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Consumer driven Production: Integrating Innovative Approaches for Competitive and Sustainable Performance across the Mediterranean Aquaculture Value Chain

Periodic Reporting for period 4 - PerformFISH (Consumer driven Production: Integrating Innovative Approaches for Competitive and Sustainable Performance across the Mediterranean Aquaculture Value Chain)

Periodo di rendicontazione: 2021-11-01 al 2022-10-31

Sea bream (SBG) and sea bass (BSS) are by volume the third and fourth most farmed fish species in the EU and their farming contributes significantly to wealth and job creation in coastal areas in the EU-Med countries. However, the overall production in the Mediterranean has stagnated and the industry faces significant sustainability challenges. PerformFISH is set to explore and tackle biological, technical and operational weaknesses and increase the competitiveness of the Mediterranean Marine Fish Farming (MMFF) sector, while addressing social and environmental responsibility and contributing to Sustainable Blue Economy in EU and Food Security.
PerformFISH aims to generate, validate and apply new knowledge in a commercial setting to improve performance of the focal fish species, measured through accepted Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for the sector. PerformFISH promotes and consolidates best practice; endorses certification and quality assurance; fosters human capacity building; and engages with consumers and societal actors to promote the brand of MMFF practices and products.
PerformFISH has been a highly productive project. The first genomic tool for both BSS and and SBG (Med_FISH array) was designed, successfully validated and is commercially available (TRL9). This genomic tool was used in genome-wide association mapping in both species to address heritability of resistance to VNN, Vibrio and parasites; heritability of individual feed efficiency in SBG; early selection on morphology in SBG. However, this is a powerful tool in genomic selection beyond the objective of the project.
A collaboration with hatcheries across the Mediterranean was pivotal in identifying egg, larvae and juvenile quality indicators and validating them under production conditions while determining the main zootechnical factors correlated with the abnormalities detected in the larval batches analysed. Complementing the predictive tool, a core of molecular markers has been identified to profile the quality of SBG and BSS larval batches. A further tool developed for real time monitoring based on histopathological indicators and it was confirmed as a sensitive, repeatable, and useful system to support hatchery production quality. Substantial insight was gained in how early thermal regimes may impact on the molecular and functional phenotype of larvae and juveniles and the robustness of on-growing stage.
PerformFISH completed a series of publicly available reports presenting risks associated with the diseases; diagnostics; novel vaccines were developed and validated in commercial environments; preventive and control strategies and good husbandry; sustainable treatments; validated operational welfare indicators endorsed by the industry. Many of these reports are meant to be guidelines covering the current knowledge on each topic, as well as future trends, and recommendations and practical application for health specialists and farmers.
PerformFISH has made significant steps towards sustainable and optimized feeds and feeding in the MMFF sector by optimizing the formulation of feeds with low fishmeal (FM) and fish oil (FO) contents in BSS and SBG, based on the identification of a threshold of nutritional quality and novel ingredients to replace either FM or FO. Significant insight was gained in the use of alternative ingredients to support the formulation of cost-effecive, yet efficient fish feeds validated in the field. The MMFF production will also benefit from effective programming protocols of SBG to better utilize low FM and FO diets and a validated prototype system for total fish biomass estimation.
PerformFISH has moved all the above innovative solutions to industrial application through extensive demonstration and validation activities in operational environments across the Mediterranean. All the results are integrated to improve the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) established at the start of the project specifically for BSS and SBG industry. 55 KPIs related to growth, health, feed efficiency, fish welfare and environmental sustainability were identified, validated and readily adopted by the Producers Associations. A user-friendly PerformFISH KPI digital tool was developed to manage and to analyse KPI data for all production phases (hatchery, pre-grow, grow-out). The KPI tool is equipped with functions for robust statistical analysis and compelling graphical presentation for each KPI to demonstrate the actual performances and efficiency of MMFF companies, to help define targets and to identify sources of inefficiency in production cycles. The PerformFISH KPI digital tool hosts already the production data of 7 hatcheries and 19 farms that hold over 60% of the EU-Med production and it is free to use for all companies that produce SBG and BSS.
The PerformFISH KPI digital tool is considered instrumental in the implementation of the revised Code of Conduct for the MMFF sector developed jointly and adopted by the Producers’ Associations members of PerformFISH.
Designing innovative marketing strategies for the development of SBG and BSS products from the MMFF sector is a major objective of PerformFISH that has focused on seven markets, namely Italy, Spain, Greece, France, Germany, the UK and the USA A series of analysis of markets for BSS and SBG products, consumer surveys identified challenges and barriers for BSS and SBG products in those markets, and suggested marketing strategies, based on the outcomes of the findings.
A range of communication tools was developed to facilitate promotion and widespread awareness of the project and its results, like the project introductory video, factsheets and the PerformFISH e-newsletter. Social media channels set up and updated. Articles, including 24 press releases and 5 promotional articles, informing stakeholders on the project and its progress were published along with 55 peer-review articles and 215 presentations at conferences and workshops.
Training has been an important component all along PerformFISH; a number of students have been trained in the context of PerformFISH, generating highly qualified scientists with the capacity to work at the interface of RD&I and production. Training courses tailored to aquaculture professionals have been organised to transfer knowledge generated in the project and they have become available on demand through the project’s YouTube channel.
PerformFISH has driven implementation beyond the state-of-the-art to strongly impact on KPIs, genomic selection, juvenile quality and programming, fish disease management, feeds and nutrition, and through marketing it seeks to shift the paradigm to consumer-orientated production. Improved certified biological material, registered products and technology, benchmarking and certification, a modern code of conduct and marketing strategies are just some of the outputs delivered by PerformFISH. PerformFISH is set to help MMFF become more competitive and appreciated by consumers and society at large for a) producing safe and healthy food with a low ecological footprint, preserving natural resources and biodiversity, b) providing employment and trade in rural, peripheral regions, and c) reducing European dependency on imports of seafood.