New Orleans city skyline

The aquaculture sector has been experiencing remarkable growth worldwide, becoming an increasingly important source of healthy and sustainable food. The insightful discussions and sessions held at Aquaculture America 2023 in February highlighted that aquaculture is undoubtedly food for the future.

Virginia Seafood AREC faculty and staff convened with other researchers, farmers, and industry leaders in New Orleans, Louisiana, where they had the opportunity to present on various aspects of aquaculture, including consumer preferences in marketing, economic impact assessment, sorghum protein for aquafeeds, oyster larval culture, and other research and extension work. The VSAREC team returned to the center in Hampton feeling inspired by the connections they made, the conversations they had, and the new opportunities to support the future of aquaculture.

Researchers attend and present at conference.
Virginia Seafood AREC faculty, staff, and graduates in attendance at Aquaculture America 2023 in New Orleans. (First row, from left) Taozhu Sun, Katheryn Parraga-Estrada, Keri Rouse, Shannon Fluharty. (Back row, from left) Noah Boldt, Charles Clark, Carole Engle, Fernando Gonçalves, Selcuk Uzmanoglu, Mohammad Zarei. (Not pictured) Michael Schwarz, Domena Agyeman.

Access the the full list of sessions and descriptions and learn more about the meeting on the conference website.

Michael Schwarz stands in front of the Hampton River and a dock

Michael Schwarz
Center Director, VSAREC

Description: Core research and Extension programs at the Virginia Tech - Virginia Seafood Agricultural Research and Extension Center focus on seafood safety and quality of wild-caught, cultured animals and products, business and marketing support for the commercial and aquaculture industries, engineering, thermal processing, intensive recirculating aquaculture, and education/outreach for industry and consumers. In 2022, the Center moved into a new state-of-the-art 22,000-square-foot facility, with design considerations to enhance coastal resilience. New major program area expansions are currently underway, including Sustainable Food Production Systems (aquaponics, microbiome, RAS, alternative proteins including plants and insects); cellular agriculture; Economics and Marketing (policy and regulatory impacts, farm production economics, economic impact analysis, financial benchmarking, and automation/robotics); coastal resilience; in addition to offshore renewable energy and co-location of synergistic activities.

Presenter: Michael H. Schwarz

Co-Authors: Jonathan van Senten, Reza Ovissipour, Katheryn Parraga-Estrada, Wendy Stout, Keri Rouse

Headshot of Domena A. Agyeman

Domena Agyeman
Postdoctoral Associate, VSAREC

Summary: My presentation is going to highlight the effectiveness of NCRAC-funded projects, and the impacts NCRAC-funded projects have had on aquaculture businesses in the North Central Region.

SESSION:  US Aquaculture Research and Extension Program Updates
SESSION DAY:  Sunday, February 26

Headshot of Fernando Gonçalves.

Fernando Gonçalves
Research Scientist, VSAREC

Description of the presentation: I will present the steps involved in surveying Watermen, Aquaculture Farmers, Processors, and Distributors and highlight the process of estimating how the seafood industry helps Virginia’s economy by creating job opportunities, interacting with other economic sectors, and generating tax revenue in 2019.

Co-authors: Jonathan van Senten, Michael Schwarz, and Shraddha Hegde.

SESSION:  Aquaculture Economics
SESSION DAY:  Friday, February 24

Mohammad Zarei headshot

Mohammad Zarei
Research Scientist, VSAREC

SESSION: Feed Ingredients

SESSION DAY: Saturday, February 25

Presenting Author: Mohammad Zarei

Co-Authors: Michael Schwarz, Reza Ovissipour 

Headshot of Charles Clark

Charles Clark
Lab & Research Specialist, VSAREC

Abstract: The public health crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic led to the shutdown of restaurants and nonessential businesses throughout the United States. With the majority ($69.6 billion, 68%) of seafood expenditures prior to the COVID-19 pandemic occurring at food service establishments, this has resulted in an unparalleled shock to U.S. fisheries and aquaculture producers (NOAA 2018). Furthermore, the USDA Census of Aquaculture reported that for shellfish farms only 4% of their first point of sales were direct to consumers (USDA 2019). As farms and businesses attempt to respond to the loss of revenue from traditional marketing channels and establish direct to consumer channels, a key question concerned the extent of changes in consumer demand and preferences for seafood products. Thus, the goal of this project was to gather market information on changes in how, when, and where consumers purchase seafood in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This presentation will summarize the results of information specific to responses related to seafood purchases at households located within pre-determined regions of Virginia. Survey respondents were asked about seafood purchases prior to (2019) and during (2020) the COVID-19 pandemic.

