Sustainability is a key issue in animal agriculture, and will certainly influence how animal ag will feed the world in the future.

As the NIAA 2017 Annual Conference brings together producers, academics, industry leaders and policy experts to examine the risks and opportunities of the globalization of food production, individual species committees will additionally have their own agendas and speakers to bring the issue even closer to home.

The Aquatic Livestock Committee will be one of six species committees to provide speakers and presentations to their own set of stakeholders. Aquaculture and aquaponics producers, their support community including vets and medical and bio technical staffs, the academic communities, provisioning industry experts and consultants, will all come together to explore issues relative to their own industry as well as the impact of aquatic livestock on the global marketplace.  

“The goal for the meeting is to explore the opportunity for understanding and communicating the benefits and potential of sustainability in aquaculture production,” says Aquatic Livestock Committee Agenda Speaker Dr. Marty D. Matlock, Professor of Ecological Engineering and Executive Director, University of Arkansas, Center for Agricultural and Rural Sustainability. “It’s clear, based on the data, that aquaculture has high potential to provide protein to humanity with a low environmental impact.”

Co-Chairs Mr. Todd Low, Hawaii Department of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Livestock Support Services, and Ms. Angela Caporelli, Kentucky Department of Agriculture, Animal & Aquaculture Production for the NIAA Aquatic Livestock Committee, will introduce Matlock and his presentation “Lifecycle Assessment of Aquaculture and Aquaponics Systems in Hawaii and How They Can Improve your Operation.” Matlock says perceived negatives of aquaculture come from benefits not having been quantified to offset those misperceptions. The Hawaii Lifecycle Assessment quantifies the impacts and efficiencies of aquaculture production systems.

Matlock and the U of A bring their expertise in evaluating agricultural production systems for sustainability to the project. They analyzed benchmarks for US production systems, the relative costs and benefits of aquaculture and aquaponics systems, greenhouse gas emissions, other sustainability issues. Matlock will explore how the results of the Assessment can be applied to aquatic producers across the US.

Matlock will also present a second time at the Aquatic Livestock Committee meeting, on “Aligning Aquaculture KPI Metrics with Other Livestock Sectors to Accelerate Industry Growth.” Key Performance Indicators (KPI) and metrics help producers understand where the impacts and opportunities for improvement occur within their systems; this shared knowledge will benefit producers and those who might be interested in becoming producers. “Indicators are the things you care about, metrics are the things you measure,” says Matlock. “You can’t always measure the things you want to develop, but metrics will help you identify risks and opportunities.” The purpose of the alignment of KPI and metrics across animal agricultural production systems, Matlock says, is to improve the effectiveness of animal protein producers in understanding and adapting to risks and opportunities from changing production conditions.

Matlock sees bringing together the aquaculture community and all of animal ag to discuss major issues such as globalization and accompanying sustainability at the 2017 NIAA Annual Conference as creating a unique potential for innovation and new ideas. “It is also an opportunity to dig deeper into existing ideas to find new solutions,” he says.

Global food issues and quality have always been guiding precepts of Matlock’s career in agriculture. He came from a background in systems engineering with a passion for wildlife conservation, and feels aquaculture has a tremendous future potential for providing high quality animal protein for a hungry world while preserving wild fish populations.