We had the good fortune of connecting with Erica Tardiff and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Erica, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
I have always been passionate about nature and the outdoors. Most specifically, I am enthralled with fish and the sport of fishing. I focused my undergraduate degree on environmental biology and natural resource management. A few years later in 2017, I made an unexpected choice to get my MBA at Colorado State University, which focused on sustainability and entrepreneurship. In my graduate studies, I married my knowledge of aquatic biology to business practices and needs in the aqua culture industry. I focused on creating an aquafeed that was sustainable and found that replacing the traditionally used wild caught ocean fish with invasive Asian carp made a whole lot of sense both nutritionally and economically. After creating and researching business models on how to put the idea into action and creating a support network, I decided to continue pursuing this idea after graduate school along with my co-founder, Kelly Haugen. My decision to continue pursuing our feed company, Nobilis Aqua, was mainly due to the fact that I feel the mission of my company and environmental impact potential push me to continue to make it grow. I truly do feel that it is a culmination of my passions.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Nobilis Aqua is a sustainable fish feed company that makes feeds from invasive Asian carp. This sets us apart from other companies, in that we are the only one’s solely using this sustainable source of fishmeal. Many sustainable feed companies forego fish ingredients all together, but we’ve found that this impact nutrition and palatability. Our business has successfully trialed our first feed at Frontier Trout Ranch in southern Colorado, where we tested feed conversion ratios of farm raised Rainbow Trout. Currently, we are producing an additional 10,000 pounds of feed, which Frontier Trout Ranch purchased because our trial was so successful. Getting here has been tough- we’ve had a lot of ups and downs. I’m actually smiling responding to this because two years ago we would have never thought we’d get this far. We’ve over come our challenges by leaning on each other for support and continuing to be persistent in communication. We’ve consistently found that if there is a will- there is a way. I’d like others to know that we understand every piece and step that goes into making our feed. We’ve been there! From fishing Asian carp in Kentucky, to observing the machinery that processes them into fishmeal, to hand sifting thousands of pounds of fishmeal to remove bones before the pelleting process, to finally feeding a trout our feed. I can’t tell you how sweet that moment was!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Well let’s first say this is pre-COVID times. If my friend were visiting Fort Collins for a week, I would take them up the Poudre Canyon and camp for a night or two at Chambers Lake. Hopefully there would be a concert going on at the Mishawaka, but if not we’d definitely stop in for a beer or a bite! I’d take them fly fishing down the Poudre on our way down the canyon. I won’t give away all my favorite bends, but Gateway Park would definitely produce fish! Back in town, I’d make sure we’d visit all the breweries- of course New Belgium and Odell, and the smaller gems- Stodgy and Equinox. At some point we might venture out to Weldwerks in Greeley because those beers are hard to beat! Food wise- Slyce, Consuela’s and Penrose Taproom would be visited. Other things we’d do include biking some of the wonderful trails and visiting City Park,
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
The biggest Shoutout I have to extend is to my business partner, Kelly Haugen. We created Nobilis Aqua while we were partnered in graduate school because we were both interested in addressing biodiversity loss. Since then, we’ve travelled thousands of miles together both physically and metaphorically. Without one another’s support Nobilis Aqua would likely have fizzled out long ago. I would also like to shoutout some of my biggest sources for being an environmental advocate: my Alma Mater, SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry, Aldo Leopold’s “A Sand County Almanac”, and some of my best fishing partners: Kimie, Tim, and Dr. Beilman.