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

09 Table Blue Biotechnology & Growth

General Topic
Priority Ranking (1-5)


Relevance to 2020 target

Potential deficiencies in Infrastructure/Resource Requirements

1) Marine Biotechnology exploitation

The environmental pressures marine organisms experience has lead to unique metabolic adaptations and they are considered to have an enormous potential for unique biotechnological applications [8], [9].

These unique properties have resulted in several novel applications of enzymes in industrial processes. Similarly, the novel biochemistry of marine organisms is predicted to generate novel chemicals that are distinct in structure from those from more conventional organisms.

However, only a minor fraction of them have been exploited. And there is a need to develop and standardise bio-prospecting procedures for screening and identifying novel biomolecules produced by these marine organisms.

At a very basic level biotechnology is seen as the application of biological knowledge and cutting edge techniques to develop products and other benefits for humans. Within Europe Marine biotechnology has been highlighted as a priority research area. Approximately only 5% of the European economic activity centres on the marine environment this is expected to rise to 10%. The biodiversity of the marine environment is largely unexploited and the potential applications within the pharmaceutical, animal health, cosmetic and biotechnology industries unrealised. This field of science sits between both aquaculture and industrial biotechnology.

Only a minor fraction of extremophile organisms have been cultivated and exploited. Sustainable harvesting of macro-organisms from their natural environment is rarely possible and has environmental implications. Current methods often fail to replicate the conditions needed to yield the target high-value compounds. There is a need to develop enabling technologies for culture and isolation of uncultivated microorganisms and culture methods adapted to vertebrate or invertebrate cell lines for production of active compounds.


Skills and training - there is a major need to train the next generation of marine biotechnologists. This should focus on an interdisciplinary approach and include aspects of sustainability. There are courses that have being developed at or are being developed at the postgraduate level but the potential of marine biotechnology should be introduced at the undergraduate level and not only to marine undergraduates.


The area of bio-engineering of marine microorganisms is largely untouched, for example there is a need to optimise microalgal cultivation systems with respect to energy supply, productivity and cost and to promote research on the biorefinery approach based on microalgae production to develop a long-term alternative to petrochemistry.


Identify and prioritise new marine model organisms, which are needed to fill critical knowledge gaps. Investigate identified marine model organism cultivation and perform genomic and chemical analyses.


2) Health

Development of novel drugs, treatments and health and personal care products. Understanding of genomics and metabolomics of interesting microorganisms linked to the compounds they produce.

Again this priority fits clearly within the European 'Blue Growth' agenda.

Increase the focus on the basic research (taxonomy, systematics, physiology, molecular genetics and (chemical ecology) on marine species and organisms from unusual and extreme environments to increase the potential for success in finding novel bioactives; - Improve the technical aspects of the biodiscovery pipeline, including the separation of bioactives, bio-assays that can accommodate diverse material from marine sources, dereplication strategies and structure determination methods and software; - Overcome the supply problem to provide a sustainable source of novel pharmaceutical and healthcare products through scientific advances in the fields of aquaculture, microbial and tissue culture, chemical synthesis and biosynthetic engineering.

3) Environment

Biotechnological approaches, mechanisms and applications to address key environmental issues. Metagenomic approach to identify microorganisms and their variability in the original environment including the systematic sampling of different microorganisms (viruses, bacteria, archaea, pico- and microplankton), algae and invertebrate taxa. Implement metagenomic studies of aquatic microbiomes and macrobiomes.

Aid in the protection of Scotlands marine biodiversity. Increasing Scotland's aquaculture capacity and aid the developing marine renewables industry in terms of biofouling.

Automated high-resolution biosensing technologies for in situ marine environmental monitoring to address coastal water quality, including prediction and detection of HABs and human health hazards.

Cost-effective and non-toxic antifouling technologies combining novel antifouling compounds and surface engineering for both aquaculture and renewable energy structures.

DNA-based technologies for organism and population identification and support the development of commercial tools and platforms for routine analysis.

4) Food

Food products and ingredients with a marine origin (algae, invertebrates, fish) with optimal nutritional properties for human and animal health.

As the world population continues to grow there will be a major need within Scotland and Europe for alternative food supplies to ensure 'food security.'

Innovative methods based on -omics and systems biology for selective breeding of aquaculture species are beginning to be developed.


The sustainability of aquaculture through biotechnological applications including alternative preventive and therapeutic measures to enhance environmental welfare and sustainable production technologies for feed supply. This should be coupled to integration of low environmental impact feed ingredients to improve quality of products and human health benefits.

5) Energy

Development and demonstration of viable renewable energy products and processes, notably through the use of marine algae this should include both microalgae and macroalgae.

Bioenergy within Europe is still a major focus. There has been a conceptual shift and for algae bioenergy a biorefinery approach should be taken with energy production as the last step in the manufacturing chain. There is also potential in growing algae for waste remediation.

Improve knowledge of basic biological functions, tools for steering the metabolism, and cultivation methods of both marine macroalgae and microalgae to improve optimum characteristics for mass cultivation (mixed & mono cultures), biofuel production and biorefinery. This has the potential to feed into health and feed, as sources of compounds for pharmaceutical, animal health, cosmetic and biotechnology industries.



Back to top