Aquaculture: a new field of agriculture?

Shell White

Shell WhiteReporter

An SDSU professor is working on an experiment alongside nationally known scholars to create specialized diets for fish, which may provide many opportunities in the Midwest.

Mike Brown, wildlife and fisheries sciences professor has created “complete diets” for fish using locally produced agriculture products throughout the past four years.

Brown said he starts his experiment by using a recipe containing 100 percent fish meal. He runs tests on a group of fish, mostly Yellow Perch and then records the results. He next takes 20 percent of the fish meal out and replaces it with 20 percent of the distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS), a by-product of ethanol, and runs an experiment using the altered fish meal, and records the results.

This process is repeated until the fish meal is made entirely of the DDGS, and then again he watches the performance and growth of the fish. When a decrease or deficiency results, a synthetic amino acid is added to give the fish a complete diet.

“It is all about tinkering to find the right recipe,” Brown said.

Experiments run for 60 to 120 days and the fisheries lab has the capacity for three different feeding trials at a time for the particular research, Brown said.

Mike Barnes, hatchery biologist at fisheries biologist/D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery and archives manager in Spearfish, said fish meal is made up of “ground up ocean fish,” especially Herring and Menhaden.

Barnes and Brown said there is a limited supply of the fish used in fish meal, which has driven the price up drastically. This price jump requires an alternative source of fish meal.

“Fish meal is $1,600 per ton, that is 80 cents per pound,” Brown said.

Brown and Barnes said fish meal is not limited to only feed fish, but also feeds cattle, swine and poultry.

“We need to find an alternative that is win-win for everyone,” Barnes said.

Brown said he hopes the research will pay off by meeting the demands in the Midwest, eventually exporting to Canada and the seaboards, like New York.

“This could diversify into a new field of agriculture8212;aquaculture8212;in the Midwest,” Brown said.

Brown, Barnes and Aaron Von Eschen, a SDSU fisheries science graduate student, all agreed this research can benefit the Midwest and South Dakota.

“If we can drive down the price of fish meal … there is an opportunity for South Dakota to break into the fish industry,” Brown said.

Barnes said the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks is trying to be a responsible, innovative and efficient agency, by researching alternative fish meal options using locally produced agriculture products.

“[SDSU] hopes to produce better fish, better able to survive after they have been stocked in dams, and to give anglers satisfaction with stock that fights harder,” Barnes said.

Barnes, who is currently working towards his doctorate degree from SDSU, said he is grateful to have the opportunity to work with internationally recognized scholars like Brown.

“I hope to finish out my education at SDSU through the aquaculture research,” he said.

Von Eschen said he has learned how to work with fish, mainly fish nutrition, and how fish respond to different components and diets through this research.

Brown said he hopes to expand the lab in the future to help aid in upcoming research.

“The new lab would be 22,000 square feet and would hold a great deal more than the current lab,” he said.

#1.1669030:2267634789.jpg:Mike-Brown-2-Color-Shelli-White.jpg:Mike Brown has been working on using ethanol co-products in aquaculture fish meal diets for four years. He is currently working with Yellow Perch.:Collegian Photo by Shelli White#1.1669028:3744986445.jpg:Mike-Brown-1-Color-Shelli-White.jpg::