The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point has a unique workforce development program that utilizes a state-of-the-art research facility known as the UWSP Northern Aquaculture Demonstration Facility (UWSP NADF).
Alyson Brown, a student at the Atlantic Veterinary College (AVC), University of Prince Edward Island, will spend the summer working on a research project investigating the impact of accelerated climate change on Atlantic salmon aquaculture in Atlantic Canada.
VANCOUVER - The Fraser Basin Council recently published a report which confirms significant job creation potential of land-based salmon aquaculture in British Columbia. The report, titled "RAS Atlantic Salmon Industry on Vancouver Island Financial Model & Economic Impact Analysis," concludes that 4,000 jobs would be created during the construction phase of RAS facilities and an additional 2,685 full time, long-term jobs would be created through the operation and fish processing from land-based aquaculture facilities located on Vancouver Island. “Innovative aquaculture solutions offer a way to protect the health of our wild salmon and the marine environment and to build a viable and sustainable aquaculture industry in British Columbia,” Joanna Kerr, Tides Canada president and chief executive officer said in a release. “Over the last decade, Tides Canada has been working in close collaboration with governments, industry, environmental organizations, and First Nations to explore and advance the adoption of closed containment production systems as a means to foster protection of the environment and of wild salmon.” While the report confirms that the economic impacts of a potential RAS Atlantic salmon farming industry on Vancouver Island are significant, it notes that Vancouver Island is not the only potential location for land-based salmon aquaculture development in North America; there are many other locales with a head-start. Tides Canada said efforts must now be focused on promoting the advantages of locating to B.C. “We look forward to both the provincial and federal governments taking the actions necessary to support RAS development and allow B.C., to take advantage of the growing opportunities for sustainably produced salmon,” Kerr said. See the full report and summary here.
UCLA researchers have conducted the first country-by-country evaluation of the potential for marine aquaculture under current governance, policy and capital patterns.
Cryopreservation is a valuable tool in preserving living cells or tissues of aquaculture species but lack of standardization makes it an underutilized technique, says a study.
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - After more than six years of research and nine generations of specifically-selected rainbow trout, Dr. Ken Overturf has seen some of the largest aquaculture companies embrace his research. Genetic selection research completed at the University of Idaho with USDA-ARS with funding support from the United Soybean Board and the Soy Aquaculture Alliance (SAA), has led to a rainbow trout species that can be raised on a fully plant-based diet.
Auburn University professor Rex Dunham is the recipient of the Southeastern Conference’s 2019 Faculty Achievement Award for Auburn, Ala.
The city of New Bedford has the strongest potential for commercial-scale aquaculture in the entire region of the Massachusetts South Coast, says a study.
Two new studies released last week suggest the piscine orthreovirus (PRV) is not as deadly as some believe. 
Commercial octopus farming is being explored on multiple continents as a potential new avenue for aquaculture. However, a team of researchers led by Jennifer Jacquet of New York University’s Department of Environmental Studies are concerned about potential negative impacts on sustainability and animal welfare.
Biopharmaceutical company Merck Animal Health has announced its Aqua Care365 initiative to support fish farmers in their efforts to provide the best quality care for their operations.
Offshore is the most promising option for expanded sustainable seafood production in the United States but ‘smart policy’ is needed to advance it, according to a new study.
The importance of intake water on the economic success of large-scale land-based aquaculture facilities cannot be overemphasized, according to an expert on aquaculture systems.
A tuna hatchery being built in San Diego, California is expected to play a pivotal role in efforts to start tuna farming in the United States or, for that matter, in North America.
CAMPBELL RIVER, B.C. - The largest and most technologically advanced vessel to ever serve the Canadian aquaculture industry is now in B.C. waters.
WHYCOCOMAGH, N.S. – The Canadian government and the Government of Nova Scotia are funding Nova Scotia’s We’koqma’q First Nation in obtaining its Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) certification for its fish farm.
Cermaq Canada has announced its intention to begin investigating the feasibility of growing its salmon farming operations into Nova Scotia.
Cermaq's farming in Norway takes place north of the Arctic Circle, where the water is cold and the salmon grows slower, resulting in specific product qualities. As consumers increasingly pay more attention to the origin of the food, the Arctic effect represents market value.
