Mississippi State leads global aquaculture project

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MSU CVM aquaculture lab
With a multimillion dollar grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development, Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine will oversee a project on developing aquaculture in impoverished countries. (Courtesy of Mississippi State University)

Mississippi State University will lead a new $15 million federal initiative to reduce poverty and improve living standards for impoverished populations dependent on aquaculture-led economies, the university announced in October.

U.S. Agency for International Development funding over the next five years will support the Feed the Future Innovation Lab on Fish, led through the university's Global Center for Aquatic Food Security run by Dr. Mark Lawrence.

"The overall goal of the FIL is conducting research that leads to real world impact. USAID expects much more than just published papers," said Dr. Lawrence, associate dean and professor in MSU's College of Veterinary Medicine, in the press release. "True success will be measured by adoption of our findings and changes in practice, leading to an actual benefit to farmers, feed producers, and families."

The laboratory is not a specific site, but rather, a mechanism through which academic, private, and public partners can identify solutions for global challenges.

It is one of 22 Feed the Future Innovation Labs. The others focus on different agricultural commodities or themes to improve human outcomes through research on agriculture, including the University of Florida's focus on livestock systems.

Fish are among the most traded agricultural commodities in the world. However, additional research is needed to understand how developing countries can maximize aquaculture and benefit their people. The new lab will work to fill in these gaps by studying ways of improving production, reducing and mitigating risk to fish production systems, and improving human outcomes, according to the release.

Project activities will initially focus on regions deemed priority areas for aquaculture and fisheries development by FIL and USAID: West Africa, East Africa, and Asia. Initial work will take place at the local level to develop best practices that can be scaled to national and regional levels.

The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Fish uses a "Leader with Associates" model, through which MSU will facilitate associate awards to research and development partners. The university will identify and manage a portfolio of investments for research and development activities that address both promising innovations and emerging challenges in aquaculture and fisheries through an integrated approach of blending multiple disciplines.