Believe it or not, soybeans.
As demand for seafood continues to grow, the global aquaculture industry is striving to meet that need through providing a high quality and sustainable protein source for aquafeeds.
Iowa farmer Tim Bardole recently visited Villahermosa, Mexico to learn more about existing opportunities and the future expansion of the aquaculture industry.
Tim farms 1700 acres of corn and soybeans in Rippey, Iowa with his father and older brother Peter, living on the “home place” that was purchased back in 1901 by his dad’s family. His parents live on his mom’s family’s century farm. (Iowa’s Century Farms program recognizes and honors families who have had a farm in the same family for 100 years or longer.)
Tim is the fifth generation to live and farm on the Bardole land.
He says, “My family has always been very concerned about the land, and we farm in a way that we believe is the most sustainable that current technology allows.” The Bardoles strip-till their corn and no-till their soybeans, in addition to doing custom spraying, no-till drilling and applying cover crops.
Tim’s trip to Mexico for the U.S. Soybean Council’s (USSEC) aquaculture educational opportunity for soy family representatives showed him how the U.S. Soy industry and the global aquaculture industry rely on each other.
“Aquaculture on the surface seems so simple, put fish in a pond or ocean cage, and you have fish to eat,” Tim says. “Aquaculture is at least as complicated as any large-scale livestock operation with the additional challenge of making sure not to overpopulate ponds to keep the water clean.”
Making sure that fish aren’t overpopulated or overcrowded, keeping the water clean while allowing flow through, and managing oxygen levels are just part of fish farming.
Similar to raising livestock, aquaculture needs a lot of soy, too.
Tim explains, “There’s a shortage of fish meal that has historically been used for aquafeeds. Soy not only replaces fish meal in rations, it increases feed efficiency.”
“The advantage of soy-based feed for aquaculture was evident in all the research that we saw. That is exciting for the soy industry,” Tim continues.
He also heard about the possibility of studies comparing U.S. Soy aquafeed to feed made of soy from other origins.
USSEC Aquaculture Southeast Asia Program Technical Director Lukas Manomaitis and Jim Zhang, USSEC Aquaculture Program Manager for China “both made comments on needing to have studies demonstrating the advantages of U.S. Soy,” said Tim. “It was their belief that U.S. soybeans made a more efficient and cost effective feed.”
He says one of the big takeaways from his trip is that “the U.S. really needs to produce feed-grade Advanced Soy Proteins (ASP) to better position ourselves in the growing aquaculture market. So far, there isn’t any large U.S. crusher that has been willing to fill this market.”
Tim thinks that very few U.S. farmers have a true grasp yet of the aquafeed market’s great potential. He believes aquaculture is important to the future of U.S. Soy, as it is the fastest growing utilization for soy in addition to the fastest growing animal protein globally.
“The amount of livestock in the world isn’t going to increase much because of places to raise them. The aquaculture industry has a huge potential for growth, especially in marine aquaculture,” he says.
In fact, as of 2011, there is more seafood raised than beef in the world.
“This in turn makes a great potential market for our soybeans, which means better prices for U.S. farmers. This is a win-win for us and our customers.”
Ray Bardole, Tim’s dad, served as USSEC chairman from 2010-2012, and Tim says aquaculture has been on his dad’s mind for some time already.
“I remember many conversations with him during that time in which he said aquaculture was the future for increasing soybean demand.”
Tim’s son Schyler recently graduated from college and plans to represent the sixth generation of Bardole farmers. “He is a very talented young man that will be a great asset to our farm when we can make it happen,” Tim says with pride.