Extension aquaculture highlights

By Matthew A. Smith, Extension Aquaculture Specialist 
 
2016 was a big year for the Extension Aquaculture Program as a new face took the reins. Matthew Smith, who started in March of 2016, is charged with leading all Extension activities related to aquaculture and aquaponics in Ohio. Especially in the world of Extension, a new employer and a new state requires an acclimation period. However, establishing a productive Extension program that will facilitate the expansion of aquaculture in Ohio in a timely manner is priority number one.
 
Extension and Outreach Activities 
 
Talks were fairly plentiful for the first nine months. Two pond-side talks were given in May to recreational pond owners in Wyandot County at the request of the Soil and Water Conservation District. The first PowerPoint presentation given in Ohio by the new specialist was to OSU ANR Extension Educators at their annual retreat at the Hueston Woods Lodge and Conference Center in June. As a “one man band”, it’s necessary to coordinate with and teach other Educators in Ohio about the importance of aquaculture in the broad sense, as well as the specific considerations for Ohio. In-service or train-the-trainer workshops are imperative in this type of agriculture to help increase the rate of information dissemination to the general public. In-service trainings on pond management are already in the works for 2017.
 
Thanks to the coordination and assistance from Teresa Funk, the Aquaculture Extension Program was present with a quality and functioning aquaponics display in the Firebaugh building at Farm Science Review. Lettuce, kale, and goldfish were the center of attention. At least one person who stopped by the aquaponics system ended up becoming a 2017 OSU Aquaculture Boot Camp 2 student. Some much-appreciated assistance from aquaponic farmers allowed our specialist to get away long enough to present three fish related talks on behalf of the Extension program. This will likely become an annual occurrence whenever possible. 
 
Aquaculture Extension Program Leader, Matthew Smith, was present several days during the Ohio State Fair and answered fairgoers’ questions about aquaculture and aquaponics in Ohio for a few days. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Energy holds an annual Science Alliance (all things STEM related) in Piketon, Ohio for over 1,500 high school students from southern Ohio. Fourteen talks were given over three days in October to all of the students present, increasing the outreach arm of the program in southern Ohio.  
 
The Ohio Aquaculture Association also coordinated with the OSU South Centers to offer a fall beginner workshop to those interested in learning about aquaculture in Piketon. Two beginner talks were offered by Matthew Smith and have since been added to the Extension Aquaculture website. Attendees were from Ohio, Indiana, Maryland, and West Virginia. 
 
In addition to presentations, the Extension program has been busy developing and establishing Buckeye Aquafarming, an aquaculture newsletter that is released three times a year by the OSU South Centers. Topics have been wide and diverse, although everything is geared towards educating our fish farmers and policy makers on pertinent matters. Some topics include, marketing your aquaculture product, water quality considerations, principles of biofloc systems, the Lacey Act as relevant to aquaculture, and co-ops. Smith’s contributed articles to Buckeye Aquafarming include the Lacey Act, water quality considerations, and a solicitation article for farmer participation in an upcoming survey. Other articles written by Smith can be found in Arkansas Aquafarming, Ohio Aquaculture Association Summer Newsletter, and the Ohio Aquaculture Association Journal.
 
OSU Extension Aquaculture Program Led Workshops
 
Matthew Smith held his first workshop at the OSU South Centers in August and focused on water quality management for fish farmers in Ohio. Previous research conducted by Dr. Laura Tiu showed knowledge on water quality management is a top priority for fish farmers in Ohio. Since proper management is necessary for a successful operation, it only seemed fitting to have this as the focus of the first workshop. Allen Pattillo, a fisheries/aquaculture specialist with Iowa State University, was brought in for this workshop to offer his expertise on aquaponic systems. Both seasoned and beginner farmers attended the workshop, including two farms from Indiana. Hands-on experience and facility tours were offered in addition to the numerous PowerPoint presentations. 
 
Professional Service
 
Extension Program Specialist Matthew Smith was nominated to the North Central Regional Aquaculture Center’s (NCRAC) Executive Committee and Technical Committee. His roles include general Extension representation, review and recommendation of proposals for funding, development of problem statements, and review annual progress reports. Professional service includes being appointed to the National Aquaculture Association’s Aquatic Nuisance Species Committee, presence as an ex-officio member on the Ohio Aquaculture Association’s Board of Directors, and an Ohio Fish Health Group member. He was also appointed to the Aquaculture Advisory Board for Hocking College. 
 
Research
 
A first for the specialist, his master’s research entitled Split Ponds Effectively Overwinter Baitfish was accepted for publication by the Journal of the World Aquaculture Society and is currently available online for early viewing. A high summer temperature research publication left over from Arkansas is currently in preparation. Funded research projects include assessing the status of state aquaculture associations in the north central region, as well as updating older NCRAC Extension publications. Other proposals have been submitted and we are waiting on the results to come in early 2017. He has worked diligently to ensure that multiple OSU program areas work together for the better of the aquaculture industry.