U.S. Soybean Farmers Use Floating Offshore Cages to Feed Fish in Asia

U.S. soybean checkoff aquaculture program develops prototype offshore ocean cages
October 16, 2004

Ten years ago, soybeans were not even used to feed fish in China. Today, more than 100 million bushels of U.S. soybeans are used annually to do just that, thanks to checkoff-funded international marketing activities. While the soybean checkoff's aquaculture program initially addressed feed development, over the past year, the checkoff has also developed prototype offshore ocean cages. These ocean cages allow for fish production in clean waters unaffected by industrial pollution and excessive numbers of fish farms, which characterize most of the coastline of China and other Asian nations. 

The offshore cages are designed to withstand typhoon conditions and to produce over 15,000 pounds of fish per production cycle. Two cages constructed in early July have been installed approximately 2.5 miles offshore in Lingshui Bay off China's Hainan Island. The cages have been filled with goldenfin pompano fingerlings, a high-value marine fish in Asia. The pompano's feed contains 35 percent dehulled soybean meal, and the fingerlings will grow from 35 grams to 500 grams, or 1.1 pounds, by November.

The soybean checkoff's aquaculture team will continue to monitor the ocean cages through November to determine the stability of the cages during typhoon season, specifically whether the cages self-submerge as designed during high winds. It will also help verify if the cages provide a suitable culture environment for fish.  

"U.S. soybean farmers are already capitalizing on the inclusion of soy protein in the manufactured feeds that are replacing fish meal as the primary feed for cultured marine fish throughout Asia," said Benny Cooper, International Marketing Chairman and a farmer from Kevil, Ky. "The new ocean cage technology continues to build on the success of the checkoff's aquaculture efforts and also helps to stimulate demand for U.S. soybeans." 

The ocean cage project objectives are to develop recommended production practices, management practices and ocean cage systems. These recommendations include how-to procedures with expected results for select marine fish species using the feeds already developed through China's aquaculture program.

Aside from the ocean cages, the soybean checkoff is also expanding aquaculture efforts through feeding demonstrations in India, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Establishing new international markets for U.S. soybeans is another way the soybean checkoff works to give U.S. soybean farmers a competitive edge. USB is made up of 62 farmer-directors who oversee the investments of the soybean checkoff on behalf of all U.S. soybean farmers. As stipulated in the Soybean Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act, USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service has oversight responsibilities for USB and the soybean checkoff.