Crowdsourcing platform launches contest to help catfish farmers battle algae
A crowdsourcing platform, HeroX, launched an initiative on Thursday, 20 August on behalf of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to find innovative solutions to keep blue-green algae from wreaking havoc on catfish farms.
According to the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, catfish exposed to the algae can develop an off-taste. If found, farmers will often delay harvesting their stock for months in an attempt to get a better-tasting fish to market.
The algae affects about half of all U.S. catfish farms annually and the delays in harvesting – coupled with the expense to remove the algae – costs farmers up to USD 20 million (EUR 16.9 million) annually.
Catfish farming is a major aquaculture industry in the U.S., and the Mississippi Delta is the principal region for farms, with most of the 400 million pounds harvested originating the Southeast region.
HeroX is looking for teams or individuals to find ways to improve farm management practices to reduce algae or develop technologies – either before or after harvesting – to bring back the natural flavor to this fish. Participants will compete for up to USD 60,000 (EUR 50,604) in awards.
“I look forward to seeing our innovators solve a challenge that has stumped scientists and experts for years,” HeroX Chief Executive Officer Christian Cotichini said in a statement. “Identifying a solution here protects our food supply and the livelihoods of these catfish farmers.”
Judges will award prizes for best pre-harvest management practices, pre-harvest treatment technologies, and post-harvest treatment technologies. Each division will have one first-place award that receives up to USD 30,000 (EUR 25,302) and two second-place finishers that will receive at least USD 5,000 (EUR 4,217) apiece.
In addition, the USDA-ARS plan to take the winning ideas and foster collaborative discussions between federal scientists and submitters to continue working on the initiatives. The service’s Office of Technology Transfer may also work with the winners on future cooperative research agreement options.
“The Agricultural Research Service is committed to finding solutions to agricultural problems that affect Americans every day,” ARS Administrator Chavonda Jacobs-Young said. “We are excited to see the innovative strategies and suggested new technologies for the Catfish Challenge from the global community.”
The deadline to submit ideas is 5 p.m. Eastern Time on 15 December. Winners will be announced on 2 March, 2021.
More information is available at herox.com/catfish.
Photo courtesy of HeroX and the USDA Agricultural Research Service