AN initiative to promote the development of integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA) across Europe has been launched by a consortium of organisations, including Oban based SAMS (the Scottish Association for Marine Science).
Eight groups in total – from Spain, France, Ireland, Portugal and the UK – are involved in the project, called Integrate, which aims to unlock aquaculture growth and improve the quality and public perception of aquaculture products.
Although IMTA systems, whereby different species are farmed together at different trophic levels, contribute to sustainability by making the best use of the nutrient flow in aquaculture facilities, they have yet to reach their full potential.
To address the bottlenecks, the EU funded Integrate programme will support cooperation between academia, the corporate sector and relevant authorities.
‘Integrate will deliver tools to effectively increase competitiveness in Atlantic IMTA, unlocking sectorial green growth and improving the quality and public perception of aquaculture products,’ said María del Mar Agraso, technical director at the Andalusian Aquaculture Technology Centre (CTAQUA), Integrate’s lead partner organisation.
Along with CTAQUA and SAMS, the organisations involved in the project include Agrocampus Ouest (France), the Portuguese Institute for Sea and Atmosphere, National University of Ireland Galway, Irish Seaweed Consultancy, ALGAplus (Portugal) and the Centre for Study and Promotion of Algae (France).
The three-year scheme, funded by the ERDF (European Regional Development Fund), had its initial meeting at the end of October, hosted by CTAQUA in El Puerto de Santa María, near Cádiz.
Among Integrate’s expected results are the creation of an Atlantic IMTA platform for sectorial collaboration and three pilot actions to develop Atlantic IMTA technology and farming techniques.
The project will also launch Atlantic IMTA expert groups, and dissemination events are envisaged to facilitate collaboration and knowledge transfer, said María del Mar Agraso.
‘We will assess the environmental impact of Atlantic IMTA, identify bottlenecks to IMTA development and design a suitable strategy for its industrial upscaling.
‘This project will provide us with the knowledge we need to start working alongside policy makers towards the creation of a regulatory framework that will support industrial IMTA in the European Atlantic area.’