Virginia Seafood Agricultural Research and Extension Center

The mission of the Virginia Seafood Agricultural Research and Extension Center is to provide education, scientific and technical guidance, support and leadership to the commercial seafood and aquaculture industries throughout Virginia and the United States.

Vision Statement

The Virginia Seafood Agricultural Research and Extension Center supports the goals and objectives of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University's academic agenda for the new millennium. Faculty at the center envision establishment of multidisciplinary, scientific, and educational research and Extension programs between university, government and private industry on a statewide, national and international basis. This approach will enhance cooperation between center faculty and their home departments in Food Science and Technology, Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences, Agriculture and Applied Economics, and Biological Systems Engineering. Specifically, the Virginia Seafood Agricultural Research and Extension Center will:

  • Establish scientific and educational interfaces between Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, other educational/research institutions, government agencies and private industries to create safe and wholesome commercial seafood and aquaculture products.
  • Provide research and Extension support to the commercial seafood and aquaculture industries to enhance the overall quality of life for citizens in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
  • Increase scientific recognition of the Virginia Seafood Agricultural Research and Extension Center programs via dedicated faculty participation in statewide, national and internationally recognized research and Extension programs.

History of the AREC

The Seafood AREC was established in 1975, and is located in Hampton, Virginia. The two-story building is approximately 9600 sq. ft.  Core research and extension programs at the Center focus on food science research on safety issues associated with seafood products.  The Center currently functions as a regional HACCP training center. Engineering efforts focus on validation of  post harvest processing methods for molluscan shellfish, thermal and freezing processes, energy audits and waste management.  The recirculating aquaculture programs focus on system design and operation, larviculture, fish feeds and nutrition, environmental optimization, and disease control for marine species.  Business and marketing programs focus on assisting the seafood industry to become more economically competitive.

The first floor of the Seafood Center contains offices, a test kitchen, a large well-equipped microbiology laboratory, a well equipped chemistry laboratory, and  recirculating aquaculture tanks and support equipment.  The second floor contains additional offices, a classroom/lecture room, and  two dormitory rooms.

The Seafood AREC microbiology laboratory is equipped with an ultra low temperature freezer (-80°C), a fume hood, stomachers, shaking water baths, several high and low temperature incubators, refrigerated microcentrifuge, automatic pipettes, a spiral plater, a Labconco® Class II Biosafety Cabinet, a Mega Pure® Water System MP-6A, a Smart Cycler DNA analyzer, and a Biolog® Microlog Identification System.

The chemistry laboratory contains a textureometer, roto-evaporator, spectrophotometer for water chemistry, and capability to analyze protein, moisture, fat and ash. The Center also contains a pilot retort and chilling tank and recording chart for pasteurization studies, a vacuum packaging machine and Dixie® can sealing equipment. 

In the main aquaculture room there is a 24-tank replicated recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) in place for research purposes for marine aquaculture studies. Additional facilities are available for research and production of live feeds (e.g., algae, rotifer, copepod and artemia).  At the facility there is also a replicated RAS with three 1-ton tanks, as well as another with nine, 90 liter  tanks. This 9  tank system is designed to be able to be operated as three independent 3-tank systems.  Each 90 liter tank is fitted with a screened false bottom allowing for separation of pseudofeces produced by the oysters.  The screened false bottom will facilitate removal of these materials from the tank through double sleeved internal standpipes. Water from each three tank RAS flows to a 500 liter reservoir. (Each set of three tank RAS has a separate 500 liter reservoir).  The reservoir serves as the primary biofiltration for the RAS, since it contains fluidized Kaldness (KMT) media.  Protein skimmers, heaters, chillers, a fluidized bed bio-filter, and UV are also part of each system.  Digitally controlled metering pumps to dose hydrogen peroxide into tanks are also installed and ready for use.