Jan 19 2017

Organic Aquaculture from Spain Makes a Splash

What do you get when you cross a passion for fish and seafood with diminishing marine populations and a commitment to sustainability? Organic aquaculture, of course. It’s an industry that's growing by leaps and bounds in fish-loving Spain

As for variety of seafood, the most important organically-farmed marine fishes in Spain are dorada (gilt-head sea bream) and lubina (European sea bass). The star mollusks are mussels, which are cultivated on bateas (rafts) in the inlets of Galicia, and rainbow trout is the most important species of organically-farmed freshwater fish in Spain. Another important species is the Adriatic sturgeon, which is reared organically in Andalusia, primarily for caviar. In fact, Spanish company Riofrío, which was founded in Navarre in the 1950s and moved to Granada (Andalusia) in 1963, was at the forefront of this industry, and was the first company in the world to produce organically-certified caviar.

In addition to its excellent products, Riofrío has also made a name for itself in the gastronomy-tourism sector, turning its installations and striking natural surroundings into a destination for tourists interested in visiting the company and tasting its products at their sources. According to production director, Alberto Domezain Fau, these initiatives have attracted tourists from all of Europe, the United States, China and Japan. Many visitors later dine on the company's quality products in fourteen restaurants located in the nearby, 300-person town of Riofrío.

Another Spanish company that has integrated gastronomic tourism into its offering is Naturix, in Guadalajara (Castile-León). Located on the banks of the Tajuña river, Naturix was one of the pioneers of organic trout farming in Spain. The company welcomes visitors to its installations, where they can enjoy recreational fishing, guided visits and workshops, and visit the bar and restaurant.

River gastronomy

These valued products have not gone unnoticed by Spanish chefs. In fact, the Spanish organic aquaculture industry has found an invaluable champion in chef Diego Gallegos of one-Michelin-star Restaurante Sollo in Benalmádena (Málaga), who has worked with Riofrío for years.

Winner of the 2015 "Revelation Chef" award at the international culinary conference Madrid Fusión, this Brazilian native has become, in the words of prestigious Apicius magazine, "the culinary icon for river species". Gallegos is passionate about cooking with freshwater farmed fish, and has particularly made a name for himself for his gastronomic adventures with the Adriatic sturgeon, He uses the entire fish in his kitchen, right down to its swim bladder, from which he extracts a gelling agent used to prepare desserts. But it is his culinary obsession with the roe of this fish that earned him the title of "caviar chef". Other organic fish that one might find on his menu are common trout and rainbow trout, but eel and tilapia are also in his sights and there is no telling where this innovative chef's imagination and taste for quality-farmed fish might take him next.