Surrounded by innovation

By: Meredith Burke and Catilin Stockwell

Over the past few decades, technological advances have completely revolutionized our society. It has influenced the way we live our lives, from the way we watch TV, to the way we conduct our scientific research. However, the aquaculture industry has fallen by the wayside. Big data, collected and distributed to our hands in the form of apps, have begun to dominate our world, so why is this not the case in one of the fastest growing industries in the world?

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Farming fish with the Atlantic Canada in the background

Atlantic Canada has recently emerged as a global leader in ocean technology, as well as playing host to one of the largest aquaculture companies in the world, Cooke Aquaculture. We have the unique opportunity of being surrounded by innovation. We are able to work side by side with the developers, as well as the consumers, to field test new technologies, and optimize their performance prior to commercialization.

However, aquaculture is still a relatively young industry, often operating in remote places, so introducing the use of technology has been difficult. Through research projects, we have been able to merge two key industry partners: ocean technology via InnovaSea, and salmon aquaculture, through Cooke, in order to improve management practices.

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Meredith’s research focuses primarily on using real-time sensors to study water quality parameters, like oxygen and temperature, to understand how they vary through a farm, and what may influence these variations. At the same time, Caitlin uses acoustic telemetry to track fish movement in order to understand fish behaviour and improve welfare management. These two projects together allow us to provide a more holistic view of fish farming to create a more sustainable industry.

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We hope that our work will help inform other aquaculture industries throughout the world, to become more innovative, improve farming practices, and ultimately create happier and healthier fish, with the ability to feed a growing population.

Carp – King of Christmas or National Treasure?

By: Remigiusz Panicz

Poland is the biggest carp producer in Europe, and it is expected that in 2019 production will rise up to 21 000 tonnes. Based on available data carp sales increase every year, but without a doubt the peak is observed a week or two preceding the Christmas period.

Carp ZUT

More than half of Poles declare their willingness to purchase carp during this period. Remarkable is also the fact that during Christmas Poles consume as much as 90% of the annual fish consumption. Such situation is unique in the World. In Polish tradition, carp is a fish that reigns on Christmas tables, although other species also appear on it (e.g. herring, salmon, trout, lean fish).

Consumers value carp meat for its taste and aroma, but we should bear in mind that carp meat has also a high nutritional value. It’s a source of wholesome and easily digestible protein, health-promoting fat (essential fatty acids), vitamins and minerals. Sales are dominated by carps in live form or as carcasses, and increasingly as chunks or fillets.

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However, growing consumer awareness and the systematically increasing pace of life forces producers to search for new processing methods and to create more attractive products. Thanks to this, soon carp will be present in stores throughout the year. To overcome this challenge, Polish carp farmers will have to intensify and modernize production methods.

One solution could be combining traditional breeding in ground ponds with closed aquaculture systems. This system is currently being tested by the ZUT team together with other GAIN project partners. In addition to the breeding aspects, shortening the production cycle, supported by precision aquaculture (use of sensors, biomarkers, Big Data, IoT), the assessment of turning both by-products and side-streams into valuable secondary materials – while increasing profits and minimizing the environmental footprint – becomes crucial.

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There are several hundred carp-producing farms in Poland, which cover over 80 000 hectares of pond area. The fish farming sector employs over 5 000 people, with approx. 3 000 directly in carp farming. These farms may be interested in solutions developed in GAIN, especially those considering water availability reduction due to climate change.

Ponds are also a natural habitat for various birds, mammals and other animal species, which contribute to improving the environmental biodiversity and its attractiveness for tourism. Ponds are also important in water management – thanks to water retention they improve water balance in our country.

All of these aspects are a testament to carp being not only a King of Christmas but a National Treasure as well!

SZCZECIN LAGOON

Women in aquaculture

By: Caitlin Stockwell

I am Caitlin, a Californian living in Canada studying salmon aquaculture at Dalhousie University. Some of the questions I get asked all the time is “why did you leave California?” and “why come to Canada?” And the answer is simple: my education.

Canada is one of the top producers in salmon in the world, and a large percentage of exported salmon is farm raised. So, what better place to study aquaculture than in Canada? It seems like a simple solution, but how could I be successful in a field mainly dominated by men?

Email after email, I contacted professors to see if there was any availability for a new graduate student, and got no response at all, or rejections with responses of “not enough funding” or “no more space for new students”. It was discouraging, and I was about to put my efforts on hold until the following school year when I met my current advisor, Dr. Jon Grant, at a benthic ecology conference. He gave me the opportunity to follow my interests of fish behavior and apply them to an expanding field of aquaculture.

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Now two years later, I have been to two provinces performing fish behavior studies. There is always one thing I can rely on when going to a new site, all of the site workers are male. I have visited or worked at 4 different aquaculture sites in two different provinces and every site is mainly dominated by men, and I have more often than not been the only woman around. This has inspired me to continue to pursue my passion for improving fish welfare in aquaculture while at the same time continuing to push the next generation to pursue their dreams despite the societal norms.

Do we know how much fish we eat?

by: Andre Lopes

The GAIN project found that some of the most popular seafood’s in Europe appear to have a higher consumption than that reported in official statistics. The report, based on seafood demand data, focused on ten European countries and a large number of seafood products.

In addition to demand data, new supply statistics were considered to include other sources of seafood, including subsistence and illegal fishing. This showed that for cod, salmon, or tuna, consumption may be higher than previously estimated.

