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Title: Performance evaluation of intensive, pond-based culture systems for catfish production in Mississippi: year one

item Brown, Travis
item Torrans, Eugene
item Tucker, Craig

Submitted to: Aquaculture America Conference
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/2/2014
Publication Date: 2/20/2015
Citation: Brown, T.W., Torrans, E.L., Tucker, C.S. 2015. Performance evaluation of intensive, pond-based culture systems for catfish production in Mississippi: year one. Aquaculture America Conference. P.77.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Catfish farming is the leading form of aquaculture in the U.S. and has a significant economic impact in the southern states. Increased feed and energy costs, and competition from foreign imports have recently caused catfish farmers to intensify production as a means of improving efficiency and profitability. Many intensive systems have recently been constructed on commercial operations and some believe they are more controllable and efficient at producing catfish than traditional large ponds. Thus, this study characterized and evaluated the production efficiencies of a number of these new culture systems on three commercial catfish farms in Mississippi as a joint effort with researchers in Alabama and Arkansas. In Mississippi, two intensification techniques are most common. The first approach is to stock catfish at high densities in small commercial ponds (2 to 6 water acres) and install more aeration (5 to 15 hp per acre). Another approach is to modify a catfish pond into a split-pond aquaculture system and confine fish into a small basin about 15 to 50% of the total pond area which is intensively managed. All systems utilized 3, 10, or 15-hp electric paddlewheel aerators. Two pump types, high-speed screw pumps and slow-rotating paddlewheels (SRPs), are currently being used to circulate water between the fish-culture basin and waste-treatment lagoon in split-ponds. Conveyance structures for screw pumps are normally circular pipe (steel and/or plastic) that range in diameter from 2.0-3.0 ft and 40-90 ft long as compared to open concrete channels (10-12 ft wide and 3.0-4.0 ft deep) used with SRPs. Power input ranged from 0.14-10.28 hp at water flow rates of 6,100-17,800 gal/min with efficiencies of 800-36,500 gal/min/hp for both pump types. The percentage of energy used to pump water compared to total energy used to produce fish (aeration and pumping) decreased with increased pump efficiency and ranged from 15.4-21.9% for screw pumps and 2.2-3.4% for SRPs. Year one results for hybrid catfish culture were impressive with net annual production that ranged from 10,600-16,800 lb/acre, survival rate of 61.7-96.3%, and FCR (feed conversion ratio) of 1.8-3.6 for intensively aerated small acreage ponds. In contrast, split-ponds had net annual production of 14,300-18,100 lb/acre, survival rate of 82.1-91.2%, and FCR of 1.8-2.4. Direct energy use for dedicated and emergency aeration, and water pumping was 0.336-1.063 kW-h/lb of fish produced and 0.416-0.630 kW-h/lb of fish produced for intensively aerated small acreage ponds and split-ponds, respectively. Intensified, pond-based production systems will likely continue to draw the interest of catfish farmers in the future and conceivably other aquaculture growers. However, definitive recommendations cannot be made without proper understanding of production efficiencies and thorough economic analysis.