IBioIC and SAIC (Scottish aquaculture innovation centre) ran a joint workshop looking at the cross over between the aquaculture industry, those with potentially valuable ‘waste’ streams and the biotech industry who have the solutions for creating products, energy or biofuels from these ‘waste’ streams.

This joint workshop took place on 4th Feb as part of the #IBioIC20 Fringe programme.

The workshop was well attended, with a mixture of industry, academic and government bodies being represented.  It started with a few presentations about different streams of ‘waste’ - seaweed, algae and fish related, and also from those who have innovative techniques to process them and create added value.  The room then broke into discussion groups, each talking about a specific waste type, and were tasked with coming up with a solution to deal with this waste.

During the feedback session a recurring theme of ‘regulation’ cropped up, and how it can be seen to get in the way of this type of innovation. One table reported that “regulation is limiting the best use of fish morts, and more needs to be done to bring the public on-side”

(Fish morts are simply dead fish which have died during fisheries activities, if you didn’t know!) They are part of the normal activities on the farm, and it costs the aquaculture industry money to dispose of them, but it is clear that these morts have proteins, oils and other properties which could be put to better use than going to landfill.  Current regulation makes it difficult for this waste to go back into the food chain, quite rightly, but what about other uses and processes being created to make use of these valuable assets? The workshop concluded that although the majority of fish morts are used in anaerobic digesters, this may not be the most efficient or high-value use for them.

Ideas floated included deriving heat and energy from fish morts. Other waste streams mentioned included fish faeces/feed from under cage systems, seaweed wastes, shellfish waste and residues collected during the washing of nets which is rich in mussel shells and other organic matter.  The use of the Scottish Bioresource Mapping Tool to coordinate the sources of waste streams, and connect to the right people with the know how to use them was also discussed.

The workshop participants agreed that regulations need to change to accommodate a move towards waste reduction and increased value from side streams. Issues with the heavy regulation of seaweed harvesting were identified during discussions as an example of where regulation has stifled a potential industry in Scotland, and the workshop concluded that more needs to be done to improve public understanding and counteract misinformation about biotechnology and aquaculture.

This workshop was heavily oversubscribed and even though we increased capacity, we still eventually had to operate a waiting list for places. IBioIC and SAIC are keen to run another workshop in the future. On this occasion attendees came from industry, academia, government funding and regulatory bodies as well as the innovation centres, but a future meeting would likely invite more policy makers to get involved in the discussion. The hope would be to allow the opportunity to delve deeper into policy issues and engage with the decision-makers who affect the industry.

This was a great event to get the conversation started, and it highlights the need to keep dialogue open and engage with a wider range of people.  We hope that this will lead to a follow up event later in 2020, so watch this space!


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Contact for more information on biotech in aquaculture or to find out how to be included in a future workshop.


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