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Expert in selective/genetic breeding

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - OF vacancy (Expert in selective/genetic breeding)

Reporting period: 2017-09-01 to 2018-08-31

With the world population increasing, the food requirements in quality and quantity have been increasing. Given the irreversible decline of natural resources, and being aquaculture the only way to support increased consumption of aquatic food, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) provides a fairly significant growth of this activity, which is worldwide characterized by low cost, low income and low technological level, mainly in bivalves.
In this sense, the competitiveness of this sector will have to undergo a major investment in terms of technological innovation and in terms of quality, to ensure the sector's sustainability and high standards of safety and quality for the final consumer, as it is being done in agriculture and fishery.
Oceano Fresco is a private innovative science-based company, in Portugal, that develops and produces bivalves’ varieties with superior performance for shellfish farmers at a competitive cost, respecting environmental sustainability and ensuring consumer safety.
As a first goal, Oceano Fresco will focus its research and business on the European native clam species (Ruditapes decussatus) due to its high commercial and gastronomic value.
Considering the present challenges/problems of Ruditapes decussatus’ production/survival that has been greatly affected by biotic (infection caused by bacteria, viruses and protista, etc.) and abiotic (temperature and salinity variations, acidification, etc.) stresses, it is crucial to develop more resistant varieties. Due to these stresses, the mortality rate of several clam species can reach 80-90%.
Currently, there are no solutions in the market to solve the problems faced by farmers. Therefore, Oceano Fresco is the first company worldwide that is developing a high quality clam variety (higher survival rates with higher resistance to abiotic and biotic stresses), producing it to ensure a continuous supply of seed to farmers. The same approach has been made successfully in agriculture and fishing sectors for years. Thus, Oceano Fresco wants to bring the same knowledge/experience for bivalve’s production.
In this context, Oceano Fresco mission is to be the world leader in the development of superior and innovative performance bivalves with the most relevant traits for the production and consumption chain, respecting environmental sustainability and consumer safety.
In that sense, Oceano Fresco applied for H2020 SME Innovation Associate to have the opportunity to recruit an highly qualified specialist on the international job market, whose knowledge was crucial to open up opportunities for innovation and significant growth for the company in a near future.
The experienced associate contributed to the development of a radical and innovative breeding program for bivalves that previously did not exist in Oceano Fresco. Thus, the innovative associate was able to combine the already existent experience of Oceano Fresco’s core team in bivalves with the knowledge/experience of other bivalve species to create a robust breeding program for clams. This program will contribute to enhance clam market value, that currently, moves about €3 billion per year.
From September 1st to October 31st 2017, the objective of the work was to develop the target product profile (TPP) of the breeding plan. TPP was developed based on data of the internal report “Client needs and potential competitors” that provides an analysis and evaluation of the current and future needs of clam farmers in countries where clam aquaculture production is most significant worldwide, such as Spain, Italy, China, South Korea and USA. Other data were obtained from visits to farmers in Portugal, and other public available reports. At the end of October a document containing the target species, the market segment, the market, the competitors, and the relevant breeding traits were presented.

From November 1st to December 31st 2017, the objective was to develop the operational breeding program meeting the TPP. This work included the definition of: i) measuring and recording breeding traits; ii) broodstock origin; iii) breeding program strategy; iv) timeline; v) culture methods; vi) challenge in test sites; vii) backup facilities; viii) cost estimation; ix) additional projects and tools to be implemented for improving the breeding program; and x) on-going management.

From January 1st to February 28th 2018, the objective of the work was to develop the technical breeding program of Oceano Fresco, including: i) breeding traits; ii) measuring and recording breeding traits; iii) specifications of the broodstock origin; iv) breeding program strategy; v) timeline; vi) culture methods and calculations of cultivation requirements; vii) cost estimation; viii) on-going management; and ix) research & development projects.

From March 1st to August 31st 2018, the objective was the identification and characterization of specific traits. In detail, several experiments were developed in order to search for potential genetic markers for Perkinsus tolerance/resistance that can be used as a tool during the R. decussatus’ selective breeding implementation.

Several dissemination activities were developed including:
i) Participation in international and national conferences
• XX Foro de Recursos Marinos y Acuicultura de las Rías Gallegas | O Grove, Spain | October 10th and 11th 2017 | Oral presentation and poster communication.
• National Shellfisheries Association Meeting | Seattle, USA | March 18th-22nd, 2018 | Oral presentation and poster communication.
• XIII Seminário da Associação Portuguesa de Aquacultores | Setúbal, Portugal | November 30th, 2017 | Poster communication.
• 1º Workshop of the project SEMEAR | Aveiro, Portugal | June 8th, 2018 | Oral presentation.
• Seminar presentation on Aquaculture Technician course | Tocha, Portugal | July 23rd, 2018 | Invited oral presentation.

ii) Publications in international journals (SCI)
• Andreia Cruz, Fiz da Costa, Jenyfer Fernández-Pérez, Ana Nantón, Ana Insua, Josefina Méndez. Genetic variability and Perkinsus infection level analysis to support founder population selection for a breeding program in the clam Ruditapes decussatus. Submitted to Peer J (Impact factor 2017: 2.118)
• Fiz da Costa, Ana Cerviño-Otero, Óscar Iglesias, Andreia Cruz. Hatchery culture of European clam species (Family Veneridae). In preparation; to be submitted to Aquaculture International. (Impact factor 2017: 1.283)
This project will contribute to enhance clam market value, because it will allow the implementation of a robust breeding program to optimize and increase the production of a European native species (R. decussatus) that currently is being drastically reduced mainly due to over-exploration of natural clam beds, habitat contamination, significant temperature and salinity variations and pathologies caused by bacteria, virus and protozoa.