A few weeks ago, you'd find researcher Fernando Gonçalves on an oyster boat in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay, accompanying waterman from Tangier Island on their early morning oyster run. While the waterman gathered their daily haul of oysters, Gonçalves had ventured to Tangier Island to collect something else — survey responses. 

Gonçalves has been reaching out to players in every level of the seafood supply chain to collect data to demonstrate the economic scale and reach of the Virginia seafood industry — an industry that is third in the Nation and first on the East Coast in seafood landings. Last week, he and the Virginia Seafood Agricultural Research and Extension Center team were among 140 other researchers, growers, and industry leaders attending the Virginia Aquaculture Conference in Newport News. 

Organized by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science Marine Advisory Program, the conference was held January 7-8 and featured a trade show as well as resources, technologies, and research relevant to the industry. In a conference session, Gonçalves shared an overview of his work on the economic impact analysis study being conducted in partnership with the Virginia Marine Products Board and how the results could serve as a tool to provide better visibility for the industry.

His was one of several Virginia Seafood AREC research projects and programs highlighted in presentations by Virginia Tech faculty and at the center's booth at the conference expo. There, educational project flyers, videos, and friendly faces from the center in Hampton helped to give the local seafood community a peek into the current projects that aim to support the growth and resiliency of the industry.

Table and booth for the Virginia Seafood AREC at the Virginia Aquaculture Conference
Virginia Seafood AREC faculty and staff share resources with attendees at the Virginia Seafood AREC expo booth.

Among the display were labeled glass jars full of insects, all of them edible. One jar contained dried black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens) larvae. While small in size, these insects have big potential for applications in food production and environmental sustainability. Researchers at the Virginia Seafood AREC are exploring this potential. 

Reza Ovissipour, an assistant professor in the Virginia Tech Department of Food Science and Technology, Virginia Cooperative Extension specialist, presented a talk on research utilizing the larvae's ability to transform waste into usable protein by eating almost any organic matter. He and other researchers at the center in Hampton are studying several applications for black soldier fly, including use as an ingredient for aquaculture feed.

Photo Gallery - Virginia Aquaculture Conference

Presentations delivered by Virginia Seafood AREC faculty

Assessing consumer behaviors – are pandemic trends temporary?
-Jonathan van Senten
Virginia Tech – Virginia Seafood Agricultural Research and Extension Center Program Updates 
-Michael Schwarz
VSAREC – Seafood Economic Analysis and Marketing Research Program Update
-Jonathan van Senten
Food Safety Programming at the Seafood AREC: Updates and Services Provided to Industry 
-Katheryn Parraga-Estrada
Emerging Technologies for Enhancing Aquaponics Food Safety 
-Reza Ovissipour
United Sorghum Checkoff Program – SmartFeeds Programming 
-Michael Schwarz
Black Soldier Fly Initiative at the Seafood AREC:  Opportunities for Aquafeed Development 
-Reza Ovissipour
Assessing the Economic Impact of the Virginia Seafood Industry 
- Fernando Gonçalves