Fergus Ewing: "Project promotes the innovative use of existing and new technologies." File photo: FFE.

Tech research cash promises net gains for aquaculture

A new project led by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) will explore how innovative new technologies, such as blockchain, can be used by aquaculture businesses across northern Europe’s most remote regions.

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The transnational project, called ‘DisruptAqua’, is worth €155,000 and is being supported by the European Union’s Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme (NPA) 2014-2020.

The 18-month project will examine cutting-edge approaches to sustainably grow activity in the region’s marine economy, said HIE in a press release.

Internet of things

HIE will work with Norwegian aquaculture research institute Nofima, and the Icelandic Ocean Cluster, which connects entrepreneurs, businesses and knowledge in the marine industries. They will research how new technologies can be used by businesses in the Highlands and Islands and elsewhere in the Northern periphery.

The NPA programme brings together the northernmost regions of Europe and the Arctic, including parts of Finland, Sweden, Ireland, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Norway, along with the whole of Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands.

DisruptAqua will explore what specific information and communications technologies (ICT) such as blockchain, internet of things and artificial intelligence are most suitable for Arctic seafood businesses. The benefits and costs will be examined as well as better understanding the route to practical application.

Adding value

Scotland’s rural economy secretary, Fergus Ewing, said: “This project promotes the innovative use of existing and new technologies, helping the industry meet the increasing demand for fish and supporting high skilled jobs.

“It will not only help seafood businesses in remote regions harness the potential of new technologies, it will also strengthen our trade and investment links with our Nordic neighbours.”

Some research has already been carried out by partners on how new solutions could be used by businesses to add value to their products while ensuring sustainable production.

The DisruptAqua project has secured €85,000 from NPA, supported by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). HIE’s contribution of €17,500 brings in a further €35,500 from ERDF, and the rest made up from the other partners.

Elaine Jamieson: Project will help ensure blockchain traceability. Photo: FFE.

Closer cooperation

Elaine Jamieson, head of food and drink at HIE, said: “Aquaculture is an important economic activity in parts of the Arctic region. Scotland has been cooperating with our Northern Periphery and Arctic neighbours for over 25 years on addressing common challenges and opportunities and delivering tangible outcomes to businesses and communities in the sparsely populated areas in the north. 

“We are especially delighted to lead on this project in light of the recently launched Scottish Government’s Arctic Policy Framework which recognises the need for even closer Scottish-Arctic cooperation.

“The model developed through this project will build on the existing knowledge across Scotland, Norway and Iceland. It will help ensure blockchain traceability of high value seafood products through the supply chain, from primary producer to consumer, ensuring value associated with provenance, environmental stewardship, quality and trust.”