Aquaculture researchers, farmers, and industry leaders convene for Aquaculture America 2021 conference
Across the world, declining water quality is causing problems for those living and working in coastal zones, including oyster hatchery farmers.
Farmers typically rely on continuously pumping coastal water for use in tanks where oyster larvae are grown. But this standard way of raising oyster seed has farms hinging on a highly variable resource—the water from rivers, estuaries, bays, and oceans, explains Michael Schwarz, director at the Virginia Seafood Agricultural Research and Extension Center of Virginia Tech.
Schwarz was among other researchers, farmers, and industry leaders who convened in San Antonio for the United States Aquaculture Society's Aquaculture America 2021 conference this August.
In his presentation, Schwarz described the Extension center's ongoing research with partners from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science Eastern Shore Lab, Virginia Sea Grant, and Oyster Seed Holdings, LLC to develop a system to clean and reuse oyster hatchery water, removing the variability of coastal water quality from the equation.
With more conference presentations exploring various facets of aquaculture—from adapting business strategies in the wake of the pandemic to assessing the economic impact of seafood supply chains—the Virginia Seafood Agricultural Research and Extension Center had a strong presence at this year's conference with seven faculty and staff in attendance.
The US-centric event is the largest aquaculture trade show in the Western Hemisphere and the only major national aquaculture conference held in the US. Rescheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the conference ran from August 11-14 with over a thousand presenters, attendees, and trade show vendors to draw together experts at the helm of the aquaculture industry.
In a session chaired by Jonathan van Senten, assistant director at the Virginia Seafood AREC and assistant professor in the Virginia Tech Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, presentations focused on resiliency strategies for aquaculture farmers at a time when many are still recovering from impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic.
One significant impact of the pandemic was the disruption of supply chains, explained van Senten. Many seafood producers had to adjust their strategies to sell their products when faced with a sudden drop in revenue from food service, a primary source of income for many aquaculture businesses.
"Strategic marketing requires that every business look at their own strengths and weaknesses to determine what is the best solution for them," said van Senten.
He hopes that the lessons learned as a result of the shock of the last two years are carried forward to respond to the next crisis.
All talks from the "Farming in the Time of a Pandemic: Impacts, Response, and Planning" session will soon be available online as a resource to the aquaculture industry.
Other featured oral presentations from Extension center faculty, staff, and affiliates include:
Noah Boldt, recent graduate and incoming post-doc: “Quantifying Regulatory Costs – An Overview of the Florida Ornamental Industry” ; “A Regulatory Impact Assessment of Ornamental Aquaculture Farms in Florida”
Charles Clark, laboratory & research specialist: "Impacts of COVID-19 on U.S. Mollusk Aquaculture"
Carole Engle, adjunct faculty: U.S. Aquaculture and the Pandemic: Impacts, Near Misses, The Future?”; “Farm-level Cost Drivers of Salmonid Fish Health Inspections” ; “Farm Financial Health” ; “Cost Drivers and Profitability of U.S. Pond, Raceway, and RAS Aquaculture” ; “Resource Use Efficiency in US Aquaculture: Farm-level Comparisons Across Fish Species and Production Systems” ; “Setting the Scene: What Farm Data Reveal About Paths Forward” ; “Economic Trade-offs and Risk Between Traditional Bottom and Container Culture of Oysters on Maryland Farms”
Fernando Gonçalves, research scientist: "Characterization of the Virginia Seafood Supply Chain"
Michael Schwarz, VSAREC director: "Development of a Recirculating Aquaculture System for Bivalve Larval Culture"
Jonathan van Senten, assistant director for the Virginia Seafood Agricultural Research and Extension Center, assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, extension specialist with Virginia Cooperative Extension: Chair of a session on "Farming in the Time of a Pandemic: Impacts, Response, and Planning"; "Marketing Strategies for Financial Shocks"; “Impacts of COVID-19 on the U.S. Catfish Aquaculture Industry”