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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 - June 2019

Agribusiness Teaching Center on Facebook               ICARE Webpage                  March 2021 Medium Article

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.

4-230 Field Observations 24-230 Field Observations
The project team made a series of field measurements and observations at the beginning of the project (photos courtesy of Dr. Urutyan).

Final Summary of Project Activities

This project, which began in October 2015 and received a PEER Evidence to Action supplement in August 2017, was concluded as of June 30, 2019. However, the recipient organization used its own funds to organize an official opening event on October 7 at the fish farm that benefited from a new semi-closed Recirculation Aquaculture System, installed thanks to PEER. USAID Armenia Mission Director Deborah Grieser, Armenian government officials, representatives from the education sector, members of international and local organizations, and the project beneficiaries were present. During the opening event, SFEWRA project manager Lusine Tadevosyan described how the upgraded system works and how water is reused several times. The new system not only conserves water but also ensures that the water ultimately released is cleaner than that coming from conventional systems.

The main development impacts of the project center around its contribution to sustainable water use practices by Ararat Valley fish farms through the introduction of water-efficient farming models, such as closed or semi-closed recirculation systems, which ensure the restriction of water exchange and increase in stocking density. The project was also notable for its success in building partnerships within the sector through networking with several stakeholders, such as NGOs, government institutions, and two relevant projects directly funded by USAID—Participatory Utilization and Resource Efficiency of Water (PURE-Water) and Advanced Science and Partnerships for Integrated Resource Development (ASPIRED).

The following specific results were achieved during implementation of the project:

• Fifteen water-efficient and environmentally friendly business and operations models were developed for the fifteen beneficiary fish farms involved in the project. The proposed models include a technical description of water-efficient fish farm models, including description of the Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS) model; Nitrogen management in RAS; calculation of Ammonia, Nitrate, and Nitrite optimal levels in the proposed system; proposed volume of water supply; the number of stocks to be kept under the model; necessary financial investments and cost-benefit analysis, etc.
• Thanks to the PEER Evidence to Action supplement, one beneficiary fish farm was upgraded from its existing production model into the intensive, water-efficient model. As a result, the fish farm uses 10 l/s groundwater (instead of 30 l/s water, as 20 L/s water is cleaned in mechanical and biofiltration units and recirculated back into the system). It now produces approximately 10 tons of fish annually. As a result of the upgrade, the fish farm re-uses the water four times over, increasing water efficiency greatly. In addition, the aquaponics system installed on the farm allows the farmer to generate additional revenue by producing and selling greens.
• Project team members participated in eight international and local conferences to present their research papers and results and made one study visit to the United States.
• Five manuscripts were developed, of which one was published in Groundwater for Sustainable Development, two in the Bulletin of Armenian National Agrarian University, one (in Armenian) in the Bulletin of National University of Architecture and Construction of Armenia, and one submitted and pending publication at the journal Aquaculture.
• Four public outreach and dissemination events were organized.
• Recommendations were developed and presented to the Ministry of Economy (Agriculture Department), and several technical presentations were made to the Ministry of Agriculture, USAID Mission, PURE-Water project staff, and other stakeholders.

Links to Media Coverage

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