The Bangor Daily News reported on a meeting at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s Blueberry Hill Farm in Jonesboro. About 150 growers, processors, vendors and suppliers gathered at the wild blueberry research facility to listen to David Yarborough, a blueberry specialist for UMaine Extension, discuss this year’s crop and the latest research projects. “Although we had a late start to the season, we’ve had plenty of rainfall — ample rainfall, really — and wild blueberries like cool and wet conditions,” Yarborough said. “So growing conditions have been fairly optimal.” Yarborough said Maine’s crop usually averages about 90 million pounds, and this season he expects the yield to be in the range of 90–95 million pounds.
A WLBZ (Channel 2) report on the economic impact of Maine craft breweries on local communities cited several University of Maine studies. The report states that according to UMaine economic impact studies, Maine’s wild blueberry harvest was worth about $69 million in 2012, and the lobster catch was worth about $340 million. A study conducted by UMaine and the Maine Brewers’ Guild found the state’s craft brewing industry has an economic impact of nearly $200 million and is growing. The study looked at Maine’s 35 craft breweries in 2013. Now there are 55 breweries, with three more scheduled to open this year, according to the report.
Howard Segal, a University of Maine history professor, spoke with the Maine Public Broadcasting Network for Part 2 of its “Innovation in the Maine Economy” series. Segal spoke about what innovation in Maine looked like in the 19th century, and how the state’s economy was more complex at that time than people may think. Segal also wrote an essay on the topic, titled “Economic and Technological Innovation in Maine before the Twentieth Century: Complex, Uneven, but Pervasive and Important,” which appears in the latest Maine Policy Review.
The Working Waterfront and Phys.org carried a report on sea urchin research being conducted by University of Maine marine bioresources graduate student Ung Wei Kenn. His research focuses on enhancing green sea urchin egg production to aid Maine’s depressed urchin market. Ung hopes to increase the egg or roe yield of farm-raised green sea urchins through high-quality feed, a process known as bulking. “I was always interested in the vertical integration of aquaculture and seafood processing,” says Ung. “I am also passionate about seafood that is popular in Asia. This topic is a blend of all that.”
A monthlong technology camp offered in July at the the University of Maine’s Innovative Media Research and Commercialization Center by the new business High Touch Courses was mentioned in a Bangor Daily News article. The curriculum over four weeks of courses uses video game development as a way to attract young people to subjects in Web design and development, 3-D art and graphic design, game development and hardware architecture, according to the article. “It’s about getting them interested in programming at a younger age,” said entrepreneur Elizabeth Chabe, who last fall founded High Touch Group and its sister company, High Touch Courses. The Weekly also carried a story on the camp.
David Handley, a University of Maine Cooperative Extension specialist of vegetables and small fruits at UMaine’s Highmoor Farm in Monmouth, and Renae Moran, a tree fruit specialist with UMaine Extension, were interviewed for a Maine Public Broadcasting Network report titled “Climate change presents Maine farmers with new challenges.” Handley spoke about testing new crops for the region, such as grapes, as the climate changes. Moran, who is currently testing several varieties of peaches, plums and cherries, warns climate change is unpredictable and more research is needed before any farmer is recommended to make a big investment in traditionally warmer weather fruits.
Enhancing green sea urchin egg production to aid Maine’s depressed urchin market is the research focus of a University of Maine marine bioresources graduate student.
Ung Wei Kenn, a second-year master’s student from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, hopes to increase the egg or roe yield of farm-raised green sea urchins through high-quality feed, a process known as bulking. His research is part of a two-year, more than $215,000 research project funded by the National Sea Grant National Strategic Initiative and led by director Nick Brown and biologist Steve Eddy of UMaine’s Center for Cooperative Aquaculture Research (CCAR) in Franklin, Maine.
“I was always interested in the vertical integration of aquaculture and seafood processing,” says Ung, who completed his undergraduate work at the University of Tasmania, Australia. “I am also passionate about seafood that is popular in Asia. This topic is a blend of all that.”
Ung came to UMaine because he was attracted to the project, but he praises CCAR, where he conducts his research, as a key part in his decision to work at UMaine.
“I always felt that aquaculture is not just a science; it is a business as well,” says Ung. “CCAR is special in that it is specifically set up to assist aquaculture businesses by providing scientific and technical know-how. I would not have this luxury at most other places.”
Ung’s research potentially could have significant economic benefit for the state. Maine exports roe to Japan, where it is considered a delicacy. Since the late 1990s, Maine has suffered a dramatic sea urchin industry decline, dropping to a 2.6 million-pound yearly harvest after 1993’s 42-million-pound high, according to information on the Maine Sea Grant website.
“(Using bulking), we can produce out-of-season urchins, enabling the industry to get the best prices, such as when there is a festival in Japan,” Ung says.
Ung places wild green sea urchins, which are harvested from Hancock County’s Frenchman Bay, in a recirculating aquaculture system, where they are fed fresh and dried kelp and a commercial diet that fosters higher-quality eggs. Harvested sea urchins are usually 57 mm in diameter.
Ung hopes his research will lead to increased roe yield and improved roe quality. After four months of urchin dieting, Ung analyzes roe yield, texture and color data at the Food Science and Human Nutrition Department’s physical properties lab. Taste testing is completed at the UMaine Consumer Testing Center. Roe pre- and post-experimentation aspects are compared to determine if quality has been enhanced.
High-quality roe is sweet, smooth and yellow, gold or orange in color, while poor-quality roe has a watery appearance or bitter taste.
“There is a commercial component where we want to demonstrate that the urchins can be enhanced at a commercial scale,” Ung says. “A higher-quality roe yield would mean better selling prices.”
Contact: Margaret Nagle, 207.581.3745
Linda Silka, director of the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine, spoke with the Maine Public Broadcasting Network for Part 1 of its “Innovation in the Maine Economy” series. Silka spoke about the importance of innovation for the state’s future and the latest Maine Policy Review, which focuses on innovation in Maine’s economy.
Articles by Mainebiz, The Forecaster and the Portland Press Herald on a $1.7 million training program launched by Wolfe’s Neck Farm and Stonyfield to invigorate the local and regional organic dairy industry and jumpstart the next generation of organic dairy farmers included statistics from University of Maine Cooperative Extension Professor Rick Kersbergen. WLBZ (Channel 2) reported Wolfe’s Neck is working with UMaine Extension to develop the training program. There are currently 285 dairy farms in Maine, compared to 597 in 1995, Kersbergen says. Within the same time frame, Kersbergen says the number of organic dairies has increased from one to 60.
A University of Maine-affiliated Summer Technology Camp offered in Orono by the startup High Touch Courses was mentioned in a Portland Press Herald article about the business and its founder Elizabeth Chabe.
High Touch Courses aims to create online courses for middle and high school students who want to learn about computer programming, Web development and video game design, according to the article. The summer camp, co-located at UMaine, is an intensive, project-based overnight and day camp for students who want to change the world with technology. Four weeklong courses will be offered on topics including Web design, 3-D art and graphic design, game development, and hardware architecture.
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