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Double-impact lice treatment wins € 1.277m European funding

An Aqua Pharma peroxide bath treatment taking place in a salmon cage. Photo: Aqua Pharma.
An Aqua Pharma peroxide bath treatment taking place in a salmon cage. Photo: Aqua Pharma.

The team behind an innovative sea lice treatment system that combines hydrogen peroxide with sound waves has won €1.277 million (£1.1m / NOK 12.9m) funding from a scheme to help the European aquaculture industry grow.

The BREEZE initiative which is being developed by a consortium made up of Aqua Pharma Group, Pulcea, the Norwegian University of Science & Technology and Stirling University’s Institute of Aquaculture, was one of the four projects chosen by EIT Food for inclusion in its 2021 Business Plan for Sustainable Aquaculture.

BREEZE combines Aqua Pharma Group’s existing hydrogen peroxide treatment with the acoustic-based technology pioneered by Pulcea to improve the efficiency of sea lice removal from fish in a gentle treatment.

A post-treatment biological clean-up process using enzymes then speeds up the decomposition of the hydrogen peroxide into oxygen and water, making the system suitable for use even in environmentally sensitive areas.

Ian Armstrong: Award significantly enhances the ability of Pulcea to deliver its innovative technology.
Ian Armstrong: Award significantly enhances the ability of Pulcea to deliver its innovative technology.

Extended partnership

Pulcea managing director Ian Armstrong said: “This generous award by EIT Food significantly enhances the ability of Pulcea to deliver our innovative technology targeted towards the sustainable farming of ocean waters, and it extends our five-year partnership with Professor James Bron and the University of Stirling’s Institute of Aquaculture by a further two years.”

Stian Aaen, research manager and veterinarian at lead consortium partner Aqua Pharma Group, said: “It is a great honour to be one of the winners of this prestigious competition and to receive recognition of our ambitious programme to dramatically lower the environmental impact of aquaculture and to help improve standards of fish welfare.

“We have a huge role to play in increasing transparency in aquaculture and reassuring consumers that the fish we eat is sustainably farmed according to the highest welfare standards. The BREEZE initiative will enable the successful scaling of sustainably managed fish farms, to meet the growing demand for healthy proteins and we are excited to be making this happen together.”

Future-proofing food

Supported by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), EIT Food is Europe’s leading food innovation initiative, with the aim of creating a sustainable and future-proof food sector. The funding competition is part of the EU’s Farm to Fork strategy which underlines the potential of farmed seafood as a source of protein for food and feed with a low-carbon footprint and the importance of aquaculture in building a sustainable food system.

EIT Food innovation programme manager Mercedes Groba said: “The European Farm-to-Fork strategy aims to provide healthy and sustainable food systems; this is one of the key objectives of the European Green Deal. I truly believe that aquaculture is a critical part of the solution.

“Our promising innovation projects present a collaborative approach to meet the objectives of the European Green Deal and to transform the aquaculture industry into a sustainable form of food production. This forms part of EIT Food’s wider mission to make our entire food system more sustainable, healthy and trusted.”

2023 target

Along with the consortium, the BREEZE project also involves two raw material suppliers as strategic project partners. The hydrogen peroxide molecule is provided by Solvay, with the enzyme used in the biological clean-up part of the treatment process supplied by Novozymes.

Trials of the BREEZE treatment system will be carried out over the next two years with the concept expected to be ready for market by the end of 2023.