MGSA Science & Research Working Group - Aquaculture Science & Research Strategy

MGSA S&RWG was tasked to produce a comprehensive research strategy prioritised on respective contribution to informing the sustainable growth of the Scottish aquaculture industry and potential impacts of the 2020 sustainable production targets as detailed

05 Technology & Engineering

Much of the engineering and technology used in the aquaculture sector has been developed by the industry as a result of innovation, largely within SME's. Although some novel aquaculture centric/driven innovation has occurred, the industry has drawn heavily upon the transfer of technologies and materials developed in other sectors. This is likely to continue, but as the scale of the industry increases together with the expectation that it should operate in more challenging environments and potentially in more contained systems at sea or land-based demand for more bespoke and innovative technological solutions will be required (Ref: SARF-Telford report + Offshore aq report).

The UK has a world leading offshore sector built around oil and gas exploitation and more recently marine renewables development. There may be opportunities to adapt and transfer technologies and the underpinning expertise from these sectors. The challenges of working in more exposed and remote locations will require the ability to continue to operate within the biological scope of the species cultivated as well as meeting the physical engineering challenges. The capacity to monitor, manage and conduct operations and husbandry remotely will increase. Multidisciplinary research will be needed to ensure that such innovations lead to environmentally, operationally and commercially sustainable solutions.

Minimising potentially negative environmental interactions whether that be; escapes, disease transfer, predation or pollution, will remain a focus. The development and use of novel and adapted technologies will play an increasing role in this process. The use of robotic systems is likely to increase across all areas of industry over the next few years, coupled to remote sensing and the use of 'intelligent' materials and structures. Whilst the aquaculture sector is not of a scale to drive these developments, it is part of the future market for such innovation and may secure advantage by ensuring that the needs of the sector are considered and understood by those working at the vanguard of this area of science and innovation.

Although at an early stage in its development, the marine renewables sector could occupy large areas of our coastal waters. It is inevitable that opportunities to co-locate other commercially and operationally compatible activities in these areas will need to be investigated. Early attempts to co-locate aquaculture activities have had mixed success and none are currently considered viable. However, both food and energy security coupled to climate change drivers and major macro-economic shifts suggest that we should continue to explore opportunities and do so on meaningful scales. Aquaculture is largely synonymous with food production, but in the future it may also be responsible for the production of other products and environmental/ecosystem services that may be required to actively manage anthropogenically impacted marine ecosystems.

Recirculating Aquaculture Systems ( RAS) are an integral part of some aquaculture production systems. Refinement of their commercial operation coupled to capital and operational cost reductions suggests that use of RAS technology will increase in some areas. Whilst much work has already been done, the expanded use of such systems will demand further innovation, with respect to engineering and technology as well as optimising the biological inputs and processes including, nutrition, fish health and stock improvement.

Scotland has recently established legally binding engineering standards for marine cage fish farming Research Council and EU investment in aquaculture related technology and engineering development has been quite limited over the last decade. In the UK there are no centres of expertise that would be recognised as being a focal point for this activity. The growth of the aquaculture sector globally, the aspiration to grow the industry in Europe and the continued expansion of the sector in Scotland suggests that there will be a need to cultivate the relevant technology and engineering expertise within the research community. Close international collaboration (particularly with Norway) on technological innovations offers exciting opportunities for mutual progress.

Scotland in particular is well placed to take a lead in technology and engineering developments, through multidisciplinary research pools, such as the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland and the National Telford Institute, together with recently funded Innovations Centres focusing on aquaculture and sensors.


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