Objective 1 Hire a Regional Aquaculture Extension Specialist

The first objective, which was a critical first step, for this project was to locate and hire an extension specialist to carry out the scope of work outlined in the proposal. Recruitment for this position began in the fall of 2018. The position of Aquaculture Marketing Outreach Associate was created and filled with the hire of Amy Shambach on July 30, 2019. Amy has been with the Midwest aquaculture industry for10 years working on both large, medium and small aquaculture farms. She has experience with yellow perch, trout, tilapia, shrimp, hybrid bluegill, largemouth bass, and crayfish. The goals for Objective 1 have been met.

Objective 2 Regional Needs Assessment of Consumer and Marketing-Oriented Programming

Work on Objective 2 is in progress. The regional needs assessment will be carried out in several parts and the results will be combined to accomplish the goals of the needs assessment. The assessment has been broken into 4 focus areas which include Objective 2a database development, Objective 2b extension programming assessment, Objective 2c producer needs assessment, and Objective 2d consumer needs assessment. The findings of these three assessments will be used to generate a final report and guide the development of products and programs.

  • Objective 2a - Database development: This was completed in October of 2019. The database that was created includes contact information for food fish producers, grocery stores, distributors, processors, food hubs, restaurants, food co-ops, and farmer's markets. The database was populated using publicly available information sources, so it is necessarily incomplete, but technician did a reasonably thorough job. We are holding off on using this database for needs assessments right now because people in the grocery industry are overwhelmed with coronavirus response. We will continue to fill out this database as we network across the region.

  • Objective 2b - Extension programming assessment: This is in progress. To get a complete understanding of aquaculture related extension programming across the region, we are reaching out to aquaculture extension professionals in the region, as well as working on a literature and resource search. We surveyed 569 county extension educators in the North Central region soliciting information on current programs and potential interests in aquaculture and aquaponics. The extension educator survey was approved by Purdue’s IRB, distributed, and closed with a response rate of 29%. A high-level overview of the findings can be found in the Appendix of this report; we hope to have a full analysis completed and published as an extension publication by the end of summer.

  • Objective 2c - Producer assessment: This is in development. We are currently developing the interview questions. Farm visits and in-person interviews will be used to better understand producer’s needs. Some of the information to be gathered include, who their customers are, what aquaculture products are being regional produced, and the kind of products and programs producers are interested in. Our timeline is to have the interview questions completed and approved by the IRB by the end of May. Farm visits are tentatively going to be scheduled for this summer through fall. If travel is restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will interview farmers by phone or use video conferencing. The results from this assessment will be disseminated in an extension publication by the end of the year.

  • Objective 2d - Consumer assessment: This is in the early stages of development. We plan to have survey questions finalized and approved by the IRB by the end of June. The next step will be to distribute the survey. We are still discussing the effective way to administer this, either online only or a combination of online and focus groups. The results of this assessment will be disseminated in an extension publication by the end of summer.

Objective 3 Develop and Deliver Extension Programming

The regional needs assessment will be completed before programming is developed. We are planning on using the outcomes from Objective 2 in partnership with university extension personnel in the region to develop targeted programming that will meet specific needs.

We currently have five extension products that are in various stages of development.

  1. Trifold handout on sustainable aquaculture. This product is in final development with the IISG communications team and we hope to have it released online by April 30, 2020.

  2. A print handout describing the health benefits of eating fish. This product is in the early stages of development.

  3. A website, at EatMidwestFish.org, which will function as the digital home for this project’s deliverables and a platform for consumers to learn about sustainable aquaculture and fish products available from the region. The website is in development. Website accomplishments to date include the formation of an advisory board, the creation of the “Eat Midwest Fish” logo, and a wireframe to guide the website build. The advisory board was created to guide website content to ensure the content represents a regional audience. The board has representatives from 4 Sea Grant programs, 5 universities and all 6 of the Great Lake States that are in the NCRAC region. Members include: Emma Wiermaa, Don Schreiner, Elliot Nelson, Matt Smith, Kwamena Quagrainie, Andrew Coursey, and Amy Shambach.

  4. Farmed fish fact sheet. We are currently working with the IISG communications team to create the template for a dual purpose project deliverable. This product will be a versatile product series that will show case fish and other aquaculture species that are raised in the North Central Region of the United States. The content will be used on the Eat Midwest Fish website to increase consumer awareness of locally produced aquaculture products and will be made available to producers, for use as a marketing tool, as a digital downloadable pdf.

  5. “Local Farmers Local Fish” video series. This series is being produced to increase awareness of locally grown sustainable seafood and to tell the stories of our region’s farmers. Our first video is in production now. We hope to have it completed for release no later than May 15, which is the deadline to get it to the National Aquaculture Association for increased distribution.

Objective 4 Development of Regional Aquaculture Network

The development of a regional aquaculture network is in progress. We have been building connections with Sea Grant extension specialists, aquaculture associations, extension networks, and university partners so far. Specifically:

  1. We have been in contact with the presidents of state aquaculture associations, aquaculture extension specialists, extension educators, Sea Grant Aquaculture and Fisheries extension professionals, the Indiana Department of Agriculture, Indiana and Illinois Economic Development offices, the National Aquaculture Association, and farmers. We are working with Sea Grant extension professionals to schedule farm visits for the producer needs assessment.

  2. We are leveraging our resources with the Great Lake States Collaborative (GLAC), other NCRAC funded activities, and researchers who are working on marketing-related studies, We are providing consultation for a research group working on consumer preference studies, and formed state advisor groups for Indiana and Illinois to help direct market research for the GLAC.

Objective 5 Evaluation

Program evaluation is not underway. Evaluation will be paired with programming.

Objective 6 Future Funding

Future funding has not been secured.

Appendix: Draft overview report of the ANR Extension Survey

1. Introduction

This is a brief overview of the Ag and Natural Resources needs assessment conducted as part of the NCRAC-funded project in early 2020. The survey was designed and implemented by Amy Shambach and Stuart Carlton of Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and analyzed by Carlton.

To conduct the survey, we gathered the names and email addresses for all county extension personnel working throughout the NCRAC region, our population of interest. We conducted the survey online via Qualtrics. Respondents were asked questions related to their interest and experience in aquaculture and aquaponics programming and a series of questions designed to understand their attitudes and risk perceptions towards GMOs. This overview focuses on the aquaculture and aquaponics questions; the GMO questions will be analyzed separately.

What follows is a quick-and-dirty breakdown of the survey results. There are probably better ways to present the data, but given the time crunch, I wanted to get the information into the relevant hands sooner rather than later.

2. Question-by-question summary graphs

2.1 Fish farming questions

Q1 Do you have stakeholders who contact you regarding fish farming?

  • Yes (1)
  • No (0)