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Kansas, Pakistan Find Common Ground Through Innovative Aquaculture Project

Lucas Heinen, a soybean farmer from Everest, was surprised at how much he had in common with the Pakistani aquaculture-industry representatives he met at Kansas State University (K-State) last year. He found them eager to cooperate on the important task of feeding their nation, the sixth-most-populous country in the world.

Heinen, a Kansas Soybean Association director and the American Soybean Association’s World Initiative for Soy in Human Health (WISHH) committee secretary, again visited with Pakistani aquaculture leaders this month. A delegation recently traveled more than 7,000 miles for aquaculture training at K-State’s International Grains Program. The course concluded Feb. 21.

“We come from two very different countries, but we have common ground,” Heinen said. “Both countries can open doors and benefit by growing Pakistan’s aquaculture industry, which needs quality feed to contribute to its goal of improving diets in the country. I’m excited that Kansas has a central role in the project.”

WISHH, in collaboration with K-State, launched “FEEDing Pakistan” in 2011. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service is funding the three-year effort to support the Pakistani government’s priority to reduce the “protein gap” and meet the protein needs of its 187 million people. The Kansas Soybean Commission also has supported WISHH’s work in Pakistan.

Pakistan has an extensive system of fish farming, but no commercial floating fish feeds were produced in the country until FEEDing Pakistan.

“Marine fish catch is down, and processing plants are running at about 30 percent of their capacity,” said R.S.N. Janjua, the WISHH representative in Pakistan. “FEEDing Pakistan reduces the protein gap through the introduction and production of high-protein fish feeds made with soy.”

According to a USDA Global Agricultural Information Network report published last year, there is great potential for an increase in U.S. soybean-meal exports to Pakistan to be used for fish-feed production. The report forecasted a 525 percent increase in aquaculture production in Pakistan and an increase in demand for soybean meal from 42,000 tons to 260,000 tons. Such projections highlight the significant connection between trade and development programs.

K-State conducts training courses about fish-feed manufacturing and best management and provides technical assistance to industry stakeholders. A previous trainee and co-owner of a Pakistani company learned about potential for growth in the aquaculture industry. As a result, he ordered feed-extrusion equipment from Extru-Tech in Sabetha and formally inaugurated Pakistan’s first extruder for the production of floating fish feed in July 2013. Under FEEDing Pakistan, WISHH shipped 27 tons of high-protein U.S. soybean meal to jump-start floating-fish-feed manufacturing.

WISHH has provided U.S. soy-formulated floating feed for demonstrations, reaching hundreds of farmers. FEEDing Pakistan demonstration tilapia averaged 21 ounces per fish — double the weight of traditional Pakistani fish harvests. The tilapia received a premium in the local marketplace and increased enthusiasm for further development of Pakistan’s aquaculture industry with soy-based fish feeds. Pakistani fish farmers never had seen such results.

“Those results are also important to Kansas farmers,” Heinen said. “Fifty years of U.S. soy market development have shown that we should help people understand how to use soy for human food and livestock and aquaculture nutrition. We can create markets for U.S. soy and benefit many partners throughout the agricultural value chain that leads to healthier diets.”