Blue Ocean Mariculture, a fully-integrated facility in Kona, Hawaii sets itself apart in the aquaculture industry for two reasons: the company is the only offshore open ocean farm in the United States and was a first-mover in farming Almaco jack (Seriola rivoliana).
Tying salmon farming to the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDG) and selecting the right technology could neutralize biases against farmed salmon, suggests an industry executive.
The walleye (Sander vitreus) is a favorite food fish and sport fish of millions of Canadians and Americans residing in the Great Lakes region and northern Great Plains. The flesh – white, firm, and mild in flavor – is very pleasing to most palates. 
The big story in catfish aquaculture two years ago was that US farm-raised catfish production was able to meet demand for the first time since 2013. A year prior to that, in 2016, the industry saw annual sales of catfish farmed in the United States reach $386 million, a 7.2-percent growth over the average annual sales during the last five years.
Nordic Aquafarms has announced plans to build a land-based Atlantic salmon farm in California to be close to the regional markets it plans to serve.
According to a peer review conducted by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, farmed salmon that carry and transfer the deadly Piscine Orthoreovirus (PRV) pose a low risk to wild Fraser River sockeye salmon in British Columbia.
Applicants for shellfish aquaculture permits in Norfolk, Seattle, New Orleans and Baltimore have seen reduced wait times.
With its number of useful tools, developers of a new app are hoping that oyster farmers would treat like an indispensable Swiss army knife.
Alaska’s farmed oyster industry has grown rapidly over the past 10 years. The state’s 29 permitted operators produced over 1.8 million units in 2017, up 36 percent from the previous year.
Carteret Community College (CCC) in Morehead City, North Carolina, is building a 2,500-square-foot mariculture demonstration facility that will serve the state’s growing shellfish mariculture industry.
Could this course be the start of a new industry in Mississippi?
Dallas, Texas-based aquaculture company NaturalShrimp’s order for two additional EC shrimp water treatment systems have arrived at its Lacoste, Texas facility, near San Antonio, the company announced on Thursday.
Falling production of oysters in Europe opens up opportunities for oyster growers in the United States.
Having consistent and reliable source of seed is one the biggest issues across the farmed shellfish sector and Nova Scotia’s farmed shellfish industry is certainly no exception.
Projects in Florida’s Franklin and Wakulla counties are vying for over $49 million in recovery funding from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. An application by the Panacea Oyster Co-op is looking to create a multi-purpose sustainable hatchery/nursery processing facility to benefit the industry in the Apalachee Bay, and to expand educational efforts.
A CBC investigation has found that Canadian grocery stores are selling imported shrimp containing antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
A glance at the US consumption data of shrimp indicates there are ample opportunities for investment in this sector. The US imported 1.5 billion lbs of shrimp in 2017, or over 90 percent of total domestic consumption.
The island community of Georgetown, Maine has been struggling since the fisheries they’ve depended on for a living have all but dried up. Pat Burns, a Georgetown resident of over 30 years knew something had to be done.
Cargill and InnovaFeed have entered into a strategic partnership to bring sustainable and innovative feed options to the animal nutrition industry.
Aquaculture nutrition solutions provider Skretting has developed a new diet aimed at helping tuna farmers avoid the biosecurity risks and sustainability issues associated with baitfish diets. 
Eating seafood instead of popping Omega-3 supplements is a no-brainer because seafood – whether fish or farmed – is the greener choice, says Paul Greenberg, the New York Times bestselling author of Four Fish, American Catch, and The Omega Principle.
Slimy and sometimes smelly seaweed is not stuff most consumers dream of eating and Steve Backman of Magellan Aqua Farms gets that. So he plans to win North American taste buds over to this nutritious yet misunderstood crop one dish at a time.
In the latest push to perfect the technology to make eel farming commercially viable, Japanese scientists are looking at "marine snow" as potential diet for the slippery creature.The so-called marine snow is the decaying sea detritus – comprised of dead plankton and other decaying organisms – found at the bottom of oceans. If baby eels, or elvers, could survive on this diet harvested from the sea, that would be the next breakthrough in the efforts toward commercial production of fully farmed eels, says Prof Takashi Sakamoto of Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology. Japan is on a quest to make eel farming – from egg to maturity – commercially viable. The nation is the world’s largest consumer of the slippery fish but shortage of eel from the wild has caused a spike in prices. Original report can be found here.
