December 23, 2002 | By: Laura Skillman
PRINCETON, Ky.

Kentucky’s aquaculture industry continues to grow and, as any emerging industry, faces opportunities and challenges. Key issues in 2003 likely will be marketing and production efficiency.

“We are on the heels of a major expansion,” said Bill Wurts, a Kentucky State University Cooperative Extension Service aquaculture specialist. “We went through a long, long period of learning and training.”

Unlike traditional agriculture where information and training is passed from generation to generation, when Wurts arrived in western Kentucky about 14 years ago aquaculture was a new experience for most people. So, much of the first generation of aquaculturists were being trained during that time frame, he noted.

In the past three to four years, the aquaculture industry has exploded especially in western Kentucky where a catfish cooperative is in operation and freshwater shrimp production has grown rapidly across the state.

“In the past two years, the state Department of Agriculture saw this as a real opportunity especially with declining tobacco quotas and decided to put some money into the industry,” said Wurts, who is housed at the University of Kentucky Research and Education Center in Princeton.

Tobacco settlement money has also played a role in aiding in the infrastructure of the industry in Kentucky, Wurts said.

That has led to an increase from about 50 acres to some 400 acres of catfish farming in the Purchase area alone, he said. Shrimp production has increased from about 10 acres to 150 or 160 acres.

The big challenge is in marketing as local growers compete with other U.S. growers as well as imports. Getting the most production for the least cost in today’s tight financial times is also a challenge, Wurts said. Since Sept. 11, 2001, prices have fallen leading to a need to squeeze the maximum efficiency out of production.  That means lowering the cost of production by fine-tuning the technology and developing new or improved marketing techniques, he said.

For anyone in the aquaculture industry wanting more information on challenges, research/technology or equipment, Wurts and other members of the Kentucky State aquaculture group will be leading a number of educational sessions at Aquaculture America 2003.

This national aquaculture meeting and trade show will be in Louisville Feb. 18-21, 2003, at the Kentucky International Convention Center. The U.S. Aquaculture Society, National Aquaculture Association and U.S. Suppliers Association produce the event.

The program includes technical and producer seminars covering nearly all species in aquaculture. In addition, there will be more than 200 booths of equipment and supplies.

For more information on the conference visit the World Aquaculture Society’s web site at www.WAS.org or call the conference manager at 760-432-4270.

Contact: 

Bill Wurts, 270-365-7541, ext. 200