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Nofima to boost investment in RAS research

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Nofima RAS investment.jpg Photo: Nofima
Aquaculture industry has made major changes to how salmon are produced during fry stage.

Nofima, Norway's institute for applied research within the fields of fisheries, aquaculture and food research, recently announced a further investment into recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) research.

With expansion taking place at Nofima's locations in Sunndalsøra and Tromsø, Norway, the institute is strengthening its research facilities in aquaculture, and new centers will be ready next year at both sites, the announcement said.

The Sunndalsøra research station is Nofima’s spearhead in research on aquaculture in closed and semi-closed facilities, but it is fully booked until the summer of 2022, the institute said, making it essential that research capacity at the station be rapidly expanded. Next year will see the completion of 20 new tanks with separate recirculating systems at the research station for sustainable aquaculture, Nofima said.

"The Norwegian aquaculture industry is investing heavily in closed and semi-closed facilities. These investments are being made in terms of fry, smolt and fish farms. There is substantial optimism, but there are also technological and biological challenges. That’s why it’s only natural for us to facilitate even more research into RAS technology," Nofima chief executive officer Øyvind Fylling-Jensen said.

In the space of just a few years, the aquaculture industry has made major changes to the way salmon are produced during the fry stage, Nofima said. Throughput technology was the standard for smolt production until recently, but today the aquaculture industry primarily uses RAS.

"The need for RAS research has increased in recent years, and is relevant to the entire aquaculture research field, including Nofima’s work in feeding and nutrition," said Bente Torstensen, director of Nofima’s Aquaculture Division.

It is necessary to have a closed system for a range of issues — what is known as a single RAS system. In such systems, no tank shares the same water, which ensures good water quality and replicability during experiments, Nofima said.

Another site in northern Norway — the Tromsø Aquaculture Research Station — will also develop a new RAS section. The Tromsø Aquaculture Research Station is owned by Nofima and UiT The Arctic University of Norway.

Both at Sunndalsøra and Tromsø, Nofima said the respective county municipalities have agreed to provide significant investment funds. A total of around 59 million Norwegian krone (about $5.87 million) are being invested at Sunndalsøra and Tromsø.

"At Nofima, we need to ensure we are always at the cutting edge of recirculating systems. The industry is investing in different recirculating systems, which means that as a research institution, we need to have the necessary infrastructure in place to ensure that our research is relevant," Fylling-Jensen said.

Nofima heads up CtrlAqua, the Centre for Research-Based Innovation in Closed-Containment Aquaculture, which has an eight-year mandate (2015-23) and is Nofima’s single largest project. The project received very good evaluations at its halfway point in 2019 and has contributed to Nofima remaining in the vanguard of RAS research.

During the last round of allocations of research funding by the Research Council of Norway, Nofima received grants for two projects worth a total of 20 million Norwegian krone for knowledge building in relation to the production of fish in RAS systems. Farming fish on shore is demanding, which is why extensive research is required over the course of the years to come, the institute said.

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