One ISU professor is hoping his research could eventually develop a new market in the state of Iowa.
Kurt Rosentrater, assistant professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering, is developing a new kind of fish food that could be more cost-effective for the aquaculture market, and he hopes it could help to attract some attention from fish producers in other states.
Rosentrater has been researching new fish food for 15 years, and he hopes his new work could use Iowa's corn and soy resources to create a new feed for a range of fish in the country.
Rosentrater said currently, a large portion of production costs for fish producers is on feed, which often includes expensive ingredients like fish meal and fish oil. The ingredients are typically used to help more carnivorous fish breeds, like yellow perch and rainbow trout, move over to the new diet after eating other fish in their natural habitat.
By using corn and soy-based ingredients in his new feed, Rosentrater said the diet would be cheaper for producers to transport out of Iowa, and could possibly give producers a reason to build new fish operations in-state. But the challenge, he said, has been to get carnivorous breeds to bite.
The feed has been sent across the country, including Illinois; Arkansas; Ohio; Kentucky; and SeaWorld in San Diego, Calif., and has been given to a variety of both carnivorous and omnivorous fish breeds. With results varying in each breed, Rosentrater said the research has "had great success and terrible failures."
In more omnivorous breeds, like catfish and tilapia, Rosentrater said he has been able to reduce or eliminate fish oil in some diets while breeds like cobia, a fish new to the country, are struggling to adapt.
But with the success he's found with other breeds, Rosentrater said the research could be a step in the right direction to develop more aquaculture in the state.
"We know how to make feed for pigs, chicken and turkeys. We've got the raw ingredients, we've got the processing knowledge. It would make a lot of sense to build a feed industry," he said.
Rosentrater said the development, however, is a "chicken and the egg" scenario. Several surrounding states have a larger fish market, and he said the main challenge will be determining whether to move forward with feed production or to wait for producers to move into the state.
"We need to grow the industry. So which comes first, the feed portion or the fish portion?" he said. "I'm trying to do what I can do to help reduce the processing cost and prove the concepts, and then hopefully producers will come along."
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