By Dr. Hanping Wang
Program Leader, Aquaculture
The OSU South Centers and the Ohio Center for Aquaculture Research and Development (OCARD), in partnership with the Ohio Aquaculture Association (OAA) and University of Wisconsin–SP (UWSP) and Wisconsin Aquaculture Association (WAA), have successfully completed three years of Aquaculture Boot Camp-2 (ABC-2).
The ABC-2 offered new and beginning farmers integrated training in aquaculture/aquaponic production and business management strategies with the “3-I” levels: Intensive, an in-depth level involving immersion in a year-long hands-on training and mentoring program; Intermediate, a mid-level involving participation in a variety of learning activities; and Introductory, a general level where sharing of information is the goal.
The program offered a multi-faceted approach, including classroom and hands-on training, paired with industry mentoring to enhance the sustainability of new and beginning aquaculture/aquaponics and next generation farmers in the Midwest. ABC-2 completed all the goals on all the “3-I” levels, outlined below.
Twenty-four monthly informative educational modules and classes were completed in aquaculture/aquaponics and related business/marketing in Ohio and Wisconsin during the past three years. Each module was designed to coincide with seasonal activities on a typical aquaculture/aquaponic farm, so that a participatory hands-on training events can simultaneously occur each month. 105 highly motivated, new and limited resource fish farmers and aquaponic producers have been trained through the Intensive program, and 35 pilot-scale aquaculture/aquaponics practice projects were completed by the intensive students. Twenty-one new businesses/farms have been created by the 2017 and 2018 ABC-2 Intensive course graduates.
ABC-2 Intermediate was also offered over the past three years. This less-intensive training allowed participants to choose among the 12 monthly modules and three workshops, one conference and one bus tour in both Ohio and Wisconsin per year. Twelve general workshops in aquaculture and related business and four bus tours of aqua-farms were conducted for both Intermediate and Intensive students. Six conferences were held for all the “3-I” level students; around 900 new and beginning farmers gained knowledge of aquaculture/aquaponic production and new technologies by participating in ABC Intermediate workshops and bus tours.
Digital recordings of the ABC-2 Intensive training classes and practices were conducted and edited. An ABC-2 website was developed and has links to aquaculture information, podcasts, and updates of ABC-2 activities. Additionally, ABC-2 Introductory provides training and information through facility tours, individual and group counseling, phone, and email. Other than new farmers trained in Intensive and Intermediate programs, more than 9,000 participants gained new knowledge by accessing ABC Introductory and ABC website tools, and Newsletters, emails and phone system.
The ABC, OAA, and WAA have established an internship program designed to provide apprentice-type training opportunities for new and beginning aquaculture farmers and give established farmers a chance to mentor newcomers. Twelve in Ohio and Wisconsin received training through ABC/OAA/WAA internship program through the ABC-2 program.
Mentoring Leadership and Guidance
With the ABC program, the OAA and WAA provided mentoring leadership and guidance for new and small rural farmers. The activities included coordinating the ABC-2 mentoring and internship programs, providing annual conferences and a bus tour of aquaculture farms, facilitating cooperation among new farmers and existing farmers, compiling and distributing information on aquaculture/aquaponics for new and small rural farmers, and creating and maintaining the ABC-OAA/WAA websites. ABC specialists worked together with OAA and UWSP/WAA staff to enhance OAA and WAA’s website, newsletters, and marketing strategies and opportunities. ABC-OAA’s and WAA’s annual conferences were organized, and 24 issues of aquaculture/aquaponics newsletters were published in Ohio and Wisconsin through the ABC-2 program.