Aquaculture America 2023

February 23 - 26, 2023

New Orleans, Louisiana USA


Michael Rust*


Hubbs Seaworld Research Institute,

2595 Ingraham Street

San Diego, CA 92109


The current industrial model for U.S. marine fish aquaculture requires large investments for high tech cages, automated feeding and monitoring systems, a modern hatchery, and modern extruded feeds.  The provision of feed and seed must either be accomplished by vertical development of the grow out company, capacity must already exist or be developed by others in a location.  Development of a modern hatchery and/or extruded feed mill each require a certain high level of demand to justify investment, and often the minimum size for profitability is larger than would be needed for a grow-out company.  These drivers create a catch-22 among producers of feed, seed and grow-out for marine fish.  Especially in small island states and rural areas where shipping in one or more of the inputs to production is impractical, and in political jurisdictions that are hesitant to support a single large company, producing a large amount of seafood that is likely to dominate markets.   If local markets are small, a single large farm could dominate them, and may need to target exports to sell the excess.   All of this drives up the minimum production size for a grow-out firm to be profitable, and increases the economic, environmental, and social barriers to entry.    Where marine aquaculture has developed (finfish in Norway, China, Japan etc.)  and is actively developing in the US (seaweed and shellfish in Alaska, Maine and other states) firms started smaller with, and in most cases still use simpler less complex technology and grew organically to their current level of industrialization.  I will introduce examples of possible stepping stone technologies for marine fish cages, seed (Floating Hatcheries) and feed production (Wet formulation with compacted or wet extruded pellets) that may help reduce barriers to entry for marine finfish.  I will also argue that to provide the level of innovation and development needed to progress from an entry level of technology to higher levels of industrialization needed for a high level of production, it will be necessary for the world to focus on a few species due to the high costs of research and innovation.  Conversely, entry level application of low capitol technologies can lead to a smaller level of production but of a more diverse number of species.  These paths are not mutually exclusive and can even be complimentary.