Shellfish got the spotlight at state aquaculture conference

Photo Credit: niroworld

More than 200 aquaculture growers, researchers and industry suppliers gathered Nov. 15 and 16 for the 2019 Virginia Aquaculture Conference, hosted in Newport News by the Marine Advisory Program at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

The biannual conference is an opportunity for industry stakeholders to be updated on relevant issues, explore new technological developments and network with other growers, researchers, agency staff and aquaculture suppliers. Bivalve shellfish, marine and freshwater finfish and freshwater prawn industries were discussed in breakout sessions.

Jim Perdue, chairman and advertising spokesman of Perdue Farms, was the featured guest speaker at the event, which was sponsored in part by Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.

The 2019 conference saw record attendance, “especially within the shellfish segment,” said Tony Banks, VFBF senior assistant director of agriculture, development and innovation. “We’re seeing increased long-term growth in clam and oyster production, or the interest in pursuing that. And this year there was a lot of interest in aquaponics, which are typically indoor recirculating systems combining finfish production with some sort of leafy vegetable.”

Banks said the multi-generational audience included aquaculturalists, academics, retirees who have become interested in shellfish production, and watermen who are entering shellfish aquaculture to supplement their wild catch.

While Perdue Farms is known for its roster of premium protein brands, Perdue himself has strong ties to aquaculture. Educated in marine biology and fisheries, and a shellfish grower, Perdue serves the Oyster Recovery Project as board chairman. He discussed parallels between today’s aquaculture industry and the poultry industry of the past, and discussed some ways aquaculture can continue to flourish in the region.

“He also talked about keeping up with consumer demand,” Banks said. “Consumers are always changing what they want to eat and buy. If you listen to what your consumers want, and respond, it’s a major step in being successful.”

Banks said Farm Bureau is proud to continually sponsor the conference and support farmers—both on dry land and underwater.

“These farmers’ fields are underwater, in the greenhouse or in ponds, and they have a lot of similar issues that (terrestrial) farmers have,” Banks said. “And being a farming organization, we support as much of agriculture as we can.”

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