Sino-Norwegian collaboration for a safer, more sustainable aquaculture

safer IMTA collage.jpg

How can aquaculture become more environmentally sustainable and still contribute to the production of safe food? With multi-trophic aquaculture, waste from fish production can serve as nutrients in the cultivation of algae and sea cucumbers. A Sino-Norwegian research collaboration takes a closer look at this underutilized opportunity.

The global aquaculture sector is expected to expand its production to meet the growing need of the increasing world population. Although the industry relies on limited and unsustainable sources of raw materials for aquafeed production. Nutrient-rich aquaculture effluents represent an underutilized resource with rising environmental concerns.


Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA) is a concept where different species are grown together in such a way that the invertebrates and/or algae can recycle the nutrients that are lost from the culture of other species. Multi-trophic aquaculture has been practiced for centuries in freshwater systems, particularly in China. Although the potential benefits of such system are well understood, IMTA is practiced to a very limited degree in Norway. 

Learning from Chinese experience

In the project SAFER-IMTA researchers from Norway and China will collaborate to address the need for a more sustainable and safer aquaculture production. Møreforsking is the Norwegian partner. Chinese partners are the Institute of Hydrobiology (Academy of Sciences) and Shenzhen University. Scientist Céline Rebours is the Norwegian Principal Investigator and will lead the project with Prof. Xiaoming Zhu, the Chinese Principal Investigator, and Prof. Qiang Hu, the Chinese International Adviser.

- We are excited to start the collaboration with our Chinese colleagues to see how our exchange of knowledge and competences may contribute to increase the pace of innovation needed to engineer a global sustainable food production, says Céline Rebours.  
The consortium will build upon their existing knowledge to document and improve food safety of existing and emerging aquatic species by recycling aquaculture wastes through the IMTA systems.

Aiming for land-based co-cultures

The project aims to develop advanced land-based systems for the co-culture of lower trophic species (microalgae, macroalgae, sea cucumber) using wastewater and sludge from carp (China) and salmon (Norway) aquaculture. Biological processes coupled to physical and/or chemical processes will be investigated to convert the solid waste fractions to suitable substrates for sea cucumber and algal production. Innovative systems for algal production will be investigated to increase the availability biomass to be further used as protein and lipid sources for fish feed.
The SAFER-IMTA project will also contribute to better understanding of the incentives and barriers for the implementation of land-based IMTA systems. The project will explore the way to create novel innovative systems to produce new feed and food products from underutilized marine resources, and contribute to the implementation of circular bioeconomy principles. Combined with technological innovation, the results of the project are expected to provide new knowledge that contribute to the development of new sustainable value-chains in the aquaculture sector.
(The article continues below)

The SAFER-IMTA concept and organization is structured around the hypothesis that species from lower trophic levels will contribute to sustainable management of fish aquaculture waste and produce diverse safe feed and food products. 

- The project aims to increase biomass production and reduce environmental impacts of an existing food production system, explains Céline Rebours.
The proposed project will hence bridge the gap between under-exploited resources and increasing needs in safe and nutritious food.
Earlier this spring the project was officially launched through a digital kick-off. The various work packages in the project were presented to the reference group and discussed among partners to coordinate a successful SINO-Norwegian collaboration.

Title: Integrated Multitrophic Aquaculture for Sustainable and Safe Food Production
Source: 5 mill NOK, Research Council of Norway (RCN) and 2 mill RMB from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC)
Project period: 2021-2024

 Møreforsking scientist Céline Rebours with Chinese research collegues. 


Nettbilde1 Ressurs[1].jpg

Møreforsking is a research institute focusing on the marine value chain, including biology of marine resources, catching, handling, processing, product development and market research. With it's proximity to the ocean, rich marine resources and a pioneering marine and maritime industry with strong traditions for innovation, catching, processing and exporting seafood, Møreforsking is localised at the heart of the marine cluster of Norway.

Many of the companies in the region are national leaders in fishing, aquaculture, processing and sale of seafood products and focus systematically on innovation. A number of them are globally oriented.
Møreforsking's role is to contribute with knowledge through research and development work that increases the value creation in the industry. We conduct various R&D projects for the fishing fleet, the fish-farming industry, the processing industry, exporters, trade associations and sales organisations.