AFFC Research Projects
The Alabama Fish Farming Center serves as a base of operations for several ongoing research projects aimed at increasing the sustainability of Alabama and U.S. aquaculture. Research is conducted in collaboration with industry partners (feed mills, catfish processors, etc.), commercial aquaculture producers, USDA-ARS and Auburn University faculty, staff and students to help increase the sustainability and competitiveness of U.S. aquaculture.
Inland Marine Shrimp Production
West Alabama is home to a unique marine shrimp farming industry that utilizes inland low salinity artesian groundwater as the culture medium. Marine shrimp farms are located in Greene, Lowndes, and Sumter counties at distances greater than 150 miles north of the Gulf of Mexico. The culture of shrimp in this environment presents several unique challenges related to production. In recent years, shrimp farmers have reported issues related to survival and reduced production compared to 10 years ago.
Current research projects in west Alabama focused on shrimp include:
- Evaluation of alternative feed ingredients on commercial farms to enhance survival, growth, and health of shrimp reared in low salinity water
- Evaluation of the impact of aqueous concentrations of magnesium on shrimp production in low salinity water
- Assessment of the potential of polyculture of shrimp and crawfish
- Investigation of late-term mortality of large market size shrimp prior to harvest
The AFFC works very closely with the USDA ARS Aquatic Animal Health Laboratory located in Auburn on applied projects in west Alabama. Active collaborations are also maintained with Dr. Allen Davis’ laboratory (Professor of Aquatic Animal Nutrition in the School of Fisheries, Aquaculture & Aquatic Sciences at Auburn University) to evaluate alternative ingredients for practical shrimp diets and to explore the implementation of novel feed management schemes on commercial farms. In addition to aquarium and tank facilities housed at the Alabama Fish Farming Center, there are also several larger tank systems located on commercial farms that serve as results-oriented research demonstrations for shrimp farmers. Finally, pond-level trials are executed in collaboration with Claude Peteet Mariculture Center in Gulf Shores to answer research questions for which ponds are required.
Antimicrobial Resistance in Catfish
Antimicrobial resistance has become a global problem in both human and animal health. The misuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture is one driver of antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic-resistant fish and human pathogens are serious concerns for the aquaculture industry and seafood safety. Most of the US catfish industry uses earthen ponds for production. When fish are fed medicated feeds, those feeds are essentially applied to the entire pond. This study aims to examine the different environmental components to determine the mechanism of antibiotic resistance in catfish. We aim to identify the critical control points that can be targeted to curb the development and transmission of antimicrobial resistance in aquaculture and to establish guidelines for farmers and veterinarians to use when treating bacterial infections.
The catfish industry is the largest stakeholder group related to aquaculture in west Alabama. Hence, a large percentage of our time and effort in research is directed towards solving producer, feed mill, and processor-related problems that affect the west Alabama catfish industry. Several projects are currently underway including:
- Evaluation of dietary ingredients that will improve health and production of commercially raised catfish species
- Investigation of pond soils as a reservoir for pathogens before and after pond renovation
- Quantification of the age structure of catfish remaining in commercial ponds following harvest
- Evaluation of strategies to reduce handling stress of hybrid catfish following commercial harvest and during transport
- Development of partial enterprise budgets related to pond renovation of watershed ponds in west Alabama
8:00AM – 4:30PM
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