RASTECH 2022 reunites industry professionals
RASTECH 2022, the international technical conference and trade show serving owners and operators of Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS), recently took place in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.
April 5, 2022 By Maryam Farag
The return of RASTECH 2022 to in-person has indeed sparked excitement among attendees and exhibitors at Hilton Head Island, SC, USA. It reunited about 270 aquaculture professionals, including fish farmers, producers, operators, fish hatchery professionals, engineers, contractors and consultants, research professionals and investors.
Last year’s uncertainties and varying levels of travel restrictions related to COVID-19 have led organizers of the RASTECH Conference to host three virtual events instead, and move the in-person event to this year.
The two-day event’s focus was the recirculating aquaculture system (RAS), and how it continues to evolve and develop as one of the most promising farming technologies for raising healthy fish to help meet the world’s growing need for protein. Whether it’s raising fish juveniles, producing larger smolt, growing full harvest size fish, aquaponics or research, RAS technology continues to lead the way in the continued expansion of the aquaculture industry around the globe.
Megan Sorby, operations manager of Kingfish Maine, opened the RASTECH 2022 Conference with her keynote presentation, where she discussed how the Kingfish Company is making its way to the U.S., with its Kingfish Maine RAS facility. The operation will be located in Jonesport, Maine, and will look to establish a local sustainable seafood production for U.S. retailers and food service.
Sorby gave the attendees a technical overview of the Kingfish Maine operation, discussed the technologies to be incorporated in the facility, the operating strategy and expected challenges to be faced, and training staff and ensuring they are equipped for success.
The event featured 20 different breakout sessions in three different rooms, with over 50 speakers from varying parts of the industry. The topics of presentations and roundtables included RAS feed and nutrition management, aquaponics, RAS projects, RAS current applications and future challenges, RAS fish health, Biosecurity RAS hatcheries, RAS research and findings, technologies for production enhancements, engineering innovations, and product showcase.
Ron Hill, founder and CEO of Velocity Aqua, was one of the session moderators at the event.
“The event was actually excellent. I was really, really impressed by the quality of the speakers, but also by the quality of the people that I met. I’ve never met a lot of these people. And it’s just awesome to connect with people who are extremely passionate, but also extremely knowledgeable. I made some awesome contacts during this event. And hopefully that leads to mine and the industry’s success going forward,” said Hill.
Hill was also an exhibitor at the event, representing Velocity Aqua, a company that supports aquaculture entrepreneurs with sustainable aquaculture business solutions, provided by experienced aquaculture professionals.
“For me, the last couple years have been pretty tough because I’ve been unable to connect with people. Starting a new business in this field, and then not being able to go to events, even the regional events near me were all cancelled because of the pandemic, and that really hurt my business. To be able to get here and finally get face to face with people and start to engage with people I know and I don’t know was a really good push forward.”
All RASTECH exhibitors and sponsors offered relevant products and services to the RAS sector, showcasing the latest in RAS project design, technology, equipment, feeds and genetics, amongst others.
Joe Tordella, Director of Process Cooling, Morris, and David Maw, President, Process Cooling, Morris were one of the 50 exhibitors who made it to RASTECH 2022.
“We made several contacts that were really good. We’re making farms and building farms, and we just hadn’t been able to penetrate and make contact yet, and being able to make that contact is probably the biggest takeaway for us for sure,” said Tordella.
“I think that especially during COVID-19, it’s very difficult to reach out to people that are starting new RAS plants, and they don’t know us. We have the tools to help them be successful, and we are unable to tell them, so this has given us a chance to be able to actually make some contacts, and see them say ‘we need exactly what you have’, ‘you’re a U.S. supplier, and we need that’. So, this was a good opportunity for everybody,” said Maw.
All aspects of fish supply chains have been strongly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with jobs, incomes and food security at risk. Some of the exhibitors and attendees shared their concerns about supply chain issues. However, most of them held an optimistic attitude of what is to come next.
“It’s been tough. It’s been people spending long days trying to find parts all over the place to get them in. But so far, we’ve been fortunate that they’ve been able to work hard, and we haven’t missed any orders. They’ve done a really nice job to bring stuff in,” said Tordella.
“It’s still going to take time. It hasn’t been the same thing that’s been a problem before. Every day or every week seems to be something different. I would say our supply team has gotten pretty good at the dance, and so they maybe have a good idea of how to go about it. It’s not a surprise anymore.”
“Trying to design around it as well. For example, if we can substitute one part for another, we’re doing that, or making design changes on our controls to find things are more readily available,” said Maw.
Albert Terrazas, Division Manager, Process Solutions, Hansen-Rice, an integrated solutions provider of construction services, was an exhibitor at the event.
“As a business that solves problems in the food industry, we didn’t really slow down, as everyone has to eat. Of course, the material and logistics side of that had a huge impact. I’d say that without challenging, we had to get through it to serve the market and do our jobs. And I think that hopefully, in the next six to 12 months, a lot of that will relieve itself, of course being cognizant of continued risks and being responsible,” said Terrazas.
The Westin Hilton Head Island resort served as the perfect venue, as attendees expressed their admiration to it, especially with the great weather, and the cocktails hour that took place at the end of the first day, on the deck, facing the ocean and witnessing sunset.
“Event has been fantastic. The venue is phenomenal. Location is a very nice choice, and the turnout has been very good as well. We see a good mix of valuable beneficial vendors and suppliers in the industry as well as farmers, processors and other investors and stakeholders in the industry, coming together to have a really good educational as well as a commercial interaction,” said Terrazas.
RASTECH 2023 will take place on April 20-21, 2021 in Orlando, FL, USA and registration is open.
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