WORK on a prototype of a major fish farm project has started in Heckmondwike.
Ponderosa owner Howard Cook has begun a small-scale version of the Dewsbury Domes project, a fish farm and visitor centre planned for the former Spen Valley Treatment Works.
Mr Cook has employed offenders on probation to build the mini domes, which will eventually house sturgeon fish.
The scheme is a joint venture with the Green Business Network, which supports eco projects in West Yorkshire.
Last Thursday Howard opened up the mini domes to show the public the work Ponderosa was doing with the probation service to give offenders jobs.
And together with people with learning difficulties, they have been making garden furniture from wood and recycled plastic.
Howard said: “They have their own workshop and are designing, producing and selling their own furniture.
“They come up with different ideas and then make their designs – the products they make are unique.
“They are also making bird boxes, planters, dog houses, and rabbit hutches which have an eco roof you can grow things on.
“They are doing a show in Harrogate, and different local authorities are buying the products.
“We are also doing a retraining programme for people on probation. It’s all about giving them self esteem.
“Our vision is giving disadvantaged people chances.”
Howard said the domes were a research and development programme based on studies done in Spain, and were a quarter of the size of the structures planned for the Dewsbury Domes project.
Trainer Mark Maylett said: “One of the domes will have sturgeon inside.
“Water from the tank and fertiliser from the fish will be pumped to the other tanks, where seedlings will grow to produce vegetables. This is going to be a template in preparation for the major project.”
Once mature, the sturgeon will be harvested, and visitors to the Lakeside restaurant can enjoy caviar and sturgeon – but they will have to be patient, as it won’t be for at least seven years!