Device to breed disease-resistant algae

A TOOL that could help produce disease resistant algae is to be deployed by the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS).
The high tech piece of lab equipment will be used to measure biomass and determine which algal cultures are resistant to different diseases. This, in turn, will help Oban based SAMS breed seaweed strains most resistant to diseases.
It is a novel application for the instrument, called a NEPHELOstar, which was delivered recently to Dr Claire Gachon, senior lecturer in molecular phycology at SAMS, by representatives from BMG Labtech.
Dr Gachon said: ‘We will use this state-of-the-art equipment to identify algae that are resistant to disease.
‘We will then correlate the data with genotype information to find out which strains are the most suitable for breeding seaweed.
‘This is important research for the seaweed industry globally; just like in land based agriculture, disease can be devastating to the production line.’
This pioneering work is part of the GENIALG project, which aims to improve the genetic resources available to breeders for sustainable, large-scale kelp farming throughout the EU.
Catherine Wark, applications and business development manager at BMG Labtech, said: ‘This device is typically used by drug companies, so the work at SAMS is certainly a novel use of the technology.’
Dr Gachon believes that, beyond algae, the technology could become a mainstream tool for non-invasive measurement of biomass of many different types of aquatic organisms.
Picture: Dr Claire Gachon (left) with BMG Labtech representative Natacha Pavone