MARBioFEED Project – enhanced biorefining methods for the production of marine biotoxins and microalgae fish feed
MARBioFEED is a three year project supported by the First Call for Transnational Research Projects within the Marine Biotechnology ERA-NET, involving partners from Ireland (Marine Institute), Norway (Norwegian Veterinary Institute), Spain (Spanish Oceanographic Institute and Neoalgae) and Canada (National Research Council).
Project background and aims
The quality assurance of fish and shellfish for human consumption is of paramount importance in ensuring the marketability of products from this expanding and predominantly rural sector. The global demand for fish is increasing due to an expanding population and the awareness that fish is a healthy food source. With increased pressure on land-based agriculture due to climate change, the potential for sustainable marine sourced food is growing. The industry and regulators rely heavily on analytical reference materials to guarantee safety for human health. This project will involve large-scale algal biotechnology for the production of value added products (marine biotoxin reference materials and fish feed).
Large-scale purification of marine biotoxins using enhanced biorefining methods for low cost reference materials and research
Most shellfish production sites in the EU are prone to closures due to the accumulation of biotoxins, produced by certain phytoplankton. Over 26 EU-regulated toxins currently require statutory monitoring and many more are being discovered. This places pressure on monitoring laboratories and researchers to develop and produce reference materials that allow for their analysis in a cheap, timely and effective way, while still maintaining the highest standards. The importance of aquaculture industries to peripheral European regions cannot be overstated. Most shellfish producing countries, including Ireland, Norway and Spain have implemented programmes to monitor both toxic algae and shellfish, potentially exposed to these microalgae, as a result of legislative requirements.
One element of the project will focus on isolation of large quantities of biotoxins to produce reference materials for a range of toxins to safeguard the sustainability and cost effectiveness of monitoring programmes, thereby supporting the long term expansion and viability of the shellfish industry. Further supplies of purified toxins will be commercially available at low cost for researchers in areas such as marine environment, toxicology, pharmacology, assay development, mode of action, mitigation, etc. Sourcing of naturally contaminated shellfish, bulk algal culturing, harvesting of algal blooms in situ and enzymatic conversions will be performed to source toxins of importance. The development and use of novel immunoaffinity and polymeric columns will be investigated to enhance purification efficiencies to reduce cost and increase economic viability.
Nutritious and sustainable microalgal biomass and shellfish for fish feed
Manufactured feeds are an important part of modern commercial aquaculture, providing the balanced nutrition needed by farmed fish. Fish feed is made, in part, from fishmeal and fish - concentrated products requiring much larger volumes of small ocean fish (such as anchovies, herring and sardines). Efforts are now being made to shift fish feed away from marine sources due to rising costs, reduced availability and environmental/sustainability issues. Research in this area is currently in its infancy and there is huge potential for innovative technologies and development in this field.
The project aims to support the efforts being made to produce more sustainable, highly nutritious but low cost feed for fish. Microalgae provide an excellent alternative to fishmeal, having exceptional nutritional value with high contents of essential amino acids and lipids. There is strong need to exploit the great potential offered by this diverse group of organisms. Medium/small scale culturing of microalgae will be performed to determine optimum growth and nutrition with subsequent transfer of technologies developed to large scale culturing using 1,200 L photobioreactors. Harvested materials can then be formulated to produce fish feed.
Mussels unsuitable for human consumption also offer another environmentally friendly alternative to fishmeal, but require research to evaluate the potential effects of the algal toxins they sometimes contain, both on farmed fish and on fish consumers. Work on farmed salmon in Norway has highlighted the need for studies to be performed on the chronic effects of algal toxins on fish health, in addition to possible exposure to humans through the food chain. Such studies require substantial amounts of purified toxins which currently are too costly to purchase at current market prices and are unavailable in the required amounts.
For further information please contact the project co-ordinator Jane Kilcoyne: jane [dot] kilcoyne [at] marine [dot] ie
MARBioFEED project 1st meeting March 2016