Educational efforts have always been core to the mission of the International Soy in Aquaculture Program of the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC). Beyond helping to research and develop soy-based feeds and cutting-edge aquaculture technologies, the program’s real impact is in taking these innovations and best practices to operations around the world to increase the volume and sustainability quotient of global aquaculture.

Regional staff of the Aquaculture Program in Asia, Latin America, Europe and the Middle East work with fish farmers, feed mills and others in the supply chain to raise awareness of sustainable aquaculture production, feed manufacturing, post harvest technologies, and value and use of U.S. grown soy products.

One of the more innovative educational projects of the past year has been an effort to increase the production of sustainable marine fish aquaculture species in Southeast Asia. USSEC conducted a workshop series titled “Development of a Sustainable, High-Volume, Export-focused Marine Fish Aquaculture Sector in Southeast Asia”, held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Jakarta, Indonesia; Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; and Manila, Philippines.

“We were energized by the regional industry turnout and the overall interest in growing this sector of the industry,” said Lukas Manomaitis, USSEC Southeast Asia Technical Director – Aquaculture, who was a featured speaker and led the team that put on the workshops.

“We are confident that the conversations and discussions that were had by the industry stakeholders at these workshops will set the foundation for significant sustainable, feed-based marine fish aquaculture production in these countries. In turn, this will increase markets for high quality U.S. soy feed ingredients.”

The workshops brought together representatives from government, industry associations, international buyers, certification programs, and exporters to discuss and outline what the Southeast Asian marine fish aquaculture industry should do to target the international export market.

Southeast Asia (SEA) has a significant number of high quality fish processing facilities for land based aquaculture production and wild-caught fisheries, but the marine fish aquaculture industry remains largely outdated and behind global trends when it comes to larger scale, industrial marine fish cage farms that operate in offshore areas. With the expectation that a rapid advancement in the uptake of production technology will lead to significant increases in the volumes of marine fish, the theme of the workshops was to prepare the overall industry in SEA to plan correctly for supplying an export market. This is due to the feeling that domestic and regional markets in SEA would likely have difficulty in absorbing a rapid increase in marine fish production, at least initially, and international markets are looking for high quality marine fish products from aquaculture.

Among the speakers at the workshops was Matt Brooker, Business Development Manager for The Fishin’ Company. Brooker brought an export-focused buying perspective to the workshop and provided insight into the growing standards and requirements of the North American and European seafood markets.

Brooker was encouraged by his experience at the workshops. “I walked away from this experience with an excitement for the direction that USSEC is leading the industry in the region. There is a real need for high-quality, sustainable, and affordable seafood in North America and Europe. I believe that Southeast Asia is well positioned to capitalize on this demand with marine aquaculture as long as the production is established in a way that meets the required standards of our markets.”

Scott Zimmerman of Safe Quality Seafood Associates was in attendance to provide his expertise in certification programs and auditing, along with Isidor Yu of GlobalGAP and Nguyen Thanh Binh of the BAP program.

Langley Gace and David Kelly of Innovasea Systems were also on hand as global experts in the open ocean aquaculture industry. Their expertise in sustainable technologies and equipment innovation provided opportunities for detailed discussions into the execution of a Southeast Asian marine fish aquaculture industry developing in offshore cages.

Breakout sessions covering Government, Trade, Sustainability, and Industry topics were conducted at the workshops. USSEC has plans to produce white papers covering these topics to allow for the key takeaways to be used as a resource for future implementation.