A Columbia biotechnology company has won a grant from the U.S. and Israeli governments to help develop fertility drugs for fish and other scientific innovations to build the nascent fish farming industry.
AquaPharm Technologies Corp., along with two Israeli partners and Massachusetts-based AquaFuture Inc., will receive $3 million in government aid for the four-year project, which is part of a U.S.-Israeli scientific cooperation initiative announced by President Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin last year.
Another $3 million will be invested by the private joint venture partners.
"We see revenues of up to $20 million a year near the end of this project and doubling in the following two years," AquaPharm Vice President Don Doering said. The firm was founded in 1992 but did not commence operations until last year.
Yonathan Zohar, aquaculture coordinator at the University of Maryland's Center of Marine Biotechnology in Baltimore, said AquaPharm's initial fish fertility product, available on overseas markets, is based on research done at the center.
He said part of the research under the grant will be aimed at refining the AquaPharm implant he and Mr. Doering described as a sort of "reverse Norplant" for fish. The implant gives a reproductive boost to creatures that normally repress their fertility when they are in captivity.
Other project goals include identifying fast-growing strains of fish for cultivation and developing high-nutrition feeds for young fish.
The research could also help fish such as rockfish and salmon reproduce throughout the year instead of only during certain seasons, increasing the year-round availability of seasonal fish.
Mr. Doering said developing fish farming is important to assure the adequacy of food supplies in an age when natural supplies are are shrinking due to overfishing and environmental problems.
"It's really the only food supply where we go out and catch wild animals to eat," he said.