ISA Newsroom

Agricultural news farmers want to know.

Aquaculture investment opens doors to new markets

Article cover photo
Jeff Jorgenson examines fish feed made up primarily of soybean meal during a visit to an aquaculture farm near Shanghai, China in 2017. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

By Joseph L. Murphy, senior communications manager


Two thousand years of aquaculture in China was revolutionized by one system developed by the U.S. soybean industry and supported with an investment by Iowa soybean farmers.

While trade relations between China and the U.S. might be on rocky footing, the investment by the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) in the In-pond Raceway Aquaculture (IPA) system is still yielding results.

The IPA technology is now spreading across the globe to countries like Egypt,  Pakistan and India. ISA is developing and expanding relationships with such countries as they implement this technology to help expand markets for U.S. soy exports. 

The IPA system has been proven to triple the yield of farmed fish in existing Chinese ponds while greatly reducing the environmental impact.

Karey Claghorn, ISA Chief Operating Officer, toured the first IPA farm in China powered by U.S. soybean meal as part of all-Iowa ag trade mission in July 2017.

"IPA has revolutionized the industry. It changed the way they could look at their in-pond systems," she said. "It allows growers to improve water quality and environmental footprint. It was an exciting investment for us as it has worked out."

Without a checkoff investment by ISA, the success of the IPA system may never have been realized, said ISA Director Jeff Jorgenson, a soybean farmer from Sidney and a member of the same delegation to China.

"The investment by soy checkoff dollars again will turn into more Iowa soybeans being utilized around the world," he said during the tour.

"I'm extremely proud of the ISA to think that they were the original investor in this IPA. It is a win-win,” Governor Kim Reynolds, who lead the delegation said.

“It is a great example of what we want to see happen on the trade missions that we are a part of,” she added.

How does it work?

Water is diverted around the pond to keep it mixed. Fish are housed in concrete pens that have screens on the front and back. The circulating water creates a current that mimics the natural habitat of the fish while also removing waste manure. Other species of fish are contained in the ponds outside of the pens to feed off the nutrients.

Benefits of IPA technology

  • Requires minimal modification to existing ponds.
  • Creates a zero-water discharge system that increases yield with no negative impacts on the environment.
  • Allows limited water resources to be conserved and recycled.
  • Excess waste can be removed and used as fertilizer or biofuels.

What’s next with IPA?

ISA farmer leaders have funded a worldwide aquaculture program through U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC).

The program introduces the technology for the in-pond raceway systems to the rest of the world — Egypt was one of the focuses of the program.

The country is home to 100 million people and seafood and aquaculture are

a large part of their diet and culture.

The country ranks No. 8 in the world in fish production and typically No. 2 in tilapia production. Fish had previously been raised in traditional farm ponds, but the government is investing in in-pond aquaculture and other technologies to improve growth rates, nutrition and water quality.

Claghorn, along with Lindsay Greiner — now ISA president — traveled to Egypt this summer to learn about market possibilities for U.S. soybeans.

While Egypt alone can’t replace China, Claghorn said growth in several smaller countries can offset losses due to the ongoing trade dispute.

“The Middle East and North Africa areas are an area to keep an eye on,” she explained. “Egypt is the No. 1 growth market for soybeans and Morocco is the No. 2 growth market for soybean meal.”

ISA has supported projects in China for more than 35 years, Claghorn pointed out, and the success there didn’t take off overnight.

“We have to be realistic that this isn’t China, but there are some real opportunities in the future.”


Contact Joe at

For media inquiries, please contact Katie James, ISA Public Relations Manager at or Aaron Putze, ISA Communications Director at

For permission to republish articles or to request high-res photos contact Aaron Putze at Iowa Soybean Association | 1255 SW Prairie Trail Pkwy | Ankeny | IA | 50023 | US

©2018 Iowa Soybean Association On-Farm Network®. All rights reserved. On-Farm Network® is a registered trademark of the Iowa Soybean Association, Ankeny, IA.Portions of some On-Farm Network trials are paid for in total or in part by the soybean checkoff.