Aquaculture for an economical and eco-sustainable growth

An article published last December by the Italian IlSole24Ore describes the research being carried out by the Department of Earth, Environmental and Life Sciences (Distav) of the University of Genoa in acquaculture and in the IDREEM project. The article highlights the importance of developing sustainable aquaculture as a tool for economig growth.  Read the English translation below.

Aquaculture for an Economical and Eco-sustainable Growth

The Department of Earth, Environmental and Life Sciences (Distav) of the University of Genoa is engaged in a number of projects relating to the Blue Growth Economy in the field of European projects funded by the 7th Framework Program. The aim of these projects is to develop fish production and farming techniques that may have an impact on the national and European economy: in the first case described here, this is done by creating a system of integrated fish farms where fish and other organisms that use their waste are raised simultaneously for the production of high commercial value species; in the second by speeding up and optimizing the growth of sea urchins.

The first project overseen by Distav is based on the assumption that aquaculture is an expanding industry and therefore constitutes a major source of economic growth for Europe, in order to meet the continuously increasing demand for food caused by population growth and the need to protect natural resources. The IDREEM project (Increasing Industrial Resource Efficiency in European Mariculture) aims to support new aquaculture techniques with the adoption of an integrated approach in the use of the waste generated by fish production in order to convert them into useful biomass of high economic value, such as algae and invertebrates. Usually these different types of organisms are grown separately, but with the IMTA model (Integrated Multi Trophic Aquaculture) the aim is to breed and cultivate together different species so that it can be possible to recycle the nutrients that would otherwise be dispersed, causing a significant impact on the environment as well as a loss from the economical point of view. With the IMTA model, fish are bred with other species, including shellfish and seaweed, creating a system of production that is less expensive, cleaner and more efficient.

The second project on aquaculture and coordinated by Distav relates to the development of breeding techniques for sea urchins (Research & technological development to Improve economic profitability and environmental Sustainability of sea urchin farming, ResUrch) and enjoys the participation of numerous university centres but especially small and medium-sized Italian and foreign companies. The “eggs” of the sea urchin, called “uni” in sushi bars, are a culinary delicacy and a source of protein and healthy fats widely appreciated in many fish markets around the world. Since their demand has grown in the past decade, numerous natural populations of sea urchins have been overexploited and are now close to complete depletion. Some of the factors that limit the development of sea urchin aquaculture are represented by the low rate of natural growth, which implies a period of almost two years from the juvenile stage to sizes ready for the market, and the need to raise the juvenile stages in land systems. In order to optimise this stage of growth and to be able to raise a sea urchin from the very smallest sizes, the project ResUrch was developed with the aim of reducing the time of breeding and optimising feed and cultivation techniques: this was made possible by validating the results obtained in experimental conditions on a semi-commercial scale to assess the technical and economical feasibility, encouraging the development of a network within this branch of aquaculture. The synergies between the two projects are clearly evident, as sea urchins could represent a valuable species for co-breeding with fish species.

The original article is available here.

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