How Aquaculture Growth in Iowa Supports Economy, Creates New Jobs for Farmers
05-19-2022 in Aquaculture
Iowa is one of the many states benefiting from its growing aquaculture industry. According to the Iowa Department of Agriculture, aquaculture generated more than $3.8 million in sales in Iowa in 2018 from various kinds of fish and shrimp. Aquaculture also creates job opportunities up and down the seafood supply chain, as well as for Iowa farmers who produce crops used in fish feed, such as soybeans and corn, which are some of the top produced crops in the state. The expansion of offshore aquaculture through federal action would create even more opportunities and grow the economy in Iowa and states nationwide.
Stronger America Through Seafood (SATS) spoke with Brian Waddingham, the Executive Director of the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers, which is a joint partnership of the Iowa Beef Industry Council, Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Iowa Pork Producers Association, Iowa Poultry Association, Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa Turkey Federation and Midwest Dairy.
The Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers (CSIF) hosts an annual aquaculture conference. What were the goals of this year’s conference?
CSIF hosted the 2022 Aquaculture Conference to provide farmers information about Iowa’s newest emerging livestock industry – fish and shrimp. This marks the 6th Aquaculture Conference we’ve hosted since 2014. The conference’s goal was to share opportunities that are available today and what the future holds for aquaculture production in Iowa. We also hosted tours of two aquaculture facilities – Eagles Catch and Midland Shrimp – to give attendees a better understanding of what modern aquaculture facilities look like and get their questions answered by farmers that have been raising fish and shrimp successfully.
How would the expansion of American aquaculture help create new jobs and opportunities for Iowa’s farmers in Iowa?
Like other livestock industries, aquaculture encompasses a variety of different species and management systems. Aquaculture is a way for farmers to diversify and grow, especially at a time when acquiring land can be cost-prohibitive. The high-quality resources that position Iowa as a top producing agricultural state also make it a natural fit for aquaculture production. As aquaculture diets continue to evolve to include more corn and soybeans, it creates opportunities for farmers to increase production of those two commodities. This growing agriculture segment could provide opportunities for young and beginning farmers or established farmers looking to grow their farms in the future.
How does aquaculture growth help the U.S. address the food security needs of Iowans and all Americans?
Aquaculture can be a good way to feed a growing world population. Currently, global aquaculture is the fastest-growing animal food-producing sector in agriculture. Aquaculture facilities can be built in urban and rural areas, which makes communities more productive. This leads to greater product flexibility, less product waste, increased nutrition, and improved food safety and shelf life. Indoor aquaculture production also uses less water, increases pounds of production per square foot, and increases growth rate and feed efficiency when compared to outdoor production. It also provides a safe, nutritious, and great tasting local food product. I also believe that “aquaponics” can play an integral part in addressing food security concerns, especially at the local level in small communities that don’t have access to fresh fruit and vegetables like in larger urban areas.
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