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NC university aquaculture projects awarded federal funding

February 2, 2021  By  Nestor Arellano

Dr. Wade Watanabe (image from UNCW)

Two University of North Carolina Wilmington research projects will receive part of a US $4.7 million federal fund aimed at addressing the economic and market needs of the country’s aquaculture industry.

A total of $120,452 was awarded to UNCW faculty members Wade Watanabe, Christopher Dumas, Md Shah Alam and Patrick Carroll; Frank López with North Carolina Sea Grant; and partners, according to a press release from the university. The group’s project is titled,  “Production Economic Analysis of Market Stage Black Sea Bass in a Recirculating Aquaculture System: Impacts of Improved Fingerling Prices, More Sustainable Feeds, and Faster Growth from Selective Breeding.”

The goal of this research is to develop a generalized spreadsheet economic model of a commercial land-based RAS facility that can be parameterized for alternative locations and scales of production, according to the researchers.


The model created will allow for the production facility to be scaled and configured in alternative ways and allow input of alternative values of the biological and economic parameters to accommodate other geographic areas and species.

UNCW faculty members Troy Alphin and Martin Posey, Diane Durance, director of the UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Frank López and Eric Herbst of North Carolina Sea Grant, and partners were awarded $205,611 for their project “Developing Farm and Market Tools for Shellfish Mariculture in North Carolina.”

This research addresses several program priorities including the provision of tools to address the
knowledge gaps in business development, focusing on areas of marketing and economics for the shellfish
cultivation industry in North Carolina.  The researchers aim to develop tools that will provide industry participants with the resources they need to address and respond to volatile conditions  such as weather changes and uncertain markets.

The money given to the research projects are part of the U.S. government’s Sea Grant, a  $4.7 million funding program to support 12 research projects to advance the understanding of the economics of aquaculture businesses.

Stuart R. Borrett, associate provost for research and innovation and professor in the Department of Biology and Marine Biology, said it was “significant” that the two UNCW groups are receiving funding from Sea Grant.

“It reflects UNCW’s overall strength in coastal and marine science, as well as the depth of contributions we are making to support and grow the blue economy,” he said.

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