Program & Schedule


The Virginia Aquaculture Conference is pleased to welcome back Paul Zajicek, the Executive Director of the National Aquaculture Association.

Grassroots Advocacy to Move the Needle for US Aquaculture 

During 2021 the National Aquaculture Association celebrated its 30th year by focusing on farmer advocacy and not on celebration.  How the NAA advocates, how you can advocate, the importance and value of aquaculture associations, and the key issues we are focusing on to move the needle for US aquaculture, to include but are not limited to: crop insurance, aquatic animal health, pandemic and catastrophic disaster assistance, economic development, applied research, public education, offshore farming and federal regulation will be presented. 

Paul Zajicek, Executive Director, National Aquaculture Association:
The NAA was formed by commercial aquaculturists in 1991 to advocate for US aquaculture and provide science-based information describing US aquaculture to the public.  Mr. Zajicek served with Florida Dept of Agriculture and Consumer Services for 27 years in marketing and promotion and regulatory roles culminating in managing Florida’s “one-stop shop” for aquaculture regulation. He was a longtime NAA member and joined the NAA staff on a full-time basis in November 2014.


Friday, January 7, 2022

8:00 am – 11:30 am

11:00 am – 4:00 pm

10:30 am – 11:30 am

12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

1:00 pm – 3:00 pm


Trade Show registration and Exhibit set up

General Registration

S.T.A.R. Workshop

*Conference Welcome and Trade Show Opening

General Program Session

The State of Virginia Aquaculture  –Brendan Delbos, Virginia DWR

Grant Opportunities for Producers  –Tony Banks, Virginia Farm Bureau & Stephen Versen, VDACS

Federal Risk Protection Tools:

  • Clam & Oyster Crop Insurance Changes  -Alexander Sereno, USDA/RMA
  • Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) and Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program [includes shellfish] (ELAP)
    Allison Goin,  USDA/FSA

Assessing consumer behaviors – are pandemic trends temporary? 
-Jonathan van Senten, VT Seafood AREC

Managing Your Farm During Uncertain Times
-Carole Engle, Engle-Stone Aquatic$ LLC

3:00 pm – 4:00 pm

4:00 pm – 5:00 pm

5:00 pm – 6:00 pm

6:00 pm – 9:00 pm

*Break / Trade Show Networking

Trade Association Meeting:  Shellfish Growers of Virginia (all welcome)

Keynote Presentation: Grassroots Advocacy to Move the Needle for US Aquaculture 
Paul Zajicek, Executive Director of the National Aquaculture Association

*Reception (in Exhibit Hall)

Saturday, January 8, 2022 (Concurrent Sessions)

7:30 am – 8:30 am

*Hot Breakfast (in Exhibit Hall)

8:30 am – 10:00 am

Concurrent Sessions

Bivalve Shellfish Session

VIMS Shellfish Aquaculture Science Initiative
Gloucester Point Overview and Update, Bill Walton             Eastern Shore Lab Overview and Update, Richard Snyder

Recirculating Aquaculture System Application in a Virginia Oyster Hatchery
Mike Congrove, Oyster Seed Holdings

How Shellfish Farmers Can Make a Difference in the Global Struggle to Curb a Runaway Climate 
Bill Mook, Mook Sea Farm and Shellfish Growers Climate Coalition

Aquaponics, Hydroponics, Finfish Session

Program Updates

  • Va Dept. Wildlife Resources
    Brendan Delbos
  • Virginia State University
    Chris Mullins
  • VT-Virginia Seafood AREC
    Michael Schwarz
    Jonathan van Senten
  • Virginia Tech
    David Kuhn
  • Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR)
    Scott Lowmann

10:00 am – 11:00 am

*Networking and Trade Show Break

11:00 am – 12:00 pm

Concurrent Sessions

Bivalve Shellfish Session

Rapid Fire Research:  Snapshots of Relevant VIMS and VASG Graduate Student Research
Moderated by Madeleine Jepsen, VASG

  • Investigating the Genetic Basis of Low Salinity Tolerance in the Hard Clam
    Leslie Speight Youtsey,  Master’s Student
  • Does Cross Breeding Hard Clam Populations Alter Larval Environmental Stress Tolerance?
    Anthony R. Himes, PhD Student
  • Improving Virginia’s Ability to Monitor for HAB Toxins
    Sarah Pease, PhD Student
  • Uncovering the Genetic Diversity of Dermo Disease to Strengthen Regional Shellfish Health Management
    Elizabeth F. Weatherup, Master’s Student
  • Carry-Over Effects of Environmental pH and Temperature on Oysters
    Annie Schatz, PhD Student
  • Assessing Bay Shellfish Vulnerability to Environmental Stressors -How Growers can Contribute to the Science
    Fei Da, PhD Student


Aquaponics, Hydroponics, Finfish Session

Hydroponics/Aquaponics/Food Safety

  • Food Safety Programming at the Seafood AREC: Updates and Services Provided to Industry
    Katheryn Parraga-Estrada, VT SAREC 
  • Aquaponics in the Classroom
    Chris Mullins, VSU
  • Emerging Technologies for Enhancing Aquaponics Food Safety
    Reza Ovissipour, VT SAREC

12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

*Lunch (in Exhibit Hall)

1:00 pm – 2:45 pm

Concurrent Sessions

Bivalve Shellfish Session

Ask a Regulator (open forum)
Danielle Schools and Adam Wood, VDH/Shellfish Safety;
Ben Stagg and Andrew Button, VMRC

Submerged Aquatic Vegetation (SAV) and Shellfish Aquaculture

  • Regulatory Perspective: SAV Guidance, Assessing SAV on Permit Applications and the Future
    Ben Stagg, VMRC
  • VIMS study: What do we Know about Floating Cage Aquaculture and SAV?
    Lisa Kellogg, VIMS

Aquaponics, Hydroponics, Finfish Session

Recent Advances

  • United Sorghum Checkoff Program – SmartFeeds Programming
    Michael Schwarz, VT SAREC
  • Black Soldier Fly Initiative at the Seafood AREC:  Opportunities for Aquafeed Development
    Reza Ovissipour, VT SAREC
  • Assessing the Economic Impact of the Virginia Seafood Industry
    Fernando Goncalves, VT SAREC

3:00 pm – 4:00 pm

BMPs to address concerns associated with shellfish aquaculture in floating gear
Organized by Bob Rheault, ECSGA and Mark Amaral, Lighthouse Consulting Group

The ECSGA developed a Best Management Practices module for shellfish farming about a decade ago.  The free, web-based module has been adopted by hundreds of farmers helping them describe their operations and the various steps growers can take to minimize conflict and show how their operations are compatible with other users of the commons.  Subsequently shellfish farmers have developed a variety of novel gear types that restrict navigation and are more visible to boaters and waterfront homeowners such as: Oyster Gro, SEAPA, Hecyl baskets, Flip Farm and flip bags. These gear types bring unique permitting challenges and deserve their own set of Best Practices to minimize conflicts and facilitate permitting.

This panel will bring together resource managers, growers, equipment manufacturers and extension agents to offer methods to minimize conflict and hopefully propose best practices that growers can consider in order to increase their chances of positive permit application outcomes. The workshop will close with an open discussion giving attendees an opportunity to share their experiences and ideas

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