University of Stirling postdoctoral researcher Simão Zacarias edged out two other finalists — Pablo Berner of Nuseed and Mark Luecke of Prairie AquaTech — to win the competition following a vote from GOAL attendees.
Zacarias’ work focused on the common, but contentious, shrimp hatchery practice of unilateral eyestalk ablation. His research debunked the notion that the practice results in higher egg production and showed that it actually escalates disease vulnerability.
Zacarias proved in laboratory testing that postlarvae and juveniles from non-ablated Pacific white shrimp broodstock showed higher survival rates when they were challenged with two key diseases. He also proved that a similar egg production rate can be attained without resorting to eyestalk ablation by giving broodstock, in their pre-maturation stage, high quality, nutritious feed.
In addition to the University of Stirling, Zacarias’ work was supported by Benchmark Holdings, Labeyrie Fine Foods, Seajoy and SyAqua, among others.
“This year’s innovation award is a heartwarming example that breakthroughs can be driven by a single dedicated student enabled by the right collaborative opportunity. Our hats go off to Dr Simão Zacharias for his life-changing decision to venture far from Mozambique and persevere in his goals, to Dr David Little of University of Stirling who opened the doors and showed him the way, and to the commercial collaborators at Seajoy in Honduras and Benchmark in Thailand, who welcomed him to use their tools,” said GAA president and founder, George Chamberlain, one of five judges for the competition.
“It is an honour to win this prestigious award, mainly as the first African to get it. This award reminds me to never give up in chasing my dreams even when they seem impossible,” Zacharias told the Global Aquaculture Advocate. “I also think that this award is a direct message to the shrimp and aquaculture industry as a whole to keep adopting stronger animal welfare practices.”