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PD/A CRSP Aquanews-Fall 2000
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Graduate Student Profile: Ivano Neira

by Anu Gupta

Developing countries, world cultures, and fish: these are all interests held by CRSP graduate student Ivano Neira. As such, his work with the PD/A CRSP fits him perfectly.

Neira is a Master's degree candidate at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, where he is working with researcher Carole Engle on a CRSP-sponsored activity entitled "Development of Central American Markets for Tilapia Produced in the Region," which focuses on tilapia production in Honduras and Nicaragua.

One of the major objectives of this activity is to identify potential domestic markets for tilapia. Tilapia aquaculture in Honduras and Nicaragua has exploded in the past ten years, but the majority of the product is exported. By identifying potential local buyers, the researchers hope to encourage growth in the domestic tilapia market. The activity, including Neira’s part, is funded exclusively by the CRSP.

Ivano Neira (far right) visited a local fish market in Managua during a recent trip to Nicaragua.

Neira recently returned from a trip to Nicaragua, where he conducted surveys of restaurants, supermarkets, and fish markets. Neira will use the survey results to identify characteristics of fish buyers who are likely to buy tilapia, and then develop recommendations for marketing strategies to be used by different sizes of tilapia farms in various target markets. He will conduct part of the analysis on the survey results. In one section, he will use a logit analysis to relate buyer preferences and characteristics to their probability of purchasing tilapia, and in a second part, he will develop a transportation cost model to identify target markets for different tilapia farm sizes in different regions of Honduras and Nicaragua.

Having the chance to travel to Nicaragua was something Neira greatly enjoyed. He has done a lot of traveling just to get to this point in time in his life. Neira is originally from Lima, Peru. He received his undergraduate degree in Fishing Engineering from Agraria University, also in Lima, in 1995. He then turned his attention to agricultural business, in which he received a post-graduate certificate.

From Lima, Neira then moved to Aquafuture, Inc., in Turner Falls, Massachusetts, where he worked with striped bass, then to Bioshelters, Inc., in Amherst, Massachusetts, where he worked on recirculating systems for tilapia. One of the reasons he decided to come to the US was to improve his English language skills. He was also interested in applying his knowledge of recirculating systems to real-life situations. His manager at Bioshelters, Inc., knowing that Neira was interested in continuing his education, told him about the research position with Engle, which was advertised on the popular aquaculture website "AquaNet." From there he moved to Pine Bluff, where he entered the CRSP pond.

"I’m interested in helping developing countries," he said, pointing out that his home, Peru, is also a developing country. He is particularly interested in estimating fish markets and determining ways to sell fish. "I would like to have more knowledge and background applicable to my country and other countries, in order to help them."

Neira hopes to finish his degree by December 2001. The work of international organizations interests him, and he sees himself working on further projects for developing countries after he graduates.

The spark that set Neira off on this aquaculture track was his own backyard. "When I was a little kid I was always interested in all kinds of life—especially doing experiments. My house was a zoo. I had all kinds of small animals (a rabbit, mouse, snakes, frogs, ducks, chickens, etc.). When I was eight years old I was on the shore of a pond, and I caught some fish which I took home with me. I started to grow ornamental fish (spawning them and doing experiments)." He continued growing ornamental fish until he left for the US.

Neira doesn’t find himself with much free time outside of his research, but in his spare time he does like to run and read books. Luckily, one of his greatest interests, traveling, fits in with his research needs: "I like to travel a lot, and know more about cultures." Neira is optimistic that the current CRSP activity will have applicability in countries beyond just Nicaragua and Honduras: "I would like to do research in all of Central America, but I know that is too broad." With goals such as his, however, Neira is certain to spread ripples throughout and beyond the CRSP

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