Aqualife, a family-owned business based in Stirling, has received £117,000 from the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC) for a research project to develop new fish vaccination techniques.
The study, aimed at protecting wrasse and lumpfish, which eat the sea lice that can attack farmed salmon, has also secured £168,400 from partners including the University of Stirling and Scottish Sea Farms.
Demand in the salmon industry for “cleaner fish” species such as wrasse and lumpfish is high, due to research demonstrating their success in sea lice control, but providing enough of the species requires a boost in production of robust specimens that can operate effectively through the salmon growth cycle.
Ronnie Soutar, managing director of Aqualife, said one of the aims of the study was to develop a new vaccination device based on a prototype the firm has developed for salmon. The plan is to adapt the device for different lumpfish and wrasse species. He said: “We see a huge market opportunity in the development of vaccination devices and machine vaccination programmes. We want to be able to go to any farm or sector and say we can deliver a programme suitable for the physiology and welfare of the fish. This current cleaner-fish project, with the SAIC, the University of Stirling and Scottish Sea Farms, represents a step towards that goal. By supporting innovative projects like this one, SAIC is delivering invaluable support for the sustainability and ambitions of companies in our sector, including the potential for major international exports.”
SAIC chief executive Heather Jones said: “It’s estimated that each additional 10,000 tonnes of salmon that reaches the market creates an additional £96 million for the economy. This project that we’re co-funding has hugely exciting potential to contribute to wealth creation.”