Aquaculture North America

Features
West Coast industry groups cooking up customer-experience center


January 24, 2022
By Liza Mayer
Customer-driven exploration of seafood high on the agenda of the innovation hub being planned for the west coast Photo: Adobe Stock

Telling the story of farmed seafood is the mission for a new customer-experience center that three aquaculture industry groups and a non-profit are envisioning for the west coast.

Thanks to a $197,000 grant from the USDA Local Food Promotion Program, the Steward Foundation and industry partners – the Oregon Aquaculture Association, Northwest Aquaculture Alliance and the California Aquaculture Association – can now conduct an implementation plan for the Pacific Aquaculture Marketing & Innovation Center.

The implementation plan will have the specific details about what the project would cost, what it would look like, who the beneficiaries would be and what the operating cost would be, said John Moehl, advisor to the Oregon Aquaculture Association and aquaculture development specialist.

He said the idea was born several years ago when an opportunity to repurpose a defunct cannery in Oregon opened up.

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“The cannery seemed like a very ideal facility because it has City water rights so we actually worked on developing an outline of how that facility could be used as an innovation center. We tailored our initial thoughts to a specific site, a specific locale, a specific structure.”

The cannery was eventually sold to another entity but the idea remained. Moehl noted that while there are a few aquaculture innovation centers in the US, many are tied to universities and there’s none that cover multiple states or share this groups’ specific vision.

They envision a world-class aquaculture hub that brings together farmers, value-added food producers, distributors, and retailers from across the region. Establishing the center will provide infrastructure and capacity to drive new aquaculture business formation, accelerate market growth, create jobs, and establish robust supply chain infrastructure to serve a diverse consumer base.

“Our vision is for a unique center that focuses on innovations that are as much for seafood marketing, including culinary options, and adult education and outreach as they are for the technologies, economics, and impacts of production or the policies and regulations governing these operations,” said Moehl.

“We see the center having retail sales. We see it being open to the public. We see it having an education function – both in terms of formal education, having training sessions, dealing with Cooperative Extension, dealing with sessions that are done through aquaculture associations. As it will be open to the public, there would be retail sales. We would have restaurants there or some kind of cooking presentations. So people could look at different types of seafood that maybe are not readily or highly consumed along the west coast, different ways of preparing seafood. So, this would be kind of like ecotourism, a learning experience for visitors.”

The Steward Foundation helped the associations secure the USDA grant. In this capacity, the foundation will oversee and coordinate the PAMIC project to ensure it fulfills all grant goals and obligations.