USDA and HeroX Launch Challenge to Protect the Natural Flavor of Catfish

Washington, D.C. —  HeroX, the social network for innovation and the world’s leading platform for crowdsourced solutions, today launched the crowdsourcing competition “Protecting the Natural Flavor of Catfish” that calls on the global community of solvers to offer cost-effective and innovative methods that prevent blue-green pond algae from delaying catfish harvesting.

This competition is launched on behalf of the U.S. Department of Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) and seeks to benefit catfish farmers across the nation. For the last 30 years, USDA-ARS research has shown that catfish exposure to certain varieties of blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, can cause a delay in harvest for roughly 50 percent of catfish ponds each year. Annually, this delay can also cost catfish farmers $15 to $20 million in lost revenue and expenses to maintain the fish and its natural flavor. 

While numerous methods to combat this issue have been identified, they are only partial solutions that require repeated treatments. There is also no guarantee of successfully eliminating the blue-green algae’s effect on the fish.  

“The Agricultural Research Service is committed to finding solutions to agricultural problems that affect Americans every day,” said ARS Administrator Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young.  “We are excited to see the innovative strategies and suggested new technologies for the Catfish Challenge from the global community.”

“I look forward to seeing our innovators solve a challenge that has stumped scientists and experts for years,” said HeroX Chief Executive Officer Christian Cotichini. “Identifying a solution here protects our food supply and the livelihoods of these catfish farmers.” 

The Challenge: In the United States, nearly 400 million pounds of farm-raised Channel and Blue catfish are harvested annually, primarily in the Mississippi Delta region. Unfortunately, exposure to compounds from varieties of blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, can cause an “earthy” or “muddy” taste in catfish. If a sample fish is found to have these off-flavors, catfish farmers may wait to harvest and retest the fish after several months to see if the off-flavors have improved, or treat the pond water to remove the algae before harvesting can proceed. Both approaches result in lengthy harvest delays, anywhere from a few weeks to several months. These harvest delays cost the industry roughly $20 million annually.

The Prize: A grand total of up to $60,000 US will be awarded to the Challenge’s top nine respondents. Judges will evaluate submissions for the best overall approach submitted and award prizes to the top nine responses. One First Place and up to two Second Place winners will be recognized in each of the following three categories:

  • Pre-harvest management practices
  • Pre-harvest treatment technologies
  • Post-harvest treatment technologies

How to Become a Solver: The prize is open to anyone aged 18 or older participating as an individual or as a team. Individual competitors and teams may originate from any country, as long as United States federal sanctions do not prohibit participation (some restrictions apply). 

To accept the challenge, visit


HeroX is a social network for crowdsourcing innovation and human ingenuity, co-founded in 2013 by serial entrepreneur, Christian Cotichini and XPRIZE Founder and Futurist, Peter Diamandis. HeroX offers a turnkey, easy-to-use platform that supports anyone, anywhere, to solve everyday business and world challenges using the power of the crowd. Uniquely positioned as the Social Network for Innovation, HeroX is the only place you can build, grow and curate your very own crowd.

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