16 May 2024: In a significant boost for sustainable aquaculture in the UK, researchers and their industrial partners are set to benefit from a share of a £4.6 million investment from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). The new Sustainable Aquaculture Partnerships for Innovation fund aims to address key challenges in the industry, including disease prevention and animal welfare.

The initiative will support ten pioneering projects, each featuring a collaborative approach between academia and industry. These projects will focus on specific issues within British aquaculture, leveraging innovative technologies and methodologies.

One standout project within the initiative is a 24-month consortium aimed at mitigating the health and welfare impact of plankton on aquaculture. This project will employ cutting-edge imaging techniques, artificial intelligence, mathematical models, and real-time web-based reporting. The research holds potential for diverse applications and could significantly benefit the shellfish aquaculture sector.

In another project, researchers will investigate how controlling light exposure can address infectious diseases in salmon farms. Building on prior research, which indicated that continuous light exposure made juvenile trout less resistant to skin parasites, this study aims to develop new strategies for disease management in aquaculture.

A large consortium involving seaweed producers from the UK, Sweden, and Norway will explore ways to enhance red seaweed cultivation. This project will utilise novel culturing strategies, advanced hatchery technologies, contamination control measures, microbiome engineering, and the use of predatory microorganisms for disease control.

In an official press release by UKRI, Dr. Lee Beniston, Associate Director of Industry Partnerships and Collaborative R&D at BBSRC, emphasised the broader impact of these initiatives and stated, "Advances in aquaculture technology and innovative approaches have enormous potential to provide the UK, and the world, with a more sustainable, diverse, and healthy source of nutrition. This will support ambitions in areas such as food security through to the health of the nation. We are pleased to be investing, alongside businesses, in these exciting research and innovation projects which will catalyse and drive innovation across the aquaculture industry."

The Sustainable Aquaculture Partnerships for Innovation fund represents a strategic effort to advance the UK's aquaculture sector, promoting sustainability, enhancing food security, and driving technological innovation through effective collaboration between academia and industry.