About 91 percent of all the seafood Americans eat is imported, according to John Jensen, professor and interim director of the Auburn University School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences.
That’s a huge area of potential market growth to be tapped, and the central necessity for chasing it is an abundance of water, which the Southeast has. Add some research and ingenuity from agricultural schools like Auburn and you can create a global competitive edge, says Jensen, but you’d better be quick about it to get a jump on Asian producers.
At a recent Auburn Media Day, journalists saw a number of new agricultural technologies, including an improved style of containment pond that creates a river-like area within the pond that fish greatly prefer to the static water of a normal pond. Researchers know this because the fish can triple or quadruple their productivity in the faster-moving water.
“The old-style pond management would yield between 6, 000 and 10, 000 pounds of produced fish per acre per year, ” says Auburn University’s Jesse Chappell, an associate professor and extension specialist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. “The new style produces between 25, 000 and 30, 000 pounds per acre per year.”
The new style ponds also have more efficient ways of trapping liquid and solid fish waste that can then be used as fertilizer, he says. Several states have adopted the new technology with Auburn’s help. But beware, Chappell says. China, the Philippines and Vietnam are running with it on a scale 10 times faster, he says.
Text and photo by Dave Helms