February 07, 2011

Seminar promotes soy, fish growers partnership

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Soybean farmers and fish farmers have the opportunity to team up in the future as researchers identify new, improved formulas for soybean-based aquaculture feed.

Southern Illinois University Carbondale will play host to a meeting this month that will bring both sectors together to discuss the mutual benefits of cooperation, as well as sharing new information on ongoing research at SIUC.

“Partnering for Sustainable Illinois Aquaculture” is a seminar and dinner set for 4 p.m. Friday, Feb. 18, at SIUC’s Touch of Nature Environmental Center, south of Carbondale. The Fisheries and Illinois Aquaculture Center at SIUC, along with the Illinois Soybean Association, are co-sponsoring the event.

Jesse Trushenski, assistant professor of zoology, said Illinois is recognized as a leader in both agriculture and aquaculture, but that rising feed costs are threatening the economic viability of the latter. She and others at the University are working on ways to improved soybean-based feeds for Illinois fish farmers aimed at keeping production costs down.

“This particular event is coming out of an initiative that we are developing to link Illinois soybean growers and Illinois fish farmers,” Trushenski said. “My research team has been conducting a lot of research over the past few years to increase the use of soy in aquaculture feeds as an economical and sustainable source of protein and energy.”

Trushenski, who works on the issue along with Brian Small, associate professor of animal science, food and nutrition at SIUC, said her team last year conducted validation trials at the University aquaculture ponds to test the suitability of what the researchers have dubbed a “soy-maximized” feed formulation for hybrid striped bass. They compared the “soy-max” feed with a feed that is similar to the commercial feeds that area hybrid striped bass producers typically use now.

The fish in the trials are now nearing market size and should reach a harvest size of about 1.5 pounds this spring. Trushenski is hoping the soy-max food will come out on top in some parameters, such as dress-out, fillet shelf life, and others.

“We see this as a very exciting prospect for our fish growers, but also for soy growers,” Trushenski said. “Fish farmers could benefit from saving on feed costs while raising an equivalent, maybe even superior, product. Soy growers, on the other hand, could benefit from greater demand for their products in the aquafeed manufacturing sector.

“It’s a win-win for Illinois farmers, especially when you consider that many of our fish farmers came from a traditional agriculture background and quite a few soy growers also raise fish,” Trushenski said.

Organizers say the goal of the seminar and dinner is to share how soy and aquaculture can both grow and become stronger while forming a closer partnership, Trushenski said.

“This is a really positive message about Illinois agriculture and SIUC supporting economic development in the region,” she said.

The discussion begins at 4 p.m. with dinner served at 7 p.m. To RSVP, call 618/536-7761 by Feb. 15.