Ocean of opportunities for farmed fish

ARENA Ocean of Opportunities brings together the largest players in the aquaculture value chain in the southwest region of Norway. By year-end, it hopes to gather the nation’s top three seafood clusters into a Global Centre of Expertise.

The Stavanger-based non-profit group Blue Planet leads the ARENA program Ocean of Opportunities in 2011 with the support of Innovation Norway, Norwegian Research Council of Norway, and the Industrial Development Corporation of NorwaySIVA. The main goal of the three-year industry collaboration is to cultivate the local aquaculture industry in Rogaland through three focus areas: sustainability, feed, and competence and network building. The target is to double the region’s salmon production of 50,000 tons to 100,000 by 2020. It currently accounts for 6% of the Norway’s total production of farmed salmon, the country’s largest aquaculture product.

 

Entire Value Chain

The group includes most of the major Norwegian aquaculture players as members, including feed producers Skretting and EWOS, fish farmers Marine Harvest, Grieg Seafood, Bremnes Seashore, and NRS Feøy, fish egg supplier Erfjord Stamfish, and fish equipment providers Egersund Groupand Steinsvik Aqua.

 

Ocean of Opportunities serves partly as a network that gathers the industry together to discuss and propose solutions for the main challenges facing aquaculture. The leading seafood producers meet five to six times a year in its Top Leader Forum to swap knowledge, build up cross-border competence, and establish common strategies for the industry. The group participants in this forum currently include Grieg Seafood, Bremnes Seashore, Alsaker Fjordbruk, Eidesvik Havfiske, Marine Harvest, NRS Feøy, and EWOS.

 

The ARENA group also facilitates another large forum called Fish Health Network.  Here top fish health professionals and farmers meet to debate and find solutions to industry challenges, such as salmon sea lice, implement a surveillance program to oversee the water quality, and build up documentation that the industry is producing sustainably.

 

“Rogaland’s aquaculture industry is all bathing in the same pool,” says Morten Bergslien, ARENA Ocean of Opportunities project leader. “One of the main reasons to have an ARENA is the improved cooperation between organizations in the aquaculture value chain.”

 

Processing Versus Export

The ARENA project acts as more than just a business network. The cluster fosters research efforts through its partners Norwegian Food Research Institute NOFIMA, International Research Institute of Stavanger, University in Stavanger, and Polytec Foundation. It participates in several research programs and is working on establishing a post-graduate aquaculture degree for professionals through collaboration with several Norwegian universities, the Norwegian Center of Expertise Aquaculture, and akvARENA.

 

One of its most recent R&D achievements was a NOK 14 million Research Council of Norway grant to NOFIMA to study more effective ways of processing salmon filets. ARENA Ocean of Opportunities and NCE Culinology will be coordinators on the NOFIMA-led project “Direct Processing and Super Cooling Fillet-0.” Running up until 2017, the four-year study will look at ways to bring down the costs and raise the quality of processing salmon by filleting all fish directly. Much of Norway’s fish is currently exported as round fish and processed in neighbouring European countries, such as Denmark and Poland, for further resale.

 

“This will lead to 100% processing of salmon in Norway,” says Bjørn Roth, a Stavanger-based researcher at NOFIMA overseeing the project.

 

In addition to its obvious economic benefits, the research project has a sustainability focus. The study will look at ways to concentrate the cooling energy on the filet and transporting without ice in a more environmentally friendly and lower cost packaging. Filleting directly also means there will be much less fish to transport unnecessarily and more by products to use for other purposes, like Omega 3-rich salmon oil.

 

“By removing the bones and head and reducing the need for cooling ice, we can reduce the transport volume with today’s technology by up to 40%,” says Morten Bergslien, Arena Ocean of Opportunities project leader.

 

Healthy Fish

Another of the cluster’s focus areas -- fish feed -- is the subject of a separate research program currently being conducted by Bergen-based NIFES, the National Institute for Nutrition and Aquaculture Research. Entitled “Fish Intervention Studies,” the NOK 70 million international research project looks at the health effects of seafood consumption, an important issue for the industry given that expected future reductions in the amount of Omega-3 consumed by fish.

 

“There is a limited amount of Omega 3 in the world,” says Eivind Helland, ARENA Ocean of Opportunities project leader. “You have to develop new ways – like microalgae (for fish feed) – to get more Omega available. Fish feed production is going significantly up. So you have to communicate that to the consumer.”

 

Among the seven work packages in the study are dietary fish intake and the risk on metabolic syndrome, diabetes and coronary heart disease, mobility in the elderly after hip fracture, and learning abilities in youths. The participants in the project, running until 2016, include Norwegian seafood companies Lerøy Seafood, Skretting, Norway Seafoods, Norway Pelagic, and Marine Harvest, as well as a more than a dozen Norwegian and international research institutions in Germany, Denmark and China.

 

The next step will be to expand the cluster internationally. The ARENA project has submitted an application together with NCE Aquaculture in Bodø and akvARENA in mid-Norway to be granted a 10-year status as a Global Center of Expertise. This is the third and highest level of clusters in the Innovation Norway program after ARENA and NCE. Alternatively it could continue for two more years as an ARENA project after its initial status expires this December 2014.

 

 

Image credit

 1.

Caption: The Arena Ocean of Opportunities cluster is helping the Rogaland region double its salmon production

Credit: Marine Harvest

 

2.

Caption: Norwegian fish feed producer Skretting is participating in the international fish health project “Fish Intervention Studies.”

Credit: Skretting/Jan Inge Haga

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