TWIN FALLS, Idaho — A new aquaculture research facility at the University of Idaho in Moscow has been a long time coming.
But Ron Hardy, director of the university’s Aquaculture Research Institute, and some of his associates cut the ribbon on the $2.6 million facility last week, Hardy told the Idaho Aquaculture Association at its annual conference.
The university had a long-term plan to find another use for campus property housing an old poultry building that was condemned in the early 2000s. But budget problems stalled any new project there for about 15 years, he said.
In 2015, the State Board of Education approved funding for a new aquaculture facility on the site.
Construction of the 9,000-square-foot research facility began last year and was completed in January. It will house five offices, a conference room and desks for graduate students on the top floor and fish-rearing systems, a laboratory and infrastructure on the lower level, he said.
It features three recirculating aquaculture systems, a new system for rearing juvenile shrimp, a laboratory for fish sampling and sample preparation and a backup generator for both fish laboratories, he said.
Research will focus on salmon, tilapia, burbot, shrimp and other marine species. ARI is moving all its non-trout research done at the Hagerman Fish Culture Experiment Station to Moscow, he said.
“I think we’re in a position now where we have the best aquaculture research facility in the Western U.S.,” he said.
ARI is now ranked No. 1 in the U.S. for fish nutrition research by Elsevier, a global information analytics business that assesses science and medicine programs to help institutions and professionals improve performance.
“We’re pretty proud of what we’ve accomplished,” he said.
ARI has developed a forward-thinking program to meet the needs of the aquaculture industry, and its research has a direct impact and immediate application. It couldn’t be possible without the support of university administration and the industry, he said.
ARI was established in 1988 with a salmon hatchery and trout farm working on environmental research and salmon population genetics. In 1996, it took a big leap in leasing then purchasing the facility at Hagerman to focus on fish nutrition and nutrition physiology.
Research at Hagerman has since included molecular genetics applied to nutrition, physiology and immune function and genetics and selective breeding, with research on fish health performed in Moscow.
The new facility will allow more research, working with more faculty and more species. With its recirculating systems, it will also allow researchers to explore new technologies in water quality that could be applied around the world
It will also expand ARI’s offerings for graduate students and increase its ability to obtain funding through grants and contracts, he said.
Since 2002, ARI has spent $7 million on research facilities. That investment has attracted $55 million in research funding.
“That’s a pretty good rate of return,” he said.