Researchers are working to minimize production challenges in a number of areas, including feed. James Garvey, director of the Southern Illinois University (SIU) Carbondale Fisheries & Illinois Aquaculture Center, says it has partnered with ISA to find soy characteristics that work best in fish feed rations. “Feed is a big cost for aquaculture,” he says. “Soy as an alternative to fish meal in rations can be an ideal fit and is more cost-effective.”

Research has alreadyshown soybean meal is consistent in quality and can be produced in a range of protein levels for aquafeeds. Soy has the best amino-acid complex of all plant proteins, is highly digestible and proven to yield rapid fish growth and low feed-conversion ratios. SIU researchers are focusing now on palatability and nutritional supplements.

USB is funding two projects at Auburn University to assist southern fish farmers. One focuses on improving catfish management practices from “pond to plate” to improve efficiencies, enhance quality and decrease production costs. The other project focuses on developing new land-based production technologies with a variety of different methods to accommodate species.

“The interesting component is that the systems’ effluent is used as fertilizer for vegetables, fruits and ornamental plants,” says Fitzpatrick. It converts a waste-disposal problem into a value stream fertilizer, she says. And it provides an additional income stream from the plants. “Since fertilizer represents a major cost of production, this is a win-win for farmers.”

Marty Ross, Delmar, DE, and USB director, believes that domestic aquaculture production is the next frontier for U.S. soybean farmers.

“This new industry is the single greatest value-added opportunity since the inception of the modern poultry industry,” he says. “Investing soybean checkoff dollars toward domestic aquaculture production will open the door for maximum return while ensuring U.S. soybean products are used to fill this demand. Promoting domestic aquaculture production will also compliment U.S. food production independence and food safety oversight. The combination of economic opportunity and national interest will provide checkoff farmer-leaders with significant leveraging opportunities, making this investment even more attractive.”