Science of breeding, genetics and feed

Stelios Tsekouras Stelios Tsekouras discussed farmed species in the Mediterranean and latest aquaculture feeds. Credit: Bonnie Waycott

The last two sessions of the High Energy Mariculture Conference 2018 took on a more scientific feel, as talks turned to hatchery and breeding operations, disease-resistant fish, latest innovations, and how fish can be kept healthy to allow for maximum returns on investment.

Selective breeding, the first topic of Session 6, is not a new concept.  It's already been conducted in agriculture and there has been a dramatic improvement in tools that are available to increase efficiency. This can also be applied to aquaculture, a newer industry compared to livestock, cattle and poultry. Although it is lagging slightly behind, it is also seeing rapid progress, for example the use of modern technology for selective breeding in the Atlantic salmon industry.

Dr. Christos Palaiokostas of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences introduced some of the key issues to consider in breeding programmes, including the genetic interval of species (the lower this is the easier and quicker it is to accumulate genetic gain) and the ability to produce huge numbers of offspring, which can be more efficient but also results in some production issues and possible rapid inbreeding i.e. animals that are very closely related. He also touched upon next generation sequencing that can help identify genetic markets that can, in turn, be used to select genomic information that is of value for breeding programmes.

In-house fish fry

Participants were then given an insight into Selonda Aquaculture's hatcheries by the company's Head of Group Hatcheries Antonio Coli. His talk centred on the benefits of growing fish fry in-house, such as the ease in linking this to in-house on-growing production, company IT infrastructure for better monitoring and full analyses, ability to assess fry quality early, control production parameters and guarantee availability, all of which increase company value and offer high quality for the fry market with good profit margins. New innovations are also adding to high quality produce, with automatic vaccination machines that are contributing to aquatic animal health by measuring the length of the fish and adjusting the point and depth of the needle, offering precise injections and doses and reducing fish stress.

"Innovative machines are a secure solution to achieving low costs and good fish health," said Evangelos Kakavoulis of AquaVet SA. "Promising results from our automatic vaccination machines suggest that this technology will spread, provided that fish health management and handling can be properly addressed."

The last session of the conference also touched on the importance of feed management (careful feeding and good quality pellets) and environmental carrying capacity estimations to ensuring optimal production performance and survival and less waste from feed.

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