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Green Aquaculture Intensification in Europe

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - GAIN (Green Aquaculture Intensification in Europe)

Reporting period: 2020-11-01 to 2021-10-31

GAIN was designed to support the ecological intensification of aquaculture in the European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA), with the dual objectives of increasing production and competitiveness of the industry, while ensuring sustainability and compliance with EU regulations on food safety and environment.
Successful eco-intensification of aquaculture will provide more and better aquatic products, more jobs, and improve trade balance by reducing imports. GAIN, besides looking at innovative ways of integrating cultured species, sought integration with other sectors, to promote the implementation of the principles of Circular Economy in Aquaculture. The GAIN Consortium included a wide range of complementary expertise and a well blended mix of research institutes and industrial partners, which ensured the achievement of the following specific objectives:
(i) Develop innovative, sustainable feed formulations, including aquaculture and animal by-products as well as emerging ingredients, e.g. microalgae, insects, to decrease the pressure of aquafeeds on land and wild fish stocks;
(ii) Improve the management of finfish and shellfish farms, in terms of FCR, fish welfare and reduction of wastes, through the development of a platform, the GAIN Information Management System, for the implementation of Precision Aquaculture, based on sensors for real time data collection, Big Data, IoT (Internet of Things) and predictive mathematical models;
(ii) Add value to cultivation, by means of circular innovative processes, which turn both by-products and side-streams into valuable secondary materials, thus increasing profits and minimizing the environmental footprint of seafood farming;
(iv) Support integrated policies and address current barriers to the implementation of the principles of circular economy in aquatic production.
Innovative feeds based on emerging ingredients and by products from GAIN innovative circular processes were designed and tested Atlantic salmon, rainbow trout, seabream, seabass and turbot. Growth performances and feed conversions turned out to be very good for rainbow trout and good for salmon, seabream and turbot. GAIN results show that feed formulations including ingredients from aquaculture and fishery by-product as well as other emerging ingredients adhering to circular economy principles, will be fully viable options for eco-efficient European fish farming.
The GAIN Information Management System, a platform for the implementation of Precision Aquaculture was prototyped. The system includes: i) a centralized hub for data collection, standardization, quality control and short term predictions of environmental variables relevant for aquafarmers, ii) a set of distributed nodes , i.e AquaSense and AQUARADAR, delivering to fish and shellfish farmer forecast of fish growth, feed requirements, dissolved oxygen demand.
Innovative processes to recover nutrients from RAS (Recirculating Aquaculture Systems) wastewater and sludges and from fish mortalities were optimized, up to TRL 7-8.
Concerning the enhancement of circularity in aquaculture, the production of Fish Protein Hydrolysates (FPH) and the extraction of peptones, gelatine, collagen and bioapatite fom Atlantic salmon, rainbow trout, seabass, seabream, turbot, were optimized, at TRL 5-6. The use of mussel shells as sustainable filler media for RAS/Aquaponics biofilters was successfully tested, at TRL 4. The possibility of establishing nutrient trading schemes for bivalve culture areas in Europe was investigated.
Regulatory and legislative issues for the circular economy in aquaculture were reviewed, showing that the lack of legislation is still one of the main barriers towards the implementation of integrated production processes targeting 0 waste, such as those being tested in GAIN.
Value Chain Analysis (VCA) wer performed: the results concerning salmon supply in Norway indicates major sustainability concerns around sea lice, sustainability of feed ingredients and, need for renewable energies. The VCA concerning the common carp sector in Poland show a high potential for increasing the output of the processing sector and reusing by-products .
The EISI - Eco-Intensification Sustainability Index, was developed and tested Atlantic salmon supply chain. The EISI was presented as a traffic light system that showed a range of performance within the four sustainability categories (environment, social responsibility, economic performance and animal welfare). The economic performance showed overall good performance with no poor performers at all, but the other three categories showed that while most of the industry performed very well there were some areas for improvement, including gender ratios, mortality, welfare checks and benthic impact in some farms.
GAIN innovative approach to Precision Aquaculture led to develop the GAIN Information Management System. The IMS allows a farmer to access environmental and weather data. Combined with sensors at farm sites, these data are processed using Artificial Intelligenge and dynamic models, providing quasi real-time prediction on growth, mortality, dissolved oxygen demand, feed demand.
Two innovative processes were tested for decreasing both the environmental load and the cost of side-stream disposal: 1) a process for filtering and drying fish sludge from RAS; 2) a process for drying mortalities. In both cases, the end product is a sanitized powder, rich in nitrogen and phosphorus and with a high calorific value, which could be reused as biofertilizer, feed for insects or biofuel. Products implementing these processes reached TRL 8-9.
Novel feeds including ingredients obtained from aquaculture by-products, were designed, performed well in terms of zootechnical Key Performance Indicators, e.g. Growth, FCR, and did not show any major drawback in terms of KPI related to fish health. In perspective, GAIN novel feeds could lead to decrease the use of Fish Meal and Fish Oil in fish feed. However, at present, the cost of emerging ingredients as alternative protein sources and the use of non-renewable energy in circular processes are limiting their economic and environmental sustainability.
Two web applications were designed and tested:
GoodFish, a Business to Consumer (B2C) web application, designed to provide consumers at points of sale (e.g. supermarkets) with more information about aquaculture products;
SailFish, a Business to Business (B2B) web applications, aimed at levelling the playing field in the seafood market.
Professional development was fostered through three online activities:
1) An on-line course on ecological intensification, made up ou five modules, freely available at:
2) Two on-line training courses were delivered, focused on: 1) Novel concepts and solutions for sustainable aquafeeds; 2) - Management practices and technologies for capturing side-streams in fish farms.
3) A one-week Summer School, targeting young graduates, was delivered online. Video lectures are available at: and at GAIN YouTube channel:
GAIN Information Management System
Rossoya Nord_Norway_Gifas Pilot site