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.
Blooms of toxic phytoplankton, including cyanobacteria, plague aquaculture production ponds given that some cyanobacteria can produce (1) potent toxins that can kill fish and (2) off-flavor compounds that make fish taste earthy. Controlling algal blooms is complicated given that nutrient management is difficult in active aquaculture ponds.
Chemical methods, such as copper sulfate, are often effective at killing phytoplankton but tend to have to be used repeatedly because their effects are short-lived or don’t select for higher quality phytoplankton species. Hydrogen peroxide is an approved FDA treatment but not often used at the whole aquaculture pond scale.
Using lab and field experiments, we found that hydrogen peroxide doses ~7 mg/L reduce cyanobacteria and algal toxins while promoting high quality green algae. Biological methods, including foodweb manipulations, that promote large-bodied zooplankton, such as Daphnia, show promise as effective and sustainable approaches for managing algal blooms.
With a new USDA-NIFA grant, Alan Wilson and Luke Roy along with our students will conduct whole pond experiments aimed at promoting cyanobacteria-resistant Daphnia that naturally eliminate cyanobacteria in catfish aquaculture ponds.
Zhen Yang — email@example.com
Inland Marine Shrimp Production
West Alabama is home to a very 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.
Current research projects in west Alabama are evaluating the use of probiotics on commercial farms to enhance survival and growth, investigating different hatchery sources of post-larval shrimp, assessing the role of water quality on shrimp production, and developing least-cost salt formulations for commercial producers. 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 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.
Trivalent Vaccine Research
Commercial catfish farming in the state of Alabama has been hit hard in recent years with significant losses due to bacterial disease outbreaks. Auburn University and the Alabama Fish Farming Center in west Alabama have been conducting trials on a commercial farm in Hale county to investigate different methods for controlling disease outbreaks.
An experimental trial is being carried out to examine three different administration methods (injection, immersion, immersion with adjuvant) for a trivalent vaccine that targets Aeromonas hydrophila (vAh), Flavobacterium columnare, and Edwardsiella ictaluri (ESC). These three bacteria account for a $12.3 million-dollar annual loss for catfish producers in Alabama. Three experimental-scale in pond raceway systems (IPRS) on three different ponds are being used for this vaccine trial. Channel catfish that were vaccinated at Auburn University were transported to west Alabama and stocked into the IPRS units at 1000 fish per cell. All disease outbreaks within the cells are monitored and diagnosed by the Alabama Fish Farming Center’s Diagnostics lab. The results for each vaccine administration method will be analyzed to determine which is most effective. This project is being carried out by Jesse James, an Auburn University graduate student in Fisheries, in collaboration with Kennebec River BioSciences and the USDA ARS Aquatic Animal Health Laboratory in Auburn, Alabama. In 2018, plans are also underway to conduct a feed trial using this experimental system.
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