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AQUAculture infrastructures for EXCELlence in European fish research towards 2020

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - AQUAEXCEL2020 (AQUAculture infrastructures for EXCELlence in European fish research towards 2020)

Reporting period: 2018-10-01 to 2020-03-31

Aquaculture now provides more than 50% of the fish for human consumption, but despite importing >70% of fish consumed, aquaculture production has stagnated in the EU. Aquaculture and its sustainable development is therefore an integral part of the EU's Blue Growth Strategy and one of its pillars that will contribute to the Europe 2020 Strategy. AQUAEXCEL2020 aims to integrate top class European aquaculture research facilities of diverse nature, covering all relevant scientific fields, species and systems, by putting in place a one-stop/easy access to high-quality services and resources, based on the aquaculture community’s needs, to enable excellent research and sustainable innovation to both public and private sector actors.
WP1 The offer of transnational access to the AQUAEXCEL2020 Research Infrastructures has resulted in 179 user applications in the first three reporting periods, of which 133 were approved. The outputs from the TNA projects are monitored and further assistance given to disseminate finding of most relevance to the European aquaculture industry.
WP2 facilitates and promotes innovation in the European aquaculture sector by ensuring knowledge transfer and innovation brokerage towards industry. AQUAEXCEL2020 has established an Industry- Research Advisory Panel (IRAP) which maximises the possibilities for new knowledge to be translated into innovation by assessing and selecting the project OUTPUTS with most potential for impact. Eleven high-potential OUTPUTS were presented at the first two industry brokerage events in Dubrovnik and Berlin, project catalogues were developed around these, to facilitate further promotion. The results of the knowledge transfer on target users and their potential for the development of the sector is being assessed by IRAP.
In WP3 interaction with ELIXIR resulted in case study recommendations for data archiving design and implementation. A new version of the AQUAEXCEL repository is now up and running with templates for partner deposition of data (Data on trout and seabass lines and experiments are now available on this “Digital Fish” repository). A new version of the Fish and Chips tool allows users to introduce NGS data, use text mining tool for analyzing webpages associated with each experiment and get information on regulatory motifs in promotor of selected genes. A list of 15 protocols on cryobanking practices was collected into a booklet which will be updated with newly developed protocols and from the literature.
WP4 has supported integration and harmonization of access to European Aquaculture Research Infrastructure (RIs) resources by developing and maintaining an integrated One-Stop-Access Online Portal and general website which communicates the project and its results and provides a comprehensive inventory of aquaculture RIs in Europe (143 registered infrastructures to date). We trained 480 aquaculture researchers and industry stakeholders by organizing nine training courses (6 face-to-face, 3 online) on timely aquaculture topics which fostered a culture of cooperation between them. In addition, the project Dissemination and Exploitation Plan was implemented and updated to ensure effective dissemination of results including raising awareness of European aquaculture RIs, their facilities, services and knowledge, for all stakeholders.
In WP5 a first version of the sub-models for fish growth, water treatment and hydrodynamics has been developed. Input/output parameters and interfaces between models were intergrated in a first version of the virtual laboratory using the industrial standard FMI to perform co-simulation and integration between the sub-models. User feedback on this first version will be used to develop the final Virtual Laboratory version.
WP6 contains many experiments that are all complete and at different levels of analysis and reporting. Results so far show that experimental fish treatment protocols have different effects between species and life stages. Importantly, we showed that treatment in early life stages does affect performance later in life.
WP7 builds on FP7-AQUAEXCEL results to establish, characterize and preserve homozygous isogenic lines (carp, salmon, and trout) as a powerful experimental tool to decipher the genetic and functional bases of important traits for farming in those main European aquaculture fish species. Phenotypic characterization of isogenic lines and/or important natural populations (seabass) has been performed, as well as their genome-wide characterization with optimized NGS methods. Besides, experiments with trout and carp produce very promising results on the interest and feasibility of the production and maintenance of isogenic lines though germ cell grafting in sterile recipient fish.
In WP8, an optimized biosensor prototype with a reduced power consumption, high data storage capacity and low invasiveness has been designed for individualized monitoring of fish behaviour and metabolic performance in stand-alone as the basic operative mode. Functional validation tests have been performed in sea bream and Atlantic salmon, and are on the way in rainbow trout.
In WP9, the management team pursued the implementation of good efficient management procedures developed during the previous period, thus ensuring that overall progress of the project conforms to the work plan.
Through the Transnational access (133 projects approved so far out of 169 expected for the whole duration of the project), the project significantly contributes to aquaculture research for the widest European aquaculture community. The website provides unique information about project activities, outputs and about most EU aquaculture research infrastructures through the searchable RI map. Sixteen isogenic lines of salmon have been produced, providing unique experimental material which has already been used in cutting edge genomic and physiology research. The development of innovative methods for germ stem cells transplantation techniques are very promising. They will be useful to preserve established lines (isogenic or not) and their interest to circumvent the limitation of reproduction in DH progenitors for the production of isogenic lines will be tested in carp. The results will be helpful for further production of isogenic lines in other species in future projects (for seabass for instance). For seabass, it was not possible to produce isogenic lines, and thus it was decided to test 3 natural populations from different regions of the distribution area of the species in order to provide highly relevant phenotypic information on the genetic resources of the species, with high potential impact for seabass industry. Micro/nano-electronics technologies are being used for developing nano-biosensors for non-invasive monitoring of physiological parameters in free-swimming fish. This approach is not only important for experimental purposes, but also has the potential to create new tools to monitor fish performance and welfare in real time in industry conditions, and help in fine tuning production parameters. Thus, the expected impact of the WP8 within AQUAEXCEL2020 is in the line of standardization and harmonization of resources that will be available also for industrial users. This is only feasible through a close interaction between several partners and cross-disciplinary fertilizations, sharing information, knowledge and technologies across fields