Portuguese project aims for new solutions to ensure sustainable aquaculture and fish quality

Vertical Fish faces two critical challenges: ensuring fish quality and sustainability in aquaculture.

Research project aims to find new tools to determine the quality of fish
April 15, 2024

Portuguese company MC leads a research project that, in collaboration with various national institutions, aims to find new tools to determine the quality of fish, promoting food safety and combating waste. Vertical Fish, framed within the Blue Bioeconomy Pact and funded by the Recovery and Resilience Plan, faces two critical challenges: ensuring fish quality and sustainability in aquaculture.

“The project aims to make the process of assessing fish quality more efficient and optimize traceability methodologies from origin throughout the value chain. This ensures that the fish provided to the end consumer is the safest and freshest. Additionally, the tools developed will enable the identification of best practices, encouraging the reduction of food waste generated in the sector,” highlighted Ondina Afonso, director of Quality & Research at MC.

Sustainability in aquaculture

On the sustainability front, Vertical Fish promotes the development of innovative modular systems, providing a zero-waste strategy in the aquaculture sector. This unique approach allows for the reuse of different nutrients at various stages of production, utilizing low trophic level organisms (organisms that play a fundamental role in the transfer of nutrients along the food chain). The goal is to increase production efficiency and reduce operational costs in the aquaculture industry.

Examples of low trophic level organisms include macroalgae and various invertebrates forming the base of the food chain. By promoting the use of these organisms in aquaculture, the aim is to optimize production efficiency, reduce operational costs, and promote more sustainable practices, as they are highly efficient in converting nutrients into body biomass that higher trophic level organisms (such as fish and shrimp) cannot utilize.

Ensuring fish quality

In a context where climate change associated with human impacts affects the marine ecosystem, influencing the quality and safety of wild fish, Vertical Fish seeks innovative solutions in identifying morphological, structural, and molecular variations in fish. Using image processing software and rapid detection kits for biochemical changes, the main objective is to assess fish quality, identifying early cases that compromise food safety through innovative methods, thus improving quality and reducing waste of fish reaching consumers' homes.

In its initial phase, Vertical Fish will conduct a detailed analysis of data to identify potential causes of problems affecting fish quality. It will then employ screening methodologies to detect fraudulent practices related to the origin of the fish. Finally, it will seek to develop advanced technologies to evaluate fish quality through imaging and intelligent software. “These methodologies will allow for more agile and effective actions in identifying and resolving issues related to food safety,” said Afonso.

The Vertical Fish project is led by MC and involves various entities, from companies to universities, research centers, and technological centers, including A4F, SA - Algae for Future, B2E – Blue Bioeconomy CoLAB (B2E CoLAB), Interdisciplinary Centre of Marine and Environmental Research (CIIMAR), Faculty of Sciences of the University of Porto, INESC-TEC, Portuguese Institute for Sea and Atmosphere (IPMA), Neadvance, Seaentia, University of Aveiro, and University of Minho.