An illustration of the novel cage designed by Impact-9, one of the companies supported by SIF. Image: Impact-9.

New funding window opened for aquaculture innovators

A UK government fund that helps progress a wide range of ideas to improve fish farming today opened its third call (Call 3) for grant applications from innovators seeking to develop solutions to challenges in aquaculture, fisheries and the seafood supply chain.

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The UK Seafood Innovation Fund (SIF) is looking to fund feasibility studies for up to five months - to a maximum value of £50,000 - that test new ideas or approaches that will provide long-term, practical benefits to the seafood industry.

Unlike in previous rounds, full research and development projects will not be considered, allowing the programme to direct a larger proportion of available funds to encourage new, unique ideas.

Projects that are proved to be feasible can apply for follow-on funding through a closed call.

Sea cucumbers were studied to assess their potential for absorbing fish farm deposition. Photo: SAIC.

Sea cucumbers

SIF recently announced an additional £1.5 million of follow-on funding for such projects, including £200,000 for an 18-month project investigating the potential use of the Scottish sea cucumber (Holothuria forskali) to reduce the accumulation of salmon faeces and uneaten feed beneath open net pens.

Start-up company Blue Remediation’s feasibility study showed that H. forskali had the capacity to thrive on salmon waste in the laboratory, and numerical long-term predictions showed that sea cucumbers have a high potential to mitigate salmon waste (> 40-70% of the organic matter with 5-10 individuals/m2 respectively).

Trial at Mowi farm

Blue Remediation’s follow-up project will investigate the effect of seasonality and body size on H. forskali’s bioremediation capacity and include these variables in the computer model created during the feasibility study.

It will also validate the results of the computer model by comparing them with data from a one-year in-situ trial at one of Mowi’s Scotland’s salmon farms.

Another project to successfully gain follow-on funding is Impact-9’s plan to develop a salmon pen for UK open sea conditions that would be far cheaper than offshore engineering solutions being trialled in Norway.

Impact-9’s project, which has also been granted £200,000, will see front end engineering design of a sea trial prototype at a UK test site, informed by ongoing testing of novel subcomponents. This will provide a “procurement ready” demonstration project to validate the technology. Read more about Impact-9 here.

Heather Jones: "SAIC looks forward to seeing more exciting collaborations."

Untapped opportunities

Heather Jones, chief executive of the Stirling-based Sustainable Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC) and a member of the Seafood Innovation Fund steering group, said there were untapped opportunities for companies and researchers across the country to boost the aquaculture sector’s capacity through innovation.

“Working closely with SIF, SAIC looks forward to seeing more exciting collaborations through this latest funding call, drawing on academic and commercial innovation from all corners of the UK, to deliver valuable results for the entire farmed fish and farmed shellfish sector,” said Jones.

SIF will accept Call 3 applications until midday on January 7, 2022. The fund accepts bids from groups of organisations working together. One organisation must apply as the lead supplier but can subcontract with numerous organisations to deliver the project. Collaborative bids, especially those forging new relationships between sectors, are encouraged.

In the first instance, project teams can submit their innovative idea for feedback (in advance of a full application) via an Expression of Interest (EOI) form. For more information on how to apply, visit the fund’s website.