By Adam Powell Paul N. Howes Rebecca Stringwell & Carlos Garcia de Leaniz
By Adam Powell Paul N. Howes Rebecca Stringwell & Carlos Garcia de Leaniz
The Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Research (CSAR) was established at Swansea University (Wales, UK) in 2003 with a £2 million infrastructure investment funded by the European Union, the Welsh Government and Swansea University.
The purpose was to develop and support a range of adaptable, state-of-the-art, controlled environment laboratories for aquatic science, spearheaded by Dr Geoff Proffitt under the ‘Aquaculture Wales’ programme.
The overarching aim of CSAR is to develop excellence in training and research on aquatic science particularly in the areas of sustainable aquaculture, fisheries and algal biotechnology. Since its commissioning, initially headed by Dr Robin Shields, CSAR has grown rapidly and diversified its research to span fundamental questions of aquatic ecology and physiology, along with work on applied technology development. This ranges from theoretical and modelling work to experimental and field trials with organisms including bacteria, microalgae, shellfish, finfish, and aquaculture engineering.
Equipment and systems
CSAR consists of a 750m2 controlled environment building containing six laboratories, a quarantine facility and four dedicated fish laboratories located in the Department of Biosciences.
All main CSAR systems were designed and installed by a local Welsh company, International Aqua-Tech Ltd. (www.iat.uk.com). They normally operate as RASs, but can be reconfigured as static- or flow-through systems if required.
Centralized air and water temperature controls allow temperature ranges of 10-27°C to be maintained across fresh, brackish or marine systems. Local seawater is drawn from adjacent Swansea Bay, sand-filtered and ozone-sterilized prior to use.
Lighting is programmable according to light intensity and photoperiod, with electrical power backup available via a 500Kva generator. Life support systems include sand filtration, protein skimmer, bio-filter and UV sterilization, alongside alkalinity and pH dosing systems. In situ probes and alarms monitor life support systems via a comprehensive SCADA network, allowing user interface via adjacent touch screens and remotely by desktop and mobile phones.
The two largest CSAR laboratories both have industry-grade RAS systems, each 60m3 in volume, with water circulation rates up to 100m3/h. All rearing tanks are modular allowing retrofitting and adaption for a range of commercial fish, shellfish and seaweed species.
Typically, the systems are installed with up to 30 circular tanks of 1500-4000-l volume, and are equipped with swirl separators to assist waste collection from either top and/or bottom drains. The four remaining laboratories inside CSAR operate as micro-algal and live-feed culture rooms to assist hatchery operations, biotechnology and other R&D work.
Additional units include a quarantine facility (5 x 1,500-l tanks), and three dedicated fish facilities for rearing tropical as well as temperate species. CSAR also boasts one of the largest University microalgal and live-feed production facilities in the UK, which includes 1000-l batch culture and three Biofence™ semi-continuous culture systems of 1800-l volume, an algal processing plant, and capabilities to provide up to 12 x 800-l rotifer-, 6 x 800-l Artemia-, and 6 x 1,200-l copepod culture tanks.
Modes of operation
Collaborative research and development projects have been the mainstay of CSAR’s activities. Successful funding proposals have typically targeted grant streams that have enabled applied work with industry and other institutions of higher education.
CSAR currently supports sixteen research staff, nine technical staff and five administrative staff via projects funded by the EC Framework Program, ERDF programs, RCUK, and Horizon 2020. The team works across traditional subject divides to bring economically attractive solutions to business challenges, and has enabled CSAR to work with a variety of stakeholders, including aquaculture producers and associations, industry suppliers (feed, pharma, system technologists), government offices and agencies, and NGOs.
Fourteen academic staff members from the College of Science and the College of Engineering are directly involved in this research. During the period 2010 – 2015, the Centre attracted more than £7 million in new research income to the University.
Staff are highly experienced with the EC Capacities Program which includes research for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), (FP6 and FP7). CSAR has participated in numerous industry-led projects on innovative technologies for the European aquaculture and fisheries sectors. Topics include water quality control and sustainable feeds development for aquaculture, and novel hatchery technologies as a tool for bio-control and fisheries stock enhancement.
By integrating its research skills and facilities into a multidisciplinary research collaboration with the University’s College of Engineering, CSAR has also attained prominence in the expanding field of algal biotechnology.
The Centre hosts several large collaborative projects encompassing algal biomass for added-value products, biofuels, bioenergy and bioremediation. The CSAR-led Interreg IVB NWE project Energetic Algae (EnAlgae) is a €14 million, four-year strategic initiative bringing together 19 partners and 14 observers from seven EU member states. The aim is to reduce reliance on fossil fuels by developing algal biofuel technology at nine pilot facilities across North West Europe.
Advice to industry and governments
As well as offering applied research services, CSAR staff provide information and advice to industry and governments; examples include European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) funded and Welsh Government administered Academic Expertise for Business (A4B) projects, such as the Algal Biotechnology for Wales Knowledge Transfer Centre.
Collaboration between the R&D sector and industry, and fostering new talent is vital to enable new and sustainable ways to safeguard food security, and realise the potential of goods and services via aquatic biotechnology. The facilities and expertise based at CSAR have played a part over the last decade, and under the guidance of its new Director, Prof. Carlos Garcia de Leaniz the next decade will undoubtedly prove just as rewarding. For more information visit: http://www.swansea.ac.uk/csar/, or email Paul Howes, Operational Manager at: firstname.lastname@example.org or Professor Carlos Garcia de Leaniz, CSAR Director: email@example.com.
— Adam Powell, Paul N. Howes, Rebecca Stringwell & Carlos Garcia de Leaniz
Hatchery technology for novel species
The development of hatchery technologies for novel aquaculture species is also an area of expertise at the Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Research (CSAR). This includes the development of hatchery manuals for the European shellfish industry (Norway Lobster).
Similarly, in 2015, CSAR celebrated its tenth anniversary by adding commercial scale hatchery operations to its portfolio. CSAR was approached by Marine Harvest (Scotland) Ltd to develop UK production of cleaner fish (Lumpfish: Cyclopterus lumpus) in RASs, as a non-medicinal technology for sea lice control. The emerging lumpfish sector is rapidly becoming an essential part of an integrated pest-management strategy, and production at CSAR surpassed 1.4 million larvae and juveniles for deployment in Scottish sea pens.
Allied research is supported by the CSAR-Marine Harvest Scholarship in Sustainable Aquaculture, currently in its first year, with certain topics prioritised to improve and inform commercial production. Topics currently being researched include the development of sustainable production methods, genetics, factors underlying improved hatching rates, larval feeding, behaviour and survival post-weaning, and improving larval and juvenile growth. Adult reconditioning post-spawning and health management at all life stages are also a priority.
More recently, the AMBER consortium will examine novel ways of assessing and restoring connectivity in European rivers, as part of a 6.2 Million Euro Research & Innovation grant led by CSAR.