Cargill’s efforts to develop a new type of canola oil for use in fish feed has come to fruition with the launch of Latitude, a fish oil alternative that provides long chain Omega-3 fatty acids for aquafeed. The feed producer launched the product today, but it will be commercially available only in 2020 in Canada and Chile. “Latitude is 100-percent traceable since it manages the supply chain from the canola seed to crop cultivation and oil production—and industry-first for a product of this kind,” Cargill said in a statement. Canola is a vegetable oil derived from rapeseed, which is rich in the marine fatty acid DHA. Researchers at the Norwegian Institute of Food, Fisheries and Aquaculture Research (Nofima) said preliminary results of their study show Omega-3 oil derived from canola is safe to use as ingredient in salmon feed. “The growth in aquaculture production brings an increase in demand for Omega-3s,” said Willie Loh, vice president of market development for Cargill’s global edible oils business in North America. “With Latitude, Cargill is combining our aquaculture expertise and canola innovation capabilities to help meet that demand using plant-based Omega-3s in aquafeed, instead of relying on fish oil from over farmed oceans. Latitude will help relieve some of the pressure on wild caught fish, while delivering a reliable Omega-3 product to aquafeed manufacturers – a win-win for the industry.”
In one of several new initiatives to develop more sustainable live feeds for hatchery fish, a Norwegian company has developed a product that makes use of what is deemed as a burden to fish farms and shellfish farms alike: barnacles. The company, Planktonic AS of Norway, harvests barnacles from the ocean, extracts the eggs from inside the barnacles before they have the opportunity to start feeding, and then cryopreserves them. The cryopreservation process keeps them alive and disinfects them.  They are then packed into flasks. When this feed is to be used, it is thawed in seawater, and the barnacles then become "alive" again and therefore constitutes a natural feed for the juvenile fish.Commercial trials earlier this year showed 50 percent larger bream juveniles and 75 percent larger bass, better survival and improved resistance, reported the Global Aquaculture Advocate.
A company in Newfoundland hopes that access to feed specially formulated for sea urchins will change its luck. Green Seafoods did grow-out trials in 2000 but the biggest problem was securing the right feed to increase the roe (gonads) to a marketable size. Operations manager Mark Sheppard says the sea urchins they were raising ended up tasting like what they had just eaten, for instance, kelp or fish protein. With access to feed developed by Norway-based Urchinomics and Nofima, he hopes this second round of sea urchin grow-out trials will yield better results. The feed is special in that it holds its form in water for between seven to 14 days without dissolving, a quality important for urchins because they take a long time to eat. “We know that it works in the lab. We are going to do some full-blown commercial trials this fall,” he says.
Feeding farmed fish with live feeds that are nutritionally enhanced with nutrient-dense liposomes could become a reality sooner than later. Researchers at Oregon State University (OSU) have been studying ways to deliver water-soluble nutrients to aquatic organisms. The problem is that water-soluble nutrients can be rapidly lost from artificial feeds when they are added to the water, resulting in nutrient losses and poor water quality.Liposomes are microscopic particles that are constructed very similar to cell membranes. They are small enough to feed to rotifers and Artemia that are used as live feeds in marine finfish hatcheries. Importantly, liposomes very effectively retain water-soluble compounds when suspended in water. OSU researchers are exploring the use of soy-based liposomes for delivering essential nutrients to larval fish and other aquatic organisms.During his PhD studies, Dr Matt Hawkyard collaborated with researchers from Norway to develop larger scale batches of liposomes to match the scale of aquaculture production. Through feeding nutrient-dense liposomes to Artemia and rotifers, Hawkyard hopes that they can make a drastic impact on mortality rates and improve larval quality in the industry.“We can actually boost the level of, say, taurine, that we know is an essential compound, very much like amino acid, and we can boost those concentrations in rotifers to levels that are beneficial to fish,” says Hawkyard. “These [particles] are extremely efficient and deliver a pretty high payload.”Hawkyard says that after feeding liposome-fed rotifers to Northern Rock Sole larvae they found a tremendous impact on growth after a six-week feeding trial, compared to control groups. Since establishing the potential of the liposomes for such work with taurine, researchers have successfully utilized liposomes to deliver vitamin C, iodine, selenium and other nutrients.One of the key benefits of the liposomes is the prevention of nutrient leaching. One could achieve similar growth results through taurine by simply dissolving a great deal of taurine into rotifer water, says Hawkyard, however that would take 60 to 100 times more taurine because much of the nutrient doesn’t make it to the rotifer. Plus, the wasted nutrients provide a “broth” for bacteria.By improving the quality of live feeds, Hawkyard hopes that they are not only able to reduce mortality rates, but also malformation rates.“Even as we decrease mortality rates and increase survival, you see a pretty high rate of malformations in a lot of marine fish juveniles,” says Hawkyard. “Jaw deformities are really common in a number of species, and fin development and scoliosis – a wide variety of these kinds of physical malformations show up in the later phases. But they look like they’re related to things that are happening in the larval stage and, probably, a large number of that, or at least a fraction of those malformations are due to nutritional deficiencies or imbalances.”Going forward, Hawkyard says OSU are working on a few other particle types, including a complex particle where they are trying to integrate liposomes into a larger particle to feed directly to fish.
