A 2million aquaculture study is being led by Stirling University experts, looking at the impact of innovative farming technologies on salmon.

The Robust-Smolt study – involving 14 institutions and organisations – will compare the robustness and susceptibility of Atlantic salmon to pathogens when reared in recirculation aquaculture systems (RAS), used in fish farming to reduce the need for fresh, clean water while maintaining a healthy environment for fish.

The university’s Professor Herve Migaud is the principal investigator on the project, which is funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the Natural Environment Research Council under the UK Aquaculture Initiative, and the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre.

He said: “The rapid global expansion of the salmon industry has been made possible through the adoption of new farming technologies – including contained systems such as RAS – and husbandry regimes.

“These systems have clear advantages over land-based flow through and freshwater loch systems, and young salmon produced in RAS under manipulated regimes – such as constant temperature and light – reach larger sizes and can be transferred to sea water earlier than ever before.

“However, our knowledge of the impacts these new rearing systems have on salmon physiology is very limited.

“The impact of differing microbiota, water chemistry, altered photo-thermal regimes on fish disease resistance at sea, immune function and microbiome have not been characterised and these may explain the variable performance observed in farmed stocks.

“This project is ambitious, innovative and collaborative with a great team of International renowned academics leading in their respective research areas and world leading industrial partners involved in salmon farming.

“It is a great pleasure to lead such a great team and contribute to deliver top science with direct impact.”

The project will be providing new knowledge and scientific tools over the next three years to monitor and enhance farming system efficiency and reliability, fish robustness and health as well as sector productivity and sustainability.