The EU-funded DIVERSIFY project, now in its final year, has produced an array of important scientific knowledge that is helping European aquaculture diversify its production and increase its market share.
To achieve its goal, the project is revolutionizing scientific techniques and methodologies that will optimize the rearing and production of new or emerging finfish species, along with establishing a range of marketing initiatives aimed at attracting consumers.
\"The objective of the DIVERSIFY project is to promote the species diversification of the European aquaculture industry, thus contributing to its sustainable expansion,\" said project coordinator Dr. Constantinos C. Mylonas.
The project identified six new or emerging finfish species: meagre, greater amberjack, wreckfish, Atlantic halibut, grey mullet and pikeperch. \"Because these species are either large or fast-growing, they are ideal candidates for processing into a range of products, providing consumers with both a greater diversity of choice and new value-added products,\" explains Dr. Mylonas.
However, before these new products could be launched, researchers first had to resolve such production bottlenecks as reproduction control, larval rearing methods, optimization of recirculation aquaculture system rearing, feeding methods, and identifying major pathogens.
For example, in the case of greater amberjack, researchers had to develop innovative methods for controlling their reproduction in captivity, the on-demand production of fertilized eggs, and the production of large numbers of juvenile fish. \"We are finally at the stage that, after decades of interest and scattered efforts for commercializing this species in Europe, we can now proceed with industrial production and marketization,\" said Dr. Mylonas.
Another example can be seen in the project\'s success in taking the meagre from being an emerging species to a viable market option for the aquaculture sector. Having confirmed that the available captive broodstocks are adequate for breeding selection programs, researchers developed the husbandry and molecular tools needed to implement this selection at farm level.
In addition to its species-specific research, the project also includes a socioeconomic component. Here, researchers are looking at market opportunities for the new species and developing business models based on consumer studies and online marketing tests, among other tools. So far, insights have been generated to identify the most promising ideas for new fish products from the project species for the European market.
\"The DIVERSIFY project has already achieved almost all that it has promised and has demonstrated that diversification is not only possible, but a necessity for European aquaculture,\" says Dr. Mylonas.
Despite this success, work remains for the diversification of EU aquaculture. The consortium is now turning its attention towards the future, identifying the research needed to address additional production bottlenecks and perhaps study other new and emerging species.