ADM Animal Nutrition launched at Aquaculture America a new protein source for aquaculture, called PROPLEX T. Composed of dried fermentation biomass, PROPLEX T provides a consistent source of digestible protein and high levels of essential amino acids for fish and shrimp. The company says PROPLEX T has proven to be a successful replacement for other protein sources, such as fishmeal, in diets for fish and shrimp. “PROPLEX T is a cost-effective protein source that can be used in place of expensive or variable protein products,” said Dr John Bowzer, aquaculture research scientist for ADM. “Additionally, PROPLEX T provides feed manufacturers with added flexibility in formulations due to its high protein content and favorable amino acid profile.”
Canola oil could someday become a common ingredient for salmon feed. At the moment, raising fish rich in Omega-3s means supplementing their feed with fish oil. Researchers at the Norwegian Institute of Food, Fisheries and Aquaculture Research (Nofima) said preliminary results of their study show Omega-3 oil derived from canola is safe to use as ingredient in salmon feed. Canola is a vegetable oil derived from rapeseed, which is rich in the marine fatty acid DHA. Results of the Nofima study show salmon given feed containing Omega-3 Canola had the same Omega-3 levels as salmon fed with fish oil. Gene expression analyses showed that effects depended on the amount of oil, not the type of oil, the study says. Feed producer Cargill is developing a new type of canola oil for use in fish feed.
FeedKind protein, a new fish-feed ingredient touted to reduce aquaculture’s use of fishmeal, is expected to reach the market in 2019 once commercial production begins at Calysta Inc’s Tennessee facility.
A new breed of pumps has been engineered to eliminate the need for separate water circulation and aeration systems in aquaculture operations.
By nature of farming in the water, there are numerous tasks that need to be tended to that are under the site. This is the domain of the aquaculture diver. These divers use scuba and surface supplied diving apparatus to access the underwater area of the site and perform work and observe and report on the health of the herd in its environment.
With access to two on-campus hatcheries, the experiential learning within Fleming College’s Aquaculture Co-op program ensures students have a head start on their career.
Cornell University is ahead of its time in offering courses on recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS). While the aquaculture industry is only beginning to use RAS in raising fish to market size, Cornell has been teaching RAS courses over the past 25 years.
A new delousing tool that removes sea lice based on a patented flushing system has been developed by Sea Farm Innovations (SFI) and adapted by salmon farmer Cermaq.
Washington State’s leading fish farmers group is embarking on a strategic rebrand in response to the industry’s changing landscape.
Animal feed producer ADM has completed its $1.76 billion (€1.544 billion) acquisition of Neovia.
Phibro Animal Health Corp has acquired the assets of KoVax Ltd, an Israel-based developer and manufacturer of vaccines for the global aquaculture market.
Grandview, Mo.-based water and wasterwater management equipment manufacturer Air-O-Lator has launched its online store.
The quest to make salmon aquaculture more sustainable has gotten a boost from an innovative feed that uses Omega-3 fatty acid products derived from natural marine algae.
