What do you do when the 600 fish you’ve been raising as part of an aquaculture project are grown and ready to harvest? If you’re community-minded, you call in local experts — that is, experts in bringing nutritious meals to hungry people — and give them away. That’s exactly what happened last week when UNH researchers donated more than 1,000 pounds of tilapia to the New Hampshire Food Bank. The fish will be used to prepare meals for several of the food bank’s feeding programs.
“This thoughtful donation will go far to help us prepare meals and feed those in need.”
“We’re really excited to see these locally grown fish make a difference in solving the problem of hunger through the good work being done at the New Hampshire Food Bank,” says Todd Guerdat, assistant professor of agricultural engineering in the agriculture, nutrition and food systems department at UNH. “Over half of the world’s seafood is produced from aquaculture yet 80 percent of the seafood we eat here in the United States is imported. It’s nice to be able to contribute fresh food while working toward developing a sustainable U.S.-based aquaculture food production system.”
For a behind-the-scenes look at the tilapia harvest, check out this photo gallery.
The tilapia was grown as part of a farming project that aims to provide a model for integrating land-based aquaculture systems with hydroponic plant production that can be used locally to increase food production. Specifically, researchers are evaluating the nutrients used by plants growing in a recirculating aquaponic system that come from the food fed to fish. They also are exploring not only growing the fish, but using that recirculating system to help produce other plant crops like lettuce. Integrated farming systems are a way to improve energy and resource utilization, and offer an opportunity to monetize otherwise costly treatment processes.
Students from UNH’s Thompson School of Applied Science culinary arts and nutrition program and members of the food bank volunteered to filet the fish. After a knife lesson courtesy of experts from Seaport Fish in Rye, New Hampshire, the tilapia were fileted, wrapped, put on ice and transported to the food bank in Manchester.
The New Hampshire Food Bank, a program of Catholic Charities New Hampshire, has been working to relieve hunger in the Granite State since 1984.
“This thoughtful donation will go far to help us prepare meals and feed those in need,” says Eileen Groll Liponis, executive director of the New Hampshire Food Bank. “The tilapia filets will be used by our Recipe for Success Culinary Job Training Program, which provides at least 500 meals per day for the Central New Hampshire Boys & Girls Club and produces meals in bulk to be frozen for use by our other registered agencies.”
So far this year, UNH has donated almost 5,000 heads of lettuce and more than 1,000 pounds of fish grown in aquaponics systems at the Macfarlane Research Greenhouses and the Anadromous Fish and Invertebrate Research Lab. Fish carcasses were donated to lobster fishermen in Portsmouth and/or composted at the Kingman Research Farm. Donations to other organizations included 44 boxes of tomatoes and 28 boxes of peppers grown at the Woodman Horticultural Research Farm and 400 pounds of squash grown at the Kingman Research Farm. All of the food was grown as part of research funded by the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station, much of which aims to develop nutritious, good-tasting food varieties that are ideal for the state’s growing conditions.