The Technology Strategy Board (TSB) have teamed up with Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) to joint fund an industry and academic partnership which aims to develop a novel approach to sea based rearing systems for the European Lobster. Lobster Grower is a 15 month consortium driven project led by the National Lobster Hatchery. The project aims to develop the technology required to grow lobsters at sea in containers. This will help the partners to assess the potential for aquaculture of the species, which could have great long term benefits to coastal communities around the UK.
Support from the Agri-tech catalyst has been secured for a project addressing fundamental food security challenges. It will do this by investigating novel ways to expand the aquaculture industry; to include a species not currently fully exploited, the European Lobster. This species commands the highest value (by volume) of any major species landed in the UK and suffers from a demand deficit and supply being limited. Sea based culture, in containers (SBCC) exhibits the potential for a low carbon form of rearing with no additional feed costs. With this in mind the project will design and develop a SBCC system, specifically designed for nursery and on-growing, that could be used to rear a smaller product to a marketable size. The project will set up a marine licence, essential for establishing a pilot scale site, so that future work can develop the essential tools and techniques required in order to pioneer a new entrant for aquaculture. The consortium will be led by the National Lobster Hatchery, partnering up with The University of Exeter (UoE), Falmouth University (FAL), The Centre for Environment, Fisheries, and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS), Fusion Marine and Westountry Mussels of Fowey. This partnership of three SME’s (Small Medium Enterprises), two HEI’s (Higher Education Institutes) and a Government Agency will supply the academic, technical and practical skills required to develop the appropriate technology. The Agri-tech catalyst early stage awards focus on supporting innovation within business to stimulate innovation – the successful exploitation of new ideas and drivers of economic growth. The Grant for £434,147 will be spread between the 6 consortium partners.
Carly Daniels, Head of Research and Development for The National Lobster Hatchery says:
“This grant presents an exciting opportunity to do something cutting edge and innovative that will have a notable impact on the development of a new species for aquaculture. In the long term it will also support the overall sustainability of fisheries by relieving the ever growing pressure on natural stocks. I am very much looking forward to working with the consortium partners on this exciting 15 month project and assessing its impact and results.”
Dom Boothroyd, General Manager of the National Lobster Hatchery believes:
‘This project is a huge step forward for the charity, it will generate technology that will enable us to grow juvenile lobsters to a greater age before releasing them into the sea to enhance local stocks, whilst at the same time providing them with environmental enrichment so that they are better able to cope with life in the wild. Secondly it will generate the intellectual property within the charity that we hope will generate funds in the future for our ongoing conservation, education and research work. Long term it could facilitate the development of a lobster farming industry that would not compete with the existing market (which is fed by the fishery) but actually generate market diversification as we have seen with the development of the Bass aquaculture industry. This will also create jobs and wealth in our small coastal communities’.
Prof Lars Johanning, Associate Professor in Ocean Energy and Academic Lead of Renewable Energy, UOE, commented:
‘This interdisciplinary research project allows the research groups at the University of Exeter to provide their expertise in quantitative ecology as well as in fluid flow visualisation. The research group has developed extensive experience in both fields and this practical study will be combined with theoretical expertise to inform about the potential introduction of a valuable human protein source tackling the challenges of primary livestock production and food security.’
Dr Justin Marshall, Associate Professor of Digital Craft and Manager of the Makernow Digital Fabrication Lab at Falmouth University, says:
“This is just the sort of interdisciplinary project that excites us at Makernow. As design and prototyping specialists we recognise that value of working with diverse teams in order to investigate a problem/opportunity from as may perspectives as possible and so maximise the potential for innovation and a successful outcome.”
Dr Neil Auchterlonie, Programme Director in Food Security and Aquaculture with CEFAS, described this project as:
“A very exciting initiative that supports technical development addressing one of the key issues that the UK faces – how to support the sustainable increase of domestic food production in support of food security and regional economy development agendas”. Dr Auchterlonie added that “aquaculture remains the fastest growing protein sector globally, and this project recognises the great potential that English coastal waters, and especially those of Cornwall and the South West, have for high quality seafood production by that sector”.
Gary Rawle the Proprietor of Westcountry Mussels:
“We feel privileged to have been asked to apply our experience of maintaining and working in high wave impact areas and believe that aquaculture is the way forward. After a small pilot project with the Lobster Hatchery, we have already seen that it is possible to hold and grow lobsters cheaply with little maintenance and no feeding, allowing the lobsters to do what they do best and eat everything that comes past in their natural environment. We believe that this is a project that could be cascaded down to small fishing communities as well as big business with low initial start-up costs and low maintenance, making owning your own lobster farm available to anyone with a boat and an eye for the future.”
Rhuaraidh Edwards, Technical Sales Engineer at Fusion Marine said:
“We are delighted to participate in this exciting multi-partnership project that has the real potential to benefit coastal communities. Our expertise in plastics technology has already been successfully used in finfish and mollusc farming projects around the world and this new pilot scheme will enable us to focus on the challenging task of helping develop a viable culture system for lobsters.”