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Kentucky State University (KYSU or KSU) is a historically black college and university founded in 1886 in Frankfort, Kentucky. In 1890 KYSU became a land-grant university and has continued to grow into an outstanding school and home to one of the best freshwater aquaculture programs in the country.

I remember the first time I came to KYSU, I was studying at Berea College, an hour south of KYSU when I had the opportunity to attend an aquaponic workshop hosted by KYSU. During this workshop, I had the chance to learn from Charlie Shultz and Dr. James Tidwell, experts in aquaponics and aquaculture, and tour their facilities.

I was inspired by the instructors and amazed at the amount of technology and equipment they had. Within 8-months, I transferred from Berea College to KYSU and had begun working as a student research assistant in their aquaponics program, where I stayed for the next 4-½ years.

Over that time, I found my love for growing food for people through aquaponics and aquaculture and expanded that passion.

I finished my undergraduate degree with one degree in Agricultural Food and Environment and a second in Aquaculture/ Aquatic Sciences. After graduating, I stayed there and continued studying for my master's degree and working as a student research assistant.

Joe Pate at KSU

What Sets KYSU Apart?

Years later, after entering the private industry and working and visiting farms and schools all over the US, I still believe that KYSU has one of the best aquaculture programs, with exceptionally high-quality instructors/mentors and staff.

Because KYSU is a relatively small school (~2100 students) and the aquaculture program is even smaller (~20-40 students), the class sizes are small, which means you get to know your instructor and have more opportunities to interact with them.

There are few if any schools that can teach students about every aspect of extensive and intensive aquaculture systems, including:

  • Genetics
  • Fish nutrition
  • Freshwater pond and recirculating aquaculture
  • Saltwater shrimp aquaculture
  • Prawn culture
  • Fish breeding
  • Freshwater aquaponics
  • Salt-water aquaponics (mariponics)
  • Fish disease
  • Aquaculture Economics
  • Water quality management

They also offer a certificate degree in aquaculture 100% online, which is pretty unique. If you have a curious mind, then the research opportunities here are another thing that attracted me. During my time there, I had the chance to participate in several research projects, which I later presented on behalf of the university at several conferences throughout the US.

The Catch

Every university has some drawbacks. Throughout my time there, the biggest problem I had was dealing with the school's administration (particularly financial aid and registration). However, I hear this has improved in the last few years.

Outside of that, there weren't many cons I can say. I loved every bit of time I spent there learning and working in the aquaculture program

Personal Highlights

The biggest highlights of my time at KYSU revolve around the aquaculture program. I had so many opportunities to learn topics in a class and put that information into real-world applications. I developed lifelong connections with my classmates, coworkers, and mentors.

Having the opportunity to go to conferences allowed me to meet my first aquaponic employer years before I worked for them. It allowed me to meet people from all over the world who share my passion.

I'll never forget two memories: capturing and breeding paddlefish, a large prehistoric freshwater fish, and electrofishing on the KY river recording fish diversity.

Connecting with Kentucky State University

If you are interested in learning more about KYSU's Aquaculture/Aquaponics program, you can visit Aquaculture at Kentucky State University.

I give it a 10/10

Joe Pate

CEO & Owner

Regen Aquaculture

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