An innovative multidisciplinary aquaculture project led by NUI Galway and Athlone Institute of Technology is set to improve production efficiencies and management of farmed fish at several inland freshwater sites. The project ‘ECOAQUA’ has received €348,781 in funding under the European Maritime Fisheries Fund (EMFF), administered by Bord Iascaigh Mhara, through the Knowledge Gateway Scheme, on behalf of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
The output of this project will include new information, new methods, and increased awareness. It has built on capacity for, and developed new partnerships focused on, research and innovation in environment and health.
The project aims to test and optimise innovative technologies and processes developed through the linked MOREFISH* project. Led by Dr Eoghan Clifford from NUI Galway and Professor Neil Rowan from Athlone Institute of Technology, with support from Bord Iascaigh Mhara’s technical aquaculture team, ECOAQUA will address critically important needs identified by industry and aquaculture stakeholders including:
- Analysing the environmental and energy performance of three freshwater aquaculture sites by extensive sampling and remote online monitoring of water parameters.
- Facilitating the re-use of the treated water, thereby reducing both the volumes of extracted and discharged waters.
- Enabling the industry to meet stringent environmental regulation while increasing production in a sustainable and cost-effective manner.
- Piloting technological innovations with industry to ensure the research is easily and rapidly transferrable to the aquaculture sector.
- Ensuring technological innovations and research results can be leveraged to enable the sustainable growth of this high-potential sector.
- Enable the industry to leverage the scientific outputs from the project to communicate with government, policymakers and regulators and the public.
Dr Eoghan Clifford from the College of Engineering and Informatics at NUI Galway, said: “Aquaculture is recognised to have the potential to address food security concerns in many countries and offer significant economic benefits. Ireland currently ranks as fifth in value and seventh in volume in terms of high value fish species with exports supporting approximately 2,000 jobs. However, the sector in Ireland has remained relatively stagnant and has significant potential to grow, develop export markets and create employment in rural areas. These developments are strongly aligned with Ireland’s FoodWise2025 policy that seeks to grow food exports by 85% to €19 billion by 2025. This research has the potential to introduce innovative monitoring practices, technologies that can enhance the value and sustainability of Irish and European fish stock densities while ensuring the environmental sustainability of the sector.”
Professor Neil Rowan from Athlone Institute of Technology, said: “This exciting cross-cutting project leverages on a critical mass of engineering and scientific expertise, industry stakeholders, policy-makers, commercial operators and international experts established through the MOREFISH platform to respond directly to pressing environmental issues that were informed by industry. ECOAQUA will model and profile the global performance (focusing on algal, microbial and energy) of pilot freshwater aquaculture farms, which will ensure that high potential interventions are easily transferable to the industry sector ensuring the intensive sustainability and viability of this industry.”
Mr Alan Kennedy, ECOAQUA project manager at NUI Galway, said: “This timely project will improve the water quality of freshwater farms through the incorporation of water treatment technologies and energy reduction interventions into existing flow through farms that will also enable seamless transitions to next-generation production formats.”
Damien Toner, Aquaculture Technical Specialist with Bord Iascaigh Mhara, said: “Bord Iascaigh Mhara is delighted to support this innovative and collaborative project. ECOAQUA will provide valuable research into developing improved efficiencies in fish farming that will inform the wider industry on best practice and new technologies to improve sustainability. We are looking forward to working with the teams in NUI Galway and Athlone Institute of Technology on this exciting project.”
Photo 1.jpg: An innovative fish farming system in Co. Sligo (Keywater Fisheries Ltd and Bord Iascaigh Mhara). Photo courtesy of ECOAQUA project
Photo 2.jpg: Full scale demonstration of a new aeration technology for fish farms. Photo courtesy of ECOAQUA project