A unique feature of the farm is the use of a water source which has proven inadequate for raising the types of crops historically grown in the area.

This farm was originally a cotton farm, McMaster says. As groundwater was pumped down, it became salty. The salinity actually crept into the groundwater. Cotton can handle zero parts of salt so the farm was no longer able to grow cotton.”

Tilapia benefit from salinity levels of 2-4 parts per thousand, McMaster explains.

“That’s enough to kill most crops—in particular, vegetable or table crops,” McMaster said. “Fish thrive on salt water as a general rule. Even freshwater fish, to a point, will do much better with salinity in the water.”

Farming aquatic, rather than terrestrial animals, for protein makes good sense. Aquatic animals require less energy for body support due to near neutral buoyancy.

All farmed aquatic species are poikilothermic. In other words, they do not require energy to regulate body temperature. Feed conversion ratios are much higher for fish - 1.5 kilogram (kg) of feed will produce 1 kg of fish while 8 kg of feed will produce 1 kg of beef.

As a mainly herbivorous species, tilapia is a good choice to farm. The fish requires less fishmeal, oils, and protein than other aquaculture farmed species, yet still provides a great source of protein and vitamins.

The fish grown at the Arizona farm are packed fresh on ice and shipped to restaurants and supermarkets in Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Southern California.