In accordance with the proposal objectives, Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College (SKCTC) initiated a series of community focus meetings to discuss the long term potential of aquaculture in the region of Southeast Kentucky. In addition to SKCTC personnel, participants included: cooperative extension agents from Bell and Harlan County, teachers and students from two local high schools, college students, county judge office agents, Kentucky State University personnel, an agent from the KY Department of Agriculture, and local citizens. A core team developed from the meeting conducted one marketing visit to a seafood processor in Louisville, KY, to assess market potential.
In collaboration with this initiative, Leadership Harlan County United (LHCU), a community non-profit leadership organization, adopted sustainable development as its theme for the 2004 and 2005 year-long academies. As a team project, LHCU students provided the public relations announcements to the community and prepared brochures to attendees.
1) Convene meetings to formulate strategic plan for aquaculture. The meetings are ongoing and the plan is still under development.
2)Identify entrepreneurs as potential producers. The success of this goal has been limited. Three entrepreneurs in Harlan and Letcher County have entered a working relationship with SKCTC to learn aquaculture in the business incubator. Each man is developing business plans to form their own independent business after the next year.
3) Explore the feasibility of a cooperatively owned processing facility. The group is exploring the feasibility of forming a partnership with a processing firm in Louisville, KY, to handle all products from the region. Shuckman’s Sesfood Processing has begun promotions of the trout products.
4) Completion of Marketing Study. Students from SKCTC have completed calls to local markets and have concluded that there is a significant demand for aquaculture products.
Objectives for this aquaculture initiative are to 1) collaboratively work with officials and Cooperative Extension Agents in three counties to produce a regional strategic plan for aquaculture; 2) identify a network of at least 10 entrepreneurs who may produce more than 15,000 pounds of fish a year.; 3) explore the feasibility of a cooperatively owned processing facility to add value to the fish; 4) complete a marketing study for locally produced fish; and 5) identify sources of capital to facilitate individual development of farms.
The project is ongoing and will continue beyond the grant period. The major accomplishments to-date are the collaboration among local participants, the exposure to state agencies, and the interest from potential markets. Two recent articles have been published on the Kentucky Department of Agriculture web site promoting aquaculture at our organization. A link to the most recent article follows: http://www.kyagr.com/news_events/blackmountaintrout.htm. Marketing contacts have indicated a substantial demand for products in the state park system, local ponds, restaurants, and for regional export to a processor for value-adding.
An informal agreement with Kentucky State University has been accomplished through this project to continue development of Aquaculture as a viable industry in Eastern Kentucky. KSU has provided fish stock, feed, and equipment to assist the business incubator.
A formidible challenge continues to be accessibility of development capital for entrepreneurs. The partners will seek ways to assist the farmers in their individual ventures.