PerformFISH supports the leading fish farming sector in the EU to accelerate sustainable development
The Mediterranean Marine Fish Farming (MMFF) sector has become the leading fish farming sector in the EU following Brexit. The products of the MMFF sector are emblematic of the Mediterranean diet and culinary tradition and they are principally produced in the Mediterranean. As such, they are unique assets for European fish farming.
PerformFISH brings together a multi-stakeholder consortium of 40 participants, with active industry involvement, to generate, validate and apply new knowledge in real farming conditions to substantially improve performance of European sea bass and gilthead seabream farming, measured through Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Key aspects of PerformFISH design are a) the engagement with consumers and societal actors to link consumer demand with product design, advance with product certification and marketing strategies, and promote the brand of MMFF practices and products, and b) the establishment and use of a numerical benchmarking system based on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to cover all aspects of the MMFF performance.
Studying consumer perception to identify challenges
Consumer perception and dynamics of seven major markets, namely Italy, Spain, Greece, France, Germany, the UK, and USA were studied to identify challenges and barriers for MMFF products in those markets and suggest innovative marketing strategies to gain confidence in culture and contribute to food security and safety.
Benchmarking the MMFF performance
PerformFISH developed the first ever benchmarking system for MMFF based on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) established specifically by and for the MMFF industry. Five national Fish Farming Associations from Spain, France, Italy, Croatia, and Greece joined forces in PerformFISH and worked closely to identify, validate and adopt 55 KPIs related to growth, health, feed efficiency, fish welfare and environmental sustainability.
Implementation to generate positive impact along the production chain
PerformFISH drives implementation beyond the state-of-the-art to strongly impact on KPIs through genomic selection, juvenile quality and programming, fish disease management, feeds, and nutrition. The first genomic tool for both European sea bass and gilthead sea bream (Med_FISH array) was designed in collaboration with MedAID project, successfully validated and commercially available. This genomic tool was used in genome-wide association mapping to address heritability of resistance to pathogens and parasites, of individual feed efficiency and of external morphology. Med_FISH array marks the onset of genomic selection in MMFF and has been a powerful tool in genomic selection beyond the project.
PerformFISH completed a series of publicly available reports presenting risks associated with the diseases, preventive and control strategies, and good husbandry. Many of these reports are meant to be guidelines covering the current knowledge on each topic, as well as future trends, and recommendations and practical application for health specialists and farmers. Novel vaccines and diagnostics were developed and validated in commercial environments, along with validated operational welfare indicators endorsed by the industry.
A collaboration with commercial hatcheries across the Mediterranean was pivotal in identifying egg, larvae and juvenile quality indicators and validating them under production conditions. PerformFISH offers an advanced insight into skeletal abnormalities, accompanied by validated molecular tools with predictive capacity of larvae quality, and a real-time monitoring tool based on histopathological indicators as a sensitive system to support hatchery production quality.
Significant steps towards sustainable and optimized feeds and feeding in the MMFF sector were made by optimizing the formulation of feeds with low fishmeal and fish oil contents in European sea bass and gilthead sea bream, based on the identification of a threshold of nutritional quality. A constructed approach was followed in gaining insight of the use of alternative ingredients to support the formulation of cost-effective, yet efficient fish feeds validated in the field, along with a prototype system for total fish biomass estimation and a free growth performance tool. The MMFF production will also benefit from early thermal programming for robust juveniles and gilthead sea bream broodstock programming to better utilize alternative diets.
Training has been key in PerformFISH, with several students trained to highly qualified scientists and training courses tailored to aquaculture professionals to transfer new knowledge in genetics, hatchery quality, health management, feeding strategies and the KPI benchmarking system.
Supporting the EU Sustainable Blue Economy PerformFISH works to support MMFF in contributing to the EU Sustainable Blue Economy, in participating in the green transition called by the European Green Deal, and in reinforcing its role in food security and safety. PerformFISH objectives are very pertinent to the Farm-to-Fork Strategy. Supporting the sustainable growth of MMFF alleviates the pressure on land-based production systems and promotes animal production with a low ecological footprint. In addition, PerformFISH serves the aims of the new Strategic Guidelines for Sustainable Aquaculture adopted by the EC in 2021, to help the development of the EU aquaculture sector that ensures the supply of nutritious, healthy and tasty food with a low environmental and climate footprint that becomes a global reference for sustainability and quality.
PerformFISH advanced with the development of a Code of Conduct and the implementation of good practices to safeguard quality along the product line and of the final product, establish proper and responsible practices to serve the vision of economic and ecological sustainability that ensure food security and lay the foundation for a respected contract with the consumer and society. For the first time, the implementation of the code of conduct will be supported by Key Performance Indicator metrics to provide a common means of monitoring that favors transparency and policy and planning built on solid information.
The project has a budget of €7,045,000 and runs from May 2017 to October 2022. More information can be found at [http://performfish.eu/]
This project has received funding from the European Union’s HORIZON 2020 Research and Innovation programme under the Grant Agreement no. 727610.
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