22 January, Bologna – Leading universities and research centres met with key aquaculture business players on 21 and 22 January at the renowned University of Bologna to kick-start a new EU-funded research project: NewTechAqua. The project will develop and validate technologically advanced, resilient and sustainable applications to support the expansion and diversification of the European aquaculture industry.
As demand for seafood is rising, aquaculture – the farming of finfish, shellfish and aquatic plants – is becoming increasingly important to support mass production without endangering marine ecosystems. With the world’s population expected to grow 30% by 2050, aquaculture production systems need to be upgraded in order to increase the production of safe and nutritious food, while reducing pressure on the environment. In practice, this means the sector must increase its efficiency by improving available technologies, while also finding new solutions to adopt more sustainable practices, support organic production systems, and enhance disease resistance, with fewer antibiotics.
“To prepare aquaculture productions systems for the future, we will develop an integrated set of tools targeting five challenges currently faced by the sector: health, production efficiency, sustainability, diversification of species and new product development”, explains Alessio Bonaldo, professor at the University of Bologna, and coordinator of the NewTechAqua project.
Solutions include innovative diets and breeding programmes linked to prediction models and detection kits, to help improve disease resistance among fish and mollusc populations. To further increase production quality and efficiency, researchers will rely on big data and industry 4.0 solutions, while developing new organic diets and sustainable feed solutions based on microalgae and fish by-products to help making the aquaculture sector more circular.
The solutions developed by NewTechAqua partners will address no less than 11 fish and mollusc species, supporting the sector’s diversification with the creation of new products. Particular attention will be paid to the development of emerging species such as the greater amberjack, the meagre, and the Senegalese sole. To ensure successful uptake of NewTechAqua research results within the sector, industry experts will be invited to revise the business plans defined for each solution, and a dedicated training programme will be offered to professionals looking to adopt these new tools and technologies.
The applications developed by NewTechAqua partners will help make European aquaculture more productive, sustainable and resilient, paving the way towards the development of circular and efficient food systems for future generations.