New aquaculture programme with a stronger focus on industry

Norway has set an ambitious target of quintupling the country’s seafood production by 2050, and much of this growth is to come from aquaculture. The new HAVBRUK2 programme is designed to achieve this.

The primary objective of the HAVBRUK2 programme is to generate knowledge and solutions for socially, economically and environmentally sustainable growth in the Norwegian aquaculture industry. Among other things, the programme will give priority to research on societal perspectives, management and markets.

“We need to know more about the role of the aquaculture industry in society in order to realise these growth expectations,” says incoming chair of the programme board Aud Skrudland. One example she cites is that there is plenty of research documenting farmed fish as a safe and healthful food, but this documentation does not appear to have enough impact on public perception. We need to understand more about why this is the case.

Aud Skrudland of the Norwegian Food Safety Authority is board chair for the Research Council’s new aquaculture programme. (Photo: Sigurd Aarvig)

Willing to take risks

The HAVBRUK2 programme incorporates seven thematic priority areas, most of them continued from the previous programme period. The programme will fund projects spanning the entire range from basic knowledge development to problem-solving and innovation.

“Traditionally, public funding has primarily been used to finance basic research,” explains Ms Skrudland, “and this will continue to be a task under the new programme. At the same time, we know that more pioneering research may be needed, which is why we want to offer funding for more experimental proposals that can better encompass wild ideas with major potential but higher risk.”

NOK 200 million in available funding

The programme is now accepting grant applications for its first call for proposals, with submission deadlines of 9 September for Researcher Projects and 14 October for Innovation Projects for Industry. “With a total of NOK 200 million of funding available, this is the largest funding announcement for aquaculture research in the history of the Research Council,” says Fridtjof Unander, Executive Director of the Research Council’s Division for Energy, Resources and the Environment.

This funding round greatly expands the focus on industry, both through the open call for proposals in which companies can seek funding for projects in any of the programme’s research areas and through the joint call with the Innovation Programme for Maritime Activities and Offshore Operations (MAROFF).

Fridtjof Unander is Executive Director of the Research Council’s Division for Energy, Resources and the Environment. Technology development and new species

The HAVBRUK2 programme also seeks to boost the level of research aimed at developing aquaculture technology and further applying biotechnology tools, nanotechnology and ICT. At the same time, the programme will continue to promote activities on fish health, fish nutrition, food safety, production methods and fish welfare. The greatest change under the new programme involves stepping up efforts to produce aquatic biomass and new species.

“Achieving the growth targets for aquaculture will truly require new solutions,” continues Ms Skrudland. “To produce more salmon, we will need to produce more fish feed – without using feed ingredients that could be used for human consumption. This will entail research on utilising species at lower trophic levels such as macro- and microalgae and molluscs as well as marine species such as cod and cleanerfish.”

Ambitious targets, steady course

In Norway, close cooperation between the research community and industry has elevated Norwegian producers of salmon and salmon trout to global industry leaders. This cooperation is founded on mutual trust and transparency, and has helped to deal with a wide variety of challenges. An independent evaluation of the previous HAVBRUK programme concluded that the programme generated significant results and was well organised, and recommended that it should be continued.

“We see no reason to do too many things very differently in the new programme,” confirms Aud Skrudland. “The consensus is that we should stay the course, and at the same time address the major new challenges ahead and seize opportunities as they reveal themselves.”

 

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