The aquaculture industry, or fish farming, is growing rapidly across the country. Ohio producers are a step ahead, thanks to the resources available at the Ohio Center for Aquaculture Research and Development (OCARD) at Ohio State University’s (OSU) Piketon South Centers.
Aquaculture was one of the original programs installed at the South Centers. Laura Tiu, director of the aquaculture extension program, has been there for 16 years.
“The center is two-prong, and features research and the extension program,” says Tiu. “We focus on outreach and training to help develop a sustainable aquaculture industry in the state. We serve existing fish farmers as well as beginners.”
The licensed fish farms in Ohio have access to workshops and conferences put on by the center, plus publications, social media, website and emails from OCARD.
“We hold an aquaculture boot camp for beginning farmers,” says Tiu, which features three levels of training for everyone beginning a commercial fish farm to those who simply want to provide food for their families.
The second prong of OCARD focuses on research. The center is home to a state-of-the-art genetics lab where researchers focus on genetic breeding, nutrition and feed, as well as stress and disease. Most research focuses on yellow perch, one of the main species bred in Ohio.
Of the 200 fish farms in Ohio, 24 are large operations that require full-time employees, while the rest are smaller operations, mostly on diversified farms. Tiu says the majority of Ohio’s fish are sold into pond stocking or live fish targeted toward ethnic markets. Ohio, Chicago and other parts of the East Coast top the list of final destinations.
“We want to continue the development of aquaculture at all levels of the state,” Tiu says.