Fishy tales from seas to plates16th December 2016

Fishy tales from seas to plates

Guest blog by Siobhán Jordan, Director, Interface

The Scottish aquaculture industry involves the farming or culturing of fish, molluscs, crustaceans and seaweed. The industry is led by Atlantic salmon farming, but also produces significant quantities of rainbow trout and mussels.

From seafood trails to fish boxes delivered to your door from award-winning Coast & Glen, the industry is powering forward with wider impacts for tourism as well as food and drink.

Over the past few years, the aquaculture industry has increasingly looked to the world-leading research and knowledge in Scottish universities and research institutions to significantly advance the quality, production and processing of fish and seafood. An ideal match I say, as we are fortunate that Scotland’s universities outperform the rest of the UK when it comes to ‘world-leading and internationally excellent’ research in agriculture, veterinary and food science, and the marine sciences research pool.

Interface, through its regional business engagement team based the length and breadth of Scotland, supports business challenges by quickly establishing connections to academics based in Scotland’s 23 universities and research institutions. Complementing the Interface support for short and medium-term challenges is the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC) with its four Priority Innovation Areas supporting large-scale transformational programmes for the Scottish aquaculture industry.

For example, Aqualife Services, based in Stirling, is the largest dedicated fish vaccination company in the world. Recognising they needed to address issues with their vaccination process which can lead to repetitive strain amongst staff and limited accuracy in vaccinating the fish, Interface facilitated a partnership between the company and the University of the West of Scotland resulting in a collaborative project for novel design options for a new vaccination gun via a two year £100k Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP). Recently, the KTP project was given ‘Outstanding’ status by Innovate UK – an accolade achieved by only a small percentage of all KTP collaborations.

Per-capita consumption of fish both from fisheries and aquaculture is now around two per cent higher than in 1975, according to a report commissioned by Sainsbury’s in association with the Future Foundation. In order to continue this curve, the industry needs to understand what motivates consumers to buy fish over other forms of protein. Interface recently funded a PhD with the University of Aberdeen and Seafish to understand whitefish consumption in under 5s, which will help the industry understand the drivers motivating mothers to buy fish. Other insights are being provided through the trained consumer panels at Abertay University working with Dawnfresh to establish a deeper understanding of trout consumption using predictive instrumental sensory analysis and statistical modelling.

Complementing these bespoke industry-led projects are larger scale investments funded by SAIC that are levering-in investment from other key stakeholders. These include the drive to control sea lice through non-medicinal approaches via a £2.12m lumpsucker project and, more recently, the £1.76m successful application to the European Maritime Fisheries Fund (EMFF).

Sustainable salmon farming must be accompanied by scientific innovation if it is to succeed, which is why University of Glasgow scientists and industry leaders are embarking on a new project, co-funded by SAIC, to build an artificial salmon gut with a view to better understanding fish digestion. This important and complex information will arm the fish farming industry with a sustainable response to increasing global demand for high quality farmed fish.

Through the complementary approaches of SAIC and Interface, the Scottish aquaculture industry has the best of both worlds for accessing world-leading academic expertise and support for short, medium and longer-term challenges. I, for one, can’t wait for the next catch of company – academic fishy tales that are making a real difference for Scotland.

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