Industry Corner: Yolanda Morales

SEAFOODTOMORROW is designed to develop and validate an array of innovative solutions, technologies, processes and strategies to boost sustainability and competitiveness of the European seafood sector. In order to help define these solutions and ensure they cater for industry needs, an Industrial Advisory Committee (IAC) has been established. Here, we meet Yolanda Morales, Aquimer and member of the European Aquaculture Technology and Innovation Platform (EATiP) Board of Directors, as she gives her view on SEAFOODTOMORROW innovative solutions and current challenges facing seafood producers in Europe.

As the project enters its final six months, what is your impression of the innovative solutions the team has developed and their value to the aquaculture sector?

Increasing public awareness of industrial aquaculture is key to support its growth and competitiveness. The perception of aquaculture products among consumers has improved in Europe in recent years, but it remains necessary to improve the public’s confidence, and to enhance the image of seafood products as being nutritious, healthy, safe and sustainable. In fact, EATiP has identified product quality, consumer safety and health as key priorities to strengthen social acceptance among consumers, and SEAFOODTOMORROW has made great progress in those key areas. Specifically, SEAFOODTOMORROW tools for managing risks related to harmful algae, xenobiotics and marine toxins in shellfish and the industrial detoxification procedure are of particular interest. Moreover, the contribution with an updated DNA database will be valuable, providing accurate identification of fish species products along the trade chain. And, of course, the new innovative technologies, specifically FishChoice2.0, will contribute to the improvement of aquaculture perception.

Within the framework of the Green Deal and the associated role of aquaculture as an ecosystem service, EATiP is looking forward to the implementation of SEAFOODTOMORROW’s eco-innovative solutions, that are economically viable and meet sustainability and social responsibility goals.

The COVID-19 pandemic heavily impacted seafood production across the EU. Do you think Research & Development will still play a role in production, in the long term, or will producers now focus on the short-term development of sustainable business models?

The COVID-19 crisis further increased the grade of complexity in managing aqua farms. In particular, the value chain has become affected, as a consequence of disturbance in the supply trade and logistics necessary for the appropriate operation of aquaculture sites. Because of this, Research & Innovation is required more than ever! Large and high-competence companies are increasingly implementing precision farming and are speeding up digitization. Small enterprises (e.g. shellfish farms) lack time and competence, making it difficult to access technology and funding. The smart innovations generated by technology frontrunners therefore need to be adapted to the needs of smaller companies. Not only is it necessary to provide support to research groups currently working on innovative technologies, and more sustainable supplies and procedures. It is also required to promote new funding programs that support small companies to engage in pioneering projects, to promote entrepreneurship and to establish new business ideas.

Widening our perspective to the European Commission’s Farm to Fork strategy; what are the main challenges and green ambitions for the acquaculture sector?

Aquaculture is dependent on clean and healthy waters. Together with the policy framework, these guarantee that European aquaculture offers good quality products, and respects strict environmental sustainability, animal health and consumer protection standards. EATiP encourages a benchmarking system, allowing the analysis of results of present governance systems, to exchange experiences and to further optimize them. Promoting the use of feed ingredients based on low trophic species and of low-energy production technologies, optimizing the discharge management in processing plants and in recirculation systems, and encouraging new offshore and RAS technologies may all contribute to the targets in the Green Deal. New sources such as (fermented) kelp, other macro- and microalga, and single-cell proteins can be increasingly used as raw materials in fish feed. All these challenges are in alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals, setting the standard for new strategies to promote efficiency in balance with sustainability, more responsible production models and increased knowledge about corporate social responsibility. In addition to this, education, professionalisation and entrepreneurship will be key elements for the aquaculture sector. Finally, system thinking and cooperation among stakeholders along the entire value chain will be fundamental to ensure a sustainable and competitive sector.

Thank you very much Yolanda for taking the time to share your insightful views.