USF/Mote Receive $2 Million Federal Grant

The grant expands the USF CONNECT program to the Mote Aquaculture Research Park.



By Barbara Melendez News Writer


TAMPA, Fla. (Aug. 20, 2010) – Small business startups and regional technology commercialization got a substantial boost when the U.S. Commerce Department announced a $2 million grant for the University of South Florida and Mote Marine Laboratory today. 


The grant expands the USF CONNECT program to the Mote Aquaculture Research Park supporting a test-bed and business innovation facility that will build upon Mote’s innovative programs in sustainable energy and protein for food production. Environmentally compatible, the facility in Sarasota seeks to apply good water management principles while insuring the bio-purity of farm-raised fish protein. Mote has the largest inland facility of this kind in the nation. New job creation is also part of the expansion. 


Assistant Secretary John Fernandez, the Administrator of the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA), is charged with leading the federal economic development agenda, which involves promoting innovation and competitiveness. He visited USF Connect two weeks ago in preparation for the announcement.


“Our department’s mission is to help prepare American regions for growth and success in the global economy and this project clearly promises to have tremendous impact within and beyond our borders, and well into the future,” Fernandez said.


USF and Mote signed a landmark affiliation agreement in June 2009 building upon a three-year relationship established in the Joint Center for Coastal Ocean Studies. Through this partnership they are joining forces in new science ventures, providing expanded learning programs and creating economic development opportunities in the region and state.  


“This collaboration makes excellent use of USF’s strengths in marine science and business development and we are gratified to see the Commerce Department recognizes USF’s importance to our region and the nation with this grant,” said USF President Judy Genshaft. “USF is deeply woven into the fabric of our area’s economy through numerous research and development partnerships and projects. This one is expected to have significant global impact and it couldn’t have come along at a better time.”


The aquaculture industry currently generates $70 billion a year and according to NOAA, has the potential to triple in size in the United States by the year 2025.


“Mote is at the forefront of developing environmentally sound and sustainable ways to make farm-raised fish available and is conducting leading-edge research and development in this area,” said Mote President Kumar Mahadevan. “Mote’s work with filtration equipment, developing pilot-scale marine systems for commercial use is aimed at increasing the efficiency of sturgeon production. As Mote’s model becomes viable for replication, we will someday see aquaculture taking place just about anywhere in the world, including places as arid as Saudi Arabia.”


Many factors, including the state of the commercial fishing industry, human population movement to the coasts, and skyrocketing coastal property costs are affecting the need to move marine aquaculture inland. 


“The need for seafood farming is well documented, an enormous percentage of seafood species around the world have collapsed,” said Rod Casto, associate vice president, USF Office of Research and Innovation and executive director of the USF Research Foundation. “By developing sustainable inland production methods we will be able to expand opportunities for Florida’s aquaculture industry that are especially relevant given the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. 


“Mote has already invested more than $23 million in this research at its 200-acre facility in Sarasota. They can expect to see a tremendous return on that investment in the form of much-needed economic growth for the local economy as well as that of the state of Florida and the country as a whole,” Casto said. 



USF CONNECT delivers a wide range of business development services to technology businesses throughout the Tampa Bay region and State of Florida and provides a single point of contact for businesses seeking resources such as technology transfer, financing, marketing, management and business incubation. For more information about USF CONNECT visit


About Mote Marine Laboratory

Mote is an internationally recognized marine research and education organization and is dedicated to advancing marine and environmental sciences through scientific research, education and public outreach for the revitalization and sustainability of our oceans. Mote was created in 1955 as a small research laboratory and today includes seven centers of marine research located on five campuses from Sarasota to the Florida Keys. Mote has hundreds of extramurally funded research programs and includes a public Aquarium and an Education Division with state-of-the-art distance learning programs that serve more than 50,000 students around the world. Mote Aquarium is the leading tourist attraction in Southwest Florida, drawing about 350,000 visitors annually.