FISHERIES AND AQUATIC ECOLOGY

Integrated Agriculture and Aquaculture

by Nick C. Parker and Clifford B. Fedler

Nation-wide there has been a growing concern for environmental quality as reflected by regulations limiting landfills and restricting discharges from industrial and agricultural operations. Many agricultural waste products could be recycled as valuable byproducts if properly integrated into aquaculture.

An interdisciplinary team has been investigating an integrated aquaculture system to grow a marine rnicroalgae in a medium formulated from organic wastes from cattle feedlots, oilfield brine, and power plant byproducts. The goal of this research is to create a new, environmentally sound aquaculture industry in west Texas.

Aquaculture has been expanding globally, but present aquacultural production will not satisfy projected demands. Locations in the southwest and especially in the Texas High Plains have the natural resources required to develop efficient, commercial-scale systems for culture of algae and fish using the plentiful livestock waste from feedlots as a nutrient base and saltwater as a culture medium. In addition, the High Plains area has much of the infrastructure needed to support aquaculture. We found that minimal profits will result from small scale algal culture operations if the final product is sold at $1,000/ton. For medium and large systems, significant profits ($1,800 to $2,700/acre) can be made, especially when compared to typical profits from cotton and cereal grains of $100 to $500/acre. Farm-produced microalgae would supply high quality products for the pharmaceutical industry and protein for inclusion in diets of fish, poultry, and livestock. The potential of aquaculture seems to be unmatched by any other sector in the agricultural community in Texas. Semiarid and arid regions can support significant aquaculture operations if approaches are taken to use natural resources locally available, to produce products of special interest and high value, and to develop the infrastructure as an integral part of agriculture and other industries.

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Reprinted from: Research Highlights - 1991. Texas Tech Department of Range and Wildlife Management 22:32.