12. februar 2021

RASOPTA - Safeguarding future production of fish in aquaculture systems with water recirculation

Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences at SCIENCE Faculty and Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences at SUND Faculty  have been awarded a HORIZON 2020 Innovative Training Network (ITN) grant for DKK 24 million. The grant provides funding for the RASOPTA project in which 12 PhD students will be educated in state-of-the-art technologies in 8 European countries.

 Focus of the project is optimization of operation of Recirculated Aquaculture Systems (RAS) with respect to water quality, fish health and off-flavors. Among the major outcomes of the project will be the development of a front-line molecular tool utilizing environmental DNA (eDNA) to surveille a wide range of microorganisms in the fish farm water as indicators of water quality, risk of disease and risk of off-flavor development. 

Aquaculture is the fastest-growing animal food sector and there is a need for better production systems. Discharge of water from fish farms is restricted and controlled by environmental legislation in most European countries, forcing fish farmers to create new production systems. The solution has been development of RAS technology. With RAS technology, water in the fish tanks is reused for weeks and months, requiring only small daily water supplements. Despite technological advancements, fish production with RAS also arise problems due to (i) accumulation of inorganic and organic nutrients in fish tanks and in the outlet water, (ii) risk of fast and intense spreading of fish diseases, and (iii) presence of bacteria producing off-flavors that taint fish flesh and reduce consumer acceptance.  

RASOPTA presents a microbiology-based research training program for bridging existing gaps in the European RAS aquaculture production. It is intended to break traditional barriers between academic research and fish industry production by tightly integrating the RAS industry partners in experimental, academic research. In the project, the 12 PhD students will be enrolled at a home university, but they will also spend time at other universities or research institutes or industries for variable periods of time. Thus, the laboratory benches are to a wide degree extended into the aquaculture farms to ensure that proper and relevant processes are studied. This means that gaps and their solutions directly are linked to practical fish breeding.

A core activity in the project is to develop a front-line molecular tool utilizing environmental DNA (eDNA) and Fluidigm real-time PCR Chip technology to quantify a wide range of microorganisms in the fish farm water as indicators of water quality, risk of disease and risk of off-flavor development. We expect the chip technology to become an important surveillance tool for enhancement of the production, improvement of the economy and sustainability, as well as securing high fish health and welfare - and at the same time decrease disease outbreaks, off-flavors, stress, use of antibiotics and a lowering of the environmental impact.  

This project builds upon a partnership between 8 countries, 7 universities, 8 industries and 3 research institutes, and involves 4 species of fish (salmon, rainbow trout, pike-perch and sturgeon). Assoc. Prof. Niels O. G. Jørgensen is project coordinator and Assoc. Prof. Louise von Gersdorff Jørgensen is co-coordinator, and both are located at the Aquatic Pathobiology group, Section Parasitology and Aquatic Pathobiology, Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, SUND Faculty at University of Copenhagen.



Louise von Gersdorff Jørgensen           Niels O. G. Jørgensen
             Associate Professor, SUND                    Associate Professor, SCIENCE