THE SUSTAINABLE Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC) has seen its membership double since rebranding in 2021 to reflect its increased focus on sustainability and the aquaculture sector’s global reach.
The innovation centre now has 300 members with two new organisations, Pennsylvania-based Life Diagnostics and Ayrshire College, taking it over the milestone figure. SAIC’s consortium is designed to connect all areas of the aquaculture sector and encourage collaboration across seafood producers, retailers, supply chain businesses, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) colleges and universities.
The network’s reach spans beyond Scotland to include other major seafood-producing nations, as well as organisations with related expertise such as regulation, subsea technology, data and communications, and animal health. One-fifth (21%) of its members are based overseas, while one-quarter (25%) are located in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Of the 169 Scottish businesses that are part of the consortium, 60 are in the Highlands and Islands and the majority are SMEs.
SAIC reaches its 300-member milestone just weeks after its sold-out Sustainable Aquaculture Summit in Glasgow, which brought together industry leaders and emerging talent to help shape the sector’s future.
Heather Jones, CEO of SAIC, said: “Successful innovation is fuelled by collaboration, and the fact we now have over 300 partners in our network shows that organisations are seeing the value of working together towards a common goal.
“Our membership base has doubled since 2021 and from that point on we have increased our focus on the sector’s sustainability both in Scotland and worldwide. Global demand for nutritious protein sources continues to rise, and we recognise the important role aquaculture will play in feeding the world’s growing population in the years to come.
“We must grow sustainably, however, in ways that reduce the environmental footprint of aquaculture while increasing its economic impact. SAIC’s role, through the consortium, is to connect leading researchers with the sector to help develop new processes and technologies, as well as tackling some of the ongoing challenges we face.”
Many of SAIC’s members operating in Scottish aquaculture have been supported, through the consortium, to secure third-party funding for research and innovation. A total of £19.6 million has been invested into research initiatives, with significant industry contributions on top of that. For every £1 of investment from SAIC, a further £35 of funding has been secured from other sources.
Among those now benefiting from such support is new member Life Diagnostics, which produces specialist testing equipment and immunoassays for diagnosing a range of fish health conditions.
Chris Chadwick, president of Life Diagnostics, said: “We first connected with SAIC through a project looking into salmon cardiomyopathies, and since then we have become involved with two initiatives co-funded by the Seafood Innovation Fund and SAIC– one looking at modelling gill damage caused by micro-jellyfish and another at salmon immunology. Joining the consortium is a great opportunity for increasing our engagement with fish health specialists across the UK. We hope that it will lead to further collaborative research projects, supporting fish health across the sector.”
Strong relationships with higher and further education providers are also core to SAIC’s role in promoting careers in aquaculture, bridging the talent pipeline, and matching up world-leading academic research with current sector needs.
In the coming months, SAIC will be working with new member Ayrshire College to highlight the range of skills and employment opportunities the sector has for students. Seafood producer Bakkafrost Scotland recently submitted plans for a new recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) at the Hunterston Port and Resource Centre (PARC), bringing of the opportunity for a number of aquaculture jobs and supply chain development to the region.
Anne Campbell, vice principal – curriculum at Ayrshire College, added: “Local developments mean that there will soon be a new opportunity for talented people to build aquaculture careers in Ayrshire. SAIC is well-placed to help shape and develop our curriculum accordingly and raise awareness among young people of the options available to them. Being part of the network also means we can form valuable connections with other experts in the sector.”