Innovation award for University of Stirling researcher

Simao Zacarias, University of Stirling

University of Stirling postdoctoral researcher Simão Zacarias has been named as the winner of the Global Aquaculture Alliance’s Innovation Award for 2020.

Zacarias edged out two other finalists — Pablo Berner of Nuseed and Mark Luecke of Prairie AquaTech — to win the competition, which was sponsored by Lineage Logistics. All three finalists were featured in GAA’s Global Aquaculture Advocate in September and presented on October 8 at GAA’s GOAL 2020 conference, held virtually for the first time ever this year.

Zacarias’ work zeroed in on the common — and, in animal-welfare circles, contentious — shrimp-hatchery practice of unilateral eyestalk ablation. His research debunked the notion that the practice results in higher egg production and showed that it actually escalates disease vulnerability. Zacarias proved in laboratory testing that postlarvae and juveniles from non-ablated Pacific white shrimp broodstock showed higher survival rates when they were challenged with two key diseases. He also proved that a similar egg production rate can be attained without resorting to eyestalk ablation by giving broodstock, in their pre-maturation stage, high quality, nutritious feed.

“It is an honour to win this prestigious award, mainly as the first African to get it. This award reminds me to never give up in chasing my dreams even when they seem impossible,” said Zacarias. “I also think that this award is a direct message to the shrimp and aquaculture industry as a whole to keep adopting stronger animal welfare practices.”

“This year’s innovation award is a heartwarming example that breakthroughs can be driven by a single dedicated student enabled by the right collaborative opportunity. Our hats go off to Dr. Simão Zacarias for his life-changing decision to venture far from Mozambique and persevere in his goals, to Dr David Little of University of Stirling who opened the doors and showed him the way, and to the commercial collaborators at Sea Joy in Honduras and Benchmark in Thailand, who welcomed him to use their tools,” said GAA President and Founder George Chamberlain, one of five judges for the competition.