PRINCETON, Ky. — Yes, you read correctly – aquaculture: the farming of fish, shrimp and other aquatic life. The farmer-leaders of the Kentucky Soybean Board and Kentucky Soybean Association toured Kentucky State University’s (KSU) Aquaculture Research Center in Frankfort during the organizations’ joint summer meeting.
Farmers were interested to learn that fish provides 20 percent of the world’s protein, and that more than 91 percent of U.S. seafood is imported. The United States is the world’s largest importer of seafood, with trade deficit in seafood of more than $11.2 billion per year.
Since fish and shrimp only come from two sources – capture fisheries (often referred to as wild-caught fish) and aquaculture – the future supply is in jeopardy as the ocean’s fish populations are rapidly depleting. Dr. James Tidwell, Chairman of the Division of Aquaculture, said that for the first time in history, aquaculture has surpassed capture fisheries in production. Aquaculture is on the rise, both domestically and internationally, and KSU is one of the top-five aquaculture programs in the U.S., focusing on the production of catfish, rainbow trout, freshwater prawns, paddlefish and largemouth bass.
Americans consume about twenty pounds of fish per person each year, as opposed to the consumption of some other cultures at 100 pounds per person annually. Dr. Tidwell touted the nutritional benefits of seafood, adding that fish is one of the few items that the medical community is “on our side” about. He noted that fish is known for its heart healthy, long-chain omega acids, and that the American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least two times per week as part of a healthy diet.
So, why are soybean growers so interested in fish farming? The answer lies not in eating fish, but in what the fish eat. Scientists at KSU are researching and promoting the use of high levels of soybean meal in place of the traditional fishmeal used in farmed fish diets. Tidwell said that in addition to the use of byproducts of fish processing, some fish are actually being harvested for the very purpose of becoming fishmeal. The use of soybean meal in place of fishmeal could reduce or eliminate that process, in addition to increasing the use of soybean meal in aquaculture.
In addition to sponsoring aquaculture projects at KSU, the Kentucky Soybean Board is a member of the Soy Aquaculture Alliance, a partnership that brings together soy, aquaculture and seafood stakeholders to enhance their businesses and industries as well as giving consumers access to affordable, healthy seafood.
For more information on soybean farming in Kentucky, visit www.kysoy.org.
— Kentucky Soybean Board and Kentucky Soybean Association
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