SAMS scientists leading an EU-funded aquaculture project are currently appearing in news bulletins in 134 countries, as well as online.
The EU’s news channel, Euronews, filmed SAMS support scientist Lars Brunner and Dr Adam Hughes, who heads up the IDREEM project during a trip to SAMS’ Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA) site on Loch Fyne.
The IMTA site, operated by the Scottish Salmon Company, hosts finfish and shellfish farming operations in close proximity. IMTA is a concept where different species are grown together in such a way that the invertebrates and/or plants can recycle the nutrients that are lost from the culture of the other species.
An example may be a fish farmer who adds fish feed to his cages in the sea knowing that a proportion of the nutrients in that feed will not end up in his fish but will be lost to the environment. However, if the farmer develops a bivalve culture operation near his fish farm, these filter-feeders might benefit by consuming some of the particles of feed and waste products, growing faster or bigger than they might otherwise have done. Additionally, the farmer might elect to grow some seaweed near his fish farm.
These plants can use nitrogen excreted by the fish and the bivalves to enhance their growth. The result is that there is a net reduction of losses to the environment plus new crops to harvest and sell.
In the case of the Loch Fyne site – one of six pilot sites across Europe – shellfish and seaweed are grown near to a salmon farm.
Dr Hughes said: “IMTA has been around in Asia for thousands of years, and it's been around in Western literature for a good 40 or 50 years, but there's been no real commercial uptake in Europe. The idea behind the project was to try and understand why, and what the bottlenecks were.”
Adding that IMTA was not easy to implement because of various regulations, he explained that there were more obvious obstacles within industry itself.
“Fish farmers are really good at farming fish, and shellfish farmers are really good at farming shellfish, but they're two different skill sets, and there's got to be a reason for a finfish company to invest the considerable amount of money, effort and expertise that's required to add a whole new element to their production system, explained Dr Hughes.