Debbie Archer | School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences
The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Department of Aquaculture and Fisheries has recently welcomed a World Bank scholar to campus, according to Dr. Nicholas Romano, Extension specialist and interim director of the Center of Excellence in Aquaculture and Fisheries. Dr. Surjya Narayan Datta arrived from his home country in India in September and will be conducting research at UAPB until the end of November.
Dr. Datta will be conducting a fish nutrition trial using various analyses that include gene expression, histology and biochemical measurements, Dr. Romano said.
“Specifically, we are adding black soldier fly larvae by-products, which include ‘frass’ and chitin (shell of the larvae), in the diets of catfish,” he said. “These ingredients were made at UAPB from different larval diets that greatly influence the nutritional value of the frass.”
There is increasing interest in insect farming to improve aquaculture sustainability, and studies have already shown benefits on the inclusion of larvae as a source of protein and lipids, Dr. Romano said.
“Currently, the market price for these products is high, but the leftover ‘frass,’ which is what remains after the larvae eat their food and are harvested, has also gained interest as a potential ingredient,” he said. “This is because it’s a by-product, and is thus less expensive, while being rich in various minerals and other nutrients. We have already seen great benefits on the inclusion of frass in the diets of tilapia, and we are conducting another trial to see if this also applies to catfish, which is a major food-fish in Arkansas.”
If black soldier fly larvae frass shows the same benefit to tilapia as with catfish, then this could become a new standard ingredient in catfish feeds to enhance production and possibly their health, he said.
“We are already seeing entrepreneurs enter this industry to supply new black soldier fly larvae ingredients to catfish farmers,” Dr Romano said. “We are at the beginning of what will likely become a new and large industry to supply feed manufacturers with sustainable and effective insect products, and Dr. Datta’s studies will become part of this process.”
Dr. Datta was selected by World Bank from a pool of competitive candidates. The selection process involves a screening process based on a score card, academic and research credibility followed by a multistep interview steered by panellists from the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, Dr. Romano said.
“The overall mission of World Bank research funding is to develop resources and mechanisms for supporting infrastructure, faculty and student advancement, and providing means for better governance and management of agricultural universities,” he said. “It is hoped that a holistic model can be developed to raise the standard of the current agricultural education system that will provide more jobs that are entrepreneurship oriented and on par with the global agriculture education standards.”
Dr. Datta is being supervised by Dr. Romano and co-supervised by Dr. Amit Kumar Sinha, associate professor, UAPB department of aquaculture and fisheries. He is working side-by-side with Dr. Pande Gde Sasmita Julyantoro, a visiting Fullbright Scholar.
“This kind of teamwork was coordinated by myself and Dr. Sinha to enhance knowledge exchange, learning and networking to foster international relationships and collaboration,” Dr. Romano said.
In addition to his primary role in a nutrition trial, Dr. Datta will also be assisting with an aquaponic trial and studies on the use of black soldier fly larvae frass as a soil amendment to terrestrial crop production/nutritional value, he said.
“The skills he will learn from his visit here should assist in his studies in India to enhance the sustainable production of food for human consumption,” Dr. Romano said.
At Guru Angad Dev Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, Dr. Datta is serving in all three major mandates of teaching, research and Extension. His major research field is aquaculture (cage aquaculture and aquaculture diversification) and fisheries resource management (population dynamics, population genetics, biodiversity, ecology and climate change).
Dr. Datta has a doctoral degree in fisheries resources management from the Central Institute of Fisheries Education, Mumbai, India. He earned a master’s degree in fisheries sciences in aquaculture from G.B. Pant University of Agriculture and Technology, Pantnagar, India.
Dr. Datta said there were many universities to choose from, but he chose UAPB because of its aquaculture program.
“I also chose UAPB because of Dr. Romano’s extensive and impressive work in aquaculture sustainability,” Dr. Datta said. “He is a leading expert in fish nutrition, aquaponics and black soldier fly larvae and I admire how he can integrate these fields in innovative ways.”
Dr. Datta says he hopes to take the knowledge and skills acquired at UAPB and apply them to his job in India.
“Upon returning to India, the acquired knowledge will be utilized in the capacity building of intensive aquaculture to the graduating students, farmers and entrepreneurs,” he said. “It will also be beneficial for vertical and horizontal development of aquaculture of the region.”
Dr. Datta said that the population of India is increasing as well as the need for high quality protein. One of the ways to satisfy this demand is through aquaculture, but it must be done sustainably.
“Aquaculture is a huge industry in India, much more so than in the United States. But sometimes aquaculture is not done in an environmentally friendly manner,” he said. “What I hope to learn at UAPB under Dr. Romano is how to sustainably culture fish, and one of the ways is through insect farming. I am also learning about aquaponics here, as well as plant culture.”
Dr. Datta says he is grateful to many faculty and staff at UAPB for assisting and hosting him while in Arkansas.
“I wish to express sincere gratitude to my supervisor, Dr. Romano, and my co-supervisor, Dr. Sinha for facilitating me through innovative research and their cordial hospitalities at UAPB,” he said. “I also extend thanks to Dr. Pamela Moore, UAPB associate dean for global engagement, for assisting with the travel paperwork. Also, many thanks to Hayden Fischer, aquaculture research station manager, and David Brewer, research assistant, for their untiring help in all spheres.”
The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.