oxygen injectors and plate clarifiers. The tanks were of a larger different design than the S-92 because this is what the owners wanted. After one year of operations the Fuji Company was bought out and they discontinued fish farming. The plant sat idle for about 5 years when a gentleman by the name of Bill Martin took it over and today it is the major player in tilapia. In 1996 Mr. Burdette was retained by Chiquita Banana Company to design a system in the Imperial Valley in Southern California for the production of Striped Bass. Once again, after a lot of fooling around Chiquita decided to abandon the farm. It was taken over in 2001 by a group of Vietnamese investor from Las Angeles and today operates a major fish and aquaponics facility. After Chiquita stopped some technicians at the facility went down the road about two miles and set up their own facility using the same technology and they also continue to this day.
Other projects 1985- Rain Forest Aquaculture-Costa Rica. Designed and layout the facility for the original owner, John Handy. Now the largest producer and importer of Tilapia fillets to the East Coast of the US. Currently owned by investment group.
1992-1995 Served as aquaculture consultant for FOA, The United Nations. Projects included fish farm and aquaponics facility near Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea. Many smaller system throughout Africa and Asia.
Today Mr. Burdette concentrates his efforts towards the designing of state of the art systems as well as developing the business plans and business management models for the facilities he designs to ensure successful operation.
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