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Aquaculture: Opportunities in the Fastest-Growing Food Production System in the United States

July 2011
Despite the growth of U.S. aquaculture, the annual U.S. trade deficit in fisheries products is currently more than $9 billion. The U.S. Department of Commerce has set specific 25-year goals to eliminate this trade deficit and double aquaculture employment. This expansion will provide increased business opportunities for aquaculture equipment and drug manufacturers.

Almost half of the seafood we eat comes from aquaculture - seafood farming, which is the fastest-growing food production system in both the United States and the world. According to the World Wildlife Fund, when done responsibly, aquaculture's impact on wild fish populations, marine habitats, water quality, and society is minimal.

Fish Farming Operations and Equipment
Fish farms - producing fish as well as aquatic plants - are a sizable industry in many states; e.g., there are approximately 170 fish farms in Texas. Some aquaculture companies operate in multi-state locations; e.g., Aquaculture of Texas has facilities in 10 states.

Catfish farming is the nation's leading seafood farming industry. It is one of the most important agricultural activities in the South. Fish farms in more northern states tend to focus on coldwater fish species such as trout.

Salmon are farmed in Washington State and Maine. They are hatched in fresh water ponds and grown to maturity in ocean (salt water) pens. American Gold Seafoods operates two hatcheries near Rochester, Wash., and operates 120 pens in the Puget Sound. Cooke Aquaculture, Inc. has invested $60 million to increase Maine 2010 salmon production to 24.5 million pounds from less than 9 million pounds in 2007. Many fish farms also operate their own food processing plants.

A considerable amount of equipment is used to increase fish farm productivity. Manufacturers are small and mid-size firms, often family-owned. BA Products (Grand Prairie, Texas) produces fish feeders. Besides providing nutrition that promotes fish growth, many of these products have unique, patented features.

Outdoor Water Solutions (Springdale, Ark.) and other firms manufacture windmill aeration systems. Aeration is a process that pumps air bubbles into a pond to increase the oxygen content of the water. This enables a larger number of fish to be raised in a given pond.

Another manufacturer, Superior Windmill, Inc., has manufacturing facilities in Albion, N.Y., and Regina, Saskatchewan. Morgan Winds, LLC operates out of Oconto Falls, Wisc. Some of its systems are designed to prevent northern ponds from icing over, which increases fish mortality. Located in Prescott, Wisc., Kasco Marine provides floating de-icing equipment.

Pharmaceuticals: Keeping the Fish Healthy
Fish ponds densely pack fish in a small area creating an environment that promotes the spread of fish diseases. Aqua Ultraviolet's manufacturing plant located in Temecula, Calif., produces filters that help control the spread of fish diseases. Fish farms also use a significant number of antibiotics and vaccines to reduce fish mortality. Like human drugs, drugs to treat fish diseases have to be approved by the U.S. FDA.

The most destructive fish disease is furunculosis, a skin disease. Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health Corp. (Summit, N.J.) produces Aquaflor® (florfenicol), the first new FDA drug approved for use during furunculosis outbreaks in more than 20 years. Another recently approved drug is Terramycin® 200 (oxytetracycline) produced by Phibro Animal Health Corp.

(Ridgefield, N.J.). This product is used to treat fish ponds raising salmon, trout, and whitefish to reduce fish mortality. And Eka Chemicals, Inc. (Marietta, Ga.) recently obtained approval for 35 percent PEROX-AID® to treat fish eggs to prevent bacterial gill disease.

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