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Symposium Discusses Making Land-based Aquaculture more Sustainable

23 September 2013

GLOBAL - Earlier this month, an International symposium brought together people from 15 countries to discuss how to improve land-based aquaculture, including its performance, sustainability, and cost of raising salmon and other fish.

The Aquaculture Innovation Workshop, sponsored by The Conservation Fund Freshwater Institute in partnership with Tides Canada, The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Atlantic Salmon Federation, provided an open forum for these groups to learn about and discuss the challenges and rapidly emerging opportunities for land-based fish farming technology.

During the three-day international symposium at the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, participants shared results from scientific studies and commercial advancements, identified opportunities to make this emerging aquaculture technology more environmentally friendly and economically viable, and highlighted the potential for growth with key decision makers in government, industry and philanthropic organizations.

“The world’s appetite for fish is increasing, and global demand has long passed what capture fisheries alone can provide; so aquaculture is challenged to cover the supply gap,” said Joe Hankins Director of the Fund's Freshwater Institute.

“Over the last two decades, the Freshwater Institute’s scientific and engineering research has developed fish-farming systems on land that produce healthy, tasty fish and leave water clean. Until recently, this technology wasn’t considered a practical option for the seafood industry. Now we’re seeing minds changing and an ever-increasing acceptance of this more-sustainable intensification technique as an efficient fish farming option. The wide-ranging make up of the workshop participants, across all aspects of the issue, underscores this.”

Their mind shift is based in part on the foundational work being done in the Freshwater Institute’s facilities in Shepherdstown. As a leader in the development of sustainable solutions to water resource management, the Freshwater Institute has conducted extensive research into closed-containment harvesting techniques that produce the highest quality fish populations for food production without vaccines, harsh chemicals and antibiotics.

The workshop participants saw a third generation of Atlantic salmon nearing market size in Freshwater’s production tank. The ongoing successes of these land-based aquaculture systems were highlighted at the workshop as practical and sustainable solutions to help meet the increasing demand for healthy food.

The international symposium was the fifth in a series of summits designed to provide a platform for diverse groups to learn about cutting-edge technological advances, case studies for commercial-scale projects currently underway, and cost-benefit analyses.

“We’ve come a long ways in three years,” said Catherine Emrick, Senior Associate, Aquaculture Innovation, Tides Canada. “What this technology provides is not only a better way to produce Atlantic salmon but also a better way to develop a diversified aquaculture industry that takes advantage of the infrastructure and resources already present.”

“For the first time this industry is seeing a technology that is scalable and gets a return on investment,” said Norman McCowan, President, Bell Aquaculture. The Freshwater Institute designed a closed-containment system for Bell to raise its signature perch on land that conserves water, reduces fertilizer use and provides chemical- and pesticide-free healthy fish for human consumption.

“The collaborative effort in this industry is the number one key to moving forward, and I am seeing a lot of that here,” said Chris DePalma, CEO of SweetSpring Salmon Inc., who attended the Aquaculture Innovation Workshop. “As time goes on we’ll find more sustainable ways to produce this (seafood) protein. The recirculating aquaculture system technology is potentially revolutionary.”

The presentations from the Aquaculture Innovation Workshop #5 are available for download at


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