The Aquaculture Research Competitive Grants Program supports development of an environmentally and economically sustainable US aquaculture industry

USDA releases $1.2m for aquaculture research

The US Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture has announced $1.2 million in available funding for aquaculture research projects in the areas of genetics, disease, production systems and economics.

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Funding is made through NIFA’s Aquaculture Research Competitive Grants Program, authorized by the Competitive, Special, and Facilities Research Grant Act.

“Sustainability of the aquaculture industry is important both from the perspective of nutritional security and the creation of jobs,” said NIFA director Sonny Ramaswamy. “We’re committed to investing in science and education to ensure that our nation’s aquaculture industry thrives.”

The Aquaculture Research Competitive Grants Program supports development of an environmentally and economically sustainable US aquaculture industry by generating new, science-based information and technology to address industry constraints. Results of projects supported by this program are intended to help improve the profitability of the US aquaculture industry, reduce the US trade deficit, increase domestic food security, provide markets for US-produced products, increase domestic aquaculture business investment opportunities, and provide more jobs for rural and coastal America.

Program priorities

This year, NIFA is soliciting applied aquaculture research applications that directly address major constraints to the US aquaculture industry and focus on one or more of the following program area priorities:

  • genetics of commercial aquaculture species;
  • critical disease issues impacting aquaculture species;
  • design of environmentally and economically sustainable aquaculture production systems; and
  • economic research for increasing aquaculture profitability.

Eligible applicants include state agricultural experiment stations, all colleges and universities, other research institutions and organisations, federal agencies, private organisations or corporations, and individuals for the purpose of conducting research, extension, or education activities to facilitate or expand promising breakthroughs in areas of the food and agricultural sciences of importance to the US.

Applications are due by May 17.

Immediate benefits

Since 2014, NIFA has invested more than $3.6 million through this Aquaculture Research Competitive Grants Program. Previously funded projects include an Auburn University project to identify closely linked genetic markers controlling low-oxygen tolerance in catfish, and validate and apply such markers for genetic selection and breeding of channel catfish and blue catfish used for the production of hybrid catfish. Ultimately, this would provide immediate benefits to the catfish industry in the South and help set the foundation for genetic marker-assisted selection of fish with a high level of tolerance against low-oxygen stress.

Another project, at the University of Connecticut(link is external), aims to develop a sustainable sugar kelp industry that can help revitalize working waterfronts and increase employment and economic activity in seafood production, processing, and distribution services in Southern New England. The project will transfer cultivation techniques of Saccharina latissima (sugar kelp) from the academic laboratory to commercially viable farms, introduce processing techniques to kelp farmers, and develop templates for business and marketing plans.