Can Minnesota support a sustainable aquaculture industry? New Minnesota Sea Grant market study seeks answers

Jan 27, 2021

This is one of several food-fish aquaculture projects led by the University of Minnesota Sea Grant program.

Duluth, Minnesota—A new three-year, $250,000 project led by the University of Minnesota Sea Grant program seeks to determine the potential for a sustainable food-fish aquaculture industry in Minnesota.

“Potential food-fish farmers planning to enter the industry are interested in credible data that will help them decide which production strategies and species are best suited for profitability,” said Amy Schrank, project lead and University of Minnesota Sea Grant fisheries and aquaculture extension educator. “Producers will need this information to apply for loans from banks and lending institutions.”

Food-fish or fish raised for human consumption is a relatively new and modest aquaculture industry in Minnesota and includes seafood such as shrimp and other forms of shellfish in addition to fish.

Interest in food-fish aquaculture is growing in Minnesota and the Great Lakes region because consumers want to purchase local foods and are concerned about food security. The increase in worldwide demand for protein and decrease in stocks of wild-caught fish are also driving interest in food-fish aquaculture.

The project team will assess Minnesota’s current food-fish supply through detailed interviews with food-fish farmers and distributors. The team will also work with farmers to determine production costs of various fish species grown in Minnesota.

“The information from producer assessments will be coupled with consumer demand data to identify price points so that profit margins can be estimated for the Minnesota food-fish industry,” said Don Schreiner, University of Minnesota Sea Grant fisheries specialist and project member. “This information will be important to determine if Minnesota-grown fish can compete successfully with fish grown out of state.”

Individual consumers and restaurateurs will be surveyed to understand their preferences and willingness to pay for state aquaculture products.

“Once we have results from our market study, we will develop an outreach program to share data and recommendations with the food-fish aquaculture industry, policymakers and the public,” said Schrank. “We anticipate hosting several virtual and, when possible, in-person facilitated discussions among aquaculture businesses and other interested groups to discuss market priorities and best practices."

An economics graduate student from the University of Minnesota will be trained in the development and analysis of project surveys used for aquaculture businesses, consumers and restaurants. The student will be mentored by project member and UMN Professor of Applied Economics Hikaru Hanawa Peterson. The number of applied economists who study aquaculture in the United States is extremely limited. Minnesota Sea Grant hopes this project will contribute to our nation’s workforce development in aquaculture.

“By addressing critical gaps in economic and market knowledge about food-fish, our project will help determine the potential for expansion of an environmentally and economically sustainable aquaculture industry in Minnesota and the Great Lakes region,” said John Downing, director, University of Minnesota Sea Grant. “We hope our work will contribute to healthy food production, job creation, and local business growth while protecting our important natural fisheries.”

Contacts and project team members:

  • Amy Schrank, fisheries and aquaculture extension educator, Minnesota Sea Grant, University of Minnesota, a schrank@umn.edu.
  • Donald Schreiner, fisheries and aquaculture extension educator, Minnesota Sea Grant, University  of Minnesota, schr0941@d.umn.edu. 
  • John A. Downing, director, Minnesota Sea Grant, University of Minnesota, downing@d.umn.edu.
  • Hikaru Hanawa Peterson, professor, Department of Applied Economics, University of Minnesota, hhp@umn.edu.
  • Marie Thoms, communications manager, Minnesota Sea Grant, University of Minnesota, methoms@d.umn.edu.

Funding

Minnesota Sea Grant’s project “Determining Market Potential for Food-Fish Aquaculture in Minnesota” is funded through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s competition “Addressing Economic and Market Needs of the U.S. Aquaculture Industry,” federal funding opportunity number NOAA-OAR-SG-2020-2006331.

Image credit: Wip-Studio

Image Credit: PIOTR PAKULA/WIP-Studio

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