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Supporting Wisconsin Aquaculture by Assessing the Marketing Needs of Producers and Perceptions of Consumers About Eating Locally Farmed Fish

Funded By: Unviersity of Wisconsin-Sea Grant Institute

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Parts of the local food movement are thriving in Wisconsin, and more people want to know the source of their food. Indeed, many are willing to pay higher prices to purchase local food that supports producers in their communities. While the demand for local food products in Wisconsin is strong, many Wisconsin consumers are still unaware of the availability of local, farm-raised fish. Many consumers also have questions about possible contaminants, antibiotics and effects on human and environmental health.

For the farmed fish industry to thrive and grow in Wisconsin, consumers need to perceive fish farmed in Wisconsin as safe, healthy and supportive of the local economy. National trends indicate that the market for fish and shellfish is projected to grow eight percent per year between 2016 and 2021 to reach nationwide sales of $18.4 billion. As of 2011, Wisconsin's aquaculture food fish industry was only valuedat $5.5 million, indicating much room for growth given nationwide sales figures. To better understand the limitations that are constraining the Wisconsin aquaculture industry and capitalize on the trend for local food, this research project will seek to better understand consumer perceptions about farm-raised Wisconsin fish and the needs of Wisconsin fish farmers to grow their businesses.

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Consumer perceptions about eating farm-raised Wisconsin fish as well as the marketing and operational needs of fish farmers need to be better understood in Wisconsin in order to support their ability to grow their businesses and sell to consumers.In order to better understand consumer perceptions and marketing needs of farmers, this project involves the following objectives:

Identify statewide public opinion survey regarding farm-raised fish, including concerns and perceived benefits of farm-raised fish, knowledge about Wisconsin aquaculture, purchasing decisions, etc.

Test  what messages resonate most with consumers using audience targeted advertising messages based on findings from the statewide consumer survey.

Understand the marketing and operational needs of aquaculture food fish farmers, learn how these needs fit into the resources they perceive as required to expand their businesses, and identify opportunities to provide training and resources to help producers meet these needs.

Share research findings with regional aquaculture food fish farmers and stakeholders using a series of webinars, workshops, and other outreach efforts - See Reports 

Train social science scholars via graduate assistantships/fellowships in order to advance scholarship related to aquaculture. This grant will fund a Ph.D. student in this research area. The student will help research consumer perceptions of aquaculture and will also have opportunities to foster interdisciplinary relationships with faculty, researchers and other graduate students also working in the field through the Sea Grant Fellows program. 

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Consumers will find this project useful as the outreach created will better answer questions and concerns of farm raised fish. Ideally, this project will also lead to the increased availability of high quality Wisconsin farm-raised fish. Fish producers will find this project useful as they will receive information about marketing and receive programming for professional development that they indicate is most likely to help them grow their businesses.


Principal Investigator:

Bret R. Shaw, Department of Life Sciences Communication, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Associate Investigators:

Christopher Hartleb, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point

Kristin Runge, Center for Community & Economic Development, University of Wisconsin-Extension

Deidre Peroff, UW Sea Grant Institute, UW-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences


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