Stirling leads project to support international aquaculture research

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Experts from the University of Stirling will deliver a new project that will further enhance the European aquaculture sector’s access to innovative and world-class scientific research.

The Stirling team, led by Dr Sonia Rey Planellas, of the Institute of Aquaculture, will lead on delivery of AQUAEXCEL 3.0 – a new online research platform. It will integrate 40 of Europe’s top aquaculture research facilities, covering all areas of the industry from biology to technology, and all of the traditional farmed species, as well as the most promising new species.

AQUAEXCEL 3.0 will expand access to high-quality services and resources relevant to research and innovation in aquaculture, including immunology, physiology, nutrition, and fish welfare. It will also include research and data on shellfish, macro-algae, and recyclers such as insects and marine worms – in a move to support more sustainable and even circular aquaculture.

Researchers and technicians from across Europe will be able to use the tool to identify and access training courses, online resources, and a map of research infrastructures open for Trans National Access (TNA). TNA is a network allowing users – such as an industry body - and research hosts to partner on and plan a project together.

Under AQUAEXCEL 3.0, the Institute of Aquaculture will receive applications from potential TNA users that have matched with a research host, and have a proposed project of up to three months in duration.

Dr Sonia Rey-Planellas, of the Faculty of Natural Sciences

Dr Sonia Rey Planellas, of the Institute of Aquaculture

Dr Sonia Rey Planellas, of the Institute of Aquaculture, said: “This project, building on the success of the previous AQUAEXCEL projects, will consolidate the global leading position of European aquaculture research, by promoting excellent science and innovation.

“Making use of the European Aquaculture Technology and Innovation Platform (EATiP), it will support both the public and private sectors. Already, 193 TNA projects are scheduled for inclusion and these will address key industry issues.”

Integral to AQUAEXCEL 3.0 is its objective to implement the ‘3 Rs’ in improving projects involving animals. The ‘3 Rs’ are: Reduction – improved design of experiments and use of stable species; refinement – environmental enrichment and development of welfare indicators; and replacement – virtual laboratories and cellular modelling.

The more than £9 million, five-year project is funded under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme, and coordinated by the French National Institute for Agricultural Research. It involves partners from Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, and Portugal.