SAIC targets sustainable future for global aquaculture

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by Benedikte Ranum

Director of Comms & Knowledge Exchange

SAIC, formerly the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre, has today (1 February 2021) announced a new strategic focus and an expanded geographical reach as it re-brands to the Sustainable Aquaculture Innovation Centre.

The move reflects SAIC’s alignment with supporting a green recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, prioritised by the Scottish and UK governments as well as the wider international community. It has also been instigated by the global aquaculture sector’s increasing drive to enhance sustainability through technological innovation and new ways of working.

Building on the commitment from, and momentum in, aquaculture, SAIC will actively target future funding calls at sustainability initiatives within its priority research areas. Previously, these have included enhancing fish farming’s impact on seabeds, reducing the need for pharmaceutical treatments, developing new raw materials for feed, and reducing or eliminating waste.                   

Over the past few years, the quality of Scotland’s aquaculture expertise and research has seen it attract interest and investment from across the world. As a result, SAIC’s membership base has grown rapidly since the beginning of 2020 – increasing by more than a quarter to around 180 members – with nearly 40% of the consortium based outside of Scotland.

In December 2020, SAIC announced it had coordinated £2.2 million from academia, businesses, and its own investment to fund sustainability-focussed projects. The initiatives range from measures to enhance fish health and wellbeing to improvements to environmental sensing technology.

To date, for every £1 SAIC has invested in projects £4.90 has been raised from other sources, underpinning Scotland’s aquaculture sector’s ambition to sustainably double its economic contribution to £3.6 billion by 2030, supporting 18,000 jobs.

Heather Jones, CEO of SAIC, said: “SAIC’s re-brand is a lot more than just a change of name – it’s a reflection of the times we live in and the opportunity our sector has in front of it. Sustainable aquaculture has so much to contribute to an uncertain world facing a range of challenges, not least the climate crisis and delivering a green economic recovery from Covid-19. There is a great deal of untapped potential to increase farmed fish and shellfish production, providing sustainably sourced, high-quality, healthy protein to the world’s growing population and supporting skilled jobs.

“We are still highly committed to Scotland and will build on the millions of pounds we have invested, in partnership with our members, in dozens of projects in Scotland since 2014. But our reach and ambition are wider – our membership is growing in geographic diversity, while our board and scientific panel have experience in dozens of countries. We have helped draw down funding from the UK, Europe, and further afield, to help take on the challenges that are common across aquaculture markets – exporting Scotland’s skills, knowledge and technology across the world.

“Sustainability is not a static condition – it is an ongoing process. We will continue to drive innovation and new ways of working, whether that is by reducing the need for pharmaceutical treatments, or transforming the use of data and systems to maximise efficiency. Guided by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, SAIC is determined to make our part of the blue economy as climate-friendly as it can possibly be.”

Watch our video introducing the new SAIC