Seafood’s new role at Rouse’s
Seafood is taking on new and unusual roles in Rouse’s flagship New Orleans store, which opened in December. Inside is a 100-gallon tank with live tilapia; open, self-serve cases of loose Gulf shrimp; and 16 feet of fresh seafood displays. Most notably, the three-story, 40,000-square-foot store is the first in the United States to feature a hydroponic garden on its rooftop.
In addition to the herbs being grown for sale at the store, Rouse’s executives are looking at adding an aquaponic tilapia system to the rooftop, which would raise tilapia for live sale in the New Orleans store. If approved, the re-circulating system would help feed the produce. In turn, the plants filter fish waste.
“If we do add it, I imagine it will be ready in six months,” says Jack Treuting, business development manager for the 39-store Rouse’s chain, based in Thibodaux, La. Such a system would include fiberglass tanks that would hold up to 1,000 fish.
“The benefit to this is a 100 percent sustainable program in-store. This would be a huge benefit to consumers because they would know exactly where the fish came from: It can’t get any more ‘local’ than that,” says James Breuhl, seafood director for Rouse’s. The aquaponic operation would also likely serve as a showpiece, drawing more customers to the store. Already, students and shoppers tour the hydroponic rooftop operation, which consists of 60 vertical towers that produce 30 to 40 retail packs of herbs per tower. “I do not think there are any aquaponic rooftop gardens that offer retail options,” says Treuting.
The upscale store is also the first Rouse’s location to feature live fish in addition to live lobsters. Rouse’s executives say the live tilapia appeal to the substantial Asian-American population in the area and to fill a growing demand in general for live fish.