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MSU to lead new USAID Feed the Future Innovation Lab on Fish

Mississippi State University will lead a new $15 million USAID initiative that continues efforts to reduce poverty and improve health outcomes for global populations dependent on aquaculture-led economies. Known as the Fish Innovation Lab, the project will implement integrated aquaculture and fisheries programs in developing countries, initially focusing on West Africa, East Africa, and Asia. The Lab will conduct research focusing on improved production, reducing and mitigating risk to fish production systems and improving human outcomes.

September 14, 2018

USAID funding over five years will create the Feed the Future Innovation Lab on Fish, which MSU will lead through the university’s Global Center for Aquatic Food Security under the direction of Mark Lawrence, associate dean and professor in MSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

MSU President Mark E. Keenum called the new USAID partnership “groundbreaking” and said the university is “well-positioned to lead this important effort.”

“Our relationship with USAID is a long and fruitful one that underscores Mississippi State’s position as a leading agricultural research university,” said Keenum. “It also speaks specifically to the quality of research and scholarship in our College of Veterinary Medicine.”

U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith and U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper provided leadership to help MSU secure the grant.

“I look forward to seeing the results of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab on Fish at Mississippi State University, which will help USAID reduce hunger and poverty around the world,” Wicker said. “As the national leader in aquaculture and fisheries research, the university and our state are uniquely suited to host this project. All Mississippians should take pride in the establishment of this innovation lab.”

The Feed the Future Innovation Lab on Fish is an interdisciplinary program aimed at reducing poverty and improving nutrition, food security and livelihoods among stakeholders in targeted regions. The lab is not a specific site, but a mechanism through which academic, private and public partners can identify solutions for global challenges.

Known as the Fish Innovation Lab, the project will implement integrated aquaculture and fisheries programs in developing countries. Fish are rich in critical micronutrients and are among the most traded agricultural commodities in the world, but more research is needed on ways developing countries can maximize this global resource for the health and economic growth of their populations. The Feed the Future Innovation Lab on Fish will conduct research focusing on improved production, reducing and mitigating risk to fish production systems and improving human outcomes.

“Being successful in the competition to lead the USAID Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Fish is reflective of the many years faculty from several MSU colleges have worked on fish health and production issues,” said Kent Hoblet, Dean of MSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine. 

MSU President Mark E. Keenum, who holds an MSU doctoral degree in agricultural economics and who served as Under Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has made global food security a university research priority during his tenure at MSU.

The initial focus for project activities will be on regions deemed priority areas for aquaculture and fisheries development by the Feed the Future and USAID: West Africa, East Africa, and Asia. Initial work will take place at the local level to develop best practices that can be scaled to national and regional levels.

“The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Fish is an important part of MSU’s overall strategy to provide leadership in providing solutions for global food security and livelihoods in priority countries,” Lawrence said. 

The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Fish utilizes a “Leader with Associates” model, through which MSU will facilitate associate awards to research and development partners. As the lead and management entity, MSU will identify and manage a portfolio of investments for research and development activities that address both promising innovations and emerging challenges in aquaculture and fisheries through an integrated approach of blending multiple disciplines.

As a platform for innovation, the project will connect the expertise and capacity of a consortium of public and private organizations, government research agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs,) domestic and international universities, as well as small farm associations within the target countries.

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