McPherson High student Michael McKinney recently traveled to Washington, D.C. to learn more about aquaculture and to receive training to help lead the 2014 4-H Ag Innovators Experience, presented by Monsanto. 4-H youth leaders from eight states, including Kansas, participated in the training at the National 4-H Youth Conference Center from March 21-23.
The 2014 4-H Ag Innovators Experience makes agriscience relevant and fun for youth, and helps young people develop the professional skills needed to meet rising global demand for food. The 2014 Experience will engage teen leaders across Kansas to lead thousands of youth in an interactive agriscience activity.
The training kicked off with a ‘hunger banquet’, in which participants were randomly placed in three separate groups: low-income, middle-income and high-income. Each group received an amount of food proportionate to their assigned level of income, highlighting different levels of food availability. After the ‘hunger banquet,’ everyone received a full dinner and then moved on to collaborative team-building activities.
On Saturday, March 22, participants learned about the importance of the aquaculture industry, during a presentation given by Laura Tiu, Aquaculture Extension Specialist at The Ohio State University. Agriculture students and faculty at The Ohio State University designed the “Fish Farm Challenge” as this year’s 4-H Ag Innovators Experience activity.
Tiu suggested that aquaculture, or fish farming, is one way to provide a healthy, protein-rich diet that is sustainable and affordable.
“Aquaculture plays a role in feeding the growing world population, and solving the seafood deficit in the U.S.,” Tiu said. “Nearly 90 percent of the seafood we consume in America is imported, which amounts to almost $11 billion dollars. Any economic changes in the countries we import from can reduce our supply of seafood, and that’s a food security issue.”
After receiving an overview of the aquaculture industry, the group visited the Maine Avenue Fish Market in Washington, D.C. to see a commercial retail fish market in action. Afterwards, the group toured a series of memorials in Washington, D.C.
Upon their return to the National 4-H Youth Conference Center, participants broke into groups of four and worked on the main event: the Fish Farm Challenge. Their specific task was to engineer a food-distribution system that evenly dispenses soy-based fish food pellets over a 3’ paper mat representing a fish farm tank. This system could then be transferred to an aquaculture tank on a tilapia farm. The teens worked together, searching for innovative ways to maintain consistent food access for all of the farm-raised fish in the tank.
“Monsanto and 4-H teamed up to create the 4-H Ag Innovators Experience to encourage youth to learn more about STEM-related careers, and to create a unique opportunity that fosters teamwork,” said Elizabeth Vancil, customer advocacy outreach manager, Monsanto Company. “It is our hope that project participants emerge from this experience with an increased knowledge about global food security, and with an interest to ensure the long term health and growth of the agriculture industry.”
In April and May, McKinney will share the activity with other teen leaders throughout Kansas. These teen leaders will then implement the activity with at least 1,000 youth in June. After completing the activity, participants can create a video to demonstrate potential applications in their local communities. Four winners will be chosen, and each will receive a $2,500 award.
The 2014 4-H Ag Innovators Experience is piloting in eight states this year: Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio and Wisconsin. For more information, contact Sarah Keatley at 785-532-5800 or Keatley@ksu.edu.