Chinese businessman Wilson Wang has become "a significant investor" in Wickliffe's Two Rivers Fisheries, according to Two Rivers' President Angie Yu, leading to additional jobs and the creation of a second partner company.
Wang, using Lu as his interpreter, said, "Carp are considered to be an invasive species and a nuisance, but I see a lot of opportunity. Americans don't like carp, but the Chinese do. They like that the fish come from the cleaner U.S. rivers."
Two Rivers' fish come from the Mississippi and Ohio rivers as well as Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake.
Wang, president of Dalian Cheng Cheng Import/Export Co., Ltd., has partnered with Yu in creating Eco Fish Products, Inc., a new company that will hire fisherman and use fish waste to create and export fish meal and fish fertilizer products.
Yu said that Two Rivers, which opened in 2013, has gone through "ups and downs" in the past two years.
"Now we're pretty stable and need to increase production," she said.
Yu said Two Rivers exported 2 million pounds of fish in 2016, and her goal is to double that to 4 million.
"The Chinese market for carp continues to grow," she said. "Fish exporting is a low margin business, so we must rely on high volumes."
The company has been running a single shift, but "When we have more fish, we'll add a second shift and be able to hire an additional six to eight production employees," she said.
In addition to Two Rivers doubling fish exports, a newly formed sister company, Eco Fish Products, will begin processing the fish waste that until now has been given away to a Louisiana pet food manufacturer.
Pointing to Wang, Yu said, "He wants our fish waste."
According to Dalian Cheng Cheng's website, it is one of China's largest importers of feed ingredients, meat and bone meal and fish meal.
He said that his company had purchased meat and bone meal from U.S. companies, including Tyson and ConAgra, since 1997.
Yu said processing their fish waste will allow them to better utilize their facility.
"Right now we're only using one-third of our space," she said, "so we have room to expand production of our 'value-added' products."
Production of fish fertilizer will begin after they install a Bio Mass Processing System purchased from LEI Products in Madisonville.
"She's buying a whole system," LEI President Scott Laskowski said. "All they'll have to do is purchase bio mass products to absorb the fish."
Bio mass products include straw, husks or other wood or agricultural residues.
He said that the "fish guts mixed with bio mass" are then heated and dried in the processing system.
"The heating process kills bacteria and creates a very nutrient rich fertilizer," Laskowski said.
Yu added: "All other organic fertilizers use manure. We'll use fish, a good source of protein for the soil."
She said China was a big importer of fish fertilizer, but she will also sell it locally to organic farmers.
The second part of Eco Fish Products will involve getting into the fishing business.
Yu said that they have already purchased their first $35,000 boat and hired a four-person crew.
She said the plan is to purchase two or three more boats and hire 10-12 more fishermen.
Yu said that she and Wang had known each other for years and was happy he is investing "so we can increase production of fish meat and start processing and selling the waste we used to give away. This is a win-win situation."