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Aquaculture & Fisheries Page

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Aquaculture/Fisheries Center - Extension
Starting a Business in Aquaculture
     The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Aquaculture/Fisheries Center and the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service work cooperatively to provide research-based information to people interested in aquaculture. Information on fish production can be obtained from any county Extension office in Arkansas. Extension materials are designed to provide an objective overview of the requirements and rewards involved. Ultimately, the decision to enter fish farming rests with the individual. Informed individuals make better decisions, reducing the chances for failures that hurt everyone in the business.
Aquaculture Alternatives in Arkansas
Catfish Farming     Aquaculture has become a popular form of agriculture. Many people are looking at various aquaculture enterprises as a way to start a new business. In considering an aquaculture business venture, there are a number of important decisions to be made. This section is intended to assist potential producers by outlining critical questions and briefly describing available alternatives.

     Deciding which aquaculture species to produce is the first step. Each species has its own potential and constraints, biological and economic. The principal question is, can this species be raised and sold for a profit in Arkansas? In selecting a species to raise, it is critical to study not only the production methods, but also markets available and accessible to your proposed operation as well as anticipated costs, market price, and expected profits.

     The next step prior to entering commercial farming is to develop a business plan and begin to contact lenders and investors to acquire the necessary capital. You must ask yourself if you have the skills, management ability, and time to run a fish farm. If not, you will have to hire a manager. Your plan should indicate potential profits. Will the profit make your efforts worthwhile? Visits to commercial farms and with Extension personnel can help you set goals for your aquaculture operation.

  • Further Reading: 

    Arkanssas Cooperative Extension Fact Sheet

    • "Aquaculture Alternatives" - [link]

    The Southern Regional Aquaculture Center Fact Sheets

    • SRAC 441, "Aquaculture: Realities and Potentials When Getting Started. " (This is an excellent resource for people interested in joining the aqaculture business.)
Aquaculture Species
Crappie Baitfish     Although a good number of different aquaculture species can be raised in Arkansas, commonly cultured species are limited to catfish and baitfish (golden shiners, fathead minnows, and goldfish). Arkansas has approximately 38,000 acres of catfish ponds and 24,000 acres in baitfish production. Information on culture methods for these crops is readily available from the Cooperative Extension Service. Additional species raised in Arkansas include hybrid striped bass fingerlings, grass carp, bighead carp, largemouth bass (foodfish), fancy goldfish, koi carp, common carp, ornamental fish, crawfish, trout, black carp, tilapia, freshwater prawns, marine shrimp, and others. Sportfish, fish for stocking recreational ponds, such as largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie, and redear sunfish, are also farmed. Limited information on production and/or marketing is available for many of these species. For example, grass carp fingerlings, especially sterile triploid fish, are sold for weed control. Existing producers have spent much time and effort developing their own production methods and markets. A potential producer should gain experience before attempting to produce these species commercially and must expect to devote a large portion of his or her time to marketing efforts.
Introduction to Catfish Production
Some key points when considering catfish production include:
  • Do you have a general understanding of catfish production? (Refer to video "Catfish Farming in the South"). 
  • Are you aware of the large capital investment required for building and operating a fish farm? (Refer to Arkansas Cooperative Extension Program fact sheet ETB252 "Costs of Producing Catfish on Commercial Farms in Levee Ponds in Arkansas" and fact sheet FSA9084 "Costs and Returns of Catfish Production in Watershed Ponds"). 
  • Have you prepared a complete business plan necessary for evaluating profit potential and for securing adequate financing? (Refer to fact sheet SRAC 381 "Developing Business Proposals for Aquaculture Loans"). 
  • Are you aware of the economic impact of the risks involved in catfish production, such as low dissolved oxygen, diseases, bird depredation, etc.? (Refer to fact sheet SRAC 441, "Aquaculture: Realities and Potentials When Getting Started"). 
  • Are you aware of "off flavor" and that the processing plant alone will decide if your fish have an acceptable flavor for processing? (Refer to fact sheet SRAC192, "Managing Off-Flavor Problems in Pond-Raised Catfish").