Shrimp and fish farmers and hatchery owners no longer need to rely on manual data entry to monitor their stocks and maximize profitability.
Ontario-based environmental monitoring company Hoskin Scientific has introduced Ohio-based water measurement solutions provider YSI’s latest optical dissolved oxygen (ODO) field meter.
Blue crabs (Callinectes sapidus) have played an important part in Mississippi's history and economy for years. Consumers enjoy the species as appetizers and seafood products, but blue crab populations in the wild are declining, putting a strain on local fishermen.
The first time I met David Rideout was in an industry - government meeting in 1999 where he asked me to close my laptop so that the group could have a frank discussion. I didn't know it then but this would be the first of many frank discussions to come.
Roughly 50 seafood exhibitors participated in the two-day BC Seafood Expo, the trade show and conference program within the 10-day BC Seafood Festival that celebrated the province's seafood bounty from June 7-16.
'Farmed versus wild' is often heard in the seafood industry, but for 10 days in British Columbia's Comox Valley the farmed and wild seafood sectors came together under one banner to promote BC seafood.
When the newly elected chief of the Wei Wai Kum First Nation in Campbell River, British Columbia spoke at a salmon farmers summit in September, he admitted he “struggled” with his decision to attend the event. The chief, Chris Roberts, withheld the “First Nations Blessing” that was to kick off the program that crisp autumn morning.
Canada’s new federal minister responsible for regulating the aquaculture industry, Jonathan Wilkinson, has spent the last 30 years working in both politics and business (see side bar). With his appointment in July as federal Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard, he heads the federal agency that oversees the aquaculture industry throughout Canada, among a host of other roles.
Cedar Crest Trout Hatcheries lies in Hanover, Ontario, Canada, at the base of the Bruce Peninsula, in the heart of Ontario’s rainbow trout (Oncorhychus mykiss) fingerling production area. This location is perfectly placed to ship fish to Cedar Crest’s primary clients on Lake Huron. In truth, Cedar Crest is four closely placed hatcheries, making Cedar Crest the largest producer of fingerlings in the province. Between the four locations, Cedar Crest produces more than seven million fingerlings each year.
Unglamorous as it may be, mortality collection, classification and analysis are an essential job at any hatchery. Often, mort picking is seen as the bottom end of the job spectrum. 
The company is building a land-based Atlantic salmon farm in a former paper mill in the state. Repurposing the paper mill has saved the company a lot of money, according to head of Business Development Ben Willaeur. “Paper-making also involves high intensity water usage and the intake and discharge saltwater so the infrastructure already exists. That reduced our costs tremendously,” Willaeur says.The farm will create 50-60 jobs directly, as well as a number of indirect jobs through construction or byproduct utilization. The facility is the first of many being planned by Whole Oceans in Maine. CEO Rob Piasio hopes the company could eventually capture 10 percent of the domestic salmon market.“We’ll achieve that goal by growing numerous farms in different locations in Maine; that will get us to 50,000 metric tons of capacity, or more,” says Willaeur. “But it’s a long-term goal. That could take 20 years, or more, but it’s ultimately something that may happen much sooner than expected.”While acknowledging that the 50K MT capacity is a very large number relative to what is currently being grown in RAS facilities within and outside the US, Willaeur believes it is something the market can bear. “There is, I think, going to be an awareness that the consumer will bring when they become more familiar with the quality that RAS fish possess in terms of their taste, but also in terms of the fact that they’re taking pressure off an endangered wild species and really have controlled food and water quality.”Market demand is promising. Whole Oceans says it has already pre-sold 100 percent of its projected inventory. Willaeur downplays competition among RAS producers; instead, he speaks highly about the work done by contemporaries such as Nordic Aquafarms and Atlantic Sapphire in this sector. He believes the market has more than enough room for everyone.“The industry is dynamic enough that we find most participants consider themselves as partners rather than competitors. Everybody wants each other to be successful. There’s a lot of knowledge-sharing in terms of the growth of the technology and the innovation that’s occurring.”That collaboration is part of why Willaeur and Piasio, both Maine natives,would like to see the state become a global hub for RAS technology. That hub would be formed both through partnerships with both the industry and academia. The knowledge base of RAS systems incorporates everything from chemistry to biology, electrical and mechanical engineering and international procurement.“There’s just a myriad of diverse centers of knowledge that we would be looking to recruit, and looking to acclimate specifically to our work. We feel that academic institutions in this state are rising to the occasion and are very interested in producing integrated academic offerings, partnering with industry partners within the state.”
