A new generation of fish feed is one of five ideas born in the laboratories of the University of Porto that will continue to grow over the coming months with the help of the Business Ignition Programme (BIP) PROOF, the program of the University of Porto, in Portugal, which aims to support innovative research projects underway at the institution.

Among the innovations awarded this year is PROAQUA, a project coordinated by researcher Paula Enes, from the Interdisciplinary Center for Marine and Environmental Research of the University of Porto (CIIMAR-UP), which aims to develop a new generation of probiotics composed of intestinal bacteria, to be incorporated into aquaculture feeds.

The use of these probiotics is innovative, as it allows overcoming the negative effects of chitin, a substance present in insect meals (recently authorized in the European Union -EU- and more nutritious and sustainable than traditional fish meals), but which interferes negatively in fish growth. In addition to being beneficial to fish health and welfare, gut bacteria meet the minimum safety requirements to be eligible as probiotics by the European Food Safety Authority.

However, to be used in the aquaculture industry and patented, these probiotics must be validated. The BIP PROOF support will allow the PROAQUA team to conduct in vivo trials with European seabass to demonstrate the efficacy of probiotics in improving the use of insect meals by fish and disease resistance, two obstacles to the sustainable development of the aquaculture industry.

Selected from a total of 38 applications

Along with the new generation of fish feed to be worked on by Paula Enes, associate professor at the Faculty of Sciences and adjunct researcher at the Centro Interdisciplinar de Investigação Marinha e Ambiental (CIIMAR), the other winning ideas were an innovative method to increase the efficiency of solar panels, a ‘kit’ to diagnose depression, a technology to improve oral rehabilitation and a ‘smart’ prosthesis for people who have lost their teeth.

The five winning projects – PROAQUA, PerovSiPort, MyRNA, PRO-FUSE and NeuROP – were selected from a total of 38 applications submitted to Universidade do Porto Inovação. The evaluation was conducted by the consulting firm J. Pereira da Cruz and involved the participation of members of Portugal Ventures and spin-off companies from the think tank.

In total, the 2021/2022 edition of the BIP Proof program will award 50,000 euros (10,000 to each project), with the support of the Amadeu Dias Foundation and Santander Universities. This amount will be used by the teams to develop proofs of concept to validate their research.

A leading research and advanced training institution

Paula Enes belongs to the team of CIIMAR, a leading research and advanced training institution of the University of Porto, working at the frontier of Ocean Knowledge and Innovation. The Center fosters an integrated approach to Ocean and coastal areas promoting the understanding and knowledge of Biological, Physical and Chemical dynamics of these environments and the impact of natural and human activities, aiming to unravel the links between these processes, grasp Ocean and ecosystems functioning and responses to Global Changes.

The institution uses knowledge-based approaches to promote the natural capital and the sustained management of marine resources through monitoring of ecosystems health, optimization of aquaculture, and biotechnological exploitation of the resources for environmental and human health applications.

CIIMAR provides innovative solutions and products responding to current economic and societal challenges, including new drugs and marine products for industrial and medicinal needs, water quality, sustainable fisheries, preparedness for and mitigation of oil spills and other emergent contaminants, environmental monitoring & risk assessment, preservation of ecosystems services, ocean & coastal management and Ocean Literacy.

The studies center hosts 10 research groups, organized in 3 research lines, with a scientific staff of more than 400 researchers with diverse backgrounds. Through the integration of different disciplines, the center aims to contribute to the understanding of the biological, physical and chemical processes which occur in the ocean and the coastal zones, for the sustainable use of aquatic resources and the evaluation of the impact of human activities on ecosystems.

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