The Sustainable Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC) has announced funding for three new projects in aquaculture, valued at a total of £1.1m. The initiatives will focus on artificial intelligence, imaging technology and the use of cleaner fish to combat sea lice.

SAIC is putting up more than £350,000 and businesses operating in Scottish aquaculture will also be contributing. Two of the successful projects will cover technology-led environmental monitoring, including the use of artificial intelligence (AI), 3D modelling and image-collecting remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), while the third will explore the role of cleaner fish.

The three newly funded projects are expected to commence this summer and will combine expertise from some of the sector’s best-known businesses and leading academic researchers from Scottish universities. Proposals were assessed by SAIC’s Independent Scientific Panel (SISP) against key priority areas for the aquaculture sector, including continued improvement in fish biology and regeneration and environmental practices.

The latest funding awards build on SAIC’s work to date, covering more than 60 collaborative projects with a combined value of £52.7m. A recent economic impact assessment produced by Frontline Consultants showed that projects funded by the innovation centre between its inception and February 2021 would collectively deliver additional turnover of £50m per annum for the companies involved by 2026.

Overall, for every £1 of SAIC funding granted to research projects during this period, a further £4.67 was leveraged from businesses in the aquaculture sector and other funding sources.

Heather Jones, CEO of SAIC, said: “In recent years technology adoption across the sector has increased rapidly, but there is still a huge opportunity to use more data-led, intelligent systems to inform better decision making. Greater use of AI, imaging and ROVs for applications such as monitoring and mapping of the seabed could be transformative for reducing the sector’s environmental impact and supporting future regulation requirements.

“Driving improved sustainability, fish health and wellbeing is another area crucial to the growth and development of aquaculture. Through collaborative research in the sector’s core priority areas, we can unlock additional capacity for sustainable seafood production, with Scotland at the forefront of significant developments across the whole supply chain.”

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