Novel Algaecide for Control of Off-Flavor in Catfish Ponds

Award Information
Department of Agriculture
Award Year:
Phase I
Agency Tracking Number:
Solicitation Year:
Solicitation Topic Code:
Solicitation Number:
Small Business Information
3416 ASHWOOD DR, Bloomington, IN, 47401
Hubzone Owned:
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged:
Woman Owned:
Principal Investigator:
Richard Wagner
(812) 339-3057
Business Contact:
Richard Wagner
(812) 339-3057
Research Institution:
The U.S. aquaculture industry can claim many successes, but the one truly outstanding accomplishment is the meteoric rise of the channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) industry. The first farming operation started in Mississippi in the late 1960's and since has developed into the leading U.S. farmed species reaching a 2007 (estimated) domestic market value of $590 million. This clearly dominates the U.S. aquaculture industry with 45% of total farm output by volume. The industry, as of late is swimming in troubled waters with inventories of food grade fish down 11% (July, 07 vs. July, 06) and culture acreage also reduced by 3%. U.S. Census Bureau data reveals that inexpensive imports of the competing fish from Southeast Asia has experienced a year-to-year increase of 97% (March, 06- March, 07) resulting in volume and price pressure. The American industry is threatened and will have to implement every possible production efficiency, political pressure and marketing program in order to thrive. The industry has identified "off flavor" as the most substantial problem facing the American catfish producers. Cyanobacteria or blue green algae blooms express geosmin and 2-methylisoborneol (MIB), which impart a muddy/earthy off flavor and smell. These two fat-soluble chemicals have been identified as the cause of the majority of the off-flavor incidents. The problem is at its height during the warm summer months and can affect 50% of the market-sized fish in inventory. This results in substantial financial hardship for the farmer, with the industry wide problem causing an estimated 60 million dollars each year. The management of off flavor is not a straightforward process and even the most careful farm managers and processors can inadvertently allow these problematic fish to enter the market. In order to quality assure/control the finished product the processors maintain tasters that will assess samples from harvest ready ponds. Once off flavor has been identified the producer has few options. The farmer can wait it out since experience has determined that it can clear up in a few days or weeks. He can treat the pond with copper sulfate or diuron to kill the cyanobacteria. The farmer can also take a more active approach and transfer the fish to a "purging" pond or raceway where they are taken off feed and held in clean well water (> 3 exchanges per day). However, it is apparent that the most damaging long term consequence of off-flavor is loss of market share to foreign competition. This puts the American farm raised catfish brand at risk. As 90% of the catfish is raised in southern states in rural areas, the loss of this market can have a significant economic impact on areas that are facing economic challenges. Effective control strategies are required to prevent off-flavor and protect the U.S. catfish industry and southern rural economies. Introducing a new product with enhanced algaecidal properties will allow U.S. farmers to remain competitive as well as provide a quality and nutritious product to the U.S. consumer.

* information listed above is at the time of submission.

Agency Micro-sites

US Flag An Official Website of the United States Government