Aquaculture Centre of Excellence
Aquaculture research began at Lethbridge College in 1989 with the first studies on the efficacy of triploid grass carp in controlling rooted aquatic vegetation in irrigation canals. The success of this research led to a partnership with the Eastern Irrigation District (EID), in which the college was to produce certified triploid grass carp fingerlings which would be grown out and sold by EID. A key outcome of this early partnership was the construction of a state-of-the-art aquaculture facility at Lethbridge College in 1997 (see Facilities). In April 2003, involvement by EID was replaced by a partnership with the Alberta Aquaculture Association (AAA), which saw the grass carp program continue until it was phased out of service in June 2015.
The Aquaculture Centre of Excellence (ACE) conducts research primarily dealing in the aquatic realm, particularly aquaculture, aquatic ecosystem health, water quality and fish disease. With biosecure isolation facilities, water recirculation technologies, green house operations, and water quality testing and molecular lab capabilities, ACE provides a solid base to conduct a wide variety of aquatic based research. That ability to carry out diverse research has also facilitated partnerships with many private, government and non-profit organizations.
ACE specializes in the culture of warm-water fish, but also conducts research on cool-water species such as rainbow trout. ACE has expertise in the diseases of concern for the fish species we culture, using advanced genetic techniques to characterize and identify fish pathogens. Other areas of research include biofiltration and water conservation.
As part of an add-on to an intensive recirculation aquaculture operation, aquaponics operations began in 2003 and advanced research is currently funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). The seeding of plants begins in March for the production of a select variety of vegetables, herbs and water plants which all utilize the nutrients available in the water supply as provided by the fish. Since the water used by the plants is recirculated back to the fish facility for reuse, pests can be managed through biocontrol, eliminating the need for herbicides or pesticides.
ACE provides the foundation for similar joint ventures, new collaborative arrangements and future partnerships. A developing fledgling food fish industry in the region, and close proximity to an abundant supply of water will allow for cost-effective field trials, low fish transport costs, local marketing opportunities, and close contact with the rural region that will be the main economic development benefactor of the educational programming and applied research conducted through the centre. ACE will meet the demand for research into aquaculture practices specifically adapted to northern geographical locations.
ACE will also help to meet the growing need for quality applied research in the western Canadian aquaculture and agricultural fields. This includes training aquaculture technicians to work in this sector and have a solid understanding of research techniques. No other similar education and applied research centre exists in Canada.
Goals of the Centre
The primary goal of conducting applied research through ACE is to provide five major benefits to our internal and external stakeholders including:
- contributing to developing the present and future workforce;
- producing graduates of high quality;
- promoting direct application of research results;
- creating partnerships with industry to sustain economic development; and
- Increasing institutional capacity for contract applied research and other service activities to the community, business and industry.