Meet our Artisan Farmers
The Ferris and Vandevert Families
Sarayha has spent every summer at Lois Lake since she was a toddler. Joined by her parents, Krista and Bill, siblings and many cousins, she now works at the farm that her grandpa, Ward Griffioen founded back in 1973. “My Oma and Opa worked extremely hard to establish West Coast Fishculture (WCFC) as an outstanding, progressive fish farm, many years ahead of its time” said Sarayha.
Ward Griffioen has been called a visionary for his ability to see where fish farming was headed years ago and for embracing technologies that sought to improve fish farming techniques. WCFC was instrumental in developing one of the first commercial recirculation hatcheries in B.C. during the mid-1990’s and was an early adaptor of emerging closed containment technology. Aquaculture enables farmers to raise fish year around and thus maintain a consistent and stable supply of product to its customers.
It was back in 1973 that Ward established the foundation of what eventually became West Coast Fishculture Ltd. He began his career in the industry as a technician at the Pacific Biological station in Nanaimo, BC. Ward had an active part in developing the potential of salmon farming in the Pacific waters. He obtained the first salmon farm sites in 1977 in Tofino, BC, and then established West Coast in 1988 as a family-owned business. Under Ward’s direction, the farm grew exponentially. The original program of rearing salmon smolts evolved over the years from Coho, Chinook, and Atlantic salmon to its current Steelhead salmon, which is now sold throughout North America to the food service and retail industries.
After 50 years as an aquaculture pioneer, Ward has now retired. The farm was sold in 2013 to AgriMarine Holdings, a portfolio company of Dundee Agriculture, a subsidiary of Dundee Corporation.
Ward’s sons in law, Bill Ferris and Bill Vandevert manage the West Coast Fishculture farm.
Bill Ferris is a food industry professional with over 35 years of experience, 14 of which were in the retail grocery and meat sector, where he gained strong experience in product quality, handling and supply. Bill, Krista and their children, Sarayha, Kyla, and Olivia moved to Powell River in 1992 to work for West Coast Fishculture. Twenty-four years later, Bill is extremely proud of the product that West Coast continues to produce today. Bill oversees the processing plant, sales and marketing for the Company and ensures the prompt delivery of our fresh Lois Lake Steelhead to our customers.
Bill Vandevert has worked in the aquaculture industry for nearly 30 years and with West Coast since the early 1990’s. Married to Paula, Bill has always had a passion for the technical advancement of aquaculture and was instrumental in developing the first Pescalators, and building one of the first commercial recirculation hatcheries in B.C. Bill oversees West Coast Fishculture’s hatchery and farming operations. Bill’s kids, Hannah, Elisa and Luke have all worked at the farm in various roles while son Josh works at the farm as a welding technician.
The Mooring Family
Ryk, Lou and their son Brian have been part of the West Coast Fishculture team for 15 years. Ryk is the hatchery manager, overseeing the husbandry and care of 350,000 Steelhead eggs delivered to the hatchery every two months. After the eggs are quarantined and regularly tested to ensure that they are disease free, they make their way to a bio-secure facility. Reared in a water recirculating aquaculture system to hatch and grow for at least four months, the eggs are monitored day and night, seven days a week until they reach 30 grams and are ready to be transferred as fingerlings to the farm’s semi-closed containment AgriMarine System™ tanks, floating in Lois Lake. From then on, Brian manages the growth cycle at the lake and oversees a team of feeders (his son Che is part of his team) and technicians, who ensure proper husbandry and feeding practices. The amount fed is optimized according to fish size and water temperature to minimize waste and maximize fish growth. The farm team at Lois Lake ensures that the environment is optimized for growth by regularly grading the fish, which benefits growth while easing stress, and by maintaining the clean and healthy fish environment. Meticulous processes and procedures ensure that West Coast harvests the freshest product to our customers.
Good biosecurity programs reduce the exposure to disease–causing organisms and maintain our fish disease-free. Anyone who visits the hatchery must follow strict biosecurity measures such as a foot dips in disinfectant and hand hygiene before entering the buildings. All fingerlings have their adipose fin clipped as per the regulations set by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. The clipping must be done quickly so as to avoid stressing the fish.
Ryk leads a team that ensures that the fish are closely monitored at every stage and information is entered into the farm’s data control program. Lou oversees the hatchery during the night shift. “Following proper bio-security measures in the hatchery is extremely important”, remarked Ryk and added, “if we don’t perform our duties properly, the Steelhead would not make it at the lake to continue their full growth cycle. “
“Operating the hatchery takes a team with insight, knowledge and great attention to detail. The West Coast team consists of a highly trained and experienced workforce of farmers who are committed to the success of our operation. We have a dedicated hatchery team under the direction of Ryk Mooring.” said Bill Vandevert, West Coast Fishculture Farm Manager.
The Harry, Smith and Wilson Family
At least 8 members of the Harry family have been part of the West Coast Fishculture farm team over the last 5 years. John or “uncle,” was the first to begin work at the West Coast processing plant. Later, Joe, Brett, Daryl, Laurie and wife Theresa joined John at the plant. This year, son Cody is the newest Harry family member to begin work at West Coast Fishculture.
Tasked with processing Lois Lake Steelhead, the family works to ensure that the fish is cut and filleted to our customer’s specifications. As experienced fish processors, the Harry family members deliver the highest quality custom processing products to our customers throughout British Columbia and beyond. Our Lois Lake Steelhead are harvested three times a week in the early morning, processed in-house and immediately chilled to the core to ensure maximum quality and freshness. Our Lois Lake Steelhead are ready for shipping in the afternoon to a number of high-end restaurants and retail outlets.
The West Coast Fishculture farm is a major job provider in and around the city of Powell River and to the Tla’amin Nation. “The farm provides full time employment in the region year-round”, commented Theresa Smith, a member of Sliammon First Nation. “We are also licensed for clamming during the season but we appreciate the opportunity for continuous work at West Coast Fishculture and enjoy going to the farm to meet younger and more diverse people.”
The Hatch, Boisvert Family
Melissa and her brothers Dave and Doug used to attend WCFC Christmas parties as kids and spent summers at Lois Lake. Her family has a long relationship with the farm as their father, Dan, started working at WCFC back in the 1990s. Melissa has worked in many areas at the farm and currently serves as Assistant Manager of the processing plant, along with her husband Michael Boisvert. Melissa and Michael ensure the smooth running of the plant, overseeing grading and filleting of the fish as well as filling client orders and preparing the Lois Lake Steelhead for shipping throughout BC and across Canada. On harvest days, temperature controlled trucks leave the processing plant in Powell River for same day delivery to Sea Agra Seafood Brokers in Vancouver for distribution to our customers. Nanette, (Dave’s Fiancee), is the overall processing plant Manager and Dave is the Harvest Manager. They work closely with their teams to fulfill orders as per their customer’s specifications. As a long-standing partner of WCFC, Cactus Club Restaurants regularly serve our Ocean Wise™ recommended Lois Lake Steelhead and showcase the brand to their customers. “It is very important for us to deliver a product of the highest quality and flavour to our customers,” remarked Melissa. She added, “Restaurants rely on our ability to supply fresh fish for their Chefs to prepare the same day. Chefs have remarked that our Lois Lake Steelhead is always flavourful, has a silky texture and just the right amount of fat.”