Florida's next generation of farmers are getting hands-on experience in aquaculture techniques, thanks to a new education program hosted by Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium (MMLA) in Sarasota, Florida.
In partnership with UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County, the eight-week Beginning Farmer Education Program, hosted at the 200-acre Mote Aquaculture Research Park (MAP), is geared towards cultivating Florida's next generation of farmers, with a strong emphasis on sustainable seafood production through aquaculture and aquaponics.
Aiming to nurture the future Florida workforce in food, agriculture, and natural resources, participants will receive mentoring from Mote scientists, extension educators, successful entrepreneurs, and local producers.
The Sarasota-based organization is known for its leading-edge research and innovation in aquaculture. Current projects hosted at MAP include new RAS development Pine Island Redfish's demonstration-scale production partnership.
The program will enable participants to learn directly from Mote scientists about closed-loop aquaponic systems, where nutrient-rich water from fish tanks is used to fertilize plants, with the purified water recirculated back to the fish.
Dr. Nicole Rhody, who leads Mote's Marine & Freshwater Aquaculture Research Program, says this approach has the potential to address global food security issues.
“Mote continues to successfully demonstrate how to raise seafood away from the coast while recycling 100% of the salt water—and we’ve built upon that core technology to do much, much more,” Rhody said.
“Mote’s progress reveals how precisely our research targets urgent, pressing questions in our national conversation on food security and sustainable seafood resources."
"We hope this program combines what we know about taking environmentally-friendly aquaculture to a commercial scale and how we can apply those methods by enhancing the success of new farm start-ups, to help increase access to more locally grown foods.”
“This program is a low-risk, high-learning environment that allows new farmers to make mistakes and experiment with different growing techniques before starting their own business,” said Sustainable Agriculture Agent at UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County and program instructor, Dr. Rod Greder.
Participants will receive access to land, aquaculture facilities, and supplies, enabling them to design, implement, learn and adjust plans for their own future farms using a micro plot that can be expanded to a larger scale plot, Greder explained.
Those wishing to take part in the program are invited to email him directly at email@example.com.
Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium has a nearly 70-year legacy as an independent, nonprofit, 501(c)3 global marine research and science education institution. Founded in 1955 by researcher Dr. Eugenie Clark, Mote has since grown into eight campuses stretching from Tampa Bay to Key West, with a ninth new campus, the Mote Science Education Aquarium (Mote SEA), currently under construction. Mote has more than 25 diverse world-class research programs studying oceans locally and internationally, with an emphasis on positively impacting conservation and sustainable use of marine resources.