MicroSynbiotiX offers an efficient oral vaccination method for aquaculture.

Irish ‘game-changer’ wins Nutreco challenge

Irish start-up company MicroSynbiotiX scooped first prize in the Nutreco Feed Tech Challenge event, thanks to a “game-changing” innovation of producing oral vaccines, that are locked into genetically-modified microalgae, to combat diseases and infections in aquaculture. 

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The challenge centred on the question “What is your breakthrough innovation that cannot wait?” and more than 40 ideas were submitted, with ten finalists selected to this week's two-day event.

"We were very impressed by the very high level of the competition and it is fair to say that for all ten finalists it was a performance in itself to have been selected to participate," said jury chair Professor Daniel Berckmans of the University of Leuven.

"What made MicroSynbiotiX stand out was that they have developed a high risk, high potential innovation. Oral vaccination can be a real game-changer in managing disease outbreaks in aquaculture, contributing to a significant reduction in the use of antibiotics and a decrease of production losses. These are the innovations that can make a difference in feeding a growing world population in a sustainable way."

Disease outbreaks in aquaculture result in losses worth over $10 billion each year, which accounts for more than 5 per cent of global production. Currently vaccination is done manually, which is cumbersome, costly and requires the fish or shrimp to be of a certain size and maturity. MicroSynbiotiX offers a more efficient oral vaccination method.

Antonio Lamb, chief operating officer and cofounder of MicroSynbiotiX, said: "We are really thrilled to have won. The on-farm validation trial is a unique opportunity to accelerate our innovation, a real 'money-cannot-buy' opportunity. And the interaction and collaboration with Nutreco specialists, the jury members and the other start-ups was a reward in itself. That's what makes this challenge stand out from other challenges and contests we participated in."

Jury member Viggo Halseth, Nutreco’s chief innovation officer, said: "Although we could select only one winner, there are several other promising start-ups that we are really looking forward to establish a relationship with for future collaboration.”

The runners-up in the event were KnipBio from the US, which developed microbes that will convert low-cost feedstock into nutritious single-cell proteins laden with pigment-enhancing carotenoids to produce healthier fish, and Slovenia’s EKO-GEA , which has developed a method of freeing up target compounds in Ascophyllum nodosum marine algae, turning it into a versatile prebiotic tool.