Comprehensive Outreach and Training Program to Expand Development of North Central Region Aquaculture

By: Matthew A. Smith, Extension Aquaculture Specialist, The Ohio State University; Nicholas Phelps, Assistant Professor and Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center Director, University of Minnesota; Alex Primus, Assistant Professor, Department of Veterinary Population Medicine, University of Minnesota

The North Central Regional Aquaculture Center (NCRAC) is one of the five Regional Aquaculture Centers that was established by Congress in 1988. Their primary focus is linking an Industry Advisory Council to University researchers and Extension in the Midwest (12 state region). While aquaculture researchers are not in abundance in the North Central Region (NCR), Extension FTEs who are experienced in aquaculture are extremely limited. In order to disseminate information and improve technology transfer, an Extension Specialist facilitated a NCRAC Aquaculture Webinar Series that was very popular with industry and University alike. However, a lack of a hands-on component is a clear and understandable limitation of the project. The currently funded two-year project (2017-2019) complements the webinar series and enhances learning outcomes for participants by providing multiple hands-on, advanced aquaculture techniques workshops throughout the NCR. Topical areas for these fee-based workshops include culture techniques for important NCR aquaculture species, advanced aquaculture systems design and management, aquaculture business and marketing, water quality maintenance, advanced fish health diagnostics, and aquaculture regulatory issues. Additionally, workshop presentations and materials will be posted on NCRAC’s website and Ohio State University South Center’s website for archival and dissemination. The workshops are being evaluated for quality of content and delivery as well as their effectiveness in improving farmer knowledge, profitability and sustainability. This evaluation data will help refine future NCRAC endeavors optimize the leveraging of funding and learning outcomes and impacts.

The first workshop that this project contributed to was the annual Iowa Aquaculture Conference in 2017 and in February 2018 we contributed a session on aquaponics and recirculating aquaculture systems at the joint event with North Central Regional Aquaculture Center, the Kansas Aquaculture Association, and the Missouri Aquaculture Association. Future events are currently being planned to be held in 2018 and 2019 in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Indiana. With extreme limitations of Extension personnel with aquaculture experience in the Midwest, these types of projects allow us to be more efficient, proactive, and engaged in communities that normally do not have University aquaculture presence.

Forbes Magazine listed sustainably farm-raised fish and shrimp products as the number sixth most popular trend by chefs in 2016. Additionally, in 2017 and 2018 the National Restaurant Association listed sustainably produced seafood at number five in their annual What’s Hot: Top 10 Foods list. In Columbus, Ohio and surrounding sprawling cities in the Midwest, it is becoming more and more evident over time that the “Local Food Movement” is real, growing, and something that’s demanded by millennials and other generations alike. We hope that more hands-on workshops and training exercises will assist farmers in providing for this growing movement and allow for more seafood products used by restaurants to be sourced locally.

 

References:

Bender, A. 2016. Top 10 food restaurant trends. Forbes Magazine. https://www.forbes.com/sites/andrewbender/2016/11/30/top-10-food-restaurant-trends-of-2016/#68f46c1b76b0. November 30.

National Restaurant Association. 2016. http://www.restaurant.org/News-Research/News/Whats-Hot-Top-10-food-trends-in-2017. December 8.

National Restaurant Association. 2017. What’s hot: top 10 foods for 2018. http://www.restaurant.org/News-Research/News/What%E2%80%99s-Hot-Top-10-foods-for-2018. December 4.