Partnership to break ground on shrimp aquaculture

BLACKSBURG, Va., Oct. 4, 2006 – Unless you’ve seen the inside of Blue Ridge Aquaculture, located behind the speedway in Martinsville, you might be under the impression that large-scale fish farming is an unlikely proposition for Southside Virginia. Well, think again. Not only is Blue Ridge Aquaculture the world’s largest indoor aquaculture producer (shipping over 70,000 pounds of tilapia per week), but the company has continued to expand into new markets for more than 12 years.

Now, Blue Ridge Aquaculture is set to embark on their newest phase of expansion -- a $2.4 million pilot plant and research facility dedicated to shrimp. The facility will enable a thorough evaluation of technology, management practices, and distribution channels for the country’s number one seafood product, shrimp. Once the facility is complete, Virginia Tech researchers Lori Marsh, Greg Boardman, and Peter Van Wyk will begin a USDA-funded study to fully explore the feasibility of this new agricultural enterprise.

This innovative joint project, made possible through years of consulting and collaboration between Virginia Tech and Blue Ridge Aquaculture, fits nicely within the House of Representatives’ Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee goals of supporting research at Land Grant schools. George Flick (University Distinguished Professor of Food Science, and Virginia Sea Grant leader at Virginia Tech) adds, “Congressman Goode, as a member of the Ag Appropriations committee, has been instrumental in helping universities forge new partnerships between private industry and public research institutions. This particular project could yield substantial economic growth and new jobs for Martinsville and Henry County, and we’re happy to be a part of it.”

On the morning of Oct. 9 at 11 a.m., Virginia Tech researchers, community leaders, and elected officials will gather to break ground on this new facility dedicated to determining the feasibility of adding saltwater shrimp co-culture to the existing enterprise. Speakers at the event will include Congressman Virgil Goode, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner J. Carlton Courter III, Blue Ridge Aquaculture President William Martin, and University Distinguished Professor George Flick.

Founded in 1872 as a land-grant college, Virginia Tech is the most comprehensive university in the Commonwealth of Virginia and is among the top research universities in the nation. Today, Virginia Tech’s eight colleges are dedicated to quality, innovation, and results through teaching, research, and outreach activities. At its 2,600-acre main campus located in Blacksburg and other campus centers in Northern Virginia, Southwest Virginia, Hampton Roads, Richmond, and Roanoke, Virginia Tech enrolls more than 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries in 180 academic degree programs.