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Maine to receive $500,000 in USDA funding to support local aquaculture industry

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The Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI) has received a $500,000 grant from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to establish a comprehensive aquaculture workforce training system to support the state’s growing blue economy.

The funding will be invested in Maine's aquaculture labour force

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"Maine's aquaculture industry is vital to Maine’s economy but needs a skilled workforce to continue to grow and innovate. The Gulf of Maine Research Institute has developed a forward-thinking solution. This comprehensive, collaborative training programme will train aquaculturists with in-demand knowledge and skills, helping students to secure good jobs and supporting the workforce needs of this important sector," said Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine).

"As a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, I have long worked to secure funding for these NIFA grants, which have helped to launch many careers in the nation's food and agriculture sector. This substantial NIFA award will help ensure Maine's aquaculture industry reaches its full potential now and in the future."

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree serves on both the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture and the House Agriculture Committee

The funding will:

  • Help GMRI develop and pilot a Maine Department of Labor Aquaculture (ME DOL) Aquaculture Apprenticeship Program where participants will gain valuable experience, receive mentoring, get trained and tested on defined occupational competencies, and learn to use cutting-edge technology at Maine's most sophisticated commercial shellfish and sea vegetable farms.
  • Develop and administer a series of stackable, credentialed, aquaculture short courses at Southern Maine Community College (SMCC) that form the basis of an Aquaculture Certificate.
  • Update the Maine Aquaculture Occupational Standards for Shellfish and Sea Vegetables, Recirculating Aquaculture Systems, and Marine Finfish to ensure that aquaculture workforce training remains relevant to Maine's rapidly evolving and growing industry.
  • Coordinate programme development and delivery between SMCC, Washington County Community College, The Mid-Coast School of Technology (K-9 Career Technical Education High School), and ME DOL Apprenticeship to establish matriculation pathways and dual-credit programmes that enable fast-tracked degree completion.

The programming developed will have the potential to be expanded to other community colleges in Maine and throughout the Northeast.

In April 2021, Maine Aquaculture Innovation Center in Walpole was awarded $500,000 from NIFA to develop an aquaculture workforce training pilot in partnership with Washington County Community College.