MSZ Business Forum learn more about aquaculture opportunities

Published: 11 August 2021

Midlothian businesses joined the MSZ Business Forum on Tuesday 3rd August to learn more about the latest research, developments and opportunities in aquaculture, core capabilities within the zone and the importance of this growing sector.

Guest speaker, Ross Houston, Personal Chair of Aquaculture Genetics and Deputy Director for Translation and Commercialisation at the Roslin Institute, presented the importance of aquaculture, highlighting new technologies and new techniques. 

Aquaculture is a fast-growing farmed food sector, and domestication of species is much more recent than for terrestrial livestock. It is also an increasingly important contributor to food security and to meeting UN sustainability goals with fin fish in particular being resource efficient in producing animal protein.

Agrf Aquaculture Facility 4

The Aquaculture Genetics Research Facility (AGRF) is a newly-built freshwater aquarium facility at Easter Bush Campus, designed for research into early-life stages of farmed fish species, funded by Agri-EPI and BBSRC.

Selective breeding will improve the output of aquaculture and enable genetic improvement of production traits, such disease resistance which is a massive concern. Genetic technology, currently underutilised, has the potential to enhance health and production efficiency, for example the successful research in infection in farmed salmon testing for genetic resistance. Disease resistance also helps in the battle to reduce poverty by increasing mortality rates within a species.

AquaLeap is a large BBSRC-NERC funded project aiming to improve selective breeding of aquaculture species. The interdisciplinary consortium, led by the Roslin Institute, focus on four key species that have substantial economic and environmental importance for the UK - the European lobster, European flat oyster, lumpfish and Atlantic salmon.

Success stories in Atlantic salmon, among the most famous and economically important fish species globally have helped spark interest in the uptake of genetics across diverse species from the development of a genomic toolbox that has enabled a wide range of applications in aquaculture breeding and genetics. 

Widespread adoption requires industry-academia partnerships and cost-effective technology translation. New technologies are emerging with low-cost DNA sequencing and genome editing and high through-put phenotyping. 

Aquaculture research is increasingly reliant on using large amount of data. Genetic data was used in a relatively inexpensive manner, to create a novel technique for identifying salmon with enhanced natural resistance to sea lice, one of the costliest health-related problems for the global salmon industry that can have a wide-scale impact on salmon health and welfare. 

The Edinburgh and South East Scotland (ESES) City Region Deal investment proposed for Easter Bush Campus includes The Centre for Aquaculture Genetics and Health (expected to launch in 2022). This development presents opportunities to grow strategic areas of research, teaching, training and knowledge exchange in aquaculture genetics and health research, supported by new strategic partnerships with world-leading companies and engagement with business and collaboration across Midlothian Science Zone.

Partnerships and collaborations are key for this industry to identify sustainable solutions to current challenges facing aquaculture production, including significant diseases.

The MSZ Business Forum was launched in December 2020 to create an opportunity for discussion, collaboration and awareness of other businesses within the zone.

We will be releasing further details and the theme of our next Business Forum event soon and plan to host this in person at Roslin Innovation Centre, a Midlothian Science Zone partner.

To be kept informed of forthcoming events or opportunities for collaboration, please contact Emma McCallum, Project Coordinator. 

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The Roslin Institute

  • The University of Edinburgh
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Midlothian Science Zone

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