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The head of one of Scotland’s leading vet schools is keen to point more of his students towards opportunities in the aquaculture industry.

David Argyle, Dean of the Royal Dick School of Veterinary Studies, outside Edinburgh, believes that the aquaculture industry has a great deal to offer vets, and vice-versa.

“The veterinary curriculum hasn’t classically had a lot of fish in it,” he told Fish Farming Expert, “but vets are going to play a major role in terms of future food production and much of the growth in future food production is going to take place in the water – we’re just about at the limits of what we can produce on the land.”

“And after all,” he adds, “salmon is already Scotland’s largest meat export, so it makes sense for a vet school in Scotland that claims it’s involved in the global food security to actively engage with the aquaculture industry.”

Currently, undergraduate vet students are not given an insight into the industry until their fourth year, when the core curriculum contains a number of lectures by colleagues from  Stirling’s Institute of Aquaculture. However, according to David, it’s a field that’s experiencing increasing levels interest from under- and post-graduates alike and the school already includes a fish pathologist and a number of genetic and genomics specialists who are looking specifically at fish.

“Most vet students will not have even considered working with fish when they enrol,” David reflects, “but many develop an interest during the course.”

“We have many opportunities to carry out research projects on fish here,” says David, “and a recent project – undertaken with Landcatch – looking at marker-assisted selection to breed for resistance in IPN in salmon, for example, led to the discovery of genetic markers which have enabled the selection of salmon lines with improved resistance to the virus. It is estimated that this will save the UK salmon industry in the region of £26 million a year.”

Novel degree

The vet school also has plans to establish a novel academic programme in food security David reveals, and aquaculture is likely to be a “key component” of the undergraduate degree.

“It’s going to have a novel curriculum, aimed at both Scottish and international students, all about global challenges, David explains, “and is due to open in 2017. We’re hoping to start with an intake of 45-50 students, and build up numbers to about 100 students per year by 2022."

“We couldn’t cover food security without including the aquaculture industry and we would hope to work with academic and industrial partners collaboratively, allowing students to perhaps develop a more practical understanding of the aquaculture industry in the process,” he concludes.