Archive for February 2013

Aquaculture 2013: “Strike a Chord for Sustainable Aquaculture”

February 22, 2013

Amid the small talk at last night’s cocktail reception, I was asked, “How is it that you came to aquaculture through your interest in marine conservation when so many environmentalists are hostile to aquaculture?”

The full answer would require more than a single blog post, but the short version is, “I came to it naive, without knowing what, as an environmentalist, I was ‘supposed to know’.” As I’ve written elsewhere, when I started down this path several years ago I thought a fistfight might break out during the Q&A following an advance screening of the film “The End of the Line” when an audience member suggested that the film gave short shrift to aquaculture as part of the solution to the problem of global overfishing.

A couple of years later, I was pleasantly surprised during a screening of “Sushi: The Global Catch” to see aquaculture prominently featured as a beneficial component of any strategy to reduce the impact of sushi’s global popularity on bluefin tuna stocks.

Aquaculture 2013’s theme is “Strike a Chord for Sustainable Aquaculture.” Today’s keynote address by climate change expert Dr. Edward Allison of the University of East Anglia and the WorldFish Center (titled: “Aquaculture in a Changing Climate”) presented a much more nuanced picture both of the climate change debate and of the environmental friendliness of aquaculture than we are used to seeing from professional environmentalists. While he didn’t equivocate over whether climate change and sea level rise are real and have their roots in human behavior, he acknowledged repeatedly that the issues are complex, impacts are hard to predict, and “there will be winners and losers.”

“Aquaculture is a small contributor to global warming,” Dr. Allison said, adding that the biggest contributing factor is feed (the capture and processing of fish for fishmeal). So, the biggest factor in a small contribution to global warming is feed production – an impact that is completely addressable through existing and yet-to-be-developed means. When compared with other, more energy-intensive forms of livestock with much higher feed-conversion ratios, aquaculture starts to look awfully good.


Day 1 of World Aquaculture Society’s Annual Meeting in Nashville

February 22, 2013
World Aquaculture Society conference,  Day 1.

World Aquaculture Society Conference, Day 1.

Looking forward to lots of learning and productive networking. Will be tweeting (@Aquaculturebiz) during and in between sessions. If you’re here, let’s talk! If you’re not, follow me and I’ll do my best to keep you abreast of the action.

Falcon System Closes Gap Between “Waste Problem” & “Feed Solution”

February 22, 2013

Waste is worse than loss. The time is coming when every person who lays claim to ability will keep the question of waste before him constantly. The scope of thrift is limitless.”

– Thomas Edison

I’ve been thinking a lot about waste lately. As the world wonders how it will feed a human population fast approaching 9 billion, the waste hard-wired into the global food-production and distribution system has been well documented. From imperfect produce left to rot in the field, to supermarket policies that mandate extreme overstocking, to statutes that prohibit restaurants from donating unused inventory to food banks, unconscionable waste appears to be a feature of the global food system, not a bug.

In nature, there is no such thing as waste – one natural system’s byproduct is another system’s feedstock. Waste exists in man-made systems because, for too long, we have been able to hide or pass along to those yet unborn the cost of managing the inconvenient outputs of our production processes.

On my way to the World Aquaculture Society conference in Nashville this week, I had the opportunity to check out Falcon Protein Products’ Agricultural By-Product Value Recovery System at a catfish farm in Greensboro, Ala. The ABVRS system processes animal offal and other agricultural byproducts into value-added meals, oils, and other commercial products in a manner that is environmentally safe and virtually odor free.

The most striking thing to me about the ABVRS system (check out the video below) is that, for all it does, it is incredibly straightforward in design and operation. It closes the gap between “waste problem” and “feed solution” with the sort of elegant simplicity that makes you ask, “Why did no one think of this sooner?”

What other examples of ruthlessly simple problem solving are out there, hiding in plain sight? The aquaculture industry needs to know. 

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