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ARS Announces Winners of Innovative Challenge to Preserve Flavor of Catfish

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By Milthon Lujan

USA – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) and HeroX today announced the grand prize winners of a competition that invited the public to submit innovative solutions to preserve the flavor of catfish and prevent the blue-green algae that delays U.S. catfish harvesting. 

For the last 30 years, aquaculture researchers have shown that catfish exposure to certain varieties of blue-green pond algae, also known as cyanobacteria, can cause a delay in harvest for roughly 50 percent of catfish ponds each year. Cyanobacteria can cause taste and odor problems in fresh water-harvested fish. The taste and odor must be removed prior to processing and this can cause a delay in harvesting, as well as a loss in revenue, for catfish farmers. Annually, this delay can cost catfish farmers $15 to $20 million in lost revenue and expenses to maintain the fish and its natural flavor.

The competition, known as the ‘Preserving the Natural Flavor of Catfish Challenge,’ launched in August 2020 and called on a global community of solvers to submit a strategy that benefits the nation’s catfish farmers and prevents the “earthy” or “muddy” taste in catfish. Judges evaluated submissions for the best overall approach for pre-harvest management practices, pre-harvest treatment technologies, and post-harvest treatment technologies.

The first place winner is:

Laura Arroyo Miniel, United States, Preventing Winter Off-Flavor with Solar Heating – awarded $20,000

The second place winners are:

Sri Vijay Krishna Ganduri, India, Microbubbles Circulating with Submersible Vibrator – awarded $10,000
Kimbal Hall and Jenna Rackovan, United States, Nanobubbles Inhibit Cyanobacteria Growth by Alden Research Laboratory, awarded $5,000
Simon Wilson and Tom Haxton, United States, System Approach to Reduce Off-Flavors – awarded $10,000

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The third place winners are:

Stephen Newman, United States, Bacillus to Prevent Blue-Green Algae (BGA) Growth – awarded $5,000
Timur Mammayev, Russia, Filtration of Water through Sawdust-Filled Column – awarded $5,000

“ARS very much appreciates the effort that our competitors put into the 86 submissions we received. This challenge provided ARS an opportunity to engage 243 competitors from 25 countries having diverse backgrounds and varying familiarity with catfish aquaculture,” said Dr. Caird Rexroad, “Our next step is to connect the winners with ARS scientists and develop partnerships so we can advance these ideas into solutions that reduce or eliminate off-flavor in commercial catfish aquaculture.”

The Catfish Challenge was open to participants or team members aged 18 years or older. Individual competitor and team submissions were received from various countries throughout the world.

More information about this unique crowdsourcing effort may be viewed during HeroX’s upcoming Catfish Challenge webinar on March 18, 2021, at 4:00 p.m. ET/ 1:00 p.m. PT. Media and webinar participants may register here.

HeroX is a social network for crowdsourcing innovation and human ingenuity, co-founded in 2013 by serial entrepreneur, Christian Cotichini and XPRIZE Founder and Futurist, Peter Diamandis.

The Agricultural Research Service is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific in-house research agency. Daily, ARS focuses on solutions to agricultural problems affecting America. Each dollar invested in agricultural research results in $17 of economic impact.

Source: Agricultural Research Service

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