Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium is proud to announce the Beginning Farmer Education Program in partnership with UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County with the goal of creating the future Florida workforce in food, agriculture, and natural resources. The 8-week program provides the next generation of farmers with hands-on work experience and practical education under the mentorship of Mote scientists, extension educators, successful entrepreneurs, and local producers.
Many Florida communities have a need for access to sustainably grown, healthy, nutritious food, including seafood, as year after year, wild fisheries continue to fall short of feeding Earth’s growing population—with nearly 60% fished to capacity and 34% overfished.
“Mote continues to successfully demonstrate how to raise seafood away from the coast while recycling 100% of the salt water—and we’ve built upon that core technology to do much, much more,” said Manager of Mote's Marine & Freshwater Aquaculture Research Program, Dr. Nicole Rhody. “Mote’s progress reveals how precisely our research targets urgent, pressing questions in our national conversation on food security and sustainable seafood resources. We hope this program combines what we know about taking environmentally-friendly aquaculture to a commercial scale and how we can apply those methods by enhancing the success of new farm start-ups, to help increase access to more locally grown foods.”
The Beginning Farmer Education Program participants gain practical skills from agricultural extension agents in areas such as crop cultivation, soil health, irrigation, pest and disease control, equipment operation, and harvesting techniques. Participants can learn more from Mote scientists about aquaponics—which links together aquaculture and hydroponic vegetable production—to raise fish and grow edible plants in a symbiotic, closed-loop system. Participants will also gain an understanding of different business models, along with opportunities to connect with local supply chains and network with schools, local farmers, restaurants, etc.