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$9.8 million research center to make waves in sustainable aquafeed production

Thursday, September 30, 2021

A new Deakin University $9.8m state-of-the-art aquaculture research center, the AquaFI Hub, will be established to drive sustainable fish production, novel feed and aquaculture technology development, and industry training. With funding from the Victorian Government through its Higher Education State Investment Fund (VHESIF), the new state-of-the-art facility will be based at the Waurn Ponds campus.

Associate Professor David Francis, from Deakin’s School of Life and Environmental Sciences, will lead research working towards improving the sustainability of the aquaculture industry by changing one simple factor, what we feed our farmed fish. Aquaculture has historically placed reliance on the use of less palatable, smaller species of fish, such as capelin, anchoveta and menhaden, which are rendered into fishmeal and fish oil to produced nutritionally complete feeds. However, fluctuations in the cost and availability of these ingredients have raised concerns over the ability of the industry to grow in an economically viable and sustainable manner.

Francis said a circular bioeconomy is the future of the aquaculture feed industry. The AquaFI Hub will work directly with the industry to explore the use of sustainable ingredients in creating fish feed and how underutilized byproducts from other industries can have a second life. “Our key focus is to improve the way we feed our farmed fish and make it more nutritious and sustainable,” Francis said.

The AquaFI Hub will not only be a research and development facility but also a place for cross-disciplinary curiosity and training, with an internship component and room for HDR students across many fields of study. “Aquaculture covers a range of disciplines, like biology, chemistry, engineering and economics,” Francis said. “We want to bring in the entire aquaculture industry and solve these problems together.”

The team is already set to work with biotechnologists and engineers to innovate how potential fish feed can be processed to further improve nutritional quality and environmental sustainability. Francis said these investigations will help commercial farmers understand how we can mitigate stress in farmed species and are the key to making a tangible difference in the seafood industry. “We’re looking to make some major strides towards the on-farm management of fish through our novel dietary interventions,” Francis concluded.


Photo caption: Associate Professor David Francis, Deakin University.


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