Seafood processing plant wins Gulf Coast Community Foundation incentive grant
A proposal to create a state-of-the-art seafood processing and distribution plant in Manatee County claimed the top prize on Monday in the inaugural Gulf Coast Innovation Challenge. The winning project “Healthy Earth-Gulf Coast: Sustainable Seafood System” was chosen from a pool of more than 30 proposals in the Gulf Coast Community Foundation’s first ever incentive-grant competition intended to stimulate Florida’s Blue Economy.
The Healthy Earth-Gulf Coast team is comprised of nonprofit and private partners, including the Sarasota-based natural and sustainable foods business Healthy Earth, scientists from Mote Marine Laboratory, the Cortez fishing community and the Chiles Group, a Sarasota-Manatee restaurant group that champions seafood sustainability.
“What we have is a commodity-based model, but what we need is an asset value based model. We’re currently selling great, wild, organic healthy seafood as a commodity -- and we undervalue our heritage resource,” Chiles Group CEO Ed Chiles explained in a September interview with 83 Degrees.
Chiles says that Manatee County’s “heritage resource” -- gray-striped mullet -- currently leaves the region at approximately $10 per pound and is typically processed overseas before returning to the United States as a salted and cured delicacy known as bottarga, which retails at up to $200 per pound.