Tag Archives: FST

Aquaculture’s tide is rising in the commonwealth

David Kuhn

Tilapia are well-suited to Assistant Professor of Food Science and Technology David Kuhn’s research because they school well, grow rapidly, and are native to fresh water.

“Virginia is poised to be an excellent player in the aquaculture industry with its superb access to markets in Washington, D.C., and New York and its attractive labor pool.”

Due to demand and population growth projections in the United States, the forecasted domestic seafood gap in 2025 is 2 million to 4 million tons, a national resource deficit second only to oil.

Assistant Professor of Food Science and Technology David Kuhn is working to capitalize on this demand to strengthen the aquaculture industry in the commonwealth, and his efforts will have far-reaching impacts beyond Virginia’s borders.

“In terms of a global view, fish is a good way to get protein into people’s diets,” said Kuhn.

Virginia Tech: Aquaculture research from VirginiaTech on Vimeo.

Unlike resource-intensive cattle, it only takes 1 to 2 pounds of feed to grow 1 pound
of fish.

Finfish like tilapia are ideal for Kuhn’s purposes because they prefer to be in dense conditions, school well, grow quickly, and are native to fresh water. Tilapia is a popular seafood item among consumers in the United States, and in 2014 Americans imported 1.4 billion pounds of the fish.

Kuhn’s research focuses on improving the health of farmed tilapia by increasing disease resistance and improving nutrient utilization to make tilapia higher in omega 3, like more popular marine finfish such as salmon.

Because some aquaculture enthusiasts who would be interested in farming the fish have limited space for storing it, he also wants to research some ways to add value to the end product of the supply chain by not just selling whole fish, but also value-added filets.

Kuhn has been working with Blue Ridge Aquaculture, in Martinsville, Virginia, to increase its production of farmed tilapia. The company is the world’s largest producer of tilapia using indoor recirculating aquaculture systems. Currently the company produces more than 4 million pounds of the fish per year.

“Virginia is poised to be an excellent player in the aquaculture industry with its superb access to markets in Washington, D.C., and New York and its attractive labor pool,” Kuhn said. “Modern, integrated aquaculture facilities are a 24/7 operation and require a dependable and also highly skilled workforce to run them. We have both of those things in Southwest Virginia.”

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New building cooks up industry engagement

Dupont and Virginia Tech collaborate for best food safety packaging practices.

Virginia Tech and DuPont Teijin Films have teamed up to create an environment in the new Human and Agricultural Biosciences Building 1 where companies can test the best ways to prepare and package foods.

Virginia’s manufacturing industry contributes $34 billion to the gross state product and accounts for more than 80 percent of the state’s exports to the global economy.

The faculty members housed in the newly constructed Human and Agricultural Biosciences Building 1 facility haven’t wasted any time in establishing symbiotic relationships with industry. The space has allowed collaborations on research that provide the university with advanced tools while delivering world-class, faculty-led research to industry leaders.

One company that has partnered with Virginia Tech is DuPont Teijin Films. Joe Marcy, department head and professor of food science and technology, brokered the arrangement, and now a gleaming, German-made Multivac R120 food packager graces the pilot plant space on the ground floor of HABB1.

DuPont Teijin Films is partnering with Virginia Tech to test the performance of various food-packaging films before they roll out the machinery on their own production lines.

The partnership saves DuPont Teijin Films valuable time and money because the company doesn’t have to cut into its own production time.

As a client, DuPont Teijin Films can also bring its own chefs and marketing staff to the facilities at Virginia Tech and have unfettered access to the equipment they are working with for research and development purposes.

“I get a chance to work with decision-makers every day and to expose them to the capabilities that Virginia Tech has to offer,” Marcy said.

Virginia’s manufacturing industry contributes $34 billion to the gross state product and accounts for more than 80 percent of the state’s exports to the global economy.

“The real value is the exposure to the food industry and the people I want to engage with,” said Marcy.

For Marcy, the area in HABB1 is more than a pilot plant — it’s an industry engagement space.

It’s all part of the vision Marcy has for creating an “Innovation Collaboratory” with packaging machinery, a full test kitchen, and a food science laboratory where all manner of commercial cooking methods can be tested — everything from conventional home oven cooking to sous vide, a method where food is cooked over a long period of time at a low temperature in vacuum-sealed plastic.

The space is also an incubator for other research opportunities, several of which are already in the hopper, like the new beer brewing equipment that will soon be online.

And Marcy won’t be stopping there. The wide-open space of the plant can be configured to whatever may present itself as a research opportunity that can benefit the food industry.

Posted in Food and Health | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment