Meet Your Farmers: David McAlpine, Sandplains Aquaculture

McAlpine feeds tilapia at Sandplains Aquaculture

David McAlpine joined Sandplains Aquaculture at an exciting time.

“Within a few months of starting full time at Sandplains we got the first batch of barramundi. From there it was a steep learning curve to figure it out. We had to figure out the best conditions for the fish to do well and the details of the productions cycle and feed schedule.”

Getting to learn to raise a new species from the ground up with the rest of the staff was a challenging and rewarding experience to jump into and was just the kind of thing David was looking for.

The two warm water fish raised at Sandplains, tilapia and barramundi, are very unique in Canada and make Sandplains a one-of-a-kind facility.

David’s love of fish and fishing first led him to the University of Guelph’s Freshwater and Marine Biology program.

“In our fourth year Gord Cole from Aquacage Fisheries came to the university as a guest speaker. He talked about aquaculture in general, fish farms and the industry in Ontario. It really opened my eyes and I started reading about aquaculture and looking into it.”

His interest in aquaculture led him to pursue opportunities to further his understanding and get some experience. After receiving his degree from the University of Guelph, David got a summer position at Sandplains Aquaculture in Aylmer Ontario, a tilapia facility at the time.

McAlpine shows off barramundi while at work at Sandplains

“I got really interested in RAS systems- the way the equipment and mechanical [components] interact with the fish to create an ideal environment for growth.”

After a summer filled with hatchery work and constant learning, David started the Aquaculture Co-op program at Fleming College in Lindsay Ontario to learn aquaculture theory and practice.

Learning about fish and RAS systems at Fleming gave David the skills and knowledge to work at many facilities but he always had his eyes set on Sandplains.

“I have loved how Sandplains has evolved and being part of it. I believe RAS is the way of the future and want to be involved with RAS long term.”

David joined the staff at Sandplains full time in May 2018.

In 2021, “Now the barramundi are growing very well. They eat as much as a person each day.”

Along with working on the barramundi, David has taken on large responsibilities by being on call at Sandplains much of the time since he started. The responsibility for night rounds/checks and responding to alarms falls to him.

“You need to use your brain, but experience really helps. There are always things to read to help you through a [problem] but you must be thinking and looking. If you follow a guide and do not use your eyes and think, you won’t get straight to the issue.”

“I love fish, I love raising them and helping them perform well start to finish, that’s the rewarding part. The learning curve that comes with an evolving industry means each day there are things to learn and things are not boring.”

David always enjoys how, “there is always a new situation and new things to learn and do each day.”

For the future David is interested in the genetics and breeding of barramundi broodstock and exploring the species more and more at Sandplains.

Written by Ron Hill, Velocity Aqua