Students at New Jersey’s Willingboro High School have acquired the taste for aquaponics.         Gary Nelson, program director for the school’s Making Visions Possible department, says that the students designed and developed an aquaponic system themselves. The project was driven by the desire to source pesticide-free fruits and vegetables locally. Today they grow tilapia, lettuce, kale, Swiss chard and collard greens.“There was a tremendous amount of trial and error,” says Nelson, who works with the students on the system. “We went through water leaks – we had about 70 tilapia in our 700-gallon stock tank and we came in one day and water was all over the place and the fish were hanging on by a thread. We were able to just save them.”Nelson says the students faced the challenges head on, researching plant nutrition or different plumbing systems to solve them and improve the system overall. They are developing a business plan for a community food program to sell the produce and fish. Their goal is to raise funds for a solar-powered greenhouse to work in concert with the aquaponic system.“To bring something like this to the school system is a big deal because it teaches way more than fish anatomy or even gardening. It incorporates so many different things that it can literally be any class you choose – it can be a math class, it can be a health class, it can be a science class. It’s multi-faceted,” says Nelson.
At the heart of southwestern Ontario, one crop producer has mastered the art of aquaponics, where healthy tilapia are grown alongside premium quality cannabis.  Green Relief has been growing marijuana for medicinal purposes since 2016. From the beginning, the company has made it its mission to find sustainable ways to grow their crop.“Aquaponics started for us as a small greenhouse addition to the back of our house with a self-contained system,” explains CEO Warren Bravo. “We were going to grow vegetables for our family all year round, at a greenhouse that we can walk up to.” Bravo’s 50-acre property in Flamborough, Ontario, is home to Green Relief’s 32,000-sq-ft indoor grow facility. Construction is underway for an additional 220,000-sq-ft building that’s expected to produce 45,000 kgs of cannabis annually. A third building is also part of the expansion plan, which will provide an additional 180,000 sq ft of production space for the company. Green Relief is one of at least 114 licensed cannabis producers in Canada, but its growing technique is unique in the industry. Using aquaponics technology developed with Nelson and Pade, in Montello, Wisconsin, Green Relief uses fish waste carried through a recirculating water system to deliver nutrients to the cannabis plants. Around 300 tilapia are grown in circular tanks located inside the grow room. Upon maturity, the fish are harvested and donated to local food banks.“The idea of having an aquaponics system at the house has morphed into what you see now as North America’s – or the world’s – only high-production cannabis facility using aquaponics,” Bravo states. Fish for feedPut plainly, aquaponics is a method of growing food that uses a closed-loop process that mimics the ecosystem. Green Relief’s aquaponic structure is powered by a recirculating aquaculture system containing 18,000 gallons of water continuously recycling through the system, explains Derek Bravo, operations manager at Green Relief.Fish start out in the system as fry. They stay in the nursery with young cannabis plants. As both plant and fish grow, they are transferred to the main grow room where they stay until ready for harvest, at which point they go their separate ways – the cannabis flowers go to the dry room for processing and the tilapia go into Second Harvest trucks for delivery to local food banks.All the magic happens in the grow room. Derek Bravo explains they use only organic fish feed to grow the fish. Fish waste is then produced, which flows through the tank into the clarifiers. The clarifiers are the first level of filtration, consisting of a light screen in the middle. Heavy solids then sink to the bottom of the tank, while the finer solids flow through from the clarifier into the mineralization tank to be broken down further. The water then goes into the bioreactor.“That’s where the aerobic bacteria is created with heavily oxygenated tank with a bunch of bio beads where the bacteria lives on,” Bravo explains. “Once the beads get too covered with bacteria coating, it will break off, flow into our system that attaches to one of the grow beds.” In this process, nitrification occurs and the resulting nitrate becomes nutrient for the plants. “The plants just sit on styrofoam, and they just float on the water. Their roots go down the water and uptake nutrients whenever they need them,” Bravo says. The water then flows back to the fish tank and the cycle repeats.Ecosystem approachCEO Warren Bravo notes the significant amount of research and the huge learning curve that went into the process of building Green Relief’s aquaponics facility. Bravo and Green Relief co-founder Steve LeBlanc both come from the construction industry. Their knowledge of buildings and structures only took them halfway through achieving their goal of establishing a sustainable cannabis production company that leaves as little impact on the environment as possible. The rest, they had to learn. The pair spent over two years doing research on aquaponics, speaking with known experts on aquaponics and sustainable agriculture around the world. Among them was Nick Savidov, senior research scientist of the aquaponics program at Lethbridge College in Alberta.