Washington — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) today announced four grants totaling $1.2 million to support the development of environmentally and economically sustainable aquaculture in the United States. These awards were made through the Aquaculture Research Program authorized by the Competitive, Special and Facilities Research Grants Act, administered by NIFA.

“In 2015, Americans spent $96 billion on seafood, but only a small portion of that was produced by U.S. aquaculture,” said NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy. “To meet the growing demand for this healthy source of protein, NIFA investments are helping enhance U.S. aquaculture production to promote both economic opportunities and a safe, reliable domestic seafood source.”

Global demand for seafood is projected to increase substantially while harvests from capture fisheries are stable or declining. In cooperation with land-grant university partners and diverse stakeholders, NIFA provides leadership and administers federal funding for aquaculture research, technology development and extension programs.

NIFA Aquaculture Research Program grants support the development of a globally competitive and profitable U.S. aquaculture industry through investments that help improve domestic aquaculture production efficiency, sustainability, safety, marketing, information sharing, and access to global science-based information and advanced technologies. NIFA provides leadership in coordinating federal activities related to aquaculture through the Interagency Working Group on Aquaculture, under the National Science and Technology Council’s Committee on Science.

Awards for 2016 include:

  • Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich., $307,869
  • Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va., $275,887
  • Auburn University, Auburn, Ala., $326,250
  • The Research Foundation of State University of New York, Stony Brook, N.Y., $326,963

Projects funded in 2016 include research conducted by scientists at Michigan State University, who will identify strains of a common bacteria that threaten farmed rainbow trout as a step toward improved disease prevention and control.

Virginia Tech researchers will work with commercial farmers to compare profitability of both pond and recirculating-water commercial business models.

An Auburn University project will evaluate and optimize the economics, fish and plant biology and food safety aspects of a high-yield aquaponics system that utilizes fish waste to generate additional revenue.

The Research Foundation of the State University of New York, Stony Brook will use molecular genetics techniques to identify disease-resistant clam germlines, to help improve commercial shellfish stocks.

More information on these projects is available on the NIFA website.

Previous aquaculture projects from other NIFA programs include a Virginia State University Cooperative Extension project that converted a large vacant downtown warehouse in Petersburg, Va., into an aquaponics production center. Researchers at Washington State University and the University of Idaho discovered how to use certain probiotics to combat a common bacterial disease of trout and salmon. These discoveries also help reduce the threat of antimicrobial resistance that can occur through the overuse of antibiotics.

Since 2009, USDA has invested $19 billion in research both intramural and extramural. During that time, research conducted by USDA scientists has resulted in 883 patent applications filed, 405 patents issued and 1,151 new inventions disclosures covering a wide range of topics and discoveries. To learn more about how USDA supports cutting edge science and innovation, visit the USDA Medium chapter Food and Ag Science Will Shape Our Future.

NIFA invests in and advances innovative and transformative research, education, and extension to solve societal challenges and ensure the long-term viability of agriculture. NIFA support for the best and brightest scientists and extension personnel have resulted in user-inspired, groundbreaking discoveries that are combating childhood obesity, improving and sustaining rural economic growth, addressing water availability issues, increasing food production, finding new sources of energy, mitigating climate variability and ensuring food safety.

To learn more about NIFA’s impact on agricultural science, visit, sign up for email updates or follow them on Twitter@usda_NIFA, #NIFAimpacts

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