The Marine Institute, through its own Newport Strategy has invested significantly in upgrading the existing hatchery facilities and installed a new freshwater recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) in 2019. The system consists of eight 5.5m3 tanks with a total capacity of 44,000 L and the capability of producing up to 12,000 Atlantic salmon pre-smolts. Through linking with the Lehanagh Pool Marine Research Site in Beirtreach Buí Bay, the Institute now has the capacity to perform multi-disciplinary research on both the freshwater and marine phases of Atlantic salmon production. RAS is a proven technology increasingly employed in the freshwater phase of Atlantic salmon production. It enables the producer to completely control parameters such as water temperature, oxygen levels and light, providing stable optimal conditions for the fish, thus reducing stress leading to improved welfare conditions.
It is envisaged that the MI Newport RAS and Lehanagh Pool Marine Research Site will provide an opportunity for collaboration on a variety of research projects and form an integral component of a marine research cluster involving Third Level Institutes, other state agencies and the aquaculture industry in the west of Ireland.
The RAS is currently utilised for SALMSON smolt, a four-year project funded under the EMFF Knowledge Gateway Programme, administered by BIM. This research project is investigating the potential of RAS technology to produce larger Atlantic salmon pre-smolts than conventional flow through systems. The aim is to reduce the length of time required for the marine grow-out phase.