Fish farm swims into energy-saving pump upgrades

Netting big energy savings at local fish farms
SMUD was able to provide us with referrals to pump-testing specialists and contractors who could establish a baseline of information.

Blue skies and a calm delta breeze are what you can expect on a typical fall afternoon in Galt. On any given day, Kenneth Beer steps outside 1 of his 3 properties to begin his work day, which for him is at a fish farm called The Fishery. He is greeted by half a dozen friendly Labrador Retrievers as he makes his way around the farm to evaluate his priorities.

Recently he collaborated with his SMUD Strategic Account Advisor Michael Corbett, who, along with others from SMUD, is helping The Fishery save energy and money through water pump upgrades.

Fish, on a farm?

For 40 years, Beer's approach to raising and harvesting a healthy fish crop at The Fishery has resulted in growing the largest sturgeon inventory in the United States. The Fishery is an aquaculture farm nestled in the lush fields of the Delta where largemouth bass, carp, sturgeon and catfish are raised. They specialize in raising white sturgeon for caviar and meat, as well as providing fresh fish to numerous gourmet markets throughout Northern California. Re-using water from the sturgeon tanks and recycling it several times through the catfish ponds is one example of their commitment to sustainability and water conservation.

Netting big energy savings at local fish farms

The combination for success

One might think that a fish farm spanning hundreds of acres would utilize an extremely complex set of electronic equipment to evaluate the farm's pond water ecosystem, but that's not always the case at The Fishery. Beer's typical evaluation methods consists of understanding the expected weather conditions, manually checking the natural elements in over 200 tanks and ponds, and looking at the water levels, color and temperature. But, the key to their success is found in using a combination of time-tested conventional fish farming methods alongside other progressive technologies.

On one hand, he's asking himself visual questions like, "Do the fish look healthy? Does the water look murky? Are the water levels too high or too low?"

And on the other hand, he is evaluating, "Are the tank flows and oxygenation levels correct for the tank's fish species?" By using a sophisticated method of injecting liquid oxygen into very intensive tanks, they can create sturgeon tanks dense enough to hold 1 pound of fish per gallon of water.

Managing good-old-fashioned farming techniques alongside the use of advanced technologies, experimentation, science and good engineering, are what's made The Fishery one of the largest sturgeon farms known in the world.

SMUD rates keep The Fishery local

When Beer began his journey into fish farming, just a few years out of college, he leased an existing catfish farm in Elk Grove, made up of 16 ponds pumped with fresh groundwater. Once the practice began to grow in the mid-1980's, he had an opportunity to move to a larger farm, about 12 miles south in Galt.

Beer made it a priority to remain within the boundaries of SMUD's service area because of the reasonable energy rates.

Beer recalls, "Back in the '80s, SMUD would send someone out at least once a year to evaluate our energy use. That was the only kind of evaluation we ever did on this property's 3 inherited pumps. They would provide us a 1-page report and it was helpful for us to see how things were doing year-after-year." Since the mid-80s, Beer continued to grow the fish farm with less than sophisticated equipment and equally as complex know-how. For years, he thought about upgrading various pumps to create a more sustainable and efficient farm. It was SMUD Strategic Account Advisor Michael Corbett who helped bring the right opportunity to Beer's doorstep and initiate a project to do just that.

On his 3 farms in the Sacramento County, The Fishery has 9 large, 50 to75 horsepower groundwater well pumps that are essentially 20-year-old energy hogs. Energy costs are among the "Big 4" for The Fishery, right alongside the cost of water, fish food and oxygen.

Netting big energy savings at local fish farms

In an attempt to get a better gauge on the flow data for their water and oxygen pumps and the associated energy usage, SMUD experts told Beer and his associate, Tony Schuur, about our Pump Energy Assessment Program. "SMUD was able to provide us with referrals to pump-testing specialists and contractors who could establish a baseline of information," Schuur explained. "The baseline was essential in helping determine which of our groundwater pumps could be replaced or upgraded for a more effective operating system."

The savings potential

Through the planning process, SMUD was able to help The Fishery identify over 1 Gigawatt-hour worth of savings potential. To put that into perspective, the C02 emissions from 1 Gigawatt-hour of electricity is similar to the electricity use of 112 homes for a year.

"Beyond just energy savings, I've been able to help them understand their SMUD bill and our online resources at, such as how to utilize energy reports for metrics like evaluating the energy-intensity per-acre foot of water at the different farms," Corbett said.

Starting this winter, The Fishery will embark on this large pump replacement project, focusing on 4 of the most inefficient pumps. They're looking forward to evaluating their operations and making other improvements that will create an even more sustainable and effective fish farm in the years to come.

For The Fishery, water and oxygen pumps are their lifeline. The gravitational water flow that is incorporated in the design of The Fishery's water circulation system helps keep things steady if a power outage does occurs, but Beer says, "SMUD has been pretty dang reliable, pretty dang responsive and has always kept in tune with my operations."

Strategic Account Advisors here to help

Has your business been running the same way for many years? Has an energy efficiency upgrade been in the back of your mind? Your dedicated Strategic Account Advisor can help. Our advisors are ready to help you find the best ways to provide your business reliable and efficient energy solutions.

Email us to connect with your Strategic Account Advisor today.

To find out how SMUD can help your business, visit, or call 1-877-622-SMUD (7683). To locate your dedicated strategic account advisor, email us at