EATFISH is a truly multidisciplinary research project aimed at integrating the biological, technical, socio-economic and governance aspects needed for sustainable and profitable aquaculture. Only when these aspects are integrated, competitive aquaculture in a changing seascape will be feasible in Europe. Aquaculture is the fastest growing food sector since the 1970s and its most important purpose is to provide healthy and safe food adapted to consumer preferences.

At the same time there are fundamental concerns about the ways we farm and transport food across the world, which are related to negative environmental impacts. Hence, sustainable aquaculture has been identified as the “greatest and most feasible” way to obtain adequate seafood for human consumption and achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2, 4, 13 and 14 on food security, quality education, climate action and use of the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

We propose cutting-edge research related to the biology and technical aspects of aquaculture and have a similarly large effort directed towards socio-economic and governance aspects of aquaculture to:

  1. Optimise resource economy in European aquaculture, such that it contributes to a circular bioeconomy
  2. Ensure animal health and welfare
  3. Develop novel aquaculture products targeted to specific market segments
  4. Refine aquaculture governance to facilitate sustainable development of the sector
  5. Enhance the skills and competences of future aquaculture professionals

EATFISH is a Marie SkłodowskaCurie Innovative Training Network funded by the EU (project number 956697)

The EATFISH research programme is organised in seven Work Packages. WP2 “Aquaculture Operations” encompasses 8 individual research projects and focusses on the technological and biological innovation of aquaculture. WP2 is embedded in the larger societal frame through 4 individual research projects on “The Fish Market” (WP3) related to market development and consumer perception, 3 individual research projects on “Governance” (WP4) and WP5 on Training and Education for all PhD students.

Project 1: Enhanced nutrient utilization efficiency through development of ‘system feeds’ (Wageningen University, The Netherlands)
PhD student: Eliza Syropoulou
PIs: Fotini Kokou, Detmer Sipkema
Aquafeed formulation in the current era is a great challenge due to the reduction of fish meal inclusion, which may affect nutrient digestibility and consequently waste production. Poor nutrient digestibility may increase metabolic waste production and thus C:N ratio in the recirculating aquaculture system (RAS), subsequently affecting the nitrifying and denitrifying bacterial populations in biofilters as well as microbes in the rearing water and in the fish host. Therefore, microbial community and its management are crucial for sustaining an optimal culture environment and high fish welfare standards. Here seabass diets will be evaluated in terms of fish and system performance, focusing on the carbon fraction of the feeds (type of fibers). Feeds will be nutritionally developed to facilitate waste removal (with partner organisation ARC). The effects of diet composition on microbiota diversity and functionality (nitrifiying, denitrifying, heterotrophic microbes), system and filter performance (i.e nitrogen removal rates, stability), and fish welfare (in collaboration with CSIC), will be measured. Research outcomes will provide feeds for optimal fish growth, biofilter performance and overall environmental performance of aquaculture systems.

Project 2: Development of next-generation probiotics for aquaculture (Wageningen University, The Netherlands)
PhD student: Valentina Romboli
PIs: Detmer Sipkema, Fotini Kokou
Currently probiotics used in aquaculture are often derivatives of human probiotics of which the efficacy and fate in aquaculture are poorly characterised. ‘Healthy’ salmon and oyster aquaculture systems will be used as inoculum to isolate potential probiotic strains. Depending on the disease target aerobic (water/gills) or anaerobic (gut) strains will be selected for. Pure strains or minimal microbial consortia will be compiled to generate a microbial biobank. Efficacy to inhibit growth of known (shell)fish bacterial pathogens, such as Aeromonas salmonicida, Flexibacter columnaris, Vibrio vulnificus and the eukaryote Neoparamoeba perurans, causative agent of amoebic gill disease in salmon, will be assessed in challenge assays; first in vitro, subsequently in vivo in collaboration with IFREMER and NOFIMA (links to Projects 1, 3, 5). The expected result is a number of single species or minimal microbial communities to be used as more effective next-generation probiotics in aquaculture. Market potential of these new probiotics will be investigated in collaboration with ESR11 (ABSint).