June 20, 2003 – James Rakocy, director of the University of the Virgin Islands Agricultural Experiment Station on St. Croix, will be a guest speaker at an international conference next week aimed at alleviating global hunger and poverty.
Rakocy will speak about the aquaponics technology developed by UVI at the Ministerial Conference and Expo on Agricultural Science and Technology taking place Monday through Wednesday in Sacramento, California.
Aquaponics is the combined culture of fish and vegetables in a recirculating aquatic system. The nutrients in waste generated by the fish are used for hydroponic plant production, while plants purify the culture water for reuse by the fish.
More than 150 delegations from more than a hundred nations are scheduled to take part in the conference. Rakocy, invited by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman, will be the only aquaculturist to represent the United States.
"I am extremely honored for the chance to speak to such a distinguished audience," Rakocy said. "This represents a great new opportunity for us and may allow UVI to develop aquaponics projects in other countries."
UVI's experimental aquaponics system is set up on an eighth of an acre of land and utilizes 29,000 gallons of water. It is capable of producing 11,000 pounds of tilapia fish and either 1,250 cases of lettuce or 11,000 pounds of basil annually.
Tilapia, a sweet whitefish dubbed "the aquatic chicken," is marketed extensively in supermarkets on the U.S. mainland. Most of the fish are imported from commercial farming operations in such locales at Costa Rica and Jamaica. The freshwater fish is native to Africa and its commercial production has been hailed as one of the first successful examples of selective breeding of tropical food fish.
Research is under way to evaluate the production capacity of other vegetables at UVI, according to a release.
The conference is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. Department of State.
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