“Aquaponics is an integrated multi-trophic production system,” explains Savidov. In aquaculture, an integrated multi-trophic system follows the concept of a natural marine ecosystem, where one species produces the waste or byproducts that become sustenance to another organism within the ecosystem. “Natural ecosystem does not have waste; everything is getting utilized, so that the waste product of one component – such as fish manure ¬– become feed stock for another component, which are beneficial microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, protozoa and so forth. The plants are fed by the water, then the water goes back to the fish,” Savidov says. The aquaponics approach is different from the traditional monoculture approach in agriculture – such as hydroponic or soil-based crops – which have largely become unsustainable, he says. In an aquaponic system, “recirculation” is key, Savidov says. “Water becomes not just a habitat for plants, fish and the nutrients and microorganisms. Water becomes a carrier, a link that ties together all those components.”Although in its infancy, aquaponics is beginning to gain traction in the food production industry (see sidde bar: The business case for aquaponics). A recent decision by the U.S. Department of Agriculture not to reject aquaponics as an organic technology opens up a huge potential for aquaponic-based food production facilities to get certified as organic, Savidov says. He hopes Canada would follow suit.Another advantage of aquaponics over traditional methods of food production is that every component can be naturally grown without any use of chemicals or additional fertilizers. “In modern agriculture we use resources such as fertilizer. All fertilizers come from finite resources… from raw deposits which are not limitless,” Savidov notes. “What happens if we exhaust all raw deposits?”Savidov acknowledges fish feed may be the biggest cost factor in an aquaponic system, but even that, in the long run, can be addressed by a self-sustaining, advanced system that increases plant output with less amount of fish feed. The key is in the aerobic bioreactors.“Use of aerobic bioreactors allows 100 percent nutrient recycling in an aquaponic system and improves the crop output in the system,” Savidov explains.
Sometimes you can see the future by looking to the past.  Connecticut shellfish farmer Bren Smith would walk by a mural on the wall of the Madison post office that depicts farmers gathering seaweed from the beaches of Long Island Sound in the 1930s. “I didn’t make the connection until I was growing kelp myself. One of the things it was used for was fertilizer.”“The last thing I really wanted to do was grow kelp,” admits Smith, but kelp’s nature as a fast-growing crop that requires low maintenance was hard to resist. “You do almost nothing to it, just a drive-by every two weeks to be sure the gear isn’t broken,” he says.The need to generate various sources of income led Smith to adopt the IMTA model. “Every commercial fisherman (he used to be one) knows one needs a diverse source of income. I was also looking for other things to grow to use all of the water column.”  IMTA as a farming concept has been introduced in the Western world in 2004, although the process of rearing multiple fish species (polyculture) in one location is ancient; the Chinese have been doing it for ages.Smith shares with others the IMTA “gospel” but he thinks IMTA’s full name — integrated multi-trophic aquaculture — is “horrible and alienating.” “We are trying to attract people to ocean farming so we call it 3D Ocean Farming,” he says. (Dr Thierry Chopin, whose research focuses on IMTA and was instrumental in promoting the concept, says there have been over 1,300 publications on IMTA since it was introduced in the Western world in 2004, so he won’t change its name, he said at Aquaculture Canada 2018.)  Through GreenWave, a nonprofit Smith founded (see side bar), people across the US and overseas are learning about the benefits of “regenerative ocean farming.” “Shellfish like mussels taught me that we can farm to restore rather than deplete. As farmers, our crops can breathe life back into the oceans while feeding local communities,” Smith wrote on the website of a GreenWave sponsor.Tweaking IMTASmith took his cue from the oysters when he was developing his version of IMTA.  “I like growing things that don’t need to be fed and can’t swim away. With all of the things we grow we are able to do simple rope culture and that keeps the infrastructure costs down.”Without fish in the IMTA equation, this method of farming makes much more economic sense for small to medium size farmers, Smith says.  “Most IMTA starts with fish, to which other things are added. What I’ve done is I simplified it and lowered the barrier to entry by making things cheaper.”“From my 20 acre farm I harvest 10 to 30 tons of seaweed and 250,000 shellfish per acre a year. With our model, an ocean farmer can gross $300,000 a year and provide two to three full-time jobs and seven to 10 seasonal jobs,” he adds.Smith grows clams on the ocean floor at the bottom of his lease. But having his oysters buried by storm surges led him to pull them off the bottom. Oysters are in suspended trays, scallops are in lantern nets and mussels in socks all hanging from a long line.  The kelp is grown on the long lines in the winter.  While labour is the top input in this model, Smiths says it varies between crops.  “Clams just sit in the mud, we don’t cover them with nets so we lose some, but we also don’t have to do anything,” he says.  “Oysters require a fair amount of work for a good product, and scallops are just a pain.” Kelp harvest is labor-intensive.  When Aquaculture North America spoke to Smith in May, he was in the midst of harvest and watching out for the sweet spot that would allow for maximum growth. “They can double in length in May. But we have to harvest them before they start to become bio-fouled in the warmer water temperatures, or they will have to go to fertilizer.” Smith sells his harvest locally under the brand Thimble Island Ocean Farm. “Our scallops don’t grow very big adductor muscles in the lantern nets so we sell them whole to restaurants and people eat them raw like oysters.” The new kaleKelp presents a different marketing challenge.  “The problem with kelp is nobody wants to eat it,” says Smith. But significant progress is being made, he says, by marketing kelp as “the new kale,” by moving it to the center of plates, and talking about “merroir” (like “terroir” in wine industry jargon) and “arugula from the sea.”  There are high-end chefs experimenting with everything from kelp pasta to using it to flavor cocktails.  Smith says they have also had success partnering with other food processors, including one that’s making kelp-and-mushroom jerky.“I thought it would take 20 years to build a market for those specialty items, but we have back orders for half a million pounds of kelp right now,” Smith says. The other strategy was to take a page from the soy producers’ playbook.  “The soy industry got together and realized they weren’t going to get many Americans to eat soy, so they put it into everything,” Smith explains, only half joking.  “The great thing about seaweed is that it’s a human and animal food, it goes into cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, fertilizer and biofuels.  We can stuff it into everything.“We’ve had a lot of success with it, our challenge now is permitting and developing hatcheries fast enough to meet the demand.”Smith is now exploring ways to stabilize output from a given lease using remote sensing.  “As an ocean farmer, your soil turns over a thousand times a day. Some years we get kelp that is three feet long, some years it is 20 feet. I need to know about the current, light penetration, and where the nutrients are in the water column. Then I can go out and raise or lower the farm to where those nutrients are.”     Side BarCultivating underwater farmersGreenWave is a farmer-run organization that helps attract, educate and support new shellfish farmers.  “My first goal is to create jobs,” says Bren Smith, the organization’s founder and executive director.  He knows from experience that new farmers need all the help they could get. “I was a terrible at first, I killed most of them,” says Smith, recalling his first foray into shellfish farming. The nonprofit helps farmers with site selection and the permitting that will get them started. They build hatcheries for seed and provide a distribution hub and market research. “The US simply does not have a functioning government to do this kind of training and industry development, like you would find, say, in South Korea,” says Smith. “We decided we would do it ourselves.”  Training is free, thanks to generous sponsors like outdoors clothing company Patagonia.  GreenWave has supported new farmers in New England and Alaska and is moving into California. “We’ve had requests from virtually every coastal state and over 20 other countries,” says Smith.  “We have always been open source but we have a grant now to put all of our material into online learning, which we hope to have up by this fall.”   GreenWave’s program has resulted in 17 farm startups, which are all currently operating. Eight farmers are currently enrolled in the FIT (Farmer-In-Training) program, and 10 more are expected.

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