The business of raising fish may still be relatively small in Indiana, but it is a growing part of the state's agricultural economy, a Purdue Extension report concludes.
Estimated sales from Indiana fish farms amounted to more than $15 million in 2012, an increase from $3.5 million in 2006, according to the publication Economic Importance of the Aquaculture Industry in Indiana. There are about 50 fish producers in Indiana, compared with 18 just seven years ago.
"While aquaculture is not the most well-known industry in Indiana's agriculture sector, it is definitely present and very important to the state's economy," Kwamena K. Quagrainie, aquaculture marketing specialist in Purdue University's Department of Agricultural Economics, said in the report. He conducted the study with graduate student Megan C. Broughton.
"The industry has seen steady growth over the past few years, and it is important to know exactly how much economic activity is associated with aquaculture in Indiana," Quagrainie said.
Indiana's aquaculture industry ranges from small-scale producers raising fish in their backyards to large-scale producers growing fish to sell in national and international markets, the report says. The industry includes production of fish for human food, ornamental fish for aquariums, and recreational fish that are stocked in private and public ponds and lakes.
Raised for food are such fish and shellfish as yellow perch, hybrid striped bass, tilapia, trout, marine shrimp and freshwater prawns. Sport fish include catfish, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and sunfish such as bluegill.
The study measured the significance of the industry in 2012 in several ways, including the total income of $3.7 million earned by 169 people employed in aquaculture, their $101,506 in income taxes and $877,908 in sales taxes the industry generated for Indiana.
The study was funded by Purdue Extension, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, and the Indiana Soybean Alliance and was conducted in cooperation with the Indiana Aquaculture Association.
The soybean alliance has recognized aquaculture as "the next major new market for soybeans" and has an initiative to help the industry continue its growth in Indiana, according to the report. It says that 1 percent of the U.S. soybean crop is used in aquaculture as fish feed and that soybean meal is the top protein ingredient in fish feeds worldwide.
Indiana soybean and corn farmers could benefit from a growing aquaculture industry, the report notes. They likely would see increased demand for soybeans and corn as well as higher prices for them.
"Even though the farmers would continue to produce their products if the aquaculture industry were not present, the advantage of having a local marketing opportunity is very important," the report says.