The Sustainable Aquaculture Innovation Centre makes new call for scottish aquaculture innovators

The Sustainable Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC) from Scotland has launched a new call for innovation projects that could help increase the economic impact and reduce the environmental impact of local aquaculture. Applications that cover the integration of multiple species, such as multitrophic aquaculture, are particularly encouraged in this latest call, which will build on the investment of u$ 12.6 million in some 65 collaborative research projects to date.

To qualify, research teams submitting proposals must also include an industry partner working collaboratively with at least one Scottish higher education institution. In return, SAIC will provide as much as 50 percent of the overall project costs.

“By working together to develop ground-breaking science and data-driven approaches we can secure Scotland’s future as a producer of high-quality seafood that is reared to the best possible standards”, SAIC CEO Heather Jones said to SeafoodSource. “SAIC is committed to supporting innovation that enhances fish well-being, supports rural communities, and contributes to Scotland’s economy, and we hope to see a range of ideas from across the sector submitted as proposals for funding.”

With grant funding available to take commercially relevant ideas and concepts to the next stage, Stirling based SAIC said chosen projects must focus on an area of key priority for the aquaculture sector, including innovations for continued improvement in fish biology, regeneration, and environmental practices.

The center said that projects must help support the Scottish aquaculture sector and its associated supply chain, and be aligned to its priority innovation areas of supporting finfish health and welfare, unlocking additional capacity in the sector, or a focus on shellfish and other non-finfish species.

The projects must be ready to begin by 1 June, 2022, with collaboration agreements in place four weeks after funding has been awarded.

Researchers develop in Scotland new rapid PCR testing system to detect oyster diseases

Aquaculture researchers in Scotland are developing a PCR method that will help detect the presence of a range of diseases and biofouling species affecting oysters and mussels, in a project that could be a significant boost to the health and wellbeing of the shellfish.

With nearly u$ 635.000 of funding from the Seafood Innovation Fund and the Sustainable Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC), the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute will build a validated testing system that allows oyster growers to proactively test for Bonamia ostreae, a common and potentially fatal disease that is otherwise difficult to detect.

The 15-month project will also receive support from companies and organizations across the oyster farming and research sectors, as well as from practitioners looking to restore the shellfish to their native habitats.

This includes the Association of Scottish Shellfish Growers (ASSG), the trade body for commercial shellfish cultivation; the University of Stirling’s Institute of Aquaculture; and rewilding organizations such as Blue Marine Foundation.

Once present on a site, Bonamia ostreae cannot be eliminated and, historically, it has only been diagnosable after infection has occurred. Access to a rapid, cheap, pre-emptive test will help farmers to make more informed decisions on whether to move oysters to different locations, helping to prevent the spread of the disease.

Designed to be affordable and easy to use for growers, the testing system will also detect the presence of oyster herpes virus and vibrio bacteria, along with biofouling species such as tube worms. It builds on a feasibility study conducted earlier this year, which successfully delivered a proof of concept.

Doctor Tim Bean, career track fellow at the Roslin Institute, said: “Our project will tip the way we currently diagnose diseases that affect oysters on its head – taking a pre-emptive rather than reactive approach. We are bringing together the right technology with the right people to solve some of the shellfish sector’s biggest health challenges and potentially make significant improvements to oyster health.

“This rapid, cheap and simple process will allow farmers and restoration practitioners to make more informed decisions about whether to move animals, optimizing biofouling treatments and site selection. Shellfish growers are often smaller businesses, which makes it all the more important the testing equipment is readily available, easy to use, and affordable.”

For his part, Doctor Nick Lake, CEO of the Association of Scottish Shellfish Growers, commented that “he development and use of a proactive testing system will benefit shellfish growers tremendously. Tube worm casts, while benign in terms of mussel quality, are difficult to remove and can interfere with packaging and presentation”.

“The development of an accessible, rapid test for a range of diseases that affect oysters will be invaluable for the sector. Armed with this testing system, growers and professionals looking to restore the species to habitats will be able to prevent the spread of the disease and act on more data than they have ever had, to the benefit of oyster health and wellbeing. This project is another great example of how collaboration can bring people and technology together to address one of the biggest challenges faced by the shellfish sector”, said Heather Jones, CEO at SAIC.

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