The Competition

UKRI (UK Research and Innovation) has pledged over £2.2m to seven agri-tech firms with Canadian partners to fund the development of new agricultural techniques that will help both countries meet their net zero emission targets. The funding is being awarded through UKRI’s UK-Canada: enhancing agricultural productivity and sustainability competition, which is overseen by the Transforming Food Production challenge.

In this competition, UK and Canadian companies were brought together through on-line and in-person events to identify and build project concepts in sustainable agriculture.

The competition ran in the first half of 2020 and aims to boost international cooperation and business growth by mobilising cross border resources and expertise to combat climate change.

The winning projects had to demonstrate a clear plan to improve productivity, increase sustainability and help move towards achieving net zero emissions by 2040, in addition to showing market awareness and a developed commercial plan.

Katrina Hayter, challenge director for the Transforming Food Production programme, UKRI said:

UKRI’s UK-Canada competition is an important initiative that helps UK businesses create strong international networks, access expertise and develop international market opportunities. The UK companies and their Canadian partners are working on an exciting array of projects to integrate cutting-edge technology into everyday farming techniques that could help both UK and Canadian agriculture improve productivity and sustainability and ultimately make our respective agricultural systems more climate friendly.

RS Aqua and Innovasea - HAB Monitoring

RS Aqua and our Canadian partner Innovasea were among the winners in the competition and will receive funding to develop a monitoring system for aquaculture.

Aquaculture is an important industry for sustainable protein production. Atlantic salmon in particular are known for having one of the lowest feed conversion ratios of all protein sources. Aquaculture producers are continuously looking for solutions to improve the health, welfare, and productivity of their stock, while further reducing environmental impact of farm activities. Harmful algal blooms (HABs) which can contribute to higher incidences of disease and elevated mortality on fish farms, currently pose a challenge to these goals.

Under certain environmental conditions, microscopic algae — or phytoplankton — populations can become very large and form blooms. Not all phytoplankton are harmful, but some species produce harmful toxins, others deplete dissolved oxygen in the water, or have physical features that can damage fish gills, compromising their health. HABs are not only harmful to fish, but can also affect birds and mammals, including humans.

A HAB in close proximity to a salmon farm can cause major problems for fish health and welfare and may result in high mortality, which is both economically and environmentally costly. Global warming may have contributed to an overall increase in HAB frequency and farmers are increasingly concerned with their ability to detect and mitigate these threats.

HAB monitoring is part of the daily routine for many aquaculture farmers, who want to have the best possible tools at their disposal. This project is a collaborative effort between Innovasea and RS Aqua, and includes Grieg Seafood Shetland as an unfunded industry partner.

The team will develop an early warning system to notify fish farmers of potential and imminent HABs. By continuously monitoring the environmental conditions on and surrounding their farms, farmers will be informed when conditions that promote blooms are occurring in real-time, thus enabling them to respond quickly and take steps to reduce the impact of such events. Such a system will have far-reaching impacts to the aquaculture industry and advance the methods of HAB monitoring, while increasing food production and reducing the carbon footprint of fish farming.

Innovasea Aquaculture Intelligence Solutions

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