Stars Hollow Co. latest Minnesota aquaponics startup

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Photo by Daniel, @grounded

Minnesota is adding yet another aquaponics company to a rapidly-growing list: We now have 40 producers of indoor fish and vegetation, up from just 3 in 2010 (UofM).

The latest? Stars Hollow Co. joins the ranks alongside Urban Organics, Garden Fresh Farms, and trū Shrimp.

(Briefly: Aquaponics is a way of farming indoors by raising fish and using their waste to then feed plants that are grown in water without soil. A circle of life, a cycle of growth, and a way to get fresh greens in the dead of Minnesota winter.)

The startup operation will be investing nearly $12.3 million to build a new facility in Cambridge: A 164,000 square foot office, warehouse, and production facility in the Cambridge Industrial Park. They will raise Koi Fish and grow organic produce, herbs, and fruits. This new facility will add 156 jobs to the community, created over the next three years. The positions will pay an average of $21.17/hr.

Governor Dayton, long an advocate for agriculture and an expansion of similar ventures, praised the company and the project: “I thank Stars Hollow for its decision to expand and create more than 150 new jobs in Minnesota. This expansion is a tribute to Minnesota’s highly-skilled and hardworking people. Stars Hollow’s expansion is another example of how the Job Creation Fund is facilitating public-private collaboration to create economic opportunities for Minnesotans throughout our state.” 

Shawntera Hardy, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) commissioner, agreed. “Stars Hollow is developing new and innovative ways to solve food production and sustainability challenges. The company will be a major asset in Cambridge, bringing a significant number of new jobs and investment to the community.” 

DEED will be contributing $812,960 in the form of a grant from the Job Creation Fund. The company will receive the grand once it has met its hiring and investment commitments.

Akashlina Haider is the co-founder and CEO of Stars Hollow, and Jami Haider is the co-founder and president. They plan to sell their organic produce and fish to wholesale distributors, grocery chains, co-ops, institutional food service companies, airline food-preparing businesses, restaurants, hotels and consumers. The business earlier considered sites in Elk River and Wadena before landing on the space in Cambridge.

About DEED, and the Job Creation Fund:

DEED is the state’s “principal economic development agency, promoting business recruitment, expansion and retention, workforce development, international trade and community development.”

Visit the DEED website for more information, or follow along on Twitter.

The Job Creation Fund, which was first proposed by Governor Mark Dayton in 2013, is a pay-for-performance program that provides funding to businesses after they meet certain criteria, including minimum requirements for job creation and private investments. Under the program, businesses must create at least 10 full-time jobs, and invest at least $500,000 to be eligible for financial assistance in the Twin Cities metro, and create at least five full-time jobs and invest at least $250,000 in Greater Minnesota.

Since the Job Creation Fund was launched in January 2014, DEED has awarded $35 million for 74 business expansion projects in Minnesota. Companies have committed to creating nearly 4,800 full-time jobs and investing more than $967 million to expand.

Visit the Job Creation Fund section of the DEED website for more information on how to get involved, or to learn where dollars have gone in the past.

Read next: The importance of aquaponics in Minnesota

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