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Value of information (VOI) for shellfish aquaculture in British Columbia

Citation

Espinoza, Emiliano (2022), Value of information (VOI) for shellfish aquaculture in British Columbia, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.25349/D9C601

Abstract

Shellfish aquaculture will play a critical role in meeting the growing demand for protein with low ecosystem impact and carbon intensity. Regions that have experienced inhibited growth in their shellfish aquaculture industries, such as British Columbia, must invest in technical and community-driven solutions to overcome industry barriers. A key barrier to British Columbia’s growth is environmental uncertainty, which impedes optimal farm management and increases the investment risk of shellfish farms. To reduce environmental uncertainty, shellfish operations around the world are investing in environmental monitoring and forecasting technologies to provide environmental information to farmers. These investments may signal that shellfish farmers value environmental information, but no efforts have been made to adequately measure this value. We developed a model to quantify the value of environmental information for shellfish farmers, which revealed that increasing variability of optimal management decisions and associated expected profits across future possible environmental conditions increased the value of information. Through conversations with farmers in British Columbia, we discovered that many non-environmental barriers hinder the growth of the shellfish industry, as well. We grouped these challenges into three general categories of logistic & economic, social & cultural, and regulatory & political. We found that potential solutions to overcoming non-environmental barriers include a shift toward cooperative style business models, investing in First Nation's capacity to support new ventures, and forging partnerships to enable community support. By identifying what makes information valuable, this project provides a tool for shellfish farmers to prioritize what environmental variables are worth forecasting while contributing to a deeper understanding of the challenges and experiences of shellfish growers in British Columbia.

Methods

Datasets were collected from the Farm Aquaculture Resource Management (FARM) model. This model is used to assess the “productivity, environmental effects, and profitability of shellfish aquaculture” by calculating anticipated shellfish growth under the following modifiable parameters: environmental conditions, stocking density, farm size, and the number of sections, species, and grow-out period. The FARM model was chosen for its widespread use in the aquaculture industry, comprehensive consideration of management decisions, and flexible data extraction interface (link: farmscale.org). 

The dataset was collected using the following process:

A. Each of the four environmental variables was assigned five possible levels, which we refer to as “scenarios”. The range of scenarios was selected to prioritize methodological clarity over exact accurate representation of conditions in B.C., but represent a reasonable range of values for these variables.

B. The model was run for each of the five environmental variable scenarios while adjusting stocking density in increments of 50 ind/m^3 ranging from 50-999 ind/m^3. 

After each iteration of the model, we extracted the Total Harvest (TPP).

Note: When running the model for a single environmental variable across five scenarios, all other environmental variables were held constant at baseline values. 

There was also a set of fixed variables that were kept constant under each iteration of the model running. After raw data extraction, we converted Total harvestable biomass (tons) to expected profits assuming an average $8.50CAD/lb conversion for mussels to further generate the distribution plots.

Funding

University of California, Santa Barbara