New SFI on closed fish farming facilities

Uni Research, together with Nofima and UiB, will create a Centre for Research-based Innovation (SFI) on closed-containment systems for salmon aquaculture.

By Andreas R. Graven

Group Leader Lars Ebbesson (left) and Senior Researcher Sigurd Handeland. (Photograph: Andreas R. Graven)

The center will be named CtrlAQUA, Centre for Research-based Innovations in Controlled-environment Aquaculture.

The creation of the SFI is in collaboration with 14 companies from aquaculture and supplier industries.

The aim, as described in the proposal, is to “develop technological and biological innovations to make closed-containment aquaculture systems (CCS) a reliable and economically viable technology, for use in strategic parts of the Atlantic salmon production cycle, thus contributing significantly to solving the challenges limiting the envisioned growth in aquaculture”

To be selected by the Norwegian Research Council (NRC) as 1 of 17 SFIs is a great achievement.

In all, there were more that 100 pre-proposals followed by 57 high-quality full proposals competing for success.

A special committee appointed by the board of the NRC made the decision in a meeting Friday afternoon.

After years of hard work Senior Researcher Sigurd Handeland, Group Leader Lars Ebbesson and colleagues at the Integrative Fish Biology group, and Uni Research Environment, have let the celebration begin.

- This was fantastic news. We know there are always tough competitors in SFI funding rounds, so I'm very pleased we made it through the cracks, says Sigurd Handeland.

One of the SFI goals is to develop expertise on an international level - in areas that are important for innovation and value creation.

Handeland is eager to get more detailed knowledge on how aquaculture can gain from having fish live in semi-closed or closed systems for parts of their life.

Good welfare and health of the fish
Nofima is the host institution for CtrlAQUA, and the research within the SFI will be divided into three areas.

The area Uni Research is responsible for, the Department of Production and Welfare in Bergen, will be led by research group leader Lars Ebbesson.

Here the focus will be on optimization of growth and ensuring good welfare and robustness of the fish.

- We already have three years of experience to build on. Based on results so far, I hope and believe we will confirm the assumptions that closed systems certainly will be a very good solution for the fish up to 1 kg, says Handeland.

In the first growth phase up to 1 kg results in the project Optimized Postsmolt Production showed less than 1 percent fish loss.

- It's really startling low. In a typical marine net-pens there can be losses up to 10-12 percent and in some cases up to 20 percent, says Handeland.

The project at Molnes in Skånevik, which involved studying fish with a weight of up to 1 kilo, was concluded more than six months ago.(Photograph: Jan Eirik Jensen, Marine Harvest)

- In the future, we can also get answers about if closed systems can be beneficial for weights up to 4 kg, adds the scientist.

Long-term strategic planning
CEO Aina Berg and research director Tor Solberg Uni Research expresses pride and joy of the award.

- Congratulations to everyone involved and to the team who have worked with SFI application, says Berg.
Now she looks forward to following this research further in the coming years.

- Research on aquaculture and fish health is important and something we have focused on for several years. The foundation for further research is, in other words, taken care of.

- Regardless of the outcome of the RCN we would still do research on these topics, but with SFI in place we can undertake a much more long-term strategy. We are very happy, says Berg.

Good Timing
Sigurd Handeland believes it is very important that a research program on semi-closed and closed systems happens now, especially when the aquaculture industry is already focused on sustainability.

- The industry cannot solve the salmon lice problem and all other challenges entirely by themselves.

- This is where us as researchers come into the picture. The timing of this initiative is undoubtedly correct, says Handeland.

Fact: Objectives and targets of SFIs
An overarching goal for Centres for Research-based Innovation (SFI) is to strengthen the ability to innovate in business by focusing on long-term research in close collaboration between R & D performing companies and prominent research.
SFI will:
• Encourage companies to innovate through a greater focus on long-term research, and make it attractive for international companies to establish their operations in Norway.
• Create active cooperation between innovative companies and prominent research groups.
• Promote the development of industry-oriented research which is in the forefront of international research and which are included in strong international networks.
• Encourage research training in areas that are important for industry and research-based knowledge and technology.

Source: Norwegian Research Council

CtrlAQUA Consortium
Nofima, Uni Research, University of Bergen, NTNU, Göteborg University, Freshwater Institute.

Marine Harvest, Grieg Seafood, Lerøy Vest, Cermaq Norway, Bremnes Seas Whore, Firda Sjøfarmer, Smøla Hatchery and Hatchery, Kruger Kaldnes Oslofjord Resource Park, Storvik Aqua, Aqua Farm Equipment, Marine Producers Norway, Pharmaq Analytiq, Pharmaq.

Nov. 25, 2014, 8:38 a.m.