What do 100 million trout eggs look like?
A team of employees at Troutlodge’s incubation facility in Bonney Lake see those eggs up close and personal every day, thanks to a completed remodel that allows the facility to hold and incubate 100 million trout eggs at any one time.
That’s nearly double the amount of what the facility was holding before, and makes it one of the largest privately-owned egg incubation facilities.
“We’re the leading provider of live trout eggs in the world,” said John Dentler, vice president of sales marketing and government relations for Troutlodge.
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We’re the leading provider of live trout eggs in the world.
John Dentler, vice president of sales marketing and government relations for Troutlodge
Owned by Hendrix-Genetics, Troutlodge produces and ships 500 million trout eggs to more than 50 countries in the world for growth and consumption. Troutlodge operates seven trout hatcheries in Washington state, one trout hatchery in Idaho and two trout hatcheries on the Isle of Man, a self-governing British Crown dependency in the Irish Sea between England and Ireland.
Some of company’s major customers include the countries of Peru, Colombia, the United States, Canada, Russia and China, where the trout eggs go to inhabit and be raised for consumption.
The Bonney Lake facility, which is located on about 80 acres of protected land, has been around since the 1950s and has about 40 workers on its site. It’s spring-fed, and also holds around 100,000 broodstock to produce the eggs.
After the eggs are produced, they’re taken to the incubation hatchery, where they’re fertilized and incubated for three to five weeks.
One of the components that makes Troutlodge stand out is fish health, Dentler said. Troutlodge is unable to ship eggs that are not pathogen-free. In order to ensure that, a team follows three steps of product quality: separation, salting and a final sort.
100 million eggs stored at the facility
100,000 broodstock at the facility
Bonney Lake resident Darren Rose has worked with Troutlodge for 26 years and is in charge of processing and shipping the eggs. He works with the facility’s Q-Reader machine, which can sort 1.5 million eggs an hour.
Troutlodge acquired the machine a year ago, and Rose said it’s been a lifesaver. It took the place of multiple machines.
“It’s really effective (and) really does set us aside (from other companies),” Rose said. “We want to send the best product we can to our customers.”
It’s really effective (and) really does set us aside (from other companies) ... We want to send the best product we can to our customers.
Darren Rose, employee at Troutlodge
Rose and his team sort eggs into three categories: good, bad and blank. Blank eggs did not get fertilized, while bad eggs are often milky white and are not suitable for shipment. Good eggs are fertilized and have an “eye,” or a black dot, in its center.
The team also uses a “salting” process to determine through density which eggs are fertilized. Normally, blank eggs float to the surface.
Finally, a team of three women hand-sort through trays holding up to 40,000 eggs for any unsuable eggs that might have slipped through the cracks.
Two of the sorters, Nena Adamson and Deborah Elhardt, have been working at the facility for three years. They work with tubes that can suck up damaged eggs.
“If it has no eye, it must be a dead egg so we’ll have to pick it,” Elhardt said.
If it has no eye, it must be a dead eggs so we’ll have to pick it.
Deborah Elhardt, employee at Troutlodge
Troutlodge’s clients can order anywhere from 25,000 to 3 million trout eggs, Dentler said. Troutlodge can also produce eggs year-round, which is uncommon for many incubation facilities.
“If (customers) have an all-season problem, we can provide that product,” Dentler said.
Troutlodge also has a genetic selection program with a team of scientists, which works to enhance the quality of the eggs produced by optimizing growth, survivability and disease-resistance.
For more information about Troutlodge, visit troutlodge.com.