Vegetarian fish feed? Yes please! Using fish waste in creative ways? For sure. A sea vegetable revolution in the U.S.? Heck yeah! These are just a few of the topics that got me super excited this past weekend at the World Aquaculture Society Conference 2013 in Nashville.
We screened our documentary, Fish Meat: Choose Your Farm Wisely on Saturday, but on Friday and Sunday I got to steep myself in the conference. Researchers, students, industry folks, and NGOs attended the conference and the presentations were equally diverse.
I was particularly interested in learning more about IMTA, Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture, and so were many others. The room was fairly full throughout the parade of talks that lasted all day.
The essential idea of IMTA is converting the excretion of marine aquaculture organisms into valuable products. And the tricky part is maintaining that balance between nutrient production and nutrient uptake.
Waste not, want not, right?
Lots of research is underway to discover what new species can be used in this process, what the market is for these products, and how location and growing season affect the feasibility of these systems. And what about the ecosystem services these systems provide? What risks are involved in these integrated systems?
Some current IMTA systems are being explored in conjunction with salmon farming. For example, a project in New Brunswick is growing mussels and kelp in water near existing salmon farms to consume the waste that’s coming from the fish. Another cool project is performing nutrient bioextraction in urban coastal areas with seaweed. As in, they’re cleaning up some of the water off New York and Connecticut but ‘planting’ seaweed along the coast.
And while the majority of global seaweed production happens in Asia, researchers like Sarah Redmond think there is real potential for a sea vegetable revolution in the Atlantic. She’s working on a pilot project that grows seaweed on mussel farms off the coast of Maine. Imagine a bento box lunch comprised of local mussels and seaweed for lunch!
As Dr. Thierry Chopin explained in his talk, IMTA has been around for quite some time, originating in China with fish grown in rice paddies. And even Henry IV had a self-sufficient castle south of Paris in 1600 where they grew carp and veggies.
So what does the future look like? Do omnivorous urchins like biofloc? Does tilapia like biofloc? (Curious about what biofloc is? Stay tuned for our shrimp film.) How can the consumptive seaweed market expand in the U.S.? There are just so many exciting questions out there. To learn more, check out WAS’s website for abstracts on the dozens of topics presented at the conference.
As Dr. Chopin said, “It’s about time we make the blue revolution greener!” We couldn’t agree more.
Photo Courtesy of Sarah Redmond, Slide Courtesy of Dr. Theirry Chopin