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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER)
Cycle 4 (2015 Deadline)

Sustainable Fisheries for Enhanced Water Resources in Armenia (SFEWRA)

PI: Vardan Urutyan (, International Center for Agribusiness Research and Education (ICARE)
U.S. Partner: Stephen Schoenholtz, Virginia Water Resources Research Center
Project Dates: October 2015 - September 2018

4-230 Field Observations 2
4-230 Field Measurements
4-230 Field Observations
The project team made a series of field measurements and observations at the beginning of the project (photos courtesy of Dr. Urutyan).
Project Overview

This project will address the issues of depleting artesian water resources in the Ararat Valley. An increasing numbers of fish farms in the valley have substantially decreased the level of artesian water in the area. Although profitable in current market conditions, these fish farms operate primarily using inefficient water technologies. The first step in the project will be to analyze targeted fish farms in the Ararat Valley to determine the current production models being used and recommend appropriate best practices for water-efficient aquaculture. The researchers will also study the potential for improving discharge water distribution efficiency and discharge water quality for targeted fish farms to agricultural plots in the Ararat Valley. After analyzing the current regulatory framework, the team will then produce recommendations for improved policy for water usage in fish farm production systems and for better management of discharge water. Throughout the process, they will engage key stakeholders to ensure their input is included in the study and to inform them of recommended policies and actions. The U.S. Government-supported partner will contribute by providing expertise about best international practices of operating fish farms and water usage in fish farms.

The key development impacts of the SFEWRA project lie in ensuring more inclusive and sustainable economic growth by fostering sustainable fisheries that use water more efficiently. The project will also build and strengthen the research capacity of ICARE and the various stakeholders involved, establish long-term research relationships, build multidisciplinary team and individual capacity, and enable the collaborators to become more effective partners in research and development related to water. Data-driven decisions, actions, and results are key to providing water for multiple and competing users. The water data collected will be the basis for an Armenian Water Resources Research Center as the collaboration continues beyond the timeline of this project. Research finding and the recommendations will be integrated into the education component of ICARE as short-term training courses or elective courses for undergraduate or graduate level students.

Summary of Recent Activities

During the final three months of 2017, this team completed 20 days of field visits, during which project experts and researchers provided appropriate consultation to fish farmers about efficient water use. Inlet and outlet water samples were taken from all 15 fisheries and water quality was analyzed across 21 parameters. During this reporting period, water-efficient fish farming models were also developed for two fish farms included in the project (four models were developed in previous reporting periods). The proposed models include a description of the Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS) model; nitrogen management in RAS; calculation of ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite optimal levels; proposed water supply volume; number of stocks to be kept under the model; necessary financial investments; cost-benefit analysis; and other points.

The group submitted one English manuscript entitled “Feasibility assessment of installation of Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS) in fish farms operating in Ararat Valley, Armenia” to the bulletin of the Armenian National Agrarian University for publication and they are developing other papers. Two bachelor’s students from Agribusiness Teaching Center have been volunteering on this PEER project recently, primarily working on development of AutoCad files of proposed water saving models of fisheries, as well as financial calculation of models. SFEWRA project volunteer Shahen Mirakyan participated in the International Scientific Conference November 2-3, 2017, held at the Armenian National Agrarian University, presenting a research paper entitled “Feasibility assessment of installation of Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS) in fish farms operating in Ararat Valley, Armenia.” PEER project team members also participated in the Sustainable Energy Academy 2017 conference on November 25, 2017, held at the American University of Armenia. Their paper, “Alternative energy in a fishery as a sustainable production solution,” was recognized as one of the top three among 18 projects presented at the final conference “Renewable Energy in Your Community” at the Sustainable Energy Academy 2017. In another outreach activity, in December 2017 project team members provided aquaculture-related information to schoolchildren on a daily basis using the online platform as part of a broader agriculture teaching campaign organized by

Under a PEER Evidence to Action supplemental grant awarded in the summer of 2017, these researchers are working to implement their sustainable aquaculture model at one of the fish farms involved in their PEER study. The farm originally selected as the site for this demonstration project unfortunately had to drop out of the effort late in the year due to family and financial reasons, but the team selected and received USAID approval to substitute another farm in the same area, one that is very similar to the previous farm in terms of operation modes and design. Moreover, since this newly selected farm has recently undergone major modifications, potential negative environmental effects stemming from construction can be reduced. As of January 2018, preparations were under way to initiate the renovations. Meanwhile, work on the basic project activities will continue in early 2018, including development of customized water-efficient models and business plans for the remaining nine fisheries in the project (with the other six models already completed). Discharge water quality characteristics will continue to be analyzed at all the project sites. The team will also work on analyzing the current regulatory framework for water resources use by fish farms in the Ararat Valley and developing policy recommendations for the Ministry of Environmental Protection that can potentially improve the water resource situation in the area.

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