We found that salmon, the most consumed farmed aquatic product in the EU, appears to have a consumption of 2.21 kg per capita, significantly higher than the 1.30 kg per capita estimates based on supply data. This means that each European consumer appears to eat almost one extra kg each year of salmon unaccounted for in official statistics. Although an extra 900 grams of salmon eaten annually by each person only corresponds to an extra meal every two months, if this gap is scaled up to the European population the numbers are of concern.

Similar numbers were determined for tuna, cod, trout, and other common seafood products. Total consumption of seafood in Europe could be as much as 4.3 kg per capita for farmed products and 8.9 kg per capita for wild-caught products.

Taken on aggregate, the mass balance gap for aquatic products, i.e. from fisheries and aquaculture combined, means that as much as one million metric tons per year of seafood could end up on European plates without being recorded in official statistics.

The most likely reason for this substantial discrepancy between supply and demand data are flaws in the datasets—collectively, this introduces substantial uncertainties for policy outcomes. The GAIN project makes a number of suggestions for improvements in this critical area—without good data, there are no good decisions.

By the way, how much is the fish?*

By Cornelia Kreiss:

To produce a good seafood product according to ecological, welfare and human health aspects we also have to consider the economic side of the coin. The use of sustainable alternative feed, close monitoring of the production conditions or the valorisation of side-stream products is beneficial for a more sustainable production, but will also come at a cost. How high is this cost? Which production benefit or who (the consumer?) will compensate for these costs? What about the whole sector impact?

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These are very important questions for farmers and the seafood industry in general, which we seek to answer within GAIN. In order to do this on farm-scale we use a so-called “typical farm approach” implemented by the agri benchmark network headed by the Thünen Institute in Germany. This is a micro-economic tool which allows to portray the typical production of a farmed species according to real costs, techniques and other inputs: all of it in great detail. In the end we can estimate, which market returns per kg fish should be achieved in order to stay (as) profitable (as before)!

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Sustainable production methods themselves already benefit the farmer, resulting in better quality fish that needs less feed to grow to the same size, or achieving higher water quality which might also allow for higher stocking densities. However, such benefits do not always outweigh the full costs that adaptations towards sustainable production might involve. As long as follow-up costs of environmental impacts are not part of the market price (which is admittedly not an easy task to determine!), price differences are at the expense of sustainable products and need a transparent justification.

Originating from Germany, where public awareness and willingness to pay for more sustainable seafood products is higher than in other countries, I am convinced that a good market transparency is the way forward and I am excited to be part of this aim in combination with more sustainable seafood production within GAIN.

*The fish bought by the electro trashers band “Scooter” in the 1990’s and being the name giver for their song “How much is the fish”, cost 3.80 Deutsche Mark and supposedly lived for at least 18 years, which seems to be a quite good deal!

Women in Aquaculture Science

By Jessica Petereit

Hi, my name is Jessica and I’m currently working as a PhD student in Aquaculture at the Alfred-Wegener Institute (AWI) in Bremerhaven.

During my Master thesis on marine biodiversity and conservation, I realized that the increasing world population couldn’t be sustainably feed by wild caught fish alone, which sparked my motivation to give my contribution to the field of sustainable seafood production.

Feeling the urge to work in an area where I can actually contribute to move forward to more sustainable outcomes, I started looking for job postings in aquaculture and was lucky to be accepted in the GAIN project.

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Preparing turbot blood samples.

I know from colleagues in other institutes that aquaculture research and production is mostly male-dominated. Despite this fact, from my experience at AWI we are equally distributed in the aquaculture science department. Even though the experimental facilities lack the presence of women completely (so far!) I’ve never felt uncomfortable.

Despite this, many women in the field work in supporting the hands-on work before experiments start, therefore seeing women, even though they are not directly employed in the facility, is not uncommon.

I helped with the set-up of all my tanks for the experiment, built tubes and ventilation systems mostly on my own and was responsible when the fish arrived. All staff members were very helpful and patient, despite my short experience with aquaculture at that stage.

From my experience I don’t think women will have any problems in aquaculture science in Germany as long as they do not mind to catch and sample fish, maintain and clean tanks or to get dirty while building new tank equipment.

Beer from oysters

By: Joshua Kyle

Walled City Brewery is an independent brewery in Londonderry which prides itself in providing patrons with a ’taste of the North West‘ by crafting local, authentic, premium quality, flavoursome beer and food. Inspired by Guinness’ suggested serving of oysters with stout, the challenge was laid down to the brewers to develop a beer using local Lough Foyle oysters and so Foyster Stout was born.

As with all great challenges, research was needed before jumping into the beer-making by looking to other breweries such as Maine’s ’Out-To-Sea‘ imperial stout in the USA or Dublin’s own Porterhouse’s beer, ’Oyster Stout‘.

A sustainably sourced supply of oysters was required for the beer and that’s why we selected the Lough Foyle Irish Flat oyster—the Loughs Agency, operated jointly by Ireland and Northern Ireland, has worked extensively on this species, as have members of the GAIN team. The oysters were sourced from licensed farmers—it is vital for us and for our customers that we use the best ingredients from sustainable suppliers.

The use of the oyster had a dual purpose in the brewing process. Firstly, the flesh was used in the mashing process which extracts natural sugars—the flesh gives a fantastic marine essence to these sugars. Secondly, the shells contain a high amount of calcium carbonate which is used as clarifying agent of the beer. This ensures every part of the oyster is used and nothing is wasted.

The Walled City Brewery launched the beer on 12th October, 2019 which was widely well received. It will be going on sale as a seasonal beer and Foyster Stout will be available in selected bars and restaurants in the city. We’re grateful to the Loughs Agency for their support in our development of this new beer which will help raise awareness for the Flat Oyster.