Category Archives: aquaculture

June 2014 Issue of National Geographic Features Aquaculture and its Challenges

The June 2014 issue of National Geographic includes a feature story on fish farming. The article is rich with information about the challenges of aquaculture, and is part of their “Future of Food” Series.

The following is an excerpt, and the full article, “How to Farm a Better Fish,” can be read by following this link.

In a dark, dank warehouse in the Blue Ridge foothills of Virginia, Bill Martin picks up a bucket of brown pellets and slings them into a long concrete tank. Fat, white tilapia the size of dinner plates boil to the surface. Martin, president of Blue Ridge Aquaculture, one of the world’s largest indoor fish farms, smiles at the feeding frenzy.

“This is St. Peter’s fish, the fish Jesus fed the multitudes,” he says, his raspy voice resonating like a preacher’s. Unlike Jesus, however, Martin does not give his fish away. Each day he sells 12,000 pounds of live tilapia to Asian markets from Washington, D.C., to Toronto, and he’s planning another farm on the West Coast. “My model is the poultry industry,” he says. “The difference is, our fish are perfectly happy.”

“How do you know they’re happy?” I ask, noting that the mat of tilapia in the tank looks thick enough for St. Peter to walk on.

“Generally they show they’re not happy by dying,” Martin says. “I haven’t lost a tank of fish yet.” … [click on link above to read the rest]

The following graphic and photos are also included in the article:

Pounds for Pound
Different sources of animal protein in our diet place different demands on natural resources. One measure of this is the “feed conversion ratio”: an estimate of the feed required to gain one pound of body mass. By this measure, farming salmon is about seven times more efficient than raising beef.

Graphic and Chart by Virginia W. Mason and Jason Treat, NGM Staff; Shelley Sperry
Sources: Malcolm Beveridge, Worldfish; Rodney Hill, University of Idaho; Robert Swick, University of New England, Australia; U.K. Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board

© Brian Skerry/National Geographic
Nature’s own water filters, giant Japanese scallops thrive on fish waste at an experimental farm off Canada’s Vancouver Island. The farm also uses sea cucumbers and kelp to consume excretions from nearby pens of native sablefish.

© Brian Skerry/National Geographic
Diamond-shaped fish cages rise from the water for cleaning at Open Blue, the world’s largest open-ocean fish farm, eight miles off the Caribbean coast of Panama. The divers on top pumped compressed air into the hollow central spars to raise the cages. Offshore farms could open a new food frontier.

(Excerpt and photos are from the June 2014 Issue of National Geographic)

3 Picks: Aquaponics Venture, Aging Farmer, Blueberry Mechanization

Picking Blueberries. Flickr CC via Robin.

Below, are today’s three chosen agricultural-related news picks.

1) A new, ambitious aquaponics venture in Watsonville, California: Donna Jones tells us that “Partners Jon Parr and Drew Hopkins are attempting to create the largest commercial aquaponics operation in the country at a former rose nursery. If all goes as planned, they’ll fill 350,000 square feet of greenhouses with fruits, vegetables and fish within 18 months, all grown in a sustainable, environmentally friendly manner. … Their vision is to create a self-contained operation. The aquaponics system will allow them to use far less water than conventional growers, and no fertilizer or pesticides. To control bugs, they’ll regularly infuse greenhouses with carbon dioxide, a by-product of the wood-chip burning gasification oven that will power the generator that will supply electricity. Aquaponics is so efficient, Parr said, they’ll be able to grow a head of lettuce in a month and more than four heads in a square foot, each month all year. A conventional farmer might get one head of lettuce per square foot, and two to three crops per year, he said. In three years, they’ll be able to send 15-pound sturgeon to the market as well.”

2) Who owns Iowa’s farmland? “Last year, almost one third of Iowa farmland was in the hands of someone over the age of 75. … There are younger owners, although they represent a small percentage of the acres. Over half, 56%, of the farmland in Iowa is owned by someone over the age of 65. … Absentee land ownership has declined in the last few years since the run-up in land values. In 2012, 21% of the farmland in Iowa was owned by an absentee owner.”

3) In Maine, a Switch over to the Mechanical Harvesting of Blueberries: Dave Sherwood tells us yet yet another story about machines taking over from the unpredictable reliability of immigrant labor to harvest blueberries in Maine. “Maine growers see few alternatives to mechanization, as migrant labor dries up and few Americans appear to take their place. Though the state keeps no official tally, the Maine Wild Blueberry Commission said the number of seasonal workers employed here has dropped nearly 80 percent in 15 years, to fewer than 1,000 last year. “There are people that say if we just paid more, Americans would do the work. But that’s a joke,” said Ed Flanagan, president of Jasper Wyman & Son Inc, Maine’s second-largest blueberry grower. Flanagan says hard-working pickers make as much as $20 an hour here, almost three times Maine’s minimum wage of $7.50.”

BONUS: Yesterday’s Non Sequitur Comic.

This news post was written and compiled by K. McDonald.