Get our best content directly in your inbox
Sign up

Sustainable aquaculture needed to reach the UN Sustainable Development Goals, says GSA Seafood Director at EIT Food Aquaculture Showcase

young woman with glasses smiling
4 min read
AUTHOR: Fiona Holland
fishing on the sea

Recognising sustainable aquaculture at local, national and international levels is key to attaining some of the major UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), said Melanie Siggs, Director of GSA Seafood at the EIT Food North-West’s Aquaculture Showcase on Tuesday.

Opening the event, which was focused on innovation and the future of aquaculture in the EU, Siggs highlighted the need to make aquaculture the future in fish farming.

Siggs said: “[Sustainable aquaculture] needs to be seen as being of critical importance.”

“We need more investments, [and] we need more political will to get that investment through,” she added.

With global fish consumption expected to rise by 18% between 2018 and 2030, finding more sustainable options that could help tackle UN SDGs are crucial, she noted. The primary SDGs Siggs said that innovation in aquaculture could tackle are:

  • 1. No Poverty
  • 2. Zero Hunger
  • 5. Gender Equality (especially in job opportunities, education or training)
  • 13. Climate Action
  • 14. Life below Water

Overfishing is destroying fish stocks, with a third being overexploited, according to the UN. Plastic pollution has also been said to be damaging coastal communities as well as threatening the underwater ecosystems, which are already witnessing a rise in temperature, acidification and deoxygenation.

The EIT Food North-West Aquaculture Showcase brought together a range of projects from the aquacultural industry in the UK, Ireland and Iceland who are all supported by the food branch of the EU body EIT (European Institute of Innovation and Technology), which supports innovation in food.

Some of the projects featured in the Showcase included:

  • SuSea – a more sustainable form of seafood processing – founded by Mark Chryssolouris. The company uses a special osmosis dehydration technique to remove a small amount of liquid from the fish to slow down the growth of bacteria in the product. This doubles the shelf life of fish from 7 to 14 days and reduces food waste. It also reduces the need to add residual chemicals to the product. It has been predicted to be ready to test on the market by the end of 2022.
  • Sustainfeed – the development of sustainable aquafeeds using microalgae ingredients and plant by-product in agriculture – coordinated by research centres in Spain, Italy and Iceland, with partnership from Vaxa Technologies Ltd. in Reykjavík and French food production site Roquette.
  • AGAPE – an AI supported platform for graduates and jobseekers to fill the skills gap in the fisheries industry – led by food solutions start-up Milcoop, food consultancy FOCOS, Garano Pesca Group and University of the Peloponnese. AGAPE works like a job search site specifically for the aquaculture sector. Jobseekers enter their details and are given a list of jobs where their skills would be useful, as well as any information on extra training that would be needed to enter this job sector. The platform aims to be useable in every country, to improve the global fisheries skillset.
  • Just Add Water – sustainable salmon farming production using a recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) to offer greater food safety and security– led by FishFrom Ltd and a pan-European team from University of Trento, University of Bologna, and Hub Innovazione Trentino. These new RAS systems are the first of their kind in the UK and aim to be more sustainable by being based closer to market near Glasgow in Scotland. They also aim to bring better quality fish without the use of vaccines and antibiotics to rid of bacteria and hope to diminish the flavour tainting bacteria Methylisoborneol and Geosimin to improve the taste of the final product.

EIT Food have extended their open call for partnering with projects to January 14 2022. 

The sustainable aquaculture market has been growing this year, with producer of microalgae ingredients, Microphyt receiving 15M in funding to invest in building the largest integrated microalgae refinery in the world. Based in Baillargues in France, the project, aims to create safe and sustainably produced aquaculture ingredients for the future.

Sustainable aquaculture was discussed at the Food Matters Live session on ‘Food future I: emerging trends in sustainable product development’ led by Shima Barakat, Director of the Entrepreneurship for Sustainability Programme at the Institute for Manufacturing at University of Cambridge.

As EIT Food Enterprise Projects Lead, Barakat talked about how the organisation has been doing a scoping study on 6 selected focus areas which include alternative proteins, targeted nutrition, digital traceability, circular food systems, sustainable agriculture, as well as sustainable aquaculture.

Within the presentation, she explained that with such a huge amount of innovation happening at various stages of the food supply chain, there needs to be sufficient regulation to ensure food safety.

“All of these new technologies come with promises of public health, prosperity, sustainability, but it is not guaranteed […] They come and bring certain issues with them.”

Some of these risks include:

  • Public acceptance
  • nutritional values
  • allergens
  • potential toxicity
  • traceability
  • sustainability

Despite these potential challenges that need to be addressed, Barakat was keen to highlight “all of these technologies have a potential for transforming our food system to a healthier and more sustainable one.”


Related content