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URI professors develop first aquaculture database
KINGSTON, R.I. -- March 26, 2003 -- To bolster the $5.5 million Rhode Island aquaculture industry, two University of Rhode Island professors are developing the first aquaculture database in the state.
The information will be made available through URI and the New England Aquaculture Association to various lending institutions when they make lending decisions about aquaculture firms.
Robert Comerford, URI professor of management and Michael Rice, professor and chair of the Department of Fisheries, Animal and Veterinary Science, are putting together a database that will list financial measures and ratios, such as sales and costs of goods sold, from various aquaculture firms in the Northeast. "Without this sort of information available to lending institutions, it's hard for them to evaluate business operations at these aquaculture firms and make what they believe are sound investment decisions," said Comerford, a professor in the URI College of Business Administration.
Comerford hopes the database will make it easier for state aquaculture firms to get established and determine the financial issues they will face. Aquaculture firms will also be able to evaluate their progress in relation to others in the field, but all information will be a composite picture that cannot be linked to any single producer. The database will also be a valuable resource to government agencies that assess financial problems and decide where assistance is needed.
Rice, a professor in the URI College of Environment and Life Sciences, believes the database will generate a greater interest in the industry. "Aquaculture is an industry that financial capital markets have known little about up to this point. The database should serve as a catalyst in the number of firms providing us with data, and result in the minimizing of foreseen financial risk," said Rice.
According to the Coastal Resources Management Council's Yearly Aquaculture Status Report, Rhode Island has seen a 38 percent increase in the number of aquaculture firms in 2001 over the previous year, and has approximately 51.5 acres under cultivation with 18 permit holders. Oysters and quahogs are under private cultivation, while the state is raising Atlantic salmon and trout. Finfish, such as striped bass and summer flounder, were being cultivated privately, but the businesses failed because of financial difficulties experienced by the operators of these firms. Rice said problems such as these may be more easily avoided once the aquaculture database is available to the public.