Presenter: Charles Clark

Co-Authors: Jonathan van Senten, Michael Ciaramella, Matt Parker

SESSION: Marketing and Consumer Perceptions

DATE: Sunday 2/26

TIME: 8:30am

Taozhu Sun

Taozhu Sun
Postdoctoral Associate, VSAREC
Poster presentation

Abstract: In this project, we have developed a prototype bioreactor system to clean and polish production water for direct reuse during oyster larval production. The system (as seen in the picture) can be integrated directly into standard hatchery operations, which include a typical drain/fill of larval tanks on a two-day cycle. Under standard operations, the larvae are usually resuspended in the water pumped from coastal waters or in a continuous supply culture system. While using our new technology, the water is sourced from a recirculating bioreactor. This bioreactor accomplishes converting nitrogenous wastes and organic material from microalgae and larvae. It also promotes the removal of fast-growing bacteria responding to larval culture, including potentially pathogenic bacteria (e.g., Vibrio spp.), by promoting populations of bacterivorous protists within the bioreactor. As a result, it supports bivalve hatchery operations “offline” when ambient water quality in coastal areas is impaired. Additionally, this technology supports remote hatchery operations without direct access to surface water and out-of-season or head-start production. 

Currently, the system is scaled up and in test at a commercial hatchery. Water quality (e.g., temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, salinity, total ammonia nitrogen, nitrite, nitrate, and alkalinity), seeds survival rate, and microbial community study (e.g., plate counts, DNA sequencing) were performed and evaluated. Our preliminary data indicated promising results compared to standard commercial single-use water management practices. The system has shown great potential in enhancing seed production consistency temporally, reducing reliance on coastal waters during poor ambient water quality, and providing improved options for out-of-season or early-season seed.

Image of Selcuk Uzmanoglu

Selcuk Uzmanoglu
Research Scholar, VSAREC

Abstract: The main goal of this study was to reveal the basic and supportive activities that should be included in the value chain for trout farming in Turkey and to perform a value chain analysis of trout farming. The concept of value chain was first used in the 1960s and 1970s by analysts who charted development paths for mineral-exporting economies. Since the 1990s, value chain analysis has been widely applied across other industries. The value chain consists of the activities required from the inception of a product or service (from the idea and design stage) through the different production stages (by combining the inputs of physical transformation and various producer services), to reaching the end consumers and eliminating it after use (including recycling). The value chain; consists of two main parts: primary activities (incoming logistics, operations, outgoing logistics, marketing and sales, services) and supporting activities (firm infrastructure, human resources method, technology development, supply). The value of this work; was to reveal the value chain map of the trout farming sector and determine the product flow along the value chain across the various stages. This study was the first of its kind within the field of fisheries among the value chain analysis applications in the national literature.

The knowledge developed by this study consists of primary data and secondary data obtained from interviews with stakeholders in the trout farming sector in inland waters (lakes and streams). First, the value chain of the trout farming sector was mapped, and the main actors and stakeholders in the sector were identified, and the entire product flow from production to the end consumer was defined. The basic and supporting activities in the value chain of trout farming in Turkey were determined based on the value chain model of Porter (1985). Five basic activities and their sub-dimensions and four supporting activities and their sub-dimensions in the value chain model of Porter (1985) were examined, supported by the information obtained from the actors and stakeholders in the trout farming sector in our country.

SESSION:  Marketing and Consumer Perceptions

SESSION DAY:  Sunday, February 26


Noah Boldt Headshot

Noah Boldt
Research Associate, VSAREC
Chair and Moderator

Synopsis: Surveys are a useful tool to collect primary data from producers, processors, wholesalers, consumers, and others. Yet few aquaculture researchers are trained in survey methodologies that extend from the initial design of the survey, list frame development, sampling methodology, recruitment of participants, and interview methodologies. As a result, many surveys are poorly designed and administered, generating misleading or erroneous results. The proliferation of surveys through online platforms in recent years has led to high levels of survey fatigue, exacerbating the difficulty of obtaining reliable, valid results from surveys. This session aims to highlight some of the common pitfalls in survey design and implementation to increase awareness of the degree of due diligence required to generate robust, reliable, and valid data from surveys. Speakers with extensive experience in survey methodology from federal agencies and academic institutions will be featured followed by a panel composed of producers from across the country to share their thoughts about how and why they choose to respond to some surveys but not others.