Collaborative to enhance aquaculture education in Great Lakes region

Interactive online event will showcase the region’s aquaculture production, and includes a culinary competition.

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Aquaculture, or the farming of aquatic organisms in a controlled environment, can be used to support both the world’s demand for food and to support conservation of wild fisheries. Farmed fish and other seafood products have been around for thousands of years, but over the last 50+ years, aquaculture is now the fastest growing agriculture sector in the world. 

As the world looks to farming practices to be more sustainable, aquaculture is a great choice as fish are one of the most efficient animals when it comes to converting food into consumable protein. On average, it takes 1.1 pounds of feed to produce 1 pound of salmon (or a feed conversion ratio of 1.1:1), compared to rates of 1.7:1 for chicken and 5-10:1 for beef. Proteins such as chicken and beef commonly originate at farms, but approximately 50% of fish eaten for food are most likely to be from either wild fisheries or grown on a farm. And while some wild fisheries are sustainable for some species, other species have been overfished. 

Seafood trade deficit

As with any form of agriculture, there are public concerns about how a farm may impact its surrounding environment. Antibiotics use, nutrient pollution and invasive species are some practices of animal agriculture and aquaculture that can impact the local environment. Many new technologies and processes have been created to minimize risks in aquaculture production. Currently, growth of global aquaculture far exceeds production in the U.S., which has created a seafood shortfall in U.S. markets resulting in a seafood trade deficit between 11 to 15 billion dollars each year. After oil, seafood is the largest natural resource trade deficit in the U.S.

The U.S. aquaculture industry has potential for growth, especially in the Great Lakes region where abundant freshwater resources exist and currently enable a handful of state-based aquaculture operations to grow fish for food, bait, stocking, or ornamentals. Aquaculture can increase economic development, employ a local workforce in order to produce healthy and tasty fish.  

Collaborative forms

The Great Lakes Aquaculture Collaborative (GLAC) was formed in 2019 to foster relationships and communication between research, industry, and education with current and potential aquaculture farmers, and to consumers of aquaculture products. The collaborative consists of industry advisors, researchers, and Great Lakes Sea Grant Extension educators. Sea Grant is a national program administered by the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, and Michigan Sea Grant is a collaboration of Michigan State University Extension and the University of Michigan

The aquaculture collaborative is currently conducting research on aquaculture in the region while Extension members are using feedback from the industry advisory groups on topics to  produce educational webinars and events. While starting any new collaborative takes time, this multidirectional conversation between research, industry, and Extension is dedicated to the growth of U.S. aquaculture in the Great Lakes region.

Great Lakes Aquaculture Day

On Oct. 10, 2020, GLAC is hosting its inaugural Sea Grant Great Lakes Aquaculture Day. This virtual event will showcase the region’s aquaculture production - including a culinary competition. 

The event is free, open to the public, and registration is required. Activities begin at 9:30 a.m. and end at 5:30 p.m. Eastern time. After registering, participants can feel free to join for the entire day or choose specific sessions to attend. The full agenda is available online. All sessions will be recorded and shared with those registered for viewing at a later time.

Aquaculture Day will feature a variety of panel discussions and presentations with speakers from industry, research, and Extension who are engaged in aquaculture. Presentations will be addressed to a variety of audiences, from beginning farmers to current farmers, and for consumers interested in learning more about preparing and cooking locally sourced fish. Attendees will have opportunities to interact and network with other participants during the day and during breakout lunch gatherings.

Culinary competition

A cooking demonstration with Chef Jeff Igel, from the Wisconsin Technical College, and a cooking competition featuring three culinary students from the Great Lakes region will close out the day. Each student will be required to use a key ingredient and local aquaculture products in their culinary creations. The Great Lakes Aquaculture Collaborative is currently accepting applications from post-secondary culinary students for the competition. Students who are chosen will receive a $250 stipend. 

How to register

For more information about the Sea Grant Great Lakes Aquaculture Day 2020 event and registration visit or contact Michigan Sea Grant Extension Educator Elliot Nelson, For information about the Sea Grant Great Lakes Aquaculture Collaborative contact Minnesota Sea Grant Extension Educator Amy Schrank.

This article was prepared by Michigan Sea Grant under award NA180AR4170102 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce through the Regents of the University of Michigan. The statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Department of Commerce, or the Regents of the University of Michigan.

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