The European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMMF) is backing research at NUI Galway and Athlone Institute of Technology to improve production efficiencies and management of farmed fish at freshwater sites in Ireland. The ‘ECOAQUA’ project, which is administered by BIM through the ‘Knowledge Gateway Scheme’ on behalf of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, has received almost €350,000.

EcoAqua project

The research programme aims to test and optimise innovative technologies and processes developed through the linked MOREFISH project.

Full-scale demonstration site. Photo ECOAQUA

Stakeholder needs

Led by Dr Eoghan Clifford (NUI Galway) and Professor Neil Rowan (Athlone Institute of Technology) with support from BIM’s technical aquaculture team, ECOAQUA will address some of the key needs identified by industry and aquaculture stakeholders including:

• analysing the environmental and energy performance of three freshwater aquaculture sites by sampling and remote online monitoring of water parameters

• facilitating the re-use of the treated water, thereby reducing the volumes of extracted and discharged waters. • enabling the industry to meet stringent environmental regulation while increasing production in a sustainable and cost-effective manner

• piloting technological innovations with industry to ensure the research is easily and rapidly transferrable to the aquaculture sector

• ensuring technological innovations and research results can be leveraged to enable the sustainable growth of this high-potential sector

• enable the industry to leverage the scientific outputs from the project to communicate with government, policymakers and regulators and the public.

Economic benefits

Announcing the ECOAQUA project, Dr Eoghan Clifford said that by offering significant economic benefits, aquaculture has the potential to address food security concerns in many countries. He pointed out however that the sector in Ireland “has remained relatively stagnant and has significant potential to grow, develop export markets and create employment in rural areas”.

This research has the potential to introduce innovative monitoring practices, technologies “that can enhance the value and sustainability of Irish and European fish stock densities while ensuring the environmental sustainability of the sector,” he added.

Professor Neil Rowan described the project as an “exciting and cross-cutting project” that would will model and profile the global performance of pilot freshwater aquaculture farms. This will ensure “high potential interventions are easily transferable to the industry sector ensuring the intensive sustainability and viability of this industry,” he added.

ECOAQUA project manager Alan Kennedy said the project would improve the water quality of freshwater farms through incorporation of water treatment technologies and energy reduction interventions into existing flow through farms.

“This will also enable seamless transitions to next-generation production formats.”