Atlantic Caviar & Sturgeon, just outside of Lenoir, NC, is the first and only aquaculture farm in the United States to sell Ossetra caviar, which comes from the Acipenser gueldenstaedtii, or Russian sturgeon, and is second only to the exquisite Beluga in terms of quality and price.
In the Caspian Sea — the longtime supplier of the majority of the world’s sturgeon stock — overfishing, pollution and sewage entry have had disastrous effects on the populations of fish that produce the black gold. In fact, the sturgeon population in the lower Volga river region is all but gone, less than 1 percent of what it was 15 years ago. This has lead to worldwide bans on fishing wild sturgeon and embargoes on Russian caviar. Still, the global demand for caviar hasn’t waned, and aquaculture farms have started to pop up around the world to supplement the thinning stock of caviar from wild sturgeon. As a result, caviar aquaculture — a difficult operation requiring a great deal of overhead — is quickly becoming a promising business endeavor. Despite the global financial crisis, caviar is one of a small group of luxury foodstuffs that has maintained a stable market price, with a wholesale price of about $590 a pound (1,000 euros a kilogram) for most sturgeon varieties.
Atlantic Caviar & Sturgeon bought its first batch of juvenile sturgeon, or fingerlings, from a German hatchery in 2006. Today the farm houses about 16,000 fish, a mix of Russian, Siberian and Atlantic sturgeon in a 32-tank system. Every tank holds about 20,000 gallons of water that supports 10,000 pounds of fish.
Joe Doll, one of the co-founders of Atlantic Caviar & Sturgeon, landed on the idea of a caviar farm after spending several years as a cargo pilot running trips back and forth between Asia and the United States. Doll had developed a taste for caviar as a child: He had an itinerant businessman for an uncle who would bring Russian caviar back from his trips abroad, and his father had even tried to create his own roe-based aquaculture operation, harvesting eggs from mountain trout. So he sought caviar out during his trips overseas.
Atlantic Caviar & Sturgeon began selling its first batches of caviar in 2012, at which point the operation had already been several years in the making. The company has met with early success, selling mostly to distributors in New York and in the South, even providing sturgeon fingerlings for an additional aquaculture facility in eastern NC, which is still in the very early stages of production.
According to modernfarmer