New federal grant will provide fellowships in aquaculture training to rural veterinarians

Dr. Ruth Francis-Floyd, right, is shown with Tamela Biro of Florida Exotic Fish Sales, a family-run fish farm in Homestead that produces African cichlids for the ornamental trade. (File photo)With a new federal grant in hand, the University of Florida will be offering a two-year training program to eight veterinarians working in rural areas to enhance their skill set in the area of aquaculture — the farming of fish and other aquatic species for food, ornamental trade and research.

The $225,643 grant is one of 13 grants approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in November. All of the grants are aimed at supporting rural veterinary services and relieving the shortages of veterinarians in certain parts of the United States.The UF grant will provide eight veterinary fellowships to individuals who are willing to work in communities where agriculture, including aquaculture, exist. The deadline for applications is June 1.

 “The program is expected to begin later this year in the fall semester, with eight new fellows we want to recruit from different geographic areas in the country,” said Ruth Francis-Floyd, D.V.M., a professor at UF’s College of Veterinary Medicine and UF/IFAS aquaculture extension veterinarian. “Successful applicants are not expected, nor do we desire for them, to move to Florida. We want to recruit working professionals.”

The success of private, rural veterinary practices often requires a business model that includes diversification of veterinary expertise in animals beyond traditional farm species such as ruminants, poultry, swine and equine, Francis-Floyd said.

“One of the challenges with aquaculture is that it’s diverse geographically as well as in the species produced and types of production systems,” she said. “Veterinarians that have had full-time aquaculture practices tend to work in multistate areas, and all that travel can tend to grind you down.”

The program will aim to diversify the expertise of the participating veterinarians, which could result in additional income through new clients, while also benefiting aquaculture businesses that currently do not have adequate veterinary medical expertise available to them, Francis-Floyd added.

Training will consist of online and field instruction, with time spent working with Francis-Floyd and/or a mentor at the UF/IFAS Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory, including veterinarians with the USDA Animal and Plant Inspection Service’s Veterinary Service stationed there, she said.

“We just started advertising and we’re getting interest from all over the country,” Francis-Floyd.

For more information about the program or how to apply, contact Francis-Floyd at The University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine is supported through funding from UF Health and the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

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Sarah Carey

Public Relations Director, College of Veterinary Medicine

Sarah Carey, M.A., A.P.R., is director of public relations at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, a job she has held since 1990. Formerly, she was editor of...Read More