While Iowa’s “the land between two rivers,” aquaculture isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Iowa State University research farms. But that’s exactly what the newest research facility just north of the Ames campus is dedicated to. Director Joe Morris says aquaculture isn’t that foreign an idea to the land of corn, soybeans and hogs. He says there has been an interest in aquaculture for some time. He says there are 63 aquaculture farms across the state and he says there’s been an interest in research on the subject. While traditional research farms have plots of corn and beans, this farm has six ponds.He says it’s an opportunity for someone to come out and see what operating a fish farm is like. Morris says the aqua farm is like any other research facility.He says they’re starting a new research project on catfish culture and are trying to find out the best way to manage them. Morris says the fish farms offer a niche market for farmers.He says most of the fish produced here are used for stocking farm ponds. He says there are some food fish producers for trout and catfish on the eastern and western side of the state. He says raising the fish for pond stocking is like raising cattle.He says there are a lot of similarities to the hog feeding operation he grew up on in southwest Iowa. He says it’s basically a feeder pig operation, except they deal with fingerling fish instead of hogs. Morris says the food for the fish has shifted to a lot of soybean-based feed, so there’s a link farmers can find between the fish and their other crops. Morris says the ponds are deep enough that they won’t freeze over completely, allowing the operation to continue in the winter months.
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