Recapping the Best of the Aquaculture Boot Camp Program in 2014

By: Estefania James, MS, Program Assistant

After twelve months of hard work and commitment, nineeen Aquaculture Boot Camp (ABC) recruits graduated on December 13, 2014. The Ohio State University South Centers served as the main venue for the training sessions.

The aquaculture boot camp program offered an integrated training with "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.

These participants punctually attended ABC sessions the second Saturday of each month to learn the fundamental concepts of aquaculture and business planning to successfully run an aquaculture business.

One of the unique features of this program was learning by doing with the technical guidance of the OSU aquaculture instructors and the Ohio Aquaculture Association mentors. There were many topics covered in the ABC program: species selection, systems selections, species biology, site selection, water quality, fish and fresh water prawn stocking and harvesting, processing, recirculating aquaculture systems, and fish health, among others.

Each training session was followed by an evaluation in order to identify their pre- and post-perceptions of learning. These evaluations helped the instructors to improve and adjust the content for the future classes.

In addition to the monthly session evaluations, mid and final evaluations were conducted to assess the overall performance of the program. The results and the findings of the data collected from the classes of 2013 and 2014 will be published in mid-2015.

Piketon, the ABC headquarters, was not the only training location. These students had the opportunity to visit and meet experienced fish farmers. There were three off-campus training sessions. The first was at Kentucky State University in the Division of Aquaculture. Charlie Shultz was a special instructor for the Aquaponics workshop in April 2014.

In August, the ABC intensive class met Dr. Dave Smith at his aquaculture operation, Freshwater Farms of Ohio, in Urbana to learn about marketing and processing with the collaboration of Angela Caporelli from the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.

And finally, in October, boot campers met Steve Van Gorder from Fresh-Culture Systems, Inc. who taught the Recirculating Aquaculture Systems workshop in Newark, Ohio.

One of the greatest lessons learned in boot camp was that both instructors and students learned from each other and sharing was the key element to succeed in the development of their business plans.

Even though we are not offering the ABC intensive class in 2015, there will be three workshops available: The OAA annual meeting in January, an Aquaponics workshop, and a Marketing and Processing workshop. We would like to encourage new and beginning fish farmers who want to learn about the program to visit our website at http://go.osu.edu/abc and sign up in the ABC intermediate program to be informed of new training opportunities and industry updates.

The ABC program was a marvelous success thanks to the teamwork of the Aquaculture, Business Development and OSU South Centers teams, along with the Ohio Aquaculture Association. We also look forward to reapplying for new funds through the USDA to continue working to increase the numbers of new and beginning fish farmers in the State of Ohio.

We appreciate everyone’s effort and dedication. Because of your help, Aquaculture Boot Camp has been an extremely successful program.