As the search for nature-based solutions to our environmental problems leads scientists to investigate plants and algae to clean up polluted waters, an innovative new project led by University College Cork will use duckweed and algae to treat wastewater from fish farms.
The project ‘AQUASUS’ has just received €230,000 in funding under the European Maritime Fisheries Fund (EMFF), administered by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) on behalf of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. Led by Prof Marcel Jansen of UCC’s School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences and the Environmental Research Institute, AQUASUS will leverage the natural ability of duckweed and algae to thrive in and purify polluted water, producing both clean water for fish farms and a supply of animal feed, as duckweed and algae are edible and high in protein.
The project will refine the method involved and focus on the commercial applications. Prof Jansen speaking at the launch of the project said, “AQUASUS will explore how combinations of algae and duckweed can improve water quality, enhance fish production, and yield high quality feed, thus demonstrating the benefits of a financially viable circular economy approach”.
The value of the fish farm industry in Ireland is in excess of €207m, and the industry generates over 1,900 jobs (BIM Annual Aquaculture Survey 2017). Despite steady growth, the freshwater aquaculture industry in Ireland has faced substantial challenges in the past few years. Innovative approaches are required to improve viability of the sector and to satisfy demand for high quality produce. AQUASUS will test a sustainable, low-cost water treatment option for fish farms, and produce an economically viable product, directly contributing to both the sustainability and economic viability of the fish farm industry.
Damien Toner, BIM Aquaculture Technical Specialist added; “BIM is delighted to support University College Cork with this innovative research project. Algae and Duckweed have the potential to offer a sustainable and environmentally friendly method of nutrient uptake. The AQUASUS project is one of a number of innovative studies BIM is supporting Industry and third level partners with to further develop Ireland’s valuable aquaculture sector’.
Announcing the EMFF programme Minister for the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Mr. Michael Creed, T.D. said, “I am pleased to announce a continued and increasing level of capital investment in our aquaculture sector which will underpin our ambitions to significantly grow our production in the coming years. I am delighted also to see recent efforts by my Department and BIM to encourage our third level institutions to become involved in the research agenda for the sector coming to fruition with three of our best third level institutions receiving approval for applied research to assist our sector in innovating and developing new technical knowledge to support the sustainable growth of the sector, together with two